Am I half right?

The Nazis killed people by the tens of millions. So did the Maoists. We don’t see anything remotely comparable in the modern developed world. To even suggest so is hysterical or offensive—probably both. Readers know that I’m a utilitarian, which means I think quantities are important, indeed all important.

And yet . . . to compare two things is NOT to suggest that they are comparable. At least not in the “similar” sense of the term ‘comparable’.

At a stylistic level there are deep similarities between modern (Western) political movements and the worst excesses of the 20th century.

Maoists believed in the idea of “capitalist privilege”. Even if you were poor, the mere fact that your ancestors were landlords meant you needed to acknowledge this taint and be apologetic. Those that were working class should be favored. They believed that silence on political issues was not acceptable, you had to affirmatively spout the party line. They believed in tearing down statues that were seen as reactionary. They believed in the young engaging in the public shaming of older people with non-PC views. They believed in forcing public apologies, even though both sides knew that the apologies were insincere.

And they killed tens of millions of people.

Nazis engaged in the big lie. Truth was whatever the Great Leader said. They believed in white-washing history, promoting a fake version that glorified the homeland. They demonized minorities and foreigners, using them as scapegoats for the country’s problems. They were misogynist. They were corrupt. They were cruel, relishing humor that made fun of the suffering of their enemies. They were pro-torture. They were militaristic, favoring parades with a big show of force. They were anti-intellectual, suspicious of professors, artists, reporters, etc.

And they killed tens of millions of people.

In contrast, modern American right wing nationalists and left wing PC proponents almost never kill anyone, at least not directly.

As I keep saying, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

PS. How many intellectuals out there think I’m “half right” in these comparisons? And how often do those who think I’m half right believe I’m correct in my comparisons of the styles of those on the other side of the spectrum. I suspect that about 95% of intellectuals think I’m half right.



47 Responses to “Am I half right?”

  1. Gravatar of GM GM
    14. June 2020 at 11:38

    It’s a strange game, where the only winning move is not to play. Although I’ve been told that neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

  2. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    14. June 2020 at 11:54

    I think you are not half right, but rather half wrong, in your comparisons. But then, I am not really an intellectual.

  3. Gravatar of BC BC
    14. June 2020 at 12:10

    Nazis and Maoists killed tens of millions because they encountered resistance, which they believed they could defeat through killing. Trump says and tries to do terrible things but quickly backs off when the “deep state” pushes back because, obviously, he doesn’t have the power to kill tens of millions. Makes one wonder why the allegedly “privileged” don’t use that alleged privilege to push back against the PC police. If we stopped indulging the PC police, they would become as ineffectual as Trump.

  4. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    14. June 2020 at 12:44

    “In contrast, modern American right wing nationalists and left wing PC proponents almost never kill anyone, at least not directly.”

    Oh, only millions, indirectly?

    “A Brief History of U.S. Interventions:
    1945 to the Present by William Blum”

  5. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    14. June 2020 at 12:55


    I wouldn’t say I’m an intellectual, but I think you’re more than half right, but closer to half right than completely right.

    The Republican Party is now entirely composed of fascist cultists and their enablers. Most of the leadership are enablers, at least outside of the White House.

    The Democratic Party does have some stupid, crazy nuts who do compare somewhat to Maoists or Chavismos. I’ve been attacked by some of them recently. They seem to mostly be very young and ignorant, and I suspect they will gain wisdom with age and moderate. Even if they don’t, they are a minority within the Democratic Party, and the left-wing more generally.

    So, there is something pretty far from symmetry between right and left political pathologies in the US. In Venezuela, the opposite is true. Generally, the left-wing is just as capable of flying off the rails as the right wing, but the primary problem in much of the world right now is with the rise of fascism.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. June 2020 at 13:45

    Mike, Sorry, where did my post mention Democrats and Republicans?

  7. Gravatar of cbu cbu
    14. June 2020 at 14:30

    About 100 million combatants and noncombatants died in World War 2. 27 million died in Soviet Union alone, as a direct result of Nazi invasion. So yes, Nazi was probably the biggest murder in human history, involving all those death directly or indirectly. The situation in China is different. About 20-40 million, or about 3-4 percent of Chinese population starved to death under Mao, but it was not really murder. In the Great Famine of Ireland, 10% of the population died. I do not hear much accusation about bloody murder against Great Britain. As for revolution and dynasty change in China, it’s usually a bloody affair, partly because of China’s large population base since ancient times. So it’s not really surprising that millions could die in the Maoist revolution.

    After War War 2, the U.S. killed, maimed, and displaced millions in South East Asia and Middle East directly, sometimes with complete false pretense such as Iraq WMD. The U.S. also involved in the killings of hundreds of thousands of people indirectly by supporting dictators in South East Asian (Indonesia for example) and South America, often by disposing democratically elected leaders first. I just don’t think the U.S. can ride the moral high horse.

  8. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    14. June 2020 at 14:46

    Sumner is not half wrong, he’s 1.0 right…in confirming Godwin’s Law.

  9. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    14. June 2020 at 15:59

    I have had the exact same thoughts as you have re: today versus Nazis and Maoists. I agree you are directionally correct. What is different? About 50 million deaths. As irritating as I find views I disagree with (as others think of mine) I have yet to see movements which want to kill their opponents (of course every society has some of those people). Our fights predominantly occur in “”virtual space” not real space. Yes, one can not predict if these can become battles in real space. Plus, my real belief, underneath it all, is this is really just power politics. That does not mean issues are not real or that disagreements are not legitimate —- but ultimately it is about controlling the government. And yes, the loud noise is more dangerous sounding than we have seen in a long time. But to invert Von Clausewitz , politics is just the replacement of war with the admixture of other means.

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    14. June 2020 at 16:02


    nothing you’ve written about Nazism is really specifically Nazi. Most of the content in your text could also be written about Putin’s Russia or about the CCP elite. By saying this I do not claim that there are no specific characteristics of Nazism, you just did not mention them explicitly.

    In the modern Western world I see above all one main difference between Nazism and Communism, which you have not mentioned:

    Fortunately, in the modern Western world today, you can no longer be a Nazi without being socially ostracized. This is absolutely not the case for communists. Nobody can whitewash Hitler’s crimes today, but in the case of Stalin and Mao there are always enough apologists in certain major parties and in certain major media outlets.

    You can also set the clock here on this blog until commentators show up who write: “Wait a second, Mao’s murders, was that really so bad? Can you really compare that? No, no, no, that’s something else entirely!”

    There are also still hundreds of thousands of people in Western countries who say: “The basic ideas of Marx were great, let’s try them again, and if there were *problems* in the past, it’s only because we didn’t listen to Marx *properly*.”

    So in short: Hitler is dead, but Marx is not.

    You even used his quote by the way, which is kind of ironic.

  11. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    14. June 2020 at 16:51


    Even ignoring Republicans and Democrats, my last sentence sums up why you’re more than half right, but closer to half right than completely right.

    “Generally, the left-wing is just as capable of flying off the rails as the right wing, but the primary problem in much of the world right now is with the rise of fascism.”

  12. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    14. June 2020 at 17:26

    You might be overemphasizing minor differences between American factions, because that’s what the inside view leads one to do.

    Btw, I suspect the Maoists were even firmer anti-intellectuals than the Nazis. It’s the Soviets who paid some more lip service to intellect.

    All three however, managed to mostly or somewhat shield the engineers in the army and weapons manufacturing from the excesses of the political system. Because that’s where they cared about results.

  13. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    14. June 2020 at 18:37

    @ Matthias Gorgens

    That is an interesting observation about the engineers in the Soviet Union. Who are the people you see as now being protected from politics?

  14. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatrics Cartesian Theatrics
    14. June 2020 at 21:46

    My first reaction is it’s a bit odd to claim that something that sure looks Maoist probably isn’t Maoist because we haven’t seen millions of people killed yet. Several people I think are trustworthy are saying we’re basically seeing revolts across many major news organizations and careers are being cancelled. Certainly there’s a lot of a lot of fear-driven silence in science and academia right now. These amount to a significant step into the real world. The gloves are off.

    The question it seems to me is whether the internet will be able to spawn trusted, recognized alternatives and will it continue to be miraculously robust. I see huge counter-forces coming for the internet, which may result in attacks at the physical layer. “Capitalists” may try to cling to a cryptoified internet and state actors might destroy it. Or, state actors might cling to to the internet as a propaganda machine while right-wing “nazis” destroy it. Notice none of these bad actors understand how the Internet actually works, so you can expect very “coarse” solutions. My crazy bet is that Europe will be the first to lose the internet sometime in the next decade. Extreme violence may then follow.

  15. Gravatar of Jason Jason
    15. June 2020 at 00:39

    The far left has massive institutional power. And is blinded by smug, appalling arrogance. Trump, despite the presidency, is fundamentally weak.

  16. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    15. June 2020 at 02:12

    @Matthias Görgens
    I also believe that the Nazis were no more anti-intellectual than other totalitarian systems. Your engineering example is quite good. People like Ferdinand Porsche or Wernher von Braun had huge freedom under the Nazi regime. Even Heidegger was a voluntary Nazi zealot.

    People look at the Nazis of today and think that the Nazis back then were identical, but it’s hard to compare. Nazis today mostly attract people who would probably pass for mentally handicapped, whereas the Nazi movement back then covered all classes, including surprisingly many professors and students at universities.

    If you really want to study anti-intellectual systems, you have to look at the Maoists, as you said, or better yet, the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia.

  17. Gravatar of Yoav Yoav
    15. June 2020 at 03:45

    I think too many international readers for the “95%” figure.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. June 2020 at 09:21

    cbu, You said:

    “About 20-40 million, or about 3-4 percent of Chinese population starved to death under Mao”

    Wait, you’re saying Mao didn’t kill tens of millions with his policies? Are you denying that he continued his polices after being told they were killing millions? Are you denying that he said he didn’t care if his polices were killing millions?

    Mike, Either you didn’t read my post carefully, or you ignored what I was saying. You are talking about who’s worse which has no bearing on my post. It may be than one side is 100,000 times worse, and I’m still 100% correct.

    I’d suggest you read the post again, more carefully this time. Heck, I even provided a paragraph discussing the term “comparison”, as I anticipated a misreading.

    Cartesian, You said:

    “My first reaction is it’s a bit odd to claim”

    And who made that claim?

    Yoav, Good point. And one of the few comments that actually relates to the content of the post.

  19. Gravatar of cbu cbu
    15. June 2020 at 10:19

    “Wait, you’re saying Mao didn’t kill tens of millions with his policies? Are you denying that he continued his polices after being told they were killing millions? Are you denying that he said he didn’t care if his polices were killing millions?”

    Revolution doctrine or industrial policies?

    While Mao implicitly did not care that millions might be punished because of his concept of “permanent revolution”, he certainly would have cared that his industrial policies caused the death of tens of millions ordinary people had he not been ill-informed in the early stage of the famine.

  20. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    15. June 2020 at 11:54

    You are lying, and lying, and lying, which is hardly a surprise.

    Just one example:

    Yang uncovered that some 22 million tons of grain was held in public granaries at the height of the famine.

    Mao refused to open the state granaries as he dismissed reports of food shortages and accused the peasants of hiding grain.

    Mao’s insistence on maintaining high grain export quotas in the face of clear evidence of poor crop output were responsible for the famine.

    Mao’s slaughter was caused in considerable part by terror-starvation; that is, voluntary manslaughter (and perhaps murder) rather than innocuous famine.

    Mao had actually allowed for many more deaths. Although slaughter was not his purpose with the Leap, he was more than ready for myriad deaths to result, and had hinted to his top echelon that they should not be too shocked if they happened.

    Democide historian Rummel had originally classified the famine deaths as unintentional. In light of evidence provided in Chang and Halliday’s book, he now believes that the mass human deaths associated with the Great Leap Forward constitute democide.

    Like in the USSR during the famine of 1932–33, peasants were confined to their starving villages by a system of household registration,and the worst effects of the famine were directed against enemies of the regime.

    Mao did not retreat from his policies and instead blamed problems on bad implementation and “rightists” for opposing him. He initiated the Cultural Revolution in 1966 in order to remove opposition and re-consolidate his power.

    P.S. for Scott:

    Good thing the CCP is not lying about the most obvious and absurd things today as if the end of the world depends on it. They just found the source of the new outbreak on a cutting board at a market in Beijing: It was salmon from Norway, obviously. Salmon from Norway. LOL.

    Unfortunately they cannot find the source in Wuhan, but salmon from Norway always works. I think they should be equally creative in Wuhan. How about: Strawberries from France? Fennel from Italy? Rye bread from Germany?

  21. Gravatar of Jim Jim
    15. June 2020 at 13:36

    @ Matthias Gorgens

    You said “mostly” or “somewhat”, and so of course, this one example does not disprove your qualified argument, but it is from a book that I found surprisingly enlightening and riveting so I can’t help but share.

    The book is Voices From the Whirlwind: An Oral History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which contains many stories from people impacted by the Cultural Revolution. The story your comment reminded me of is from a “Former department head at a nuclear research institute in Q province,” who worked on the Chinese nuclear bomb project. He was arrested during the revolution for quote,

    “I was branded with “four points,” which were antithetical with the Four Cardinal Points (Principles) enunciated by Lin Biao. As to exact content and order, I really can’t remember anymore, but they seemed to go as follows: my “get the job done first” versus Lin Biao’s “make politics number one”; my “work performance foremost” versus Lin Biao’s “ideological thinking is paramount” and so on.” Pg 233-234

    The scientist was subjected to imprisonment and mock executions to try elicit information. He warns at the beginning of his story that “My sufferings aren’t merely personal, they also represent to a large extent the turmoil that a generation of intellectuals went through.” Pg 244

    I initially picked up this book (among others) to gain some background knowledge on China for an economic growth course I was teaching a few years back, seeing how the big story involving growth in the last 50 years is China. My other sources pointed to a view that the Cultural Revolution was formative in the sense there was a collective “let’s not do that again” response. What surprised me about the book was the similarities in thinking that I was seeing around me at least in social media, but as Scott pointed out, absent the violence. At the time, I thought I was thinking crazy thoughts and just moved on. Now, the comparison is much more in vogue.

  22. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    15. June 2020 at 14:29


    I didn’t misread. I just didn’t recall the nuance before I commented, so I was mistaken. I apologize for wasting your time and effort with my mistake.

    That said, I think the qualitative comparison of the far left PC culture with Maoism is a bit of a stretch, though I think I know what you mean. Cancel culture does remind me a bit of Maoist public denouncing of neighbors and even relatives. That said though, a fair number of the targets of cancel culture are fascists, though there is way too much friendly fire and collateral damage otherwise at times.

    It does bother me when some leftists say things like “Every billionaire is a policy failure.” That sounds somewhat like a communist line. I mark it up to failing to distinguish between a healthy desire to provide a minimum standard of living and having economic equality. I focus on the former.

    I’m closer to agreeing with you than before, but not with you. Perhaps I do have an ideological bias that gets in the way.

    I see most problems with leftist I’d see as being due to ignorance, rather than ill intentions. I see many problems on the right stemmimg from ignorance and bad intentions. The open hatred for minorities, for example, goes beyond misunderstanding. I often sense sadistic motives.

  23. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    15. June 2020 at 14:48

    I’ll extend my comments beyond the US. I think, that I’m general, the cruelty in the left-wing has been secondary to the ideology. Mao and Stalin were combinations of ideological extremism and personal cruelty and corruption. But, there was a seemingly positive intention behind communism, as misguided as it was. Seeking as much economic and social equality as possible is foolish, but a beautiful ideal, naive though it is. The bottom up push for violence from communists was toward an end.

    Communism is inclusive, unfortunately by force.

    Fascism is first and foremost cruelly exclusive. It’s fundamentally based on evolutionary biases favoring in-groups versus out-groups. It’s very origin is in lowest common denominator hatred that we’re all subject to, if not careful. It’s much more visceral.

    So, everything centers around gains for the in-groups versus the out-groups. The cruelty isn’t a means to an end, but part of the end itself.

    This hasn’t made communism any less destructive, of course. The consequences could be said to make the intentions irrelevant. But, I think this is why I favor the left.

  24. Gravatar of Scott H. Scott H.
    15. June 2020 at 15:00

    @ Mike Sandifer

    Watch out not to needlessly bifurcate here. You don’t have to favor either of these movements.

  25. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    15. June 2020 at 15:10

    Scott H.

    Yes, that’s true. Obviously, I don’t favor communism. I’m more free market than the vast majority of people. That’s why I say I’m probably biased.

    People like Scott Sumner or James Pethokoukis are not really on this spectrum. They’re more classical liberals, not subject to such biases. And we agree on most things.

    Where we differ is that I think intentions matter, whereas people like Scott have repeatedly promoted focusing on results, rather than intentions. It’s been the source of some disagreements in the past over favoring candidates like Scott Brown versus Elizabeth Warren, for example. Neither are great candidates, but I think Warren has better intentions.

  26. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    15. June 2020 at 16:21

    @Mike S: Warren is definitely in the “billionaires are policy failures” camp so not sure why you approve of her intentions.

  27. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    15. June 2020 at 18:10


    can’t you see that you’re doing what Scott described?

    You are half-right.

    Regarding fascism you can name the results, but with communism you suddenly find the most ridiculous excuses.

  28. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    15. June 2020 at 18:59


    The reason I prefer Warren is spelled out above. It’s her intentions, even though I didn’t want her to win the Democratic nomination. She’s intelligent, but is full of big, awful ideas.

  29. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    15. June 2020 at 19:02

    Christian List,

    I make no excuses for communism. I agree with Patton. If stuck between fascists and communists, attack in both directions.

  30. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatrics Cartesian Theatrics
    16. June 2020 at 01:23


    I thought you kinda made that claim when you said there are “deep similarities” and also “the second time is a farce”. I’m realizing I somewhat missed your point, which I appreciate better now. It is offensive to suggest this movement is Maoist. Still, trends really just seem to be getting worse year over year over year.

    > “I see most problems with leftist I’d see as being due to ignorance, rather than ill intentions. I see many problems on the right stemming from ignorance and bad intentions.”

    Not sure I agree. Maybe I’m biased by a Christian upbringing, but my sense is that a deranged desire for Justice can be a powerful force for violence on the left. That said, I see lots of comments on the right that go something like “these idiots should all be shot on site”, which is always chilling to encounter. The far right is more dangerous in America right now, but I think both sides are very capable of evil.

    It strikes me however that I don’t really know the history of “commanded violence” vs. “socially-driven violence” vs. “disorganized violence” and how they interact.

  31. Gravatar of Mike Sandifer Mike Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 02:00

    Cartesian Theatrics,

    You wrote:

    “Maybe I’m biased by a Christian upbringing, but my sense is that a deranged desire for Justice can be a powerful force for violence on the left.”

    You make my point. “…deranged desire for Justice…” You acknowledge there’s a desire for justice. Indeed, most communists probably have a deranged desire for justice. Both the idea of what justice is and the means to achieve justice are deranged, but the end is an ideal in which more people benefit from a more generous distribution of resources.

    In fairness, some right-wingers might say that many communists and socialists are just envious of luckier and or more productive people, and just want freebies. This is doubtlessly sometimes a motive for supporting socialist policies, but it certainly couldn’t explain why people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett favor more income redistribution.

  32. Gravatar of Harris Harris Harris Harris
    16. June 2020 at 07:00

    This is quite incorrect in both methods and facts. So first you use “modern” as a historical period rather than as a stage of development. If we take the deaths of Maoism and compared them to deaths during the development of modern democracies it even things out (to say the least). The indigenous population in North America is estimated to have been up to 18 million prior to colonization, over 90% died. Canada had concentration camps for Native children until 1996. The UN has called for an investigation into genocide currently happening in that country. Then there is the slave trade, I’ll say no more. But comparing death totals and speed of development, China and the USSR wins. Germany was already developed prior to the Nazi takeover.

    You’re also valuing internal deaths to be more important than external deaths. So we don’t see any “modern” comparisons in America because there hasn’t been a revolution or civil war in over 100 years. But there has been quite a bit of war overseas hasn’t there? It’s been “externalized” in more recent times.

    Minor note, but worth noting nonetheless, “capitalist privilege” is not a Maoist term. It shows you’ve never actually read any direct works on Maoism.

    If we are taking into account deaths done by the Nazi party, we should also take into consideration deaths done by the American government during segregation (the Nazis were quite inspired by the American model). An incredible size of the black population is under correctional surveillance and has some sort of criminal record, but more importantly, America still uses the death penalty. So some number of deaths from that system needs to be included in the American total, but it would be impossible to say the precise number.

    You point to one of America’s greatest achievements here “In contrast, modern American right wing nationalists and left wing PC proponents almost never kill anyone, at least not directly.” and thats the ability to continually deflect responsibility, partially due to checks and balances and passing the buck. “its not the party its the police, its not the police its a few bad apples, etc” “that was a long time ago, not today” and a wide variety of other tools. Free black slaves were sent to Liberia to have a land of their own…where over 80% died. But something like that wouldn’t count towards the American death total because the death didn’t happen on American soil…it was however funded by slave owners who didn’t want free slaves alive in America.

    Anyway, my conclusion is that its more appropriate to measure deaths during modernization than deaths during the modern period.

  33. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 10:24


    you’ve been talking about their “good intentions” line by line here. How is that not making excuses for communism? Don’t be ridiculous. You are constructing an absurd fantasy world that does not exist.

    The same seems to be true for your Patton image. I couldn’t find Patton’s alleged quote anywhere. It doesn’t suit him very well either. From his diaries one can see that he wants to fight Nazis and communists, yes, but he is very borderline, he puts a really big emphasis on communists and Stalin, while Nazis and Hitler play a rather small role.

    When he writes about Nazis, it is often in form of apologies, praise, and even admiration for certain actions and organizations. He never writes such things about communists, there he rather makes connections to wild, uncivilized, Mongolian hordes etc. It’s pretty extreme. And the longer the war lasts, the more this position shifts to the foreground.

  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. June 2020 at 10:45

    Harris, You started going off course when you compared Native Americans dying of disease with Mao’s crimes. When you compared Maoist China to Canada I stopped reading.

    In any case, even if you were 100% correct your comment would have no bearing on my post.

  35. Gravatar of cbu cbu
    16. June 2020 at 11:34

    @Christian List,

    If you still think Wikipedia is some impartial, unbiased source of information to this day, you are really living in your own world.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the propaganda war against China is just as relentless as the one against the the former Soviet Union. Because of this reason, unlike you, I will take what Yang etc say in their books with a huge pinch of salt.

  36. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 12:02


    I did not say anywhere that I believe wikipedia or the books of historians of American and European universities are impartial, unbiased source of information. Each source has its advantages and disadvantages and you always have to weigh them up.

    Nevertheless, it is completely rational to consider these transparent sources until better sources of information emerge.

    And please excuse me if I do NOT consider an anonymous Maoist internet troll a better source of information for the time being.

  37. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 13:07


    Where did I make a single excuse for communism? And how are you defining “excuse”? I’m anti-communist. I would not approve of a communist serving in government in the US, for example, because they don’t support our system of government and because their economic views are very much incompatible with the interests and values of the country. Is this your version of a PC attack? If I don’t declare that communists are born evil, then I owe an explanation?

    As for the paraphrase of Patton, it’s based on memory and I heard the quote more than 20 years ago. as I recall, he said it in response to comments to a journalist when asked about having a soft spot for Nazis.

    If its inaccurate, it’s merely a mistake. It’s not one of his famous quotes.

  38. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 13:52


    I don’t mean to accuse you of anything malicious. I just try to understand. You have now repeated several times, here and even in other threads, that you think these people have basically good intentions, especially in contrast to other ideologies. This suggests that you seem to believe that there is something inherently good to be found in the core idea and core utopia of communism.

    This simply frightened me, because one hears such statements quite often. I just don’t understand because first of all I think that the core idea of communism is very dystopian and secondly, to get there you have to do very bad things. The capitalists will not give up their property just because a few communists kindly ask them to. So all these crimes of the communists are not a bug of a few well-meaning idealists who have gone a bit off track. It is actually a core feature. And my impression is simply that you don’t really get that.

    And btw: Of course I don’t believe that communists or Nazis are born evil, they aren’t even born as followers of these ideologies. Unlike you, I also doubt that both sides have bad intentions, these people would say the opposite about themselves. But I do believe that both ideologies are essentially evil, and that you have to do very evil things to achieve the ultimate dystopian goals of both ideologies.

  39. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 14:54


    Communism doesn’t work. It can only lead to disaster. I only say that some significant proportion of communists have good intentions, because it’s an ideology that appeals to our better nature in some respects.

    Consider the song Imagine, by Lennon,and these lyrics:

    “Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man

    Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one”

    I’ve always interpreted these lyrics as being socialist, if not communist. In communist countries, the government owns nearly all property, and it’s supposedly all treated as public goods. Of course this doesn’t happen, in practice, but it’s part of a beautiful vision. That vision is also anti-nationalist and centered around peace and harmony.

    Can you think of such a song with fascist ideals embedded? I certainly can’t.

    Again, it seems to me that fascism is rooted in the inborn evil that lies in all of us. It’s in biases that separate us into in-groups and out-groups, and which only sees zero-sum games. It depends on primitive default human motives that represent the worst of humanity.

    Fascism is evil at it’s very core. Communism is evil in practice.

  40. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 15:18


    I don’t see it that way. Communism unfortunately also works extremely with in-groups and out-groups. The out-groups are obviously capitalists, rich or supposedly rich people, kulaks, and of course any kind of resistance, any dissident, any person who thinks differently. That you don’t seem to see this at all is more than astonishing.

    Your example from Lennon is perfect but the fact that very influential famous people and intellectuals like to glorify communism only proves how dangerous it is.

    In the case of Nazism, thank God, we have long overcome this phase. As I said, that’s where I see the main difference right now, and I bet Hannah Arendt would agree with me.

  41. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 15:32


    I disagree with your view that communists see people in terms of in-groups and out-groups. I think communists see everyone as should belonging to the in-groups. Unfortunately, those who don’t want to be part of the in-group are either forced to join, punished severely, or outright murdered.

    Communists, in principle, want everyone to partake in the effort and benefits of building communism. Fascists want to limit the partipation out out-groups, when not wanting to destroy them altogether. Fascists are nationalist, while communists are internationalist.

    Again, in practice, both are evil, but fascism begins with original sin.

  42. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 15:41

    Another way of putting it is, fascists chose who are in the out-groups and seek to disadvantage, if not utterly destroy them. Communists allow everyone to decide whether they’re in the in-group. Then, the out-groups are punished or destroyed.

    For example, no matter how much openly Jewish or people of African or Slavic descent wanted to formally be Nazis, they couldn’t be. Same was true of openly gay people.

    Anyone could join communist parties and were welcomed. It was those who didn’t want to join who were the enemies, as far as communists were concerned.

    In practice, of course, many communist countries were nationalistic, and some communist leaders were bigoted. They succumbed to some of the same original sins as the fascists, but it had nothing to do with the communist ideology.

  43. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 15:55


    you’re contradicting yourself. First you say that they don’t see people in terms of in-groups and out-groups.

    Then right after that you write, those who don’t want to be part of the in-group are either forced to join, punished severely, or outright murdered.

    So which way is it?

    How can one be forced in an in-group when there is no in-group? And how can one be murdered for being an out-group when there is no out-group?

    As I said, you completely deceive yourself.

  44. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 16:25

    For example, no matter how much openly Jewish or people of African or Slavic descent wanted to formally be Nazis, they couldn’t be. Same was true of openly gay people.


    I knew this argument would come up and it’s not a bad point at first glance. But I reject it. You are talking about extreme forms of fascism, Nazism.

    Anyhow, this is only graduation in either case, the basic principle is exactly the same: In-groups and out-groups.

    You can also see this in the fact that in many forms of communism, rich people could not simply change sides either. This is actually the norm. When Stalin says that these people were Kulaks, then they were sent to the camps or murdered immediately. Same with Maoists or Khmer Rouge. So it’s just graduation really. And worse it’s completely arbitrary, because your actual status didn’t even matter, the communists in charge just decided what you were, often without any connection to reality. In fact, there has never been a communist state without show trials.

    By the way, there were similar cases with the Nazis, for example Göring loved to use the phrase: “Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich”, meaning “I decide who is Jewish and who is not”, meaning he alone decides who can live and who has to die. He was simply bending the rules according to his will.

    At the same time one could actually convert under “normal” fascism. This even applied to Jews, see Franco and Mussolini as an example.

    And even in extreme fascism, Nazism, the rules were not always followed. For example, even the elite troops of the Nazis, the Waffen-SS in the last years of the war consisted of over 50% international troops, also a great many from Eastern Europe, and from what I read, the fake “race” criteria suddenly didn’t even matter, how could they matter, it was completely arbitrary.

    The old joke in Nazi Germany was: as blonde as Hitler, as skinny as Göring, and with the feet of Goebbels.

  45. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. June 2020 at 16:56


    One Occam’s razor explanation might be that there might be a common underlying ideology by the governments that has led to the wrong reaction to Covid-19 and to the reaction to CCP China.

    The better Occam’s razor explanation would be that the underlying reason is you, that you are seeing things which aren’t there.

    The general rational explanation would be that the sample size is too small, that correlation is not causation, and that the two incidents very likely have not much to do with each other at all. You might as well say that both countries start with the letter U.

    Not to mention that there are other countries that are just as badly off, for example Brazil, Russia and Spain.

    Oh, we have forgotten India, now I believe your theory. India is the nemesis of China. And hasn’t Brazil also recently started a dispute with China? And what about Russia, which after all is also a geostrategic competitor of China? Ben, you solved the mystery!

  46. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    16. June 2020 at 18:11


    Fascists want to force exclusion. Communists want to force inclusion.

    It’s fine if you disagree. The important thing is, neither of us support fascism or communism.

  47. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. June 2020 at 15:23


    I still think you are arguing way too much over semantics here. The real differences are rather small.

    Both ideologies pursue a dystopia, and in order to achieve this they consciously kill a great many people. You should read some Arendt.

    The final state is some sort of “dystopian paradise”, because simply all people who do not fit in are rigorously and continuously removed.

    It’s like in this old joke about elephants.
    “There is no more unethical treatment of the elephants!”
    – Well, there’s no more elephants either.

    Or this more recent joke about North Korea’s corona cases.
    “We got a corona case here!”
    – Bang. Bang. “Now it’s zero again!”

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