The Silicon Mind

Find everything here. And maybe some stuff in between.

SM's Popular:
Antonio on Religion and Exclusivity.
Michael on Small Arms.
Antonio, Michael Belinsky, Mike Maio

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

On Ideology and Implementation

Okay, so I should probably expand on a comment I posted to another xanga (comment which was already rather lengthy, I daresay) in response to this essay (which is rather lengthy, as well, but very interesting):

The essay essentially parallels the current Democratic aversion to the war on terror and the war in Iraq and (to a much lesser extent) Afghanistan with a reluctance to be anti-Communist in the late 40s, again on the part of the Democrats.

I have one very very big complaint about the essay, and that is that it uses 'totalitarianism' and 'communism' interchangeably, and states that the US was anti-totalitarian during the Cold War, which is an utterly false statement. The US was anti-communist.

The problem in the wording comes about because communism and totalitarianism are NOT, in fact, the same thing. Totalitarianism has, in the past fifty or so years, indeed become almost synonymous with communism and, to a lesser extent, fascism, even though fascism is much closer to being defined as totalitarianism than communism is.

The problem lies in a confusion of ideology and implementation. This is especially visible in the United States due to the fact that the US seems to be characterized by an almost pathological aversion to the communist ideology. Because, through Stalin, communism was implemented as a totalitarian state (and, of course, the same result came about in many other countries which received help from the USSR in their governmental changes), it was relatively easy to equate totalitarianism with communism, fueling USian* fears of communism.

The communist ideology, in fact, in its most ideal form, would have no state at all. The idea being that the people would work at what they did best and receive what they needed, without the need for state intervention. It's a sort of fusion between anarchism and socialism, I suppose you could say, to a certain extent. The point is, communist ideology does not, under any circumstances, require a totalitarian state.

Chile is an excellent example, both of the separation between ideology and implementation and of the United States's lack of anti-totalitarianism. In 1970, the first Socialist1 government was elected democratically to head Chile. Granted, this isn't communism, but it's certainly close enough to freak out USians, since socialism is already seriously left-leaning, and the US has a tradition of having even their leftmost party (Democrats) still right-of-center.

In 1973, Augusto Pinochet, along with several others and a good portion of the military, overthrew the (democratically-elected) government. The US, I should point out, was dead set against the Socialist government, and there is evidence from recently released CIA documents that they may have been planning to overthrew the government in 1970, when it was brought to power. The coup itself may or may not have had the direct support of the US - there are still classified documents that could be relevant - though current information indicates neither that it did nor that it didn't.

However, in the end, the US supported the resulting military government. Anti-totalitarian? Not exactly. But adamantly anti-communist? Absolutely. The US feared the Socialist government because it leaned so far to the left, and was willing to orchestrate a coup (again, whether they actually did or not remains up for debate) to depose this democratically-elected government. Their fear of the left was so rampant as to cause them to be pro-totalitarian if it meant getting rid of the socialist influence.

The effect in Chile was that the left wing was crushed during seventeen years, from 1973 to 1990, until Pinochet stepped down. Thousands were killed, thousands more tortured, and still more thousands exiled (including certain musical groups like Illapu and Inti-Illimani).

So that's my primary gripe with the essay. The other problem I have is that the essay argues that the democrats should take the Cold War stance to strengthen America or whatever. But the conditions now are hugely different from those in the post-WW2 United States.

Take, for example, the global stance on communism. In general, western nations were, indeed, anti-communist. The Cold War was a chance for the US to unite much of western Europe to its own agenda and form protection agreements with them. The war in Iraq, on the other hand, is quite the opposite opening (because remember, we're not ten years into a Cold War here, we're still in the opening years of a War on Terror), with virtually no international backing.

And while I'm on the topic of Cold War vs War on Terror - who was our enemy in the Cold War? The Soviet Union, obviously. The Cold War itself was defined by the competition between the US and the USSR and their respective influences. When the USSR collapsed (essentially symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall), the Cold War ended. China was still around, and still communist, but that's not what the Cold War was about.

The War on Terror, on the other hand, would have been essentially the same as declaring a War on Communism. It is impossible to fight, because of the intangible nature of the enemy. Terrorism is a very nebulous term, and it spans races, religions, and just about every other characteristic you could think of.

The current war is not on terrorism. If anything, it's a war on the Muslim governments of the Middle East. But if the democrats get themselves behind a War on Terror, they're going to have a hell of a time getting out of it. And if they get behind a war on the Muslim governments in the Middle East, they're shooting themselves in the foot in an international sense, just as the Republicans have done (with great skill, I might add).

At first, when I finished reading the essay, I though I essentially agreed with the conclusion. But now that I've had a bit more time to think about it, I really don't. Terrorism is not a nuclear threat. It isn't even an economic threat. Yes, it is a threat. But not one great enough to justify dropping all of the Democratic Parties ideals and principles. Rarely are there threats great enough for that.

* - I refer to what is commonly 'Americans' as USian because, especially in this context, it is critical to differentiate people from the United States and people from the American continent. I also personally find that equating America to the US is foolish, since America, in every other country, is a continent, not a country, but alas, the only ones who have a separate word for someone from the US are those who speak Spanish (estadounidense or gringo (slang) ).

1 - I use Socialist (capitalized) when referring to the party of that name, and socialist (lowercase) when referring to the ideology.

Further reading:
Communism -
Fascism -
Totalitarianism -
Augusto Pinochet -
Chilean coup (1973) -

And a warning - wikipedia can suck time out of your life. Either avoid following links to interesting things, or be prepared to spend a long time looking through stunningly well-written wikipedia entries :).


Post a Comment

<< Home