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April 30, 2004

Comments

Doug

How is this an insult? Che was a wonderful, if misguided, human being who refused to kneel before people who wanted to reduce him to a slave. He's a cult hero and a christ figure among communists and liberal capitalists alike, and history will most likely hold him more dear than it will Bush or Kerry.

Russ Goble

Che was a communist who believed in violent revolution as the way to social change. That's all fine and good if you are overthrowing dictatorships (which I guess in some cases, he was) but it's not OK if the end result would be another violent and oppressive dictatorship to replace it, which every single instance of communist revolution was.

I think it's over the top to put Kerry in that category obviously, but Kerry (at least the 1971 version) was certainly sympathetic to the "idea" of communism, as simply an alternative means for social change. History has shown us that communism is evil to its core, it's a form of dictatorship that requires the forced slavery of it's population.

Maybe you are one of those people who believe communism can work "if practiced properly." But, given that it requires absolute state power to force equal results (when history teaches us that there will ALWAYS be unequal results where humans are concerned), you cannot get around the inherent authoritarianism involved. Maybe, you believe in the "ideal" of communism. Che certainly did. I have no doubt he was charming and charismatic, but that does not distort the fact that he fought for an idea that was perverse (at best), both as an ideology and as it was put in practice.

I simply don't understand the left's infatuation with the guy. There is no proof that his revolution would have improved the lives of his Latin bretheren any more than either of the right wing or left wing dictatorships in Latin America's history, or any other part of the world. The fact is, that as an idealogy, as it was put into practice, communism was the bloodiest instigator in the 20th century and likely in all of history. Not that Hitler wouldn't have wished to have that body count, but fortunately, the majority of Americans was able to see evil for what it was in the case of Nazism and put a stop to it. Unfortunately, with communism, and it's heroes like Che, to many of us can't see the evil that is in front of their face. It's a shame, since communism and fascism are cut from the very same cloth (NAZI after all was a German acronym for National Socialist).

Doug

I think you are completely mistaken. Most conservatives and capitalists in general are very ignorant about Che and other anti-imperialists and have not bothered to read about him.

Take this quote from Che:
"Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted."

That is consistently more passive than the stances taken by many western, anti-communist leaders, and I shudder to read you calling Che a violent revolutionary. He was no more a violent revolutionary than was George Washington, perhaps even less, for did the American colonials exhaust every peaceable opportunity before war?

You are correct that overthrowing one dictatorship for another is bad. However, this was not Che's goal. Unfortunately, his view of socialism, "the abolition of the exploitation of man by man," was never realized. As I said, he was misguided and idealistic. When he removed a dictatorship, another filled the vacuum. This was not his intention. Che was a tragic hero.

Communism is not evil. It is unreasonable and idealistic, but I have never been one to label unrealistic idealists as evil. Soviet communism, Chinese Communism, in fact every brand of communism in practice has been repressive. However, nothing in communism promotes the idea of repression and mass murder. The governments are guilty of that, not the philosophy of communism itself.

Che fought for a flawed idea. Or did he? Che fought to end the exploitation of man by other men. He was first and foremost an anti-imperialist. He sought the solution to imperialism through communism, which was wrong. But he was fighting against imperialism much more than he was fighting for communism.

We leftists see Che as a tragic hero. He thought he was doign what was right. He was doing it out of love of mankind and hatred of those who would abuse others simply because they had the power to do so. Was he perfect? No. Would his plan have fixed Latin America? Very probably not. But his motivations and goals were pure, and I respect him for that.

You can not damn communism because of the people who have misused it any more than I can damn Christianity for the Crusaders, the KKK, and the Nazis (Hitler repeatedly rallied the Germans under Christ, though he saw Christ as a warrior, not a weak pacifist). Communism is not evil. The Soviet Union was evil. China was/is evil. Communism is a noble idea that simply doesnt work. There is nothing evil in wanting everyone to share everything. Silly yes, evil no. Perhaps the reason Communist nations have turned to cruel repression is due to their realization that it wasnt working, leading them to desperate and inexcusable measures.

Would I ever support communism in the world? No, of course not. It is a silly idea, and I don't support silly ideas. But I dont think someone like Che is evil just because his pure, charitable emotions were matched by his silly idealism.

One final historical note: as a degree holder in European History with a focus on WWII Germany, I would like to point out that National Socialism has nothing to do with Socialism or Communism; this is a commonly mis-cited "fact." Germany was a completely capitalist nation that simply used the word Socialist to lure supporters of its opponent Socialist part into the Nazi camp. In fact, Hitler hated Communists every bit as much as Jews, so any attempt to paint the Nazis as Socialists is totally fraudulent.

Che wanted what we all should want: happiness among all people and the end of exploitation. He was just mistaken on how to get there.

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality." - Ernesto Che Guevara

Cadfan

I can't comment on the moral judgment that history should place on Che Guevarra, I simply do not know enough about him to do so. I can, however, comment on this: "It's a shame, since communism and fascism are cut from the very same cloth (NAZI after all was a German acronym for National Socialist)."

I'm not entirely sure how this is meant. If it is meant as a historical claim, if it is meant to mean that governments such as the NAZI government considered themselves communist, then its incorrect. Communism and the Nazi party were rivals for control of Germany, and the Nazi party won out, primarily through violence. (The communists also used violence, they just lost.) Mussolini began his career with accolades from socialists, but it was short lived.

Mussolini himself wrote the following, after he rejected socialism in favor of fasism- "...Fascism [is] the complete opposite of…Marxian Socialism, the materialist conception of history of human civilization can be explained simply through the conflict of interests among the various social groups and by the change and development in the means and instruments of production.... Fascism, now and always, believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect." Full quotation and citation: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/mussolini-fascism.html

Fascism, at the time of its creation, was even referred to at many times as being an extreme form of anti-communism, and developed out of a reaction against communist ideals in many areas. It also developed in reaction against democratic ideals, which is something which it shared with communism, but the existance of a common third party foe does not make the two alike.

I'd prefer to address the more theoretical connection between fascism and socialism/ communism, however. Many people seem to have a pretty good understanding of communism, probably because it tends to be so ideological, and based so clearly on a set of written texts. Few people seem to really "get" fascism. Most think that it is simply a term for authoritarianism.

Its not.

Fascism is a relatively complex ideology of government that basically comes in two parts. The ideology that is taught to and believed by the common people is one of anti intellectualism, one that idealizes a mythological sense of national destiny and unity, and the subjugation of the individual to a collective whole. Strength is valued over reason, which is explicitly rejected, and strength is seem as coming only from national unity and military might. Freedom is seen as a danger from which individuals should be protected; individuals are instead encouraged to dissolve into a sort of uniform and unstoppable national will. Society is viewed as an organic whole, which essentially means that the nation is viewed as if it were a person with a distinct personality and character. Individuals who are members of that nation but who do not hold those characteristics are considered as not "true" members, and are treated with contempt, or with violence. Whenever you hear a politician or a media figure refer to someone as not really being a "real" american, you're hearing them borrow a page from the book of fascism.

That, of course, is only the ideology for the common people. The ideology of the government within fascism is slightly different. The government is considered as the proper director of the national will. Unlike other oppressive forms of government where the government rules over the people, fascism does not make a pretense of ruling on the people's behalf. Soviet Russia, for example, spent a great deal of effort maintaining the pretense that the government was the servant of the people. Fascism would laugh at such efforts, and simply claim that the government is in fact the right and proper ruler of the people, and that any government that functions otherwise is "weak," the ultimate sin in fascist thought. The fascist government is also corporatist. This is a system in which the government and industry are carefully linked, and industry figures hold direct governmental influence. A system where, for example, the owners of the steel industry directly write the government's steel industry policy, is tending towards corporatism. Such regulations tend to be protectionist and mercantilist, and focused on the creation of a military industrial machine. In comparison, within communism, industries were owned by the government, and regulation was written by a large bureaucracy dedicated to an obscure idea of social justice and "fair distribution" of goods. Both systems are forms of planned economies run by an economic elite; both systems are bad; they are bad for different reasons. The fascist system tends to result in a massive system of corporate welfare where business leaders milk the public for all its worth. The communist system tends to result in underproduction and impoverishment.

Its fun to watch politics, and pick out bits of proto fascist rhetoric. It used to be fun to pick out proto socialist rhetoric, although that's died down a lot in the past decade. When you hear politicians tell you that now is not the time to question, that now is the time for unity and strength, and that those who question the government are giving aid to the enemy, you're hearing an argument that is tending towards fascism. When you hear that the government is letting industrial leaders decide industrial policy without openness to public review, you're hearing an echo of fascism. When you hear a politician refer to "traditional american values," often, though not always, you are hearing an argument rooted in fascism. Liberalism (in the classical sense, not the american political sense; if you think individual rights and voting are a good thing, you're this kind of liberal) believes that questioning the government at every turn is the right and proper thing to do, to keep it in line and in the service of the people. It believes that policy should not be decided by an elite through a process that is unaccountable, but through an open, public discourse and the democratic process. It believes that there are no such thing as "our" values, that instead each individual has his own values, and that it is not the purpose of the government to promote "our" values, but to instead preserve a system where every individual can freely pursue a life according to his own value system, as far as is possible without infringing upon the ability of others to also live as they choose.

Anyways, I've strayed from my point somewhat. Simply remember: Fascism- unity of national will and strength directed by corporatist government aimed at an unclear goal of "strength" and "power." It works, in that it does create a strong, unified government like it intends; it also oppresses and destroys. Communism- equality of individuals in all ways, even distribution of economic wealth, government by those who are educated and indoctrinated into pursuing these goals and creating a world wide, unified system of total equality. Doesn't work, doesn't create such a system, and leads to poverty and the slow dissolution of those ideals over time as the system fails to produce as advertised.

Different things, historically, ideologically, and in practice.

I'm out.

Russ Goble

Doug, you make some interesting points. As for the difference between Nazi's & Communist, it is more of an academic exercise than a practical one. I know that by the definitions of our poly-sci books that Fascism and Communism are polar opposites on the traditional left/right political prism. My beef is that this traditional left/right worldview is faulty and very unhelpful in the real world. In that worldview, John Kennedy has more in common with Stalin, than Stalin had in common with Hitler. It may work as an acedemic exercise, but in the real world it doesn't pass the smell test.

I'm willing to accept that the NAZI's official name of National Socialist was a marketing tool, along the lines of the German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany) which was neither Democratic or a Republic (Ditto the Democratic Republic of Korea). But, they are still much closer to each other than either the majority of American Democrats or Republicans are to their supposed extremes. I don't buy it. But, with yours and Cadfans comments regarding the idealogical differences on Fascism and Communism, I think I have a lot more to say, especially on Cadfan's fantastic analysis (though I have some issues with it), so I will make a separate post on my website this week that also ties in your comment that Nazi Germany was capitialist.

Russ Goble

OK, onto other parts of your post, Doug. I want to focus on the central problem with your statements embodied in the following quotes:

"...his [Che's] view of socialism, "the abolition of the exploitation of man by man," was never realized."

"However, nothing in communism promotes the idea of repression and mass murder. The governments are guilty of that, not the philosophy of communism itself."

"Communism is a noble idea that simply doesnt work. There is nothing evil in wanting everyone to share everything"

Come on. Think it through. YOu say their is nothing wrong with wanting everyone to share everything? So, let's play it out. Who determines what is shared? Who determines what is equitable? Who determines what someone's needs are? Who ensures that labor is properly utilized to maximize society's benefit? After all, that "everything" you refer to has to be produced somehow. Who determines all this? Under communism, you HAVE to have a central power answering all these questions. Even if it is a democratically elected power, there will still be government entity with police power that will have to determine what is "equitable." And very likely, the people voting in favor of such a system would be those with the most to gain, and those voting against it would be those with the most to lose. That's almost by definition since the reason you need to share everything equally is because it's obviously not being shared equally before.

Ah, but here's the real kicker. How did that unequal situation come about. Well, unless you are willing say that EVERYBODY who is rich got that way by exploiting EVERYONE who is poor, then you have to recognize that at least some individuals are rich and/or poor via the merit of their own activities.

I imagine that recognize that communism is silly because it tries to alter human nature in an incredibly unrealistic way. Some people work harder than others. That is a fact. Whatever the system, you will have people who are better at succeeding under that system than others. Moreover, some people are simply better at certain jobs than others. Certain jobs will have a higher demand than other jobs. And those certain jobs will have higher prices because of the simple principle of Supply and Demand. So, you will have people who are richer than others by the simple normal activities of people living their lives. Despite their best efforts that was the case in every instance of communist governments as well. Though,they tried to talk about equality, the fact was that some people were better communists than others and they tended to rise through the ranks faster than others. This afforded certain privaledges. They would not have tried to excel in those circumstances if it did not afford them certain privaledges.

So, if you accept that some people will work harder than others (regardless of the government/economic system in place) and that some are better qualified to perform certain tasks than others, you will have an unequal results of their labor.

So, with that in mind, let's address your statement that sharing everything between everybody is noble, and that Che, as a communist idealist, advocated ending exploitation.

Here's the problem. If you are forcing people, who will perform differently, to share equally in the aggregate fruits of their labor, then you have a situation, where someone is exploiting the other. Che didn't want to end exploitation. He merely wanted to redefine the rules of exploitation so that it benefited his favored constituency (defined by whatever way you please, be it the worker, the farmer, the poor, etc). In other words, you would be exploiting the skilled and efficient workers and giving the fruits of their labor to those who were less skilled and less efficient. It's exploitation just the same. Che and his ilk merely seeked to redefine the rules of the game. But, they were not advocating an end to all exploitation. Not even close.

You say nothing in communism promotes repression or mass murder. What happens when these communists idealists, who have love in their hearts, come to one of their subjects to collect all of their assets, so they can be equally distributed? What happens when someone says no? Will, they just turn and walk away? Will they let them keep the fruits of their labor? Will that not bring the whole house of cards down? So, of course, they can't allow someone to say no. They must, take the assets by force. And whenver that has happened, whether it's during the bolshevik revolution, or the various purges in China, or the famous killing fields of Cambodia, their has been mass murder. It's the only way to insure success, with success being defined as "reclaiming" all of the "people's assets." Someone will have to "reclaim" the exploited assets. Someone will have to knock on the doors and TAKE it. There will be bloodshed. There will be murder.

Even in your ideal world of a democraticly elected communists nation, their will be a minority who votes not to give up the fruits of their labor. You will have to take it from them.

You can console yourself that communism doesn't promote repression or mass murder, but it is an unavoidable byproduct. This should be obvious.

You say communism is not evil. What happens when the person, who has seen the fruits of their labor redistributed to those who that person views as less deserving, decides that it's no longer worth their best effort to work for little or nothing in return. What happens if they choose not to work? What happens when they say "why don't we let others work for me for a change"? How does this idealist communist society deal with that? Do they simply say "ok"? No, of course not, their mandate is to make sure everyone is equal, everyone is happy, and to maximize society's well being. They NEED that person's labor. They NEED that person's skill. So, they will force him/her to work. They have to. Again, if they do not, the house of cards crumbles down.

So, communism, even in the ideal sense, the ideal world, that you stated "unfortunately has not been realized", will have to have exploitation of someone. It will have to have repression and some form of murder in order to collect and redistribute the property that was obtained under the "old rules." Many of it's best and brightest will be working for less than they would earn in a typical supply/demand economic model. And if they choose not to work, they will have to be forced to. That's theft, at best, it's slavery at worst. Seriously, you want to tell me that this is not only NOT evil, but it is actually noble? Sorry, it's intellectually dishonest to try to paint communism as something it never has been and could never be.

cadfan

"so I will make a separate post on my website this week that also ties in your comment that Nazi Germany was capitialist."

Not capitalist. *Corporatist.*

I swear to god, its different. Both involves businesses buying and selling products, but in corporatism, the businesses are augmented by far reaching economic protectionism and government sponsored mercantilism. If you mean capitalism as in tradition private run business, its really not the same.

Russ Goble

Cadfan, I agree. That's actually what I was going to expand upon. BTW, mind if I post your analysis in full in another post on this site? Thanks for your insights.

cadfan

I don't mind.

Doug

Remember, my argument isn’t that communism is good. Perhaps Che didn’t read between the lines and realize that he was fighting for a bad system. But what I am concerned about is his motivations, because I believe that is what makes a man a good person. When you read the great Greek and Shakespearean plays, the tragic hero is the man or woman who has all the best intentions but has one fatal flaw that led to their downfall. Che was a tragic hero, as his intentions were pure but he had the fatal flaw of a religious belief and faith in communism. He was fighting people who, though their economic system may have made more sense, were fighting for no such pure reasons. They were fighting in plain sight that their system promoted misery and exploitation. All they had to do was look in the fields and the cities of their Central American nations. They were knowingly fighting to continue this exploitation and to keep the riches they had acquired rightfully or wrongfully. You can perhaps say that Che fought unknowingly for exploitation, which I will disagree with in the rest of the post, but I can say he fought against people who killed others knowing all the while that their fighting was perpetuating exploitation.

“Who determines what is shared? Who determines what is equitable? Who determines what someone's needs are? Who ensures that labor is properly utilized to maximize society's benefit? After all, that "everything" you refer to has to be produced somehow. Who determines all this? Under communism, you HAVE to have a central power answering all these questions. “

Who determines those things? The same people who decide it in the capitalist democratic world. The IRS does this every day. So does congress. In our nation, the government determines who gets what, who is taxed what amount, where that tax money goes. Our government even has a postal service, a military, and federal police forces which it determines how to utilize to maximize society’s benefit. It isn’t evil that our government decides what someone’s needs are (when it sends tax money to public schools or social programs), or what belongs to whom (when it taxes people). I mean, only the most conservative of the conservative would ask that the US end all taxation, yet your claim states this is evil. You can say that the value judgments the communist nations have made in the past were wrong and evil (there judgments about who owns what and how resources should be used); but again, you cannot say that communism is bad simply because the government must make these decisions. We do it all the time. And arguably, as long as the officials making the decisions are popularly elected, we judge it as fair.

‘Even if it is a democratically elected power, there will still be government entity with police power that will have to determine what is "equitable." ‘

We have one too. It’s the IRS and congress, among others, who are supported by the police power of the FBI, Secret Service (for counterfeiting offenses), et al. These forces determine what is equitable and enforce it with violence if necessary. Personally I have no problem with this. That’s how governments must work. To disagree is to flirt with anarchy.

“And very likely, the people voting in favor of such a system would be those with the most to gain, and those voting against it would be those with the most to lose.”

Isn’t that the same way our system is? In a democracy, don’t people with the most to gain always vote at the highest rates to elect the party that will help them the most? That is certainly the case among the richest and the poorest, who often vote according to which American party they believe will fill their pockets the most. Again, the only difference is scale, not ideology or morality.

“Here's the problem. If you are forcing people, who will perform differently, to share equally in the aggregate fruits of their labor, then you have a situation, where someone is exploiting the other. Che didn't want to end exploitation. He merely wanted to redefine the rules of exploitation so that it benefited his favored constituency (defined by whatever way you please, be it the worker, the farmer, the poor, etc). In other words, you would be exploiting the skilled and efficient workers and giving the fruits of their labor to those who were less skilled and less efficient. It's exploitation just the same. “

First of all, all forms of exploitation are not “the same”. It is possible for one system that exploits people to be much “less bad” than another, simply based on how many people are getting exploited and how badly. Let’s use Marx’s vision of communism to see exactly what it was Che thought he was fighting for.

Let’s say you are a doctor. Under capitalism you would be making much more money, so maybe you will say you are being exploited since you make no more money than a janitor. If you are working a 40 hour week and getting everything you need to live off of, would you have much of a right to complain that you were being exploited? You are given a comfortable home, all the food and nutrients you need, and a job to serve as an outlet with no chance of unemployment, and free time to pursue your personal interests (remember, I am painting the picture as Che saw it, which obviously is very idealistic and not at all how the realized forms of communism turned out). If I were a doctor working 40 hours and still being given everything I needed in order to live day to day, I doubt I would be miserable if I saw other people slacking. However, if I were a Cuban farm worker, slaving away for 60 hours a day and not having what I needed to live I healthy life, and very often dying early without any opportunity to pursue a different lifestyle, I think I would be very miserable when I saw the farm owner living a lavish lifestyle that he simply inherited. Sure, you can say the doctor is being exploited, but pardon me for not shedding a tear for our wise physician. Perhaps he is being exploited by the tamest definition of the word, but it’s far better than the type of exploitation Che was fighting against.

“You say nothing in communism promotes repression or mass murder. What happens when these communists idealists, who have love in their hearts, come to one of their subjects to collect all of their assets, so they can be equally distributed? What happens when someone says no? Will, they just turn and walk away? Will they let them keep the fruits of their labor? Will that not bring the whole house of cards down? So, of course, they can't allow someone to say no. They must, take the assets by force.”

Ask the IRS and FBI how they deal with “subjects” who don’t pay their taxes, or “allow their assets to be redistributed.” That’s right, they take the assets by force.

“You can console yourself that communism doesn't promote repression or mass murder, but it is an unavoidable byproduct. This should be obvious.”

Should it be obvious? Maybe I have wool over my eyes. I still don’t see where this unavoidable repression and mass murder come in. You seem to imply that the mass murder and repression comes when people don’t want to give up their money, but somehow our system takes away their money with implied force all the time, and it does it without resorting to the Killing Fields. Maybe Che thought that a Communist system could do that too.

Remember, I am not arguing that Communism is good. I am just arguing that Che was a good person.

Doug

One more thing I take issue with.

"And if they choose not to work, they will have to be forced to. That's theft, at best, it's slavery at worst. Seriously, you want to tell me that this is not only NOT evil, but it is actually noble? Sorry, it's intellectually dishonest to try to paint communism as something it never has been and could never be."

What happened to the poorest people in the Central American capitalist system (just about 90% of the population) if they chose not to work? That's right, they died. That's not slavery? They didn't have the choice to go find more work elsewhere, they didn't have the choice to organize and try to get fair wages. That's slavery, not a bright, smart guy being paid only enough to live comfortably on rather than enough to buy yachts. And "sorry" about my intellectual dishonesty, but apparently you skipped the parts where I (repeatedly) say that my point is not to defend communism. I defend the idea that Che could have mistakenly, honestly, with all the best intentions viewed Communism as a better alternative to what was going on in his land at the time. If you study what was going on at the time in Cuba, Bolivia, and other Central/South American nations, I think you'll see that to people like Che, nearly anything would have seemed a better alternative.

Russ Goble

OK, first off, I undestand that you are arguing about what Che was thinking, that you may not support that. But, you are arguing for Che as a good person. My point was that to believe in the ideas you put forth as noble are actually not, for the reasons I stated.

You countered with a bunch of examples of what we do here in America and used it as a form of moral equivalence. Fair enough.

But, that would only persuade me if I actually believed that the principles that govern much of modern America are moral, which I do not.

While I believe America is the best place to live and has a far superior OVERALL system than anywhere else in the world, that does not mean it comes close to my ideal. I am not your stereotypical conservative. I am not a stereotypical libertarian either. But, I do sympathise with Randian libertarianism, even though I quibble with some things at the margins (for example, big "L" Libertarians have no idea whatsoever about how to handle the problems posed by Islamic terrorism). But, I'm also an American constitionalist or a federalist. I believe the American Constitution is the most important political document ever written. Oops, I digress.

Yes, the IRS has police power over people's assets. Yes, the federal government has many of the same powers that the communist did. But, the last thing I will do is defend the majority of our federal regulations. The last thing I will do is defend our progressive tax system (which is based on the same marxist assumptions that Che advocated). The last thing I will do, is advocate a federal government with the size and power of our current one (or even 50% of the that size and power).

But, there is one much larger reason why your counter arguments do not work for me. There is a system of laws that protects (albeit not as well as it used to) individual property rights. Individual property, pretty much by definition, is not allowed in a communist society (never mind other areas of individual liberty). This is at the core of its problems. The idea behind taxation is to provide for CERTAIN services democratically elected officials have deemed to be the best for society. And there are legal limits, constitutionally derived, to the governments' ability to use those powers (though, thanks to activist courts, those limits are less rigid than they once were).

Our system here is still the best, even though our regulations are too intrusive, our tax system unfair and geared towards punishing success and rewarding failure (and befor you say I'm saying poor people deserve it, I also am saying that our corporate welfare system is guilt as well). In short, our government picks winners and losers. Just as communism did. But, there is a key difference: we are still free to dictate our own destiny, though not near as much as I would prefer. We don't have to fit in the category some of our government want to put us in. Communism inherently dictated, from the top down, what everyone's destiny would be. A central government decided what was "enough" to live on or what dictated a "confortable living." That is arrogance and pride that cannot, in any way, be called noble.

If Che was unaware of this, then he had the analytical skills of a child. There is nothing admirable about that. But, I actually do not believe he was as ignorant as a child. I believe he was fully aware of the score. He was fully aware of the "price" that needed to be paid (Insert Marx's take on breaking a few eggs to make an omelette). He understood well all the uglyness involved in what he advocated. He did, after all, attempt violent measures to achieve his goals.

You did say that you believe that Che wanted to end exploitation, but you recognize that some exploitation is less bad than others. You basically gave me my point that there would be some form of exploitation (even if you believe that exploitation was OK). So, then, you believe that Che was either unaware of this (making a dupe) or did not infact want to end exploitation, just change who is exploited and in what way. You can argue whether that's bad or good, but don't say that he advocated ending exploitation.

For communism, as an ideal, there will be no limits to the power of the government for communism to work. After all, when your goal is to control the means of production, and your stated desire is to provide for society's well being, then it is your mandate to use all the tools of power at your disposal. This is inherent to it's viability. Anyone who advocates it knows this from the get go.

That is why I can't let Che slide, just because he had some noble motivation of people "sharing" everything. He advocated dictatorship. I will certainly give you that maybe he thought it was out of love. That misses the central point. It was a form of hubris that goes way beyond the level of a Shakespearean tragic hero. It was the very essence of his ideology. He believed in a system that would tell OTHERS how things should be done. And that is why I believe he is not someone to be admired.

I will have more to say about this, or rather the underlying themes. My central theme will be that arguing capitalism vs. communism vs. fascism (and all the shades in between) is an overwrought discussion. It is interesting from an acedemic standpoint, but not very useful in the real world. Because, in the real world, capitalism is not a system. It is the way things are. It comes naturally. All the other systems we've discussed (commusism, fascism, socialism, mercantilism, corporatism, whatever it is we have hear int his country, or this 'ism, that 'ism) are really just top down ways to alter the natural order of things when humans interact with each other. Capitalism is not a system. It is merely the natural organic byproduct of human interaction. The rules of capitalism still apply, no matter what any government system tries to introduce in the way of "fairness." Anyway, another topic for another post. Keep checking back. I'll get to it this week. Enjoyed it.

Doug

OK, here I go again. One of these days I am going to get carpal tunnel syndrome or maybe have to quit my job in order to keep up with this thread :)

“OK, first off, I undestand that you are arguing about what Che was thinking, that you may not support that. But, you are arguing for Che as a good person. My point was that to believe in the ideas you put forth as noble are actually not, for the reasons I stated.”

A fair enough opinion, though I disagree with it. And I am not sure about that last sentence; I think a few words may be missing. I believe what you are saying is that the ideas Che was pushing were not actually noble.

“But, that would only persuade me if I actually believed that the principles that govern much of modern America are moral, which I do not.”

I am starting to wonder if a discourse between us would just go on forever and ever, because the more I read your opinions and beliefs about politics and law, the more I feel I am diametrically opposed. For example, I think Rand’s beliefs are easily as foolish and apt to lead to repression as communism. Rand implies that there are some humans who are simply “better” than others and should be allocated more resources since they can use them to greater ends than the rest of us. The only problem is the person with the most guns decides who the “superhumans” are, and feels perfectly justified in creating a system of social Darwinism that leads to a caste system which gives certain people no opportunity, or at least very little.

“But, there is one much larger reason why your counter arguments do not work for me. There is a system of laws that protects (albeit not as well as it used to) individual property rights. Individual property, pretty much by definition, is not allowed in a communist society (never mind other areas of individual liberty). This is at the core of its problems."

I don’t see this as providing any reason my counter argument doesn’t work. Because it would be breaking personal property laws? Maybe the laws are immoral, or unreasonable. Are you saying that a revolution can never be justified if it runs counter to existing laws? In that case there has never been a justifiable revolution because ALL revolutions are fought to overturn existing laws. I’m lost here.

“The idea behind taxation is to provide for CERTAIN services democratically elected officials have deemed to be the best for society. And there are legal limits, constitutionally derived, to the governments' ability to use those powers (though, thanks to activist courts, those limits are less rigid than they once were).”

Cuba didn’t have our constitution or legal limits. I don’t think Che needed to feel bad that his system would have violated American ideals of property laws (which by no means are the universally accepted viewpoint) any more than we should feel bad if our system violates Saudi shariah. It’s simply irrelevant.
You also say that the idea behind taxation is to democratically decide what services are best for society and use the money thusly. You somehow think Che’s system would have violated this. Why? It most likely would have been democratic, and the government, like any government in the world, would have deemed where the money should be reallocated, as do all governments. There would just be higher taxes to reallocate. You are creating a false difference here.
There are actually many reasons to believe Che’s system would have been democratically supported. Had there been a referendum in Cuba, Bolivia, or the various other countries where he promoted revolution, I believe the people would have chosen Che’s ideals by a landslide, for he was loved and sheltered wherever he traveled. That’s the idea of a guerrilla war. The numbers were on his side, as were the locals; he only lost (when he did) because of CIA supported proto-fascist armies who simply had more money and technology, not more people or even the support of the public.

“Our system here is still the best, even though our regulations are too intrusive, our tax system unfair and geared towards punishing success and rewarding failure (and before you say I'm saying poor people deserve it, I also am saying that our corporate welfare system is guilt as well).”

I won’t say you are saying poor people deserve it. What I will say is that it is foolish and, though I hate to be mean, a bit cry baby-ish for the rich to complain that graduated taxes punish their success. I have never understood this viewpoint. No matter how high graduated taxes get, barring communism, people who make more money will STILL have more money than the others even after taxes are taken. Sure, the gap between them may not be as big, but they will still have more. They worked harder, they were successful, and they have more money than the unsuccessful do because of it. How is that punishment? Again, here is an issue where I feel we could talk for days and I hesitate to get into it now, but I don’t buy that any tax can punish the successful so long as the successful still end up with more money than the rest. If any successful person with more money than me disagrees, I will trade incomes with him and he can cease to be “punished” with high taxes. Yet he will have my lower income and make less money overall. Sounds reasonable…

“In short, our government picks winners and losers.”

Our government never made a rich, successful person a loser through taxation. They may have made them less rich, but still richer than the others he succeeded past. Society, on the other hand, picks winners and losers. Bad schools, bad areas of town, and being born into situations where succeeding in school leads to being jumped or worse, where you need to work full time while still in school to help mom pay the rent, and when, by the time you are old enough to go out on your own, you are uneducated, fatigued beyond your years, and already have a severe disadvantage. Hey, look at the bright side, maybe you can be a plumber. Or here’s an idea, why doesn’t John from South-Central take out a loan (without a credit rating), and start a business (with his lack of a degree - he was afraid to do well in high school because smart kids got beatdowns, and by the time he was mature enough to see the value of education, his grades were already too bad. Plus he didn’t feel like studying after 6 hours of work trying to help pay for his mother’s medical insurance). Far more people have had their chances for success ruined by the financial and social position they were born into than by tax law. Maybe you’ll call this John anecdote a sob story, but it’s much better than any sob story about overtaxed rich people who now only make “a lot” more money than everyone else rather than “a ton” more. Again, this is another point we disagree deeply on, and I can just see another few days of debate coming from this topic.

“We are still free to dictate our own destiny, though not near as much as I would prefer.”

I don’t know why we are arguing about the US anyway. That isn’t the system Che was trying to overthrow. Read about 1950s and 60s Central America. Under capitalism, they certainly were not able to dictate their own destiny. How would you go about a career change if you were born into a family of sharecroppers on an enormous hacienda?

“A central government decided what was "enough" to live on or what dictated a "confortable living." That is arrogance and pride that cannot, in any way, be called noble.”

Would it have been more noble for Che to stand by and watch the lesser classes toil endlessly with no hope for self betterment? Che was a doctor. He had a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires. He could have spent his entire life wealthy and ignored the plight of the people he saw around them. Yet he was heartbroken at what he saw when he, in 1952, took a solo trip through South America on his single seater motorcycle. He saw poor landless Indians, people who could never escape the situation they were born into. He risked, and eventually lost, his life to do what he thought helped them. Do you know how Che died? He was captured by the Bolivian government and the CIA and, after he refused to betray his friends and give into any interrogation for an entire year, the CIA had no more use for him and he was shot. A prisoner of war, who surrendered when surrounded and expected proper human rights, who fought only armed soldiers, was executed unarmed. A doctor who had a wealthy life ahead of him ended up with 6 holes in his torso, and accepted his fate willingly. He could have easily given information, made a bargain, and went off to live his life comfortably, practicing medicine. If this man wasn’t noble, compassionate and unselfish, then I know no one who is. I won’t argue that he was a gifted economist or political philosopher, just that he was a good person with a good heart. Certainly a more heroic figure than either Bush or Kerry, which is why I don't see it as an insult to have a picture of Kerry in a "Che beret."

“You did say that you believe that Che wanted to end exploitation, but you recognize that some exploitation is less bad than others. You basically gave me my point that there would be some form of exploitation (even if you believe that exploitation was OK). So, then, you believe that Che was either unaware of this (making a dupe) or did not in fact want to end exploitation, just change who is exploited and in what way. You can argue whether that's bad or good, but don't say that he advocated ending exploitation.”

Interesting point, but I will contend that what you see as exploitation may not be what he saw as exploitation, and perhaps the original Spanish doesn’t translate exactly to the word “exploitation” as we have it English. But regardless, what stands is that he wanted to make life immeasurably better for the poor and skill-less classes (of which he was not even a member) by making the rich people less exuberantly loaded. Call that exploitation if you want; I still see no moral violation here. He didn’t want to kill anyone, just take away a few mansions to save lives. Idealistic, yes, but like I said, that doesn’t keep him from being a good person. Jesus, Buddha, and Ghandi – all were idealistic. (Of course they weren’t guerrilla warriors, which has to put them a level above Che. I won’t argue against that.)

“That is why I can't let Che slide, just because he had some noble motivation of people "sharing" everything. He advocated dictatorship.”

Again, I disagree with you here. I don’t know why you think it is so obvious that communism must lead to dictatorship. My whole last post argued that there is no more reason for communism to lead to dictatorship than our tax system, and you did not rebut. You simply said taht you didn't think our system was ideal either, which is not a rebuttal. From hindsight we may see that Communism has led to authoritarianism, but I am willing to believe that back then, before we had seen the effects of world communism, it was not obvious at all. It hadn’t been tested or even thoroughly analyzed by most economists, as far as I know. No one, least of all our government, bothered to argue why communism wouldn’t work. They just called it godless and evil while their imperialist system continued to ruin the lives of the people all around Che. I doubt Che would have fought for Communism if he believed it would lead to authoritarianism – he was an outspoken opponent of Soviet communism.

“He believed in a system that would tell OTHERS how things should be done. And that is why I believe he is not someone to be admired.”

OK, then no politicians or government officials or philosophers, short of anarchists, can be admired by you. EVERY ONE of these tell others how things should be done and attempt to enforce it through a governmental monopoly on violence. Unless you are an anarchist, you might as well consider that argument impotent.

“Because, in the real world, capitalism is not a system. It is the way things are. It comes naturally. All the other systems we've discussed (commusism, fascism, socialism, mercantilism, corporatism, whatever it is we have hear int his country, or this 'ism, that 'ism) are really just top down ways to alter the natural order of things when humans interact with each other."

Darwinism is also a natural order, yet I think it is our duty, having recognized it, to fight it at every turn and not allow weaker people to die off. Viruses are also natural. So is a state of lawlessness. Again, your argument is silly. Altering the “natural order of things” is NOT a bad thing to do. If you disagree with me, why not swear off medicine the next time you are sick? It is an artificial human invention just like socialism or corporatism or whatever we have in this country, which makes it automatically “bad” to you. Why should be punish murderers? Certainly that doesn’t happen in the natural animal kingdom.

Just some more things to think about. I hate to open Pandora's Box here, but I am not one to dodge conflict simply because it's easier to do so.

Russ Goble

The reason we were talking about American laws is because you brought it up. You countered my earliar comments with statements that were essentially "what's the difference between what Che advocated and what we have here in America"? I attempted to answer that.

You say that communism can be democratic? How? Maybe we need some definitions here. I'm referring to communism as basically the government entity controlling the means of production, with the idea being that everyone in society will share equally in the spoils of that production. I'm not talking about Sweden, which is a socialist democracy. I'm not talking about most of western Europe which are becoming slightly less socialists versions of the Swedish model. The Sweden's of the world do not control the means of production. Through regulations and taxes, they have a very high degree of INFLUENCE on production. But, it still does not constitute control. I, of course, do not like either of these versions, but I can see the difference in the two.

What we have here in America, is a much lower degree of influence over production. In fact, we are still free enough to where we can get around the government attempts to steer the economy and go in our own direction. I'm referring to the Communism put forth initially by Marx, and molded into a practical political philosophy by the Lenin's and Trotsky's of the world. This was the idealogical underpinnings of Che's philosophy, as well as the other Latin "heroes" like Castro and Ortega. And they were not trying to overthrow a capilists society. Please stop referring to Latin America of the mid 20th century as capitalists. An income gap and profits do not make a capitalists society. Or at least one I will ever defend. Freedom, opportunity, and individual rights have to be respected. And their has to be something akin to a competivie marketplace. The right wing dictatorships and oligopolies of the time had none of this.

Sure, I'll give you that if it came to a vote, many Latins may have voted in a communist government. I belive they did just that in Chile prior to Pinochet. The problem is not the first election. It's wether or not their will be a second election. And whether or not they can undo the damage that I think even you recognize would likely be done by a communist government.

Communism requires the seizure of all assets so they can be used and returned to "the people." "The People" though, in practice, is really the government. What happens when people decide they want to vote in a different system? Do all those assets get returned to their original owners? What if the people democratically decide that communism's was actually theft? How do those that are wronged get their stuff back? How does one democratically undo communism? The Eastern Europeans have certainly given it a good ol' college try, but you still have former government officials (read: former communists) somehow in charge of newly privatized assets.

There is a big difference between redistributing property and redistributing taxes. One is tangible. The other is less so. Communism does the former. We do the latter.

I am not an anarchist at all. I believe our founders got it as close to right as possible (with subsequent increases in liberty to woman and minorities moving us ever closer). I like our constitutional republic and it's federalist underbelly.

Communism dictates RESULTS. Every bit of your argument supports this. You refer to a doctor's living being "enough." You refer to the rich being better off even with an unfair tax code. You are all about results. That's all fine and good as individual value judgements, but you want a top down definition of this. That's where I draw the line.

(not to go Crash Davis on you) I believe in opportunity. I believe in freedom and liberty. AND I believe in a core set of laws that dictates civilized boundaries. Hence, property rights. You should be allowed to do whatever the hell you want as long as you do not prevent others from being able to do the same. That's where laws come in. YOu can't steal from others. You can physically harm others. And individual communities can play with in the margins of what is acceptable behavior under these guidelines. If I don't like this, I'll be politically active and seek change at these commmunity definitions. If that doesn't work, as long as I can vote with my feet and my dollars, I will do so. Communism does not allow this under it's rule.

You admitted it yourself. You don't like the results of social Darwinism. You think it's the governments' job to alter those results. I do not. I believe it's the governments' job to insure opportunity. It's the INDIVIDUAL's job to insure results. These are foreign concepts under a communist philosophy.

Jefferson wrote about the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." He, and his fellow founders were very intentional in that language. They did not say people had a right to happiness. He said they have the right to PURSUE happiness.

Che advocated a system where happiness was guaranteed and it was a system where a central authority (regardless of whether it is democraticly elected or not) defined happiness.

I believe in a system that guarantess the pursuit (i.e. the opportunity). It's up to individuals to define happiness. You have said repeatedly that you'd be happy with a moderate income. That's fine. That's your right. I have no intention of denying you that. What's different between us, is that the philosophy you advocate seeks to deny me MY definition of happiness, if I choose to wish for a higher standard of wealth than you do. That is the antithesis of liberty.

YOu have every right to call me greedy or make any moral judgement you please. I would not lock you up for it. But, under communsism, the moral judgement is handed top down. You would have no right to define your own happiness.

You talk about righting the wrongs imposed by social darwinism. Well, in a free society, you can still do just that. Private charities of every political persuasion thrive here. America is the most privately charitable country on the planet. It's a by product of our wealth. The motivations behind that charitable giving vary. Some give out of a marxist view of forsaking wealth, others do it because of their religious ethic, and still others do it for mere tax purposes or marketing. But, the central point is that they all have that freedom to do it whyever and whenever they choose.

On your last statement:

"Darwinism is also a natural order, yet I think it is our duty, having recognized it, to fight it at every turn and not allow weaker people to die off. Viruses are also natural. So is a state of lawlessness. Again, your argument is silly. Altering the “natural order of things” is NOT a bad thing to do. If you disagree with me, why not swear off medicine the next time you are sick? It is an artificial human invention just like socialism or corporatism or whatever we have in this country, which makes it automatically “bad” to you. Why should be punish murderers? Certainly that doesn’t happen in the natural animal kingdom."

Individuals alter these equations. That's what a free society does. Individuals determine worth. You say "why not swear off medicine." You miss the point. I'm not dictating how others live. I'm not saying others should be allowed to die. In a free society, those people will demand medicine. And there will be people willing to sell that to them. AND in a free society, there will be some who GIVE them that medicine, be it through a collectivist commune or a church's charity. But, these are individuals making these choices and determining what matters. THey are determining their own happiness.

Can you not see the difference between communism and what I'm advocating? One is about individuals having control (though in America we have more outside influence than I'd prefer) and the government having control and dictating results.

Even if a communist nation is democratically elected, that does not guarantee liberty. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said "Democracy is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. Liberty is a well armed sheep contesting the results." Che may have believed in democracy, but democracy by itself isn't a good thing. It's the freedom to live with the results of the election. You have to have some legal limit to prevent mob rule.

A democratically elected communist government is the very essence of mob rule. You have a majority completely redefining how a minority live their lives and determine value. Che may have advocated a democracy, I won't argue that (though what he called democracy could likewise have been a marketing tool. Many dictators have said they are democratic because they acting on behalf of all the people, so therefore their actions are democratic). But he advocated a system that could not be merely undone with another election. You can't expect to give absolute power (which communism requires) to a democratically elected government and not expect them to abuse it. As a leftist, I'd think you'd understand that. Isn't the whole 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' thing a favorite tenet of the modern left?

You argue passionately. I certainly do not question your belief you are arguing for what is right and what is just. I believe strongly that I am doing the same. You are right that we could go on for days. SImply put, communism reduces individual liberty, regardless of whether it has a democratic mandate or not. It chooses to mandate results. It requires a government to place value judgements on individuals. It DOES NOT ALLOW individuals to opt out of those judgements. We have a little bit of that here too. But, you said it yourself, the more successfully inclined some of us are the more we will still get around it. The system advocated by Che seeked to deny them that freedom. I view that as immoral. You obviously disagree.

Russ Goble

Oops, just reread my last post. I say "You can physically harm others". I mean you CANNOT physically harm others. Hopefully that was self-evident, but comments cannot be edited after the fact.

Doug

Not to try to steal the last word, but I think this will be my last post on this topic as I think from here on out we would just be repeating ourselves. If you disagree, feel free to post your last words, but this is what I hate about internet debates: even after all is said and done, it can go on forever because one guy doesn’t want to stop posting after the other guy rebuts. I will give you the opportunity since this is your site to decide how you’d like to end this debate, but this will be my last post (at least on this thread)

"The reason we were talking about American laws is because you brought it up. You countered my earliar comments with statements that were essentially "what's the difference between what Che advocated and what we have here in America"? I attempted to answer that."

Your arguments were explaining why Che’s system would have been wrong in America, i.e. violating American laws and traditions. I wasn’t saying Che’s system was good for America, just that it wasn’t any more immoral than ours. It does the same things, just different in scale. Most moral philosophers posit that scale doesn’t alter morality, but as a moral subjectivist I suppose I can’t declare they are right.

"You say that communism can be democratic? How? Maybe we need some definitions here. I'm referring to communism as basically the government entity controlling the means of production, with the idea being that everyone in society will share equally in the spoils of that production."

The citizenry can still steer the course of the government democratically. They can control foreign trade, military policy, and there is no reason to believe they couldn’t choose to end communism. I’ll get to this later. No economic policy makes it impossible for popular votes to change the course of the government. The central government controls production, true. But why couldn’t the people vote to produce more shoes rather than cars, or food rather than guns? There is simply no reason communism can’t be democratic. The only reason it hasn’t been so far is because most if not all of the communist societies in existence today imposed themselves by force contrary to public opinion and do not want to give the people votes for obvious reasons.

"And they were not trying to overthrow a capilists society. Please stop referring to Latin America of the mid 20th century as capitalists. An income gap and profits do not make a capitalists society. Or at least one I will ever defend."

You’re arguing semantics here which is a waste of breath. I don’t care whose definition of capitalism Latin America of the 20th century fits. I am a supporter of capitalism, though not pure, free market, laissez-faire capitalism. Maybe I am not making it clear that I DO NOT wish to argue in favor of communism. All I am saying is that the system that existed in that time and place had all the negative effects of capitalism and was a very bad system, arguably no worse than communism would have been. Again, I am not arguing to support communism, I am just arguing that Che is not an evil person for (wrongly) thinking communism could have improved the lives of the Latin Americans. I willingly state that he was wrong, and that communism wouldn’t have been good.

"Communism requires the seizure of all assets so they can be used and returned to "the people." "The People" though, in practice, is really the government. What happens when people decide they want to vote in a different system? Do all those assets get returned to their original owners?"

Look what happened in Russia. Sure, it’s taking awhile, but the people democratically decided that they didn’t like communism and now they are (at least by some definitions) capitalists. How can you imply it is impossible when it is happening right before your eyes? Russia is a viable capitalist country after only 10 years transition. And the people in Russia are suffering much less, and for much shorter of a time, than the people were in 20th century Latin America. Che probably realized that, like in Russia, the transition back would be difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as life was for his people under the current system. And like you pointed out, former communists still have much of the private industries, but so what? Why does it matter at all who is in charge of the assets? As long as they are privatized and run fairly according to the market, they are moving in the right direction. (An aside: Give them one generation, and ownership will be just the same as in the US - their unworthy children will have all the assets, just like in our country when the Hilton sisters inherit their estate, which they did nothing to earn. I don't want to argue estate ("death") taxes right now, so I will just concede that right now, that’s just the way things go.) And these Eastern European countries are doing fine, all considered. Let’s face it; Eastern Europe has never been the posterboy for economic lavishness. By their standards, they’re doing fine. At least 90% of them aren’t plowing the tsar’s land for just enough pay for food and shelter like they used to.

"There is a big difference between redistributing property and redistributing taxes. One is tangible. The other is less so. Communism does the former. We do the latter."

That simply isn’t true at all. The government seizes land and tangible property all the time. It’s called repossession, and I don’t see why it matters if it is different than taxation for the purposes of this argument anyway. It’s possible, it works, and repossession hasn’t ruined the nation any more than it would in a communist nation. Still, again I feel like I am being forced to argue in favor of communism, which I am not. Let me just say the following, which, after my conclusion, is the most important part of this whole post:

SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS POST: I am not a communist. I don’t think communism works. I have the benefit of hindsight and of 100+ years of economists analyzing it to say this; Che did not. I am just trying to demonstrate how a genuinely good person, like Che, living over 50 years ago, might believe that communism could possibly better serve Latin Americans than the current system they lived under. I honestly feel I’ve demonstrated that 5 times over.

"I believe in opportunity. I believe in freedom and liberty. AND I believe in a core set of laws that dictates civilized boundaries. Hence, property rights. You should be allowed to do whatever the hell you want as long as you do not prevent others from being able to do the same."

Almost everyone, left or right, believes in these things. We just believe there are different ways to reach the ends of opportunity, freedom, and liberty. Sure you should be able to do whatever you want as long as you don’t prevent others from doing the same, but when you promote a system that traps people, literally traps them, with a very very very small possibility of escaping the extreme lower class, you aren’t giving them the same opportunities. Sure, some people make it out, but very few do. And some of them who don’t try very very hard to do so. Sometimes they have to settle for living and dying simply to provide their children with a good starting place so that maybe THEY might have a chance.

"That's where laws come in. YOu can't steal from others. You can physically harm others. And individual communities can play with in the margins of what is acceptable behavior under these guidelines. If I don't like this, I'll be politically active and seek change at these commmunity definitions. If that doesn't work, as long as I can vote with my feet and my dollars, I will do so. Communism does not allow this under it's rule."

There is no reason to believe you couldn’t conceivably do all those things under communism, except vote with dollars, but some would say this is a good thing (campaign reformers. Hell, laws already exist to try to prevent or reduce this). One man, one vote seems a lot better to me than one dollar, one vote.

"You admitted it yourself. You don't like the results of social Darwinism. You think it's the governments' job to alter those results."

No I don't! I am just arguing that someone who THINKS it is the government’s job to secure results IS NOT NECESSARILY A BAD PERSON. At least not nearly as bad as someone who believes in social Darwinism, that the best rise to the top and nothing other than skill (you know, like massive inheritances or starting out on a higher standing) affects this. Ingenious.

"I believe it's the governments' job to insure opportunity."

Well then you must admit it fails at this. Does my friend in the projects have the same opportunities as the Hiltons? Of course not! My friend downtown could never pay for Harvard Law, (and don’t say he could get a scholarship – I’d like to find one student from the projects on a scholarship to ANY Ivy League school, and an inner city kid would need a FULL scholarship to be able to afford it - getting a full ride to Harvard Law is nearly impossible no matter where you grow up!) or start a large business, or even have the free time to figure out what the hell they want to do after they graduate, IF they graduate! It’s hard to philosophize about what you want out of life when you work full time while going to high school. They don’t have the same opportunities as the Hiltons simply because they don’t even have the same chance of not getting hit in the head with a stray bullet, or arrested for a crime the didn't commit! Being dead or in jail certainly hurts their chance of success. But our government decides where the police spend the most time, and which police force gets the most funding, by how much tax revenue an area produces (and thus how richt they are). Makes perfect sense that Beverly Hills has better and more cops than Compton...

"Che advocated a system where happiness was guaranteed."

No he didn’t. Did he go around offering everyone prozac? He just wanted to give EVERYONE the chance to live a comfortable life and pursue happiness from an even footing, where everyone had the same opportunities. (Again, I am not a communist so I think his expectations were unreasonable.) You equate money with happiness, which is simply nuts. Maybe money is happiness for you, but it certainly has proven not to be for nearly everyone else on earth.

"What's different between us, is that the philosophy you advocate seeks to deny me MY definition of happiness, if I choose to wish for a higher standard of wealth than you do. That is the antithesis of liberty."

What if your definition of happiness, having large amounts of money, leads to the reduction in opportunities for others? And it quite obviously does, at least in cases of extreme wealth. Then you would be hurting others by pursuing happiness, just as if your happiness was defined by how many people you punched in a given day. The government has a responsibility to stop you from that, so if a government viewed an excessive pursuit of wealth as damaging to others, it makes perfect sense they would attempt to deal with that or even deny you that.

"YOu have every right to call me greedy or make any moral judgement you please. I would not lock you up for it. But, under communsism, the moral judgement is handed top down. You would have no right to define your own happiness."

Not true. Again, they aren’t necessarily judging it on a moral basis, they are judging it based on its physical effect on others, which is an UNDENIABLE inequality of opportunity for the extremely poor.

"You talk about righting the wrongs imposed by social darwinism. Well, in a free society, you can still do just that. Private charities of every political persuasion thrive here."

This is like advocating that crime be dealt with through private charities. Have money stolen from you? A charity will solve it, no need for government intervention. No need for prisons or police. If you believe in an equality of opportunity, like I do, and you believe that there is a certain level of poverty that denies any chance of equality of opportunity, then it is perfectly reasonable to believe that the government should help stop this.

"referring to how governments should not alter natural law, especially capitalism) Individuals alter these equations."

So do governments, through research into medicine. Through locking up killers. Governments alter the equations of natuarl law ALL THE TIME. This is not just due to individual efforts. They always have and they always will. There is no reason to argue that this is wrong.

Another thing. I submit that capitalism IS NOT the natural order of things. That is a government creation as well. The natural order of things is not “Hey, I have this banana, want to trade it for that shirt?” No, the natural order can be seen every day in the animal kingdom. It goes something like this: “Nice shirt. I have a weapon and am bigger than you. Now you are dead and I have the shirt.” Capitalism is a creation of the government through the enforcement of property laws. Without property laws, the natural order is bullying and stealing. Capitalism is as much a construct as socialism or communism; it just draws the ground rules differently.

"You can't expect to give absolute power (which communism requires) to a democratically elected government and not expect them to abuse it."

Again, nothing about communism requires totalitarianism. It just requires control over how property is distributed. This is a far cry from controlling thought, votes, speech, and personal human rights.

"SImply put, communism reduces individual liberty,"

Not necessarily. Just money. Money does not equal liberty.

"regardless of whether it has a democratic mandate or not. It chooses to mandate results."

Again, just monetarily.

"It requires a government to place value judgements on individuals."

No it doesn’t. It has one moral value judgment, which you may disagree with (and I do too): that everyone deserves the same amount of money. Our government makes moral judgments all the time: like when it is ok to kill another person, etc. I think the government should avoid moral judgments, but I don’t think a government that does so is evil, or else all government would be and I would be an anarchist. I don’t believe that all people should have the same amount of money, but that is my moral belief. That’s why I oppose communism. But I certainly don’t think it is an evil moral belief to have.

I want to finish by saying that, although I have ended up defending some of the tenets of communism, I think that communism is a bad system, but not morally, just because it doesn't work. I DO have a moral problem with authoritarian communism, but then again I have a problem with authoritarianism no matter what economic system it presides over. I don't see anything evil about everyone having the same amount of money, at least not as much evil as I see in people being trapped in lifestyles from which they can never escape due to a lack of money. I am not arguing for communism. I am arguing for Che.

This is why I think Che was admirable. He was unselfish - he gave up a lifestyle of wealth and comfort to live in jungles and eventually be murdered. He was loved - he made the people he met happy. Every peasant, worker, and slave loved him not because his revolution would bring them money but because he treated them like human beings, something that no wealthy person had ever done before. Whether he won or lost, whether they got their money or not, the loved Che. Che was compassionate, and he was not a war-monger, as he saw violence as the last resort and often argued against revolution where democracy was still a possible avenue. He was intelligent - granted this doesn't make a person good, but it is something to admire. He excelled in medicine, military strategy, speaking, writing, philosophy, and poetry (which he wrote and also memorized a large amount of existing works). He managed to live in the jungle and fight bravely and fiercely while living with untreated asthma. He time and again proved himself in battle to be not only courageous but compassionate to his enemy. If only Che had been captured by someone like himself, he would not have ended up with 6 bulletholes and two cut off hands.

Go ahead and say he believed in a bad system. Go ahead and say he (unwittingly) promoted authoritarianism. Although I disagree, I still feel that he had much more to distinguish him as a good person even if you believe the two previous statements. He was unselfishness, genuine, fearless, compassionate, charismatic, intelligent, and understanding even of his enemies, even if he was not the most economically far-sighted and gifted political analyst. If someone wants to slap a Che beret on me and claim I am all of those things, I'd take it as a compliment. At the VERY worst, you can say he fought in favor of exchanging one dictatorship for another, but even that is a morally neutral act, because he fought and killed other men who wanted to retain one dictatorship in favor of another. Che did not kill civilians.

There was a lot to admire about Che. His foolish belief that communism would help more people than it hurt does not make him a bad person. You say he is evil because he didn't realize that communism would lead to a horrible situation and dictatorship. Well if I lived back then, and had no examles of communism being that way, I wouldn't think it necessarily had to, either. You can call me wrong, but do you think I am evil? If not, then don't assume Che was.

I doubt I have convinced you of anything but I hope you at least know more about Che now and can understand why we leftists respect him, even if you think we are nuts. I've enjoyed this conversation but simply can't take the stress or time investment anymore and I need to move on. Thanks for giving me a forum to express my views; and you've been a polite and intelligent adversary.

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