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    Happy International Workers' Day Lobsters event job
What?

Today is the first of May, International Workers’ Day.

When?

On May 1, 1886 thousands of workers in Chicago struck and protested about having an eight hour workday. They were joined by tens and hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States.

Why?

It’s been a bit over a century and we still have this problem, despite workers groups like the IGDA pointing out the problems.

Employers in the US are at-will in every state. We cannot count on our employers for stability.

Employers use NDAs to harm workers and silence them about working conditions. Depending on which sources you use, you can see a conservative rate of one in ten workers censored in this fashion.

Employers use non-disparagement agreements to further punish workers and prevent them sharing problems. This is a common clause gating what little severance employers might offer.

Employers support remote work in order to cut costs and reduce their responsibility to full-time employees. Working in pajamas is great, but never mistake for a second why it’s being allowed.

These are but a few examples of things to remember on this day of solidarity. Don’t listen to the people discounting our issues because of our pay. Don’t listen to the people discounting our issues because “software is eating the world”. Don’t listen to the people setting you against your brothers and sisters to help cut costs.

And if you do think that being a developer in a booming sector means that you have some sort of protection, just remember:

The Chicago strikers were skilled workers too.

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    I think being a developer in a blooming sector can actually mean that one has less protection. The tech industry has pretty much no established union, as far as I am aware.

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      Tech Worker Coalition. Check them, they are great

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        Seconding this - tech workers must organize to protect our own labour rights, to help and stand in solidarity with less privileged labour groups that don’t have the same level of bargaining power, and to provide a desperately needed ethical check on an industry run amok.

        The Tech Worker’s Coalition is a great group for learning how to do so and connecting with others who are also interested. I’ve been going to local meetings for a couple months and it’s been incredibly refreshing to meet other tech workers who feel similarly. There is an online Slack community as well as locals in a number of US cities. Note that while the Tech Worker’s Coalition is an explicitly pro-labour and pro-union group, it is not itself a union, and has very little formal structure. You can find out more or join at https://techworkerscoalition.org/

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        One US exception I know of has recently been kickstarter (somewhat ironically, I guess).

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          I live in Sweden, where nearly every job has a collective agreement with a union and most are members of a union.

          Except in tech. In tech, you can only count on having collective agreement if you work at a non-tech company such as a bank.

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            Several of my former colleagues in Sweden were programmers in unions.

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              I’ve never been part of a union/unionised agreement in the Netherlands either, but on the other hand I never felt it was particularly necessary as the worker protections under law are already pretty good (too good if anything, as it’s almost impossible to fire people). Additionally, firing a programmer (even if you could at a whim) comes with real costs to your company. A lot of knowledge gets lost, and training a new person is an investment.

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                I agree that you can only count on it if you are on a non-tech company. In tech you have to make an active choice whether you want to work in a workplace connected to the union or not.

                I’m sitting right next to a union representative right now at a product company in tech. Among consultancies there both those which have a collective agreement, those who don’t and a third category who don’t but who claim to have equivalent agreements and protections as those which are.

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                  This third category is the most hurtful. When you have a collective agreement, you get rights and protections and benefits, and you know about them. When you don’t have one, you don’t get those rights and protections and benefits, and this is obvious.

                  But when an employer says “oh, we don’t have a collective agreement, but we follow what’s written in this one” you get some of the benefits, but none of the rights and protections, and you’re not really sure which you get and which you don’t and it’s very vague and hand waivey.

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                Your protection from what?

                From agreeing voluntarily to exchange your time and labour for money?

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                  Protection from abusive management practices, get us benefits that management always gets, and a bit of an equalizer in power. Due process is my favorite union benefit. Management can’t fire us if we’re doing our jobs the way they say. If they do, there’s a sizeable amount of unemployment to cover our time seeking a job. That small detail has kept them from firing workers in majority of cases companies would lay people off. They cut back pay/hours, transfer people, etc to meet their goals. Those people still have a job with health and dental. Two benefits that are uncommon for lots of production workers down here but that their management always have.

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                    get us benefits that management always gets,

                    This is envy. If we lived in an alternate timeline where management doesn’t get these benefits, you would be content?

                    Due process is my favorite union benefit.

                    Due process? How is that applicable here? The argument is that if i gave you money last month I need to keep giving you money in perpetuity unless I prove I should not have to?

                    Due process for criminal law makes sense, because it involves violating a person’s natural (negative) rights.

                    In employment it makes no sense, because an employment is a mutually beneficial arrangement. The idea that one side (the employer) has to continue this arrangement indefinitely even if the circumstance changes is clearly unfair to him. Also, employee always has to power to terminate because he can plausible-deniably do a terrible job, which the employer cannot plasible-deniably pay less than the agreed amount.

                    If they do, there’s a sizeable amount of unemployment to cover our time seeking a job.

                    A person should be responsible for his own risk management, including the risk of not being continously employed. This should not be pushed onto the employer.

                    Those people still have a job with health and dental.

                    While it’s good to have, I don’t thing healthcare and dental care are not human rights because provision of these things require the labour of others and it would be an injustice to force those labourers to work for free or to take money from another third party to compensate them.

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                      I don’t thing healthcare and dental care are not human rights

                      Perhaps not human rights, but it’s downright dumb for a society not to give these basic forms of health care for free for everyone. Because fixing the ensuing problems is way more expensive.

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                        give us money, or you will have to give us more money later

                        You can see why game-theoretically, giving in to these demands is not advantageous.

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                          Theoretically speaking, I see your point, but it doesn’t seem to work quite like that in the scale of societies in real life. We’re clearly saving money when we remove health/mental/other problems when they’re just burgeoning. People who get basic health care are not demanding “more basic health care”, whatever that means. They don’t generally like to go to doctors, or especially dentists.

                          I could expand this to other things you hate (presuming from your nick): public schools, speed limits, mandatory seat belt laws, tobacco prohibition…

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                    Collective bargaining makes it possible to negotiate for desired changes to the treatment of workers which would otherwise be impossible as a powerless individual.

                    Your reply seems to pretend that

                    A: companies never treat workers unfairly

                    B: there are no economic pressures that may cause someone to require to remain in a job, even if they are being treated unfairly

                    It really does not take a great deal of critical thought to see that neither of these are true.

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                  Sooo much pro union, pro worker sentiment floating around. Great to see. I wish this had happened earlier in my career when I had a lot less to lose :)

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                    Thank you for this post, not angry sock. Happy May Day

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                      I was happy to join with a bunch of colleagues as we sat in and read stories of retaliation. Then we marched to a protest outside Facebook to support cafeteria workers who’re suffering retaliation for unionizing. At least where I am we’re moving forward on worker solidarity, at least a little.

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                        At-will is a double-edged sword. I’ve seen the best and worst of it: the ability to leave a toxic job or terminate a toxic employee immediately before there’s any more harm. I’ve passed over great candidates from other countries because they couldn’t legally leave their employer for months and we needed them posthaste. I’ve seen employers who laid off low-level individual contributors with fantastic severance. I’ve seen others let go with a pittance or nothing, generally because there wasn’t any money in the bank remaining to give. I’ve seen folks who were overcommitted above the highest amount that unemployment compensation can provide scramble to find a job to replace the already stressful one that just let them go. A friend almost lost their under-contract new house because an executive at their new employer-to-be accidentally disclosed to that person’s manager that the friend accepted a position with the new company, not realizing that the manager was the friend’s manager, and the manager’s manager wanted to fire my friend on the spot.

                        It’s a safety net balance problem: with freedom comes responsibility; with safety comes restrictions. I don’t know what the right answer is for the US beyond increasing worker ownership, and thus transparency and education about corporate finance. I would like for unemployment compensation to be higher, but there are so many problems with that system – ones I’ve faced first-hand – that it’s trivial to abuse.

                        NDAs are a proactive way that companies make employees aware that they can be held individually responsible for industrial sabotage, through trade secret leaks, etc. The linked article more closely relates to non-disparagement non-disclosure agreements, which is again that safety net balance problem. It’s already legal in the US to discuss compensation and other work-related issues even in the absence of a union. Retaliation is a thing but whistleblowing on retaliation has never been easier for most large organizations and small organizations don’t have a government mandate for whistleblowing mechanisms because of their size.

                        Should a company be legally able to purchase my silence about their non-illegal activity? Having been through this recently, I say yes, they should, in the current US safety net system, or lack thereof. An employer that is doing unethical but legal things should be quietly and non-traceably reported to a news organization and the news organization should be willing to cover that source’s breach of contract expenses. An NDA/non-disparagement agreement doesn’t stop a legal report and inquiry. Talented people leaving the company should be adequate pressure on the company to change its practices, although I know in practice that employees who should leave rarely do because far too many peoples’ threshold of work pain is just too high and finding a new job is always harder than it seems. Add in the requirement to stay at an employer through some government-required exit period, and that toxicity becomes violence against the worker to save the company.

                        Or maybe I’ve just been abused and under-compensated by my employers my whole life. Maybe if/when I start a company, I’ll do better.

                        It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I think we’re entering a new era of business ownership as folks with stronger ethics and principles rise through the ranks. Some will capitulate to their inner Gordon Gekko while others turn into Gandi or Stallman or something. More people will call out bullshit because they’ve had the financial literacy to build their own safety net in the absence of one provided by an unreliable and Kafkaesque bureaucracy (ask me about the time I filed for unemployment). It’s getting better but progress and lasting cultural change is expensive and time-consuming.

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                          I think is is a good reply, but it’s also rather biased towards tech workers, or knowledge workers in general. This is of course hardly surprising on this site, but labour laws exist for everyone, and most people are not tech or knowledge workers.

                          I left school at 16 and worked various low-income jobs for several years before starting my career as a programmer, and in my experience you get treated completely different. You’re treated like you’re expendable at a moment’s notice; which you usually are (from an economical perspective anyway). In general, you get treated like shit (I’ve briefly written about that before).

                          For those kind of workers, at-will laws are horrible. Not only can you get fired for no reason in particular, getting fired will typically also mean serious problems as these people often lack good financial security, and may have a harder time finding a new job.

                          I once got fired because an automated door broke and it was perceived to be my fault (I closed it but someone else left a pole in the guide and the safety system was broken, so well…), I was once led to believe my contract would be extended but at my meeting to discus it I was actually let go; turns out they never had any intention and the new guy they hired a few weeks ago was actually my replacement. In hindsight they were probably right in that last case (I was young and foolish) but there was no need to be a dick about it, lie to me, and treat me like shit.

                          (Brief political interjection: I think this is part of the reason for the rise of “angry populism” in many places, people are, IMHO rightfully, angry being treated like shit)

                          I don’t know about the laws in the United States (they probably differ significantly per state anyway), but in the Netherlands a lot of the labour laws are written from this kind of perspective. This doesn’t always work well like @vyodaiken rightfully pointed out, although in NL de-facto employment (“fake independence”) is illegal and companies have been fined. It also has the effect of companies just letting people go after their temporary contracts expire (and they have to give them a “fixed contract” by law), since it’s so easy to just hire and train new people.

                          I think a good solution would be to adjust laws based on income, with lower incomes having a bit more protections, and higher incomes having fewer. I think both employers and employees would benefit. At my last job we had two seriously toxic people we couldn’t fire, and I never wanted more relaxed labour laws in my life.

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                            well, unfortunately, most low wage employees are also low quality workers in general. Because intelligent hardworking individuals find their ways up and so what’s left down there is mostly not so good.

                            You need a system that treats employees as expendable if they are not reliable.

                            In hindsight they were probably right in that last case (I was young and foolish) but there was no need to be a dick about it, lie to me, and treat me like shit.

                            They probably had bad experience telling employees they are going to be fired. Some employees will simply not work, or will actively sabotage operation.

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                              Because intelligent hardworking individuals find their ways up and so what’s left down there is mostly not so good.

                              That’s provably not true and seems to contradict your political philosophy. I’m guessing you’re about free market where the rational actors always do what they perceive as good for them: maximizing what they want more of (esp revenue and profit), minimizing what they don’t (esp labor costs). Given current job market, that means they have minimized the number of good, high-paying jobs as much as they can. They try to push for as many as possible to go toward minimum wage with fewest benefits they can afford to give. So most jobs are like that. Yet, the number of smart people actually goes up every year thanks to a combo of population growth, education, self-reliance and availability of information.

                              Given that setup, the good jobs get filled by smart people rather quickly due to fierce competition, a ton of shit jobs are left, lots of job seekers are left with a mix of smart and less smart, most people don’t move out of their area (esp for family/friends), and so it follows lots of smart people will be in bad jobs. Even if they do move, this principle will still apply to some degree where rational actors in cost-conscious systems will minimize the number of good jobs and amount of compensation while smart people show up needing jobs.

                              Now nothing I described above is how society really works. I’m just talking about the mythical free market. It leaves off people smoozing their way into executive positions making 300x more despite knowing less than workers. It leaves off how most workers are encouraged to “work their way up” in companies or take lesser jobs to “build experience.” It leaves off mandatory internships. It leaves off price-fixing of labor that big tech companies were doing. It leaves off lobbying in a system where rich can afford to buy more laws. There free market and meritocracy don’t exist in business but your concept wouldn’t play out if they did either.

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                                Given current job market, that means they have minimized the number of good, high-paying jobs as much as they can.

                                If the same level of productivity can be achieved with less highly paid labour, that’s a good thing, because that means they are more efficient.

                                At the same time, high-paying jobs are only bad to corporations if they are net negative i.e. their production is less than what they are paying. Corporations want as many high-paying jobs as they can get if for every 200k they pay out they make 500k back.

                                Given that setup, the good jobs get filled by smart people rather quickly due to fierce competition, a ton of shit jobs are left,

                                Supply and demand. I don’t think corporations are obligated to ‘provide’ jobs that you think are good in the quantity that you find sufficient.

                                most people don’t move out of their area (esp for family/friends),

                                And they can choose that but don’t expect others to subsidise their personal choice by manipulating the labour market to make more to-them-agreeable jobs available.

                                It leaves off people smoozing their way into executive positions making 300x more despite knowing less than workers.

                                Well, the idea that every job should be available to the best applicant is not valid. If it’s my company, I can make my dog a CEO. I don’t owe the communal labour market ‘a fair go’.

                                It leaves off how most workers are encouraged to “work their way up” in companies or take lesser jobs to “build experience.”

                                People shouldn’t have to subsidise those who fell for this meme. If you have been bamboozled to give away your labour at less than what it’s worth, this shouldn’t mean there should be more rules? For every rules imposed on the corporations, consumers will be the final losers. Instead you should be more careful about believing things.

                                It leaves off mandatory internships.

                                Mandatory, enforced by whom?

                                Everybody who sells me apples has to pass my mandatory sniff test. Is this an injustice to apple sellers? Should sniffing apples before buying them be outlawed?

                                It leaves off price-fixing of labor that big tech companies were doing.

                                Aren’t you advocating for labour sellers to price-fix? So do as I say but not as I will do?

                                It leaves off lobbying in a system where rich can afford to buy more laws.

                                The rich will always be able to do more than the poor. Because for every thing the poor can do, the rich can also do. But the reverse is not true, because the poor cannot spend huge sum of money. So it’s impossible to create a system where this is not true. At best you pervert the currency by which rich/poor is measured.

                                The fundamental problem with the labour market is the labourers think they are in worse position than the employers. But this has to be true, because the employer is also a labourer, except that he has capital. If it’s better to labour than to employ, every employer would become a labourer. But the advantage doesn’t have to lie entirely on the employer’s side. Being a highly skilled worker or being in a good financial position give you leverage. But those who have nothing to bargain with, can’t expect their conditions to be better than it is unless they impose a rule at the expense of everybody else through the governmental (and it’s monopoly on VIOLENCE). These people should improve their condition, by becoming highly skilled or accumulating capital.

                                I want everybody to have a good time. But not at the expense of everybody else.

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                                  That was great!

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                              At-will is a double-edged sword

                              It’s better than the common European method of protected status for some workers and a growing number of contract/part-time employees with no rights at all. And it’s better than super bureaucratic policies as in e.g. France.

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                                “Europe” consists of many countries, all with different laws and cultures. You need to be very careful to generalize. In particular, as far as I know the French problems of some types of jobs having high protections and others little is specific to just France.

                                That said, contractors who are de-facto employees is a general problem (or at least, a problem in several EU countries, I’m not familiar with all 28), but also something that’s addressed at least in the Netherlands (see my other reply) and perhaps some others as well.

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                                  That said, contractors who are de-facto employees is a general problem

                                  This is a massive problem in Sweden. I live in the south of Sweden, and most of the jobs are at “consulting” companies which don’t do any consulting at all: they rent bodies to keep chairs warm. The “real jobs” are staffed by “consultants.”

                                  This is easy to solve in law: establish rules for what constitutes “a job” and how that is different from “a contract.” But in the current political climate, the right thing won’t happen. :(

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                                  It’s better than the common European method of protected status for some workers and a growing number of contract/part-time employees with no rights at all.

                                  Maybe if you’re talking about fairness. Otherwise, it sounds like at-will is worse given nobody has protection vs at least some people having it in Europe. I bet people in similar sectors in U.S. would love for us to catch up to those places in Europe. Then, go even further from there.

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                                    Depends on your point of view. If you are a migrant worker or young worker in Germany, locked out of good jobs which are unionized and trying to make do in a growing temporary worker market with very little social welfare support - you might prefer the US system. I don’t particularly like the US system but EU is far from ideal.

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                                      Yeah, that would be a problem. Folks should be able to get in with same benefits if having skill and doing same kind of work.

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                                  the ability to leave a toxic job or terminate a toxic employee immediately before there’s any more harm.

                                  A non-at-will state doesn’t force you to stay at a job. Far as I’m aware, you’re stuck there long enough for two weeks notice. Far as toxic employees, that’s why the company needs standards for stuff like that. Then, they can fire the employee for violating them. If toxic workers stick around, that’s usually a problem with how the company is managed, employees are measured, and so on.

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                                  Unpopular opinion in the tech industry apparently, but I think this day is truly awful.

                                  Every year, demonstrators march through London on Labour Day, with standard-bearers waving the Hammer and Sickle up high. Typical symbology also includes portraits of Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin.

                                  I live in Poland, where the Hammer and Sickle symbol is banned. Polish people aren’t quickly forgetting that Joseph Stalin is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler.

                                  Perhaps May Day means something far less controversial to most people, but from where I stand it’s as bad as the KKK being a socially acceptable and even morally-righteous movement.

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                                    Really? Stalin? Mayday was a popular movement in the west including many groups that were adamantly opposed to Russian style communism or even anything associated with Marx. Even in Polish history, the pre-ww2 socialists were a wide range of political ideas.

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                                      Unfortunately, yes. It’s true.

                                      If I have kids at some point, I’ll insist they take extra history lessons. It seems young adults today were truant.

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                                        The MLKP is a fringe party:

                                        Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (Turkish: Marksist-Leninist Komünist Partisi, abbreviated as MLKP) is an underground Hoxhaist communist party in Turkey.

                                        (my emphasis)

                                        The fact that they are freely demonstrating in London is less an example of creeping Stalinism than an example of the free speech rights of Western democracies.

                                        As a person of the center-left, I find equating socialist movements with Stalinism as intellectually dishonest as equating far-right/populist parties automatically with Nazism.

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                                          If you had flicked through the galleries that I linked to, you would have seen there is no shortage of Hammer and Sickle symbols all throughout every march.

                                          My perception is that in the Western world, it is not socially acceptable to march through the streets brandishing a Swastika, whereas doing the same with the Hammer and Sickle is not met with the same opposition.

                                          I hope it’s not me you were calling intellectually honest, because it’s not hard to research which symbolism is banned in which countries. Germany strictly prohibits the public display of Nazi symbols. The UK also prohibits the display of Nazi symbols if it is used to promote racial hatred — which is the only real reason why it would be displayed at a public rally.

                                          Are Communist symbols banned in the UK? No.

                                          Are Communist symbols banned in Germany? No.

                                          There are more countries where Nazi symbols are banned while Communist symbols are not, but it is not my duty to list them all.

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                                            The gallery site you linked to seems to be an umbrella organization for a lot of fringe leftist groups. May Day is not a public holiday in the UK. It is in Sweden, and the marches there are rote, almost obligatory.

                                            I hope it’s not me you were calling intellectually honest, because it’s not hard to research which symbolism is banned in which countries.

                                            My comment was not aimed at you, nor did it address the banning of certain symbols in various countries.

                                            What I reacted to was the “tarring with the same brush” of proponents of workers (really, employee’s) rights, with the worst excesses of “real socialism”. If I call for an expansion of childcare outside the home, am I a Stalinist because the Soviet Union offered that?

                                            As to Poland’s ban on Communist symbols, according to Wikipedia it was found to be unconstitutional in 2011: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bans_on_Communist_symbols#Poland. Is there a followup on this?

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                                              The gallery site you linked to seems to be an umbrella organization for a lot of fringe leftist groups.

                                              That doesn’t matter. These are real photos, of real people, in a real Western capital city.

                                              May Day is not a public holiday in the UK.

                                              That’s irrelevant. It’s May Day, not Communist Day. The point is that one has become tacitly associated with the other.

                                              If I call for an expansion of childcare outside the home, am I a Stalinist because the Soviet Union offered that?

                                              No, and that is still the point. One has become tacitly associated with the other. I am also a proponent of workers’ rights.

                                              As to Poland’s ban on Communist symbols, according to Wikipedia it was found to be unconstitutional in 2011; is there a followup on this?

                                              Yes. It says that in the paragraph you linked to.

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                                                That doesn’t matter. These are real photos, of real people, in a real Western capital city.

                                                I find that something to be proud of, not condemn. Freedom of expression and association are very important!

                                                One has become tacitly associated with the other.

                                                How, exactly?

                                                Regarding the Polish ban on the Hammer and Sickle, in your top level comment you wrote:

                                                I live in Poland, where the Hammer and Sickle symbol is banned.

                                                So this ban has been found to violate the constitution of Poland, and it’s still on the books and enforced?

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                                                  I find that something to be proud of, not condemn. Freedom of expression and association are very important!

                                                  …I don’t follow your reasoning here. It seemed as though you were trying to discard the photographic evidence I provided because the photos were hosted on a website with extreme views. That’s why I tried to explain that it doesn’t matter where the photos are hosted. What matters is that Communist symbols are freely displayed in public.

                                                  How, exactly?

                                                  I don’t understand how we’re failing to understand each other here.

                                                  May Day isn’t necessarily meant to be all about Communism (thanks for making your Straw Man position clear, though). And yet, any given May Day march will include a congregation of Communists.

                                                  So this ban has been found to violate the constitution of Poland, and it’s still on the books and enforced?

                                                  I haven’t read the law; I have only read summaries of the law in various places online (BBC, Wikipedia, Russkiymir, etc.). Furthermore, I’m sure you’ve heard of an “amendment” before.

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                                                    I am not discarding the evidence. I am just not that upset that people with different views (maybe even reprehensible ones) are out in public expressing those views.

                                                    You are free to find these views reprehensible though, and to say so.

                                                    I am aware that doing so was illegal for a long time in Poland’s history.

                                                    May Day isn’t necessarily meant to be all about Communism. And yet, any given May Day march will include a congregation of Communists.

                                                    The majority of marchers in May Day parades (here in Sweden, where I can observe directly) are not Communists. They are Social Democrats, Left Party, syndicalists, etc etc. Actual, literal Marxist-Leninists are a tiny minority in Sweden. And they have a right to express themselves too.

                                                    I haven’t read the law; I have only read summaries of the law in various places online (BBC, Wikipedia, Russkiymir, etc.). Furthermore, I’m sure you’ve heard of an “amendment” before.

                                                    I’m sorry, I assumed that you were fluent in Polish. I will try to find clarification elsewhere.

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                                                      I am not discarding the evidence. I am just not that upset that people with different views (maybe even reprehensible ones) are out in public expressing those views.

                                                      You are free to find these views reprehensible though, and to say so.

                                                      Ok. Is your position on this universal? In other words, are you saying that you’re also fine with Nazis demonstrating in the streets? How about Sverigedemokraterna? Or Hamas? Or Hezbollah? The historical context of course being that Sweden profited from selling resources to Nazi Germany in WWII.

                                                      If it is genuinely your view that anyone should be able to say anything, well, that is liberal indeed (or perhaps just immoral/cowardly, given how many people died as a result of Sweden declaring themselves “neutral” in the past). If that isn’t your view, well…

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                                                        Yes, of course I support these people demonstrating, as long as they follow the laws.

                                                        I am well aware of the moral failings of Sweden, historically. I was not alive then, and had I been, I hope I would have the courage of the those Swedes that opposed the appeasement of Nazi Germany in Sweden.

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                                                          Yes, of course I support these people demonstrating, as long as they follow the laws.

                                                          That is not a position you hold in common with most of the Australian left, who seem to be increasingly adopting the ironically fascist behaviour of Antifa with regards to free speech they don’t like.

                                                          I applaud your consistency.

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                                                            Yes, of course I support these people demonstrating, as long as they follow the laws.

                                                            Tell me, why was Charles Manson sentenced to death for seven counts of first-degree murder? He didn’t actually kill anyone.

                                                            When Hezbollah — who’s primary political aim is the destruction of Israel and the extermination of all Jews — marched through London last year, they didn’t break any laws, right?

                                                            The fact that you don’t see the naïveté of your statement is totally amazing.

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                                                              You are misrepresenting my views, and you are not arguing in good faith.

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                                                                  I’ll be honest. I was pretty irritated by a lot of the comments here, and I made that tweet to blow off steam.

                                                                  I am sorry if you feel targeted.

                                                                  I have since engaged, in what I believe to be good faith, with you, and others, in this thread.

                                                                  However, I do not see anywhere in my comments here, or in any of the tweets I’ve made today or before, support of the aims of Hezbollah, or of tiny splinter Marxist-Leninist parties, or of Sverigedemokraterna, or of Vänsterpartiet, for that matter.

                                                                  All I have ever espoused is for these groups to have their say in public, in accordance with local laws.

                                            2. 3

                                              Personally, I see their presence (or the presence of analogous parties over Europe) as the residue of their strength from the 1930-50’s – they are the appendix of the left. Looking at them now, they seem neither a real threat not a real force.

                                              1. 4

                                                Oh come on. May Day parades typically feature red flags and literal Communist Manifesto slogans. Here’s one from Melbourne, Australia:

                                                https://www.greenleft.org.au/sites/default/files/styles/glw_full_content/public/widerimages/p3%20May%20Day%20march%20in%20Melbourne%20in%202012..jpg

                                                1. 2

                                                  Did you mean to reply to the comment you replied to, or to the one by @vyodaiken above it?

                                                  Anyway, the red flag predates Communism in Russia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_(politics)

                                                  1. 3

                                                    I was actually aiming for the post by @gerikson.

                                                    And yes, the red flag does. The swastika pre-dates NAZIsm, too, by thousands of years. But I’m under no illusions about why it gets waved at far-right rallies.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      OK, that’s me, I apologize for missing the threading.

                                                      It’s unclear to me what your “Oh come on” comment refers to. Is your position that displaying a red flag means that one espouses Marxism-Leninism? That’s a fringe position.

                                                      I live in Sweden, and have seen many May Day parades. The red flag is prominently displayed in all marches, which are organized by the full spectrum of parties on the political Left here. They carry the same sort of symbolism as the Swedish flag, i.e. a benign feeling of belonging.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        Huh. Maybe Sweden is different to Australia then (beyond the absence of giant spiders, snakes, kangaroos, and sunshine ;) ).

                                                        Seriously, here, it’s a far left thing, and not at all representative of a benign feeling of belonging. There’s even a website: https://redflag.org.au/category/theory-history

                                                        1. 0

                                                          To be honest, I believe that some of the graying bearers of these standards would be thrilled to hear that someone still finds them even slightly threatening.

                                                          1. 3

                                                            It’s not about them, it’s about the idea they’re marching for.

                                                            Many millions of innocent human beings were killed during the 20th Century by people trying to implement those ideas.

                                                            What I am scared of is what will happen if they get another chance to try. What I am scared of is that people may have forgotten the history of Communism - or, even worse, may know and not care.

                                                            Greybeards waving flags don’t scare me. Greybeards raising the next generation of Stasi, Cheka, or Santebal do scare me.

                                                        2. 1

                                                          Judging by the amount of Antifa graffiti I’ve seen in Göteborg, I’d say left-wing extremism is normalised in Sweden.

                                                          I lived in Sweden for more than enough years to be a citizen, I spent most of my career there, I speak the language, I still have many friends there, and I still visit often. I’m not deluded about the state of that country.

                                                          Naziism is a fringe position in Sweden. I used to be a musician in a rock band and I have played at the Hells Angels headquarters in Gunnilse, so yes, I have met some people with “fringe positions”.

                                                          Communism is not a fringe position in Sweden. It’s common, and it’s socially acceptable.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            Gothenburg prides itself in its radical traditions.

                                                            For the sake of clarification - would you consider a member of Vänsterpartiet to be a communist?

                                                            1. 0

                                                              Gothenburg prides itself in its radical traditions.

                                                              You’re using a euphemism for violence and oppression here.

                                                              For the sake of clarification - would you consider a member of Vänsterpartiet to be a communist?

                                                              I’d consider anyone influenced by Gudrun Schyman to be extraordinarily naïve.

                                                              I’m not sure how else to answer this question; I don’t agree with collectivism so I don’t want to make a blanket statement about a large group of people. Also, Vänsterpartiet historically has had ‘Communist’ in its name.

                                                2. 2

                                                  Aside from the one from the tiny German MKLP or whatever it is, they all seem to be trade union banners. The Ivana Hoffman story, which I had never heard about before, is so odd: she was a German woman of South African descent, who belonged to a turkish communist party and died in Syria fighting with YPG Kurdish fighters who are some kind of anarchists. Hard to draw much of a lesson from that except that it’s a strange world. But for the vast majority of UK may day marchers, I doubt Joe Stalin is much of a hero.

                                                  1. 7

                                                    I have never suggested it is the majority, nor do I believe it is the majority. The problem is that it is seemingly socially acceptable to declare oneself a Communist and espouse those views.

                                                    Frankly, it seems unjust that I should sit and collate evidence of the use of Hammer and Sickle symbols throughout marches in the Western world. We all know this is normalised.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      It’s legal. In the west, communist parties are tiny splinter groups, with no more influence than flat earth societies. Certainly they are less threatening to free speech and human rights than, say, the anti-communist Polish government or the far right groups that are increasingly enaged in acts of terror in the USA.

                                                      1. 5

                                                        In fairness I think you’ll find both left- and right-wing groups are increasingly attacking freedom of expression. “De-platforming” is largely a tactic of the left, and is quite successful, especially at Universities. Quite a sad regression from the days of the https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech_Movement.

                                                        1. 5

                                                          I don’t think universities need to give everyone a platform - and of course they do not. The question is whether their normal selection standards should exclude people who deny the humanity of other citizens. Radio Rwanda is not free speech, it is incitement to genocide. I agree with Karl Popper

                                                          Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            But we’re not talking (at least exclusively) about such people. I’m talking about students who violently shut down legitimate conservative or right-wing speakers. Ben Shapiro. Richard Dawkins. Jordan Peterson. We’re not talking about angry students shutting down literal NAZIs, we’re talking about student bodies literally rioting to silence speech they don’t like.

                                                            1. 5

                                                              They are not advocating censorship, they are arguing that people like Peterson not be given the honor of a platform at a university both because of their repellent views and their mockery of all the things a university is supposed to stand for. Obviously none of Peterson, Dawkins, Shapiro have actually had their free speech rights limited. In fact Peterson’s moronic point of view is hard to avoid.

                                                              “If men are pushed too hard to feminize they will become more and more interested in harsh, fascist political ideology.”

                                                              It would be funny if it were not for how many losers take it seriously. Compare to the US right taking AK47s to synagogues.

                                                              1. 0

                                                                all the things a university is supposed to stand for.

                                                                Universities used to stand for freedom of thought and freedom of expression.

                                                                https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech_Movement

                                                                Students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students’ right to free speech and academic freedom.

                                                                1. 3

                                                                  Freedom of speech does not involve offering any outsider to the university a speaking platform and it certainly does not include providing a platform for people who deny the humanity of others. Basically, everyone knows this is not a free speech issue at all - it is an effort to force universities to act as publicists for particularly nasty people who have wealthy backers.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    people who deny the humanity of others

                                                                    This is newspeak.

                                                                    1. -1

                                                                      Ha ha.

                                                                      The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees – not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own. - Eli Weisel.

                                                                    2. 0

                                                                      Like Richard Dawkins or Jordan Peterson? Both are professional academics.

                                                          2. 2

                                                            It’s legal.

                                                            …And? It’s legal to beat your wife in much of Africa and the Middle East. Does that make it ok?

                                                            In the west, communist parties are tiny splinter groups, with no more influence than flat earth societies.

                                                            I can only hope.

                                                            Certainly they are less threatening to free speech and human rights than, say, the anti-communist Polish government or the far right groups that are increasingly enaged in acts of terror in the USA.

                                                            That’s debatable, hence why I am debating you. The Polish government are going to have to work a bit harder if they want their death toll to reach anywhere near that of Communism.

                                                            1. 0

                                                              It’s right to have free speech for unpopular or even repulsive opinions. It’s wrong to beat people. How hard is that?

                                                              That’s debatable, hence why I am debating you. The Polish government are going to have to work a bit harder if they want their death toll to reach anywhere near that of Communism.

                                                              I have a lot of faith in them and the other right wing European governments.

                                                          3. 3

                                                            I am not denying that people are displaying the hammer and sickle in May Day parades in Sweden, in the UK or elsewhere.

                                                            I am denying that this is a huge problem.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              Would you say the same if they were waving Swastika flags?

                                                              I know you think both should be legal; so do I, as a matter of fact.

                                                              I just don’t think you’d be as quick to dismiss complaints of NAZI marchers as you are to dismiss complaints about Communists.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                I would say it was an equal problem in 1930s Europe.

                                                                Today, the “star” (no pun intended) of the hammer-and-sickle crowd is falling, while that of the swastika crowd is growing.

                                                                If I ever met someone who literally thought that Stalin’s treatment of the kulak class or the Holomodor was justified, I would treat that person just as I would someone who espouses Hitler’s views on Jews, homosexuals, and Communists - with disgust. But tolday, the fact is it’s much more likely I would meet someone with latter views than the former - or a substantial subset of them, at least.

                                                                In summary - today, Communists are (mostly) harmless - at least in Sweden. Nazis are not. I am vigilant for any change though.

                                                                1. 2

                                                                  But tolday, the fact is it’s much more likely I would meet someone with latter views than the former - or a substantial subset of them, at least.

                                                                  In summary - today, Communists are (mostly) harmless - at least in Sweden. Nazis are not. I am vigilant for any change though.

                                                                  We have totally opposite views on this, and we may both be suffering confirmation bias in this regard. However, I have tried — by providing links to photos/video, and commenting on laws regarding the illegality of symbolism in the West — to support my view with some evidence.

                                                                  If you genuinely believe that support for Naziism is growing while support for Communism is shrinking — which, again, I have seen no evidence to suggest this is the case — then it at least helps me empathise with your position.

                                                                  1. 3

                                                                    Thanks for clarifying your position.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      I’d like to thank both you and @jgt for maintaining a genuine effort to reach an understanding of each other’s opinions. It’s nice to see, especially on such a heated thread.

                                                                    2. 3

                                                                      Scandanavia has a recent history of far right terrorism.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        While this isn’t about naziism, the rise of far-right parties is definitely linked to it. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2016/05/24/the-rise-of-the-far-right-in-europe

                                                                        This progress hasn’t slowed down. Meanwhile, far left parties seem to have disappeared in about the same time as the Soviet Union did and haven’t come back. We just have different kinds of moderate left in its wake.

                                                                        Your point that some symbols are prohibited and some are not is of course to the point. The obvious reason is that nazis lost the last big war and communists (amongst others) won. The less obvious and possibly more subjective reason is that far leftism (in the sense of communism) has redeeming qualities while far rightism (when we are talking about naziism, not modern far-right parties) has none.

                                                                        I mean sure, communism sucked, but mostly because it didn’t work. Naziism would’ve sucked if it had worked. I have to find incompetence to be a lesser evil than … well, evil.

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                                                                          1. That article is paywalled, so I can’t read it in full.

                                                                          2. I’m not sure what to make of some of the descriptions used in the not-paywalled excerpt and in other publications. Parties are far-right because they’re anti-migrant? Poland is often described as being anti-migrant or anti-refugee — this despite Poland having taken in more refugees than almost any (if not just any) other European country. The false perception stems from the fact that the vast majority of refugees in Poland are Ukrainian, and not from MENA. There is historical context for this, as well as an overwhelming deluge of current events.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            Parties are far-right because they’re anti-migrant?

                                                                            Do you seriously not see the similarities between those parties and the national socialists of early 1900s? Do you think all supporters of national socialists in that time were evil?

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              All I’m suggesting is that it’s not that simple. The excerpt that I could read of the link you posted (and several other publications, and the general state of sociopolitical discourse today) suggested that any society which is supposedly anti-migrant/refugee is inherently far-right. It is a fairly commonly held view that both the Polish government and its people are anti-migrant/refugee, and are therefore racist. People on this website — in this very discussion thread — have essentially said the same.

                                                                              It is a common tactic of the authoritarian left — and I am politically left-leaning myself — to associate any idea/society they don’t like with racism. It is an effective tactic because nobody on either side of the debate is arguing that racism is a good thing.

                                                                              And it just isn’t that simple. As I already noted, Poland has taken more refugees than [almost?] any other European country.

                                                                              I can’t comment specifically on the parties mentioned in the excerpt of the article you linked to. I am not denying the existence of the far-right in Europe — or anywhere, for that matter. What I am arguing against is the common reductio ad absurdum argument made that “oh, society x doesn’t like ideology y, therefore they are racist”. The excerpt of the article you linked hinted at this sentiment, or at least I read that interpretation into it.

                                                                              Do you think all supporters of national socialists in that time were evil?

                                                                              I have said it before in this discussion thread, and I will say it again. I am against collectivism, so no.

                                                                      2. 1

                                                                        But today, the fact is it’s much more likely I would meet someone with latter views than the former - or a substantial subset of them, at least.

                                                                        That’s not been my experience, at all. I have met many people sympathetic to Communist philosophy - several in the replies to this lobste.rs story, in fact! I see Communist symbology and rhetoric on a near-daily basis. Melbourne recently hosted a Marxist conference, I see young folks wearing Che and red star clothing, and colleagues who routinely describe Communism as a “good idea in principle”.

                                                                        In contrast, I have only once seen literal fascists in Melbourne, and they were being counter-protested by a lot more of the Hammer and Sickle crowd outside a courtroom. The last time a person explicitly espoused sympathy for Fascism to me was in the mid 90s.

                                                                        Maybe this is another difference between Australia (or at least, Melbourne), and Sweden?

                                                                2. 0

                                                                  I think the writing on the MKLP banner is Turkish.

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                                                                  Communist and Fascist imagery are two of the very, very few things I’d draw the line at being allowed in my home. I expect my kids to understand why by the time they’re old enough to buy their own clothes.

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                                                                Unpopular opinion in the tech industry apparently

                                                                No, the tech industry in general leans right on economic issues, and you know that. It’s just unpopular on this site, which is great. Stalinism is inexcusable, but Marxism has been an indispensable ally to the working class throughout history.

                                                                There are many worker’s struggles happening in Poland right now: https://www.marxist.com/militancy-grows-over-first-week-of-polish-teachers-strike.htm

                                                                1. 4

                                                                  No, the tech industry in general leans right on economic issues, and you know that. It’s just unpopular on this site,

                                                                  Totally true.

                                                                  1. -4

                                                                    Your hero is a racist who raped his wife’s maid and didn’t pay her for her work.

                                                                    The link you provided is propaganda.

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                                                                      In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.

                                                                      ~ Karl Marx, a Jewish anti-semite racist.

                                                                      The link you provided is propaganda.

                                                                      Oh the irony. The Daily Signal is a propaganda outlet by a right-wing think-tank.

                                                                      1. 17

                                                                        Oh the irony.

                                                                        The daily signal is a public relations arm of the heritage foundation, a rightwing US political thinktank. Pretty much the definition of propaganda. I also really appreciate all the antisemitic comments after the article jgt linked to.

                                                                        This thread is a tirefire.

                                                                  2. 7

                                                                    The AskHistorians subreddit has really well researched posts on these topics that are nonetheless accessible to non-historians or non-political-philosophers:

                                                                    1. 0

                                                                      There’s also the abridged version.

                                                                    2. 6

                                                                      Thank you for sharing your experience.

                                                                      One of the things to keep in mind for all of us advocating for ourselves and our fellow workers is that the messaging we use and the shibboleths we touch on can lose us the support of people who have had different histories or experiences.

                                                                      It is hard to, for example, talk to workers in red states about things they should agree on if we carelessly use pictures that they feel (rightly) threatened by. We can’t talk to people like you if we also invoke Soviet imagery.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        This isn’t a subjective issue that can be explained away by appealing to historical or situational relativism.

                                                                        May Day celebrations worldwide prominently feature Communist rhetoric (“our fellow workers” included), Marxist and Communist organisations, Marxist and Communist banners and symbols, etc.

                                                                        This also isn’t a matter of invoking the wrong imagery. Supporters of actual mass murdering dictators turn up to your events with their flags and leaflets, and are accepted with open arms.

                                                                        Anyone familiar with the death toll and barbarism associated with Communism should be appalled, every bit as appalled as if “workers groups” allowed Swastika-waving NAZIs to join their parades.

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          The history of the communists in the West is very different from that in Eastern Europe/Russia or China. And “fellow workers” is labor union language. France commemorates a number of Communists who took part in the resistance against the Nazis and, after the war, participated in electoral politics.

                                                                          1. -1

                                                                            The history of the communists in the West is very different from that in Eastern Europe/Russia or China.

                                                                            Yes, in no small part because they never gained power.

                                                                            Are you arguing that, if they had, the result wouldn’t have been a Mao, Stalin, Tito, or Pol Pot? Curious as to your reasons why.

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              No, I’m pretty sure the result would have been terrible. But it didn’t happen. Here in the USA, we have armed right wing nuts machine gunning synagogues. In Europe, between Orban and the SS descended party ruling Austria, the 1930s seem on their way back. It’s hard to take some 11 person One True Communist Party Marxist Lenninist Whatever marching around Clapham with pictures of Uncle Joe as anything but a kind of unpleasant joke.

                                                                        2. 2

                                                                          We can’t talk to people like you if we also invoke Soviet imagery.

                                                                          Finding yourself with an audience that’s comfortable with Soviet imagery should probably prompt some reflection.

                                                                          1. -1

                                                                            It’s not just that they find themselves with that audience, the Soviet flag-wavers literally turn up to their celebrations, and are welcomed. In many cases they are the organisers.

                                                                            https://www.greenleft.org.au/sites/default/files/styles/glw_full_content/public/widerimages/p3%20May%20Day%20march%20in%20Melbourne%20in%202012..jpg

                                                                            Red flags aplenty, and a literal Communist Manifesto slogan on the banner. Every bit as abhorrent as a march of flag-waving NAZIs, and with a worldwide death toll an order of magnitude greater.

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                                                                              This is maliciously dishonest.

                                                                              Any fair criticism of any ideology will separate its implementation from its thought. Fascism and national-socialism have things like violence, war, racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia prominent in their ideology; communism is inherently democratic.

                                                                              While the crimes of the so-called communist states of the 20th century should certainly not be dismissed, communists and socialists were crucial to the defeat of mid-20th century Nazism, played a key role in the development of modern-day workers’ & women’s rights, and had significant impact in the defeat of ISIL/Daesh – among others.

                                                                              You can be a Marxist and a communist while being disgusted by what was done by Stalin; you can hardly be a Nazi while being disgusted by what was done by Hitler.

                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                Any fair criticism of any ideology will separate its implementation from its thought.

                                                                                This makes very little sense to me. If ideologies were to stay mere thoughts, no one would be concerned. But ideologies are enacted and can, and should, therefore be judged by the outcomes of their implementations.

                                                                                While not blatantly horrific like National Socialism, Communism is inherently destructive and violent, as every practical expression of it has shown.

                                                                                All that aside, to use the iconography of a particular implementation of Communism that resulted in arguably the worst atrocities in human history is unforgivable and shows either extreme naivety or malice.

                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                  There is a difference between an ideology where {Bad Thing} is a postulate, and one where it isn’t; this fundamental presence or absence of {Bad Thing} should influence the way we think about them.

                                                                                  People have used violence to fight for things like democracy and workers’ rights, yet those are still (hopefully) considered to be good things on their own. You can take a look at a relevant encyclopedic definition to see that violence and destruction are not inherent to communism unless you subscribe to schools of thought which think of taxation and redistribution of wealth as violence.

                                                                                  I do agree that Stalin should not be publicly glorified, and do not fully understand the motivation of the people who do so.

                                                                                  1. 6

                                                                                    You can take a look at a relevant encyclopedic definition to see that violence and destruction are not inherent to communism unless you subscribe to schools of thought which think of taxation and redistribution of wealth as violence.

                                                                                    Guilty as charged :) A couple of schools, in point of fact. But I don’t think you’re correct that subscription to those schools is a pre-requisite.

                                                                                    One can determine that violence and destruction are inherent to Communism regardless, by observing that a) state Communism implies seizure of the means of production and the abolition of private property, and realising that b) that will require literal murderous violence to achieve. I think that most people who favour partial wealth redistribution through compulsory taxation would blanch at the treatment of the Kulaks.

                                                                                    Communism on a small scale actually seems to be workable where it remains peaceful and voluntary, and capable of co-existence with other political systems (like capitalism). Is that what you’re getting at, here? The voluntary, peaceful formation of small communes?

                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                      Yes there is a difference, but I’d argue that it is relatively insignificant. If a “peaceful” ideology routinely leads to horrendous outcomes, you have to seriously consider that it is, perhaps, not peaceful at all.

                                                                                  2. 0

                                                                                    You can be a Marxist and a communist while being disgusted by what was done by Stalin; you can hardly be a Nazi while being disgusted by what was done by Hitler.

                                                                                    There’s no functional difference.

                                                                                    Every Communist state, ever, has either started out as, or has become, a totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of millions of people have died as a result. The USSR, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia (described as the worst genocide in history, which is a pretty high bar), China, … the death toll is staggering.

                                                                                    One could perhaps be a good NAZI or a Communist in the first half of the 1900s, before it became apparent just what those ideologies led to in practice. That hasn’t been true since the Holocaust, or the death of Stalin.

                                                                                    Perhaps to turn the question around: as a Marxist and a Communist, can you point to any leader of a Communist state with whom you’re not (on balance) disgusted?

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                                                                                      Again, this is maliciously dishonest. The postulates of communism, fascism, and national-socialism as political ideologies are fairly clear.

                                                                                      The national-socialist ideology is anti-democratic, antisemitic, eugenic, and social-darwinist. Fascism is, at best, anti-democratic and militarist. Communism is about redistribution of wealth, workers’ self-management, and ownership of the means of production.

                                                                                      Most so-called “Communist states” you mention do not consider themselves to actually be communist, but rather a transitionary entity on the way to communism / socialism. To turn the question around: as an anti-Marxist and an anti-communist, can you point to any leader of any state with whom you’re not disgusted?

                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                        Repeatedly calling me maliciously dishonest is the sort of ad-hominem attack that, elsewhere on the site, people are proposing a flag / downvote mechanism to deal with. Please watch your tone.

                                                                                        To clarify your answer, are you saying that there have never been any Communist states? Because you haven’t answered my question. Can you? Also, if those states are all transitional steps towards “true” Communism (the withering away of the state, if my memory serves?), then that seems to imply that the transition to Communism demands the deaths of hundreds of millions of men, women, and children.

                                                                                        To answer yours: yes, on balance. Margaret Thatcher is a good starting point. Definitely a mixed bag (heh), but better than any of her contemporaries that I’m aware of, and a boon to England. I’m certainly more a fan of hers than a detractor, much less someone who is disgusted by her.

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                                                                                          I have never called you maliciously dishonest, but rather your writing and your arguments. I have also tried to explain why I think so, even after you’ve ignored a large part of my attempts to do so. That is certainly not an ad hominem attack.

                                                                                          There have indeed been no communist societies fully consistent with what Marxist thought considers to be a “full” communist society. There have been various attempts at more local and non-nation-state levels, with various degrees of success.

                                                                                          The transition to communism does certainly not demand the deaths of hundreds of millions of people no more than a transition to a liberal state democracy does, yet some of them end up in bloodshed. There are various ways to transition, some more violent and disgusting, some less.

                                                                                          On balance, I am not completely disgusted by Josip Broz Tito.

                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                            There have indeed been no communist societies fully consistent with what Marxist thought considers to be a “full” communist society.

                                                                                            In the same sense that there have been no capitalist societies fully consistent with either Austrian or Objectivist definitions of capitalism. The closest we’ve achieved has been mixed, but mostly free, economies. New Zealand for a decade or two following the 1984 reforms is actually a good example. The closest you’ve achieved has been … totalitarian Yugoslavia? Really?

                                                                                            The national-socialist ideology is anti-democratic, antisemitic, eugenic, and social-darwinist. Fascism is, at best, anti-democratic and militarist.

                                                                                            Yes. I’d argue that it also explicitly embodies a degree of personal leadership - a.k.a. the Fuherprinzip - that was never a part of Marx’s doctrine. Discussion elsewhere ( http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=8310 ) has led me to think that this is possibly the most significant difference between Marxism (at least in theory) and Fascism. The enormity of Stalin’s rule shocked people like Yevtushenko; that sort of rule was an explicit feature of Fascism.

                                                                                            Communism is about redistribution of wealth

                                                                                            … which in practice means violent revolution (because that redistribution is most certainly not universally welcomed).

                                                                                            workers’ self-management

                                                                                            That’s good business sense ;). Genuine empowerment and autonomy at work makes every kind of good sense, from personal well-being to profit.

                                                                                            , and ownership of the means of production.

                                                                                            I’m personally not against ownership of the means of production. Hell, I work for a company that literally promotes that, and also distributes half of its profits among its employees. I could leave tomorrow, taking with me my share of the profits, and quite literally the tools I’ve used to generate it.

                                                                                            The problem is, Communism isn’t about ownership of the means of production, it’s about seizing it. To quote Marx himself (and I don’t think I’m taking this out of context; please correct me if I am):

                                                                                            “There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”

                                                                                            This is particularly relevant to the leader you mention, Tito.

                                                                                            I’ll grant you that he’s definitely the best of the Communist dictators. He was also definitely a war hero, having directly participated in the overthrow of NAZI rule. And I suspect that unlike a lot of other Communist dictators he genuinely wanted the best for the Yugoslavian people; witness his partial adoption of free markets later in his rule.

                                                                                            But he, too, was a totalitarian dictator, and was at his worst in the first ten years of his rule, while pretty literally following Marx’s advice above. He built a secret police that routinely oppressed political opponents (including other Communists), and perpetuated a string of human-rights abuses. Even after toning it down some, the oppression continued, and there were no free elections.

                                                                                            I’m afraid I agree with Marx, here (as I do on a number of points, despite being an anti-Marxist). “Murderous death agonies” and “bloody birth throes” really do characterise the establishment of Communism, even in its transitional forms.

                                                                                            Edited to add:

                                                                                            communism is inherently democratic.

                                                                                            In which case, why has every Communist state prohibited free elections?

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                                                                                              Somewhat tangentially, I’d like to point out that based on the example of New Zealand reforms, I’m quite pleased we haven’t achieved this vision of “true capitalism”. As it is, we’re still dealing with the consequences, and will continue to do so for a long time. There is an obscene amount of poverty, deprivation, and environmental destruction in New Zealand thanks to the delusions of free market economists.

                                                                                              New Zealand’s economic reform program was a failure.

                                                                                              Personally, I feel frustrated with how such discussions are always about the dichotomy between communism and capitalism. Neither model has worked in practice, capitalism has been enormously destructive (see climate change), we need to move on to better socio-economic models altogether instead of being fixated on two obsolete options.

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                                                                                        Every Communist state, ever, has either started out as, or has become, a totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of millions of people have died as a result.

                                                                                        Singapore is a police state. It started out rough as lots of revolutions do. They mostly take care of their citizens from what I’ve seen. I have some insiders that send me encrypted emails talking about the corruption, people dropping due to mandatory workouts, indoctrination in schools, questionable taxes, and so on. What they tell me barely compares to prior states. Actually, they’re better off than lots of people over here who can’t get a job or benefits, or work multiple jobs without health insurance. They also don’t have to go into tons of debt to got to school. If my info is correct, the average person in that dictatorship might be objectively better off than tons of people in capitalist U.S..

                                                                                        You’re also leaving off the cost of capitalism, esp imperialist capitalism. To support its capitalism, the U.S. military has invaded a ridiculous number of countries. In War is a Racket, Smedley Butler admits most of those deaths were to support some corporate interests back home. The War in Iraq alone supposedly led to 250,000 to 1 million innocent civilians dead depending on which source you get from your numbers. The food, chemical, drug, and medical industries combined with the corporate media are driving the leading causes of death for Americans. Since salt and sugar are as addictive as delicious, most Americans can’t quit eating the stuff even if they wanted to. As in this thread, their jobs have also steadily occupied more of their time, demanding more, stressing them out more, and always giving less to shift that money to capitalist executives. Data coming in shows how damaging the stress and sleep deprivation is on the workers’ mental and physical health, maybe even kids down the line.

                                                                                        So, capitalism is highly damaging with military-back capitalism torturing, maiming, and/or murdering all kinds of people. Better than alternatives but still does damage. I don’t see you equating with worst of capitalism any mention on Lobsters of jobs, nice acts of government, symbols like money, and so on. Likewise, you probably would’ve have left if you equated programming with burnout, apathy, and freeloading that we see in its worst implementations. One can, as you do on other topics, discuss reasonable implementations of abstract ideas without using or doing the worst. The others are saying you can do that with this topic, too, like you do with others. Especially communism which had decent ideas and beneficial influences but utterly failed in practice due to corrupt or evil leadership.

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                                                                                          Especially communism which had decent ideas and beneficial influences but utterly failed in practice due to corrupt or evil leadership.

                                                                                          Every time. Every single time, over the course of more than a century.

                                                                                          What does it tell you about the “decent ideas” of Communism that literally every attempt to implent it at scale has lead to political terror, mass murder (often in the millions), and a debased totalitarian leadership? How are ideas “decent” if they a) don’t work, and b) kill millions of innocents again and again while their adherents keep trying them?

                                                                                          Yes, somewhat-capitalist countries have committed atrocities (because, as with communism, we’ve never achieved true capitalism). But the worst of these pale in comparison with the worst of communism, and the best… well, so far on this thread we’re comparing New Zealand with Communist Yugoslavia.

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                                                                                            “Every time. Every single time, over the course of more than a century.”

                                                                                            Same with capitalism. Every single one became a plutocracy doing tons of damage inside and outside.

                                                                                            “What does it tell you about the “decent ideas” of Communism that literally every attempt to implent it at scale has lead to political terror, mass murder (often in the millions), and a debased totalitarian leadership?”

                                                                                            I’m not sure it’s ever been implemented. Like with capitalism, it looks like most of the ambitious people who can take power over countries do the kinds of things you describe regardless of model. They promote that they’ll do one thing while doing different, evil things. That means each model that allows this must be called out for it. That followed by a way for the citizens to hold the government in check regardless of what kinds of policies it follows day to day. Honest-enough leadership, accountability for them, and a feedback loop so they know what effects they’re having.

                                                                                            You’re obsessively calling out specific ones equating any piece of them with the full evils of their worst implementations while denying anything remotely positive in them. Then, you’re ignoring the others on capitalist side or letting people have a balanced view of them. This is very inconsistent. If you hate evils you describe, you’d really be calling out military-backed capitalism in the West. That they maybe did less of those evils didn’t mean they didn’t do a massive amount of avoidable evil. They certainly did.

                                                                                            So, we can give due credit for the good, bad, and (most often) “doesn’t matter what random people are doing” of all of these philosophies. Or negate all details, comparisons, possibilities, etc if some version or a lot of them were evil as you’re doing for just a few.

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                                                                                              Same with capitalism. Every single one became a plutocracy doing tons of damage inside and outside.

                                                                                              Except for the rather significant fact that it is the only system in human history that has moved, and continues to move, people to levels of wealth above mere subsistence. Capitalism certainly has its flaws, but it also has huge benefits that are actually observed in the real world. And compared to the slaughter of 10s or 100s of millions of people, those flaws are positively mild.

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                                                                                                What some of us have been arguing against is the claim the the worst parts of communism mean nothing symbolic or good about it counts. That expressing the slightest thing about it negates all the good because of the bad. The author doesn’t apply that logic to capitalism, which I’ve shown is also horrific on its bad sign. So, they need to get consistent slamming anything tying into capitalism or backtrack admitting both the good and bad of communism can be considered.

                                                                                                “And compared to the slaughter of 10s or 100s of millions of people, those flaws are positively mild.”

                                                                                                One of my links showed capitalism slaughtering millions to tens of millions of people. They do it through a mix of direct action and using their money/spies to incite others to do it for them to reach their capitalist goals on international level. Without their input, much of it might have not happened.

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                                                                                                  What some of us have been arguing against is the claim the the worst parts of communism mean nothing symbolic or good about it counts.

                                                                                                  What are the good parts of Communism that have been seen it any of its practical instantiations? This is a serious question - perhaps my reading has been too much on the horrific side.

                                                                                                  One of my links showed capitalism slaughtering millions to tens of millions of people.

                                                                                                  Which is one or two orders or magnitude less bad than Communism. Not to mention the millions of lives that market-based economic systems have saved. I’m under no illusion that Capitalism is “good”; but I’m pretty confident based on the natural experiments we’ve seen throughout the 20th century that it’s a damn sight better than Communism.

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                                                                                                    re good parts of Communism

                                                                                                    Nikola already gave a few examples:

                                                                                                    “communists and socialists were crucial to the defeat of mid-20th century Nazism, played a key role in the development of modern-day workers’ & women’s rights, and had significant impact in the defeat of ISIL/Daesh – among others.”

                                                                                                    I didn’t spend a lot of time tracing the history of communism given even studying it was discouraged in my country. I do wonder if it had any inspiration for socialism in more democratic countries where people got education, healthcare, and safety nets. Capitalism was initially opposed to all of that unless they had money. Then, their money would be minimized while cost of that stuff maximized. Monarchies varied considerably. So, I’m not sure where socialists’ inspirations came from. Work looking into.

                                                                                                    re capitalism better than communism

                                                                                                    Hey, I said that! Clearly capitalism is a better experience for the citizens in most cases.

                                                                                                    Still, I should probably add to the litany of crimes that imperialist capitalism also installed or supported the kinds of regimes you’re talking about to back their domestic agendas. Often just letting specific companies push more product in more countries or benefit from slave labor or lack of safety/environmental regulations there. So far, capitalism works hand in hand with external fascists and dictators since they’re good for profit maximization in domestic businesses. The people, not those businesses, pay the costs of the manipulations and wars.

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                                                                                                  For example, it has raised the very real prospect of eliminating extreme poverty:

                                                                                                  https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=770

                                                                                                  Well, in 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.

                                                                                                  Capitalism did this. During the same period, Communism reduced several previously wealthy countries to ruins, and led to the murder of millions (many by outright starvation, in a macabre contrast to the growing wealth of the free world).

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                                                                                                I think the communist parties have often had a dual nature - with many members honestly hoping to improve the world and often doing good things. But the nature of the ideology seems to almost always produce ugly dictatorships - something that Marx’s opponents in other left wing movements predicted way back in the 1870s.

                                                                                                Atrocity comparisons are pointless. Did the Belgian Congo pale in comparison to Stalins crimes? Not for the people who were victims, I bet.

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                                                                                                  Violent revolution has almost never ended well for the people. It installs leaders who are, by definition, willing to use violence to enforce their way of doing things.

                                                                                                  My reading of 20th century history shows that founding a revolution in political violence is a near-guaranteed way to produce a brutal dictator.

                                                                                                  Non-violent revolutions, by contrast, produce a healthy government about half of the time (guesstimate based on my readings; I haven’t actually counted them).

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                                                                                                    Thomas Jefferson would be unhappy you believe that.

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                                                                                                      Your comment appears to suggest you find my claim unlikely to be true. I find it hard to believe you’re well-acquainted with 20th century history - across asia, africa, the middle east and south america there’s been ample evidence.

                                                                                                      This has a fairly good overview of the topic if you’re interested.

                                                                                                      American independance is certainly one of the more successful examples of violent revolution.

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                                                                                                        Every government is willing to use violence to enforce their way of doing things. That may be the definition of governments.

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                                                                                                          Unless you’re talking about a dictator, there’s a difference between a government and a leader.

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                                                                                    Employers are seeing the potential benefits of shorter working weeks without any sort of union intervention. I think Hazlitt addressed the absurdity of the modern union pretty well, in his 1946 classic Economics in One Lesson.

                                                                                    (And the “brothers and sisters, it’s us vs them” rhetoric is incredibly creepy and cultish)

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                                                                                      Very interesting. Do you have supporting links for employers moving towards shorter weeks? I haven’t noticed any movement in that direction, only a few isolated examples like Basecamp and that one company in New Zealand.

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                                                                                        I remeber reading something on here about the 30 hour jobs movement and a newsletter, seen job listings talking about their reduced hours at equivalent pay levels, and personal experience - two friends of mine work 9 to 3:30 instead of the usual 9 to 5/5:30 at different programming jobs getting paid what they would working the same role elsewhere (lucky sods). The benefits must be apparent to their employers, so it’s an idea that must be catching on.

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                                                                                          Sounds like a few more isolated cases (the newsletter stopped after three issues it seems), so I don’t think it stacks up as a counterargument to unions.

                                                                                          I know that France mandated a 35-hour work week, but even despite that they have many people working longer hours. So even regulation isn’t enough!

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                                                                                            Unions were the ones to demand these 35 hour working weeks in France and the policy is one of the major drivers behind France’s massive unemployment and the subsequent yellow vest protests we’ve seen over the past months. Forcing such change is historically prone to massive failure, I don’t see why it would work this time.

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                                                                                              Well, I guess then we can conclude that there’s nothing that will reduce working hours, and we are doomed to work 40+ hours for all time. It doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t happen through union pressure and regulation either.

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                                                                                                a new 30-hour jobs issue has just been sent out.

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                                                                                                  Saw it. Still not a movement by any means :)

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                                                                                        As employers want to pay as little as possible and workers want to get paid as much as possible, there’s no way out of this contradiction. Maybe you feel a part of the family where you work, but your boss might not feel the same way.

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                                                                                          Economics in One Lesson.

                                                                                          What a ridiculous mess - refuted as far back as Adam Smith. There is an “economist”, at the dawn of the largest economic boom of all time, announcing that all the government policies that are driving the boom are catastrophic. All that government spending on the Marshall Plan, on education, on public works - it’s just a “diversion” of money that could have been more profitably invested in, I guess, hiring impoverished domestic servants. A good recent book on ecoomics is Mariana Mazzucato’s Value of everything. https://www.powells.com/book/-9781610396745.

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                                                                                            Refuted as far back as Smith… By who? The economic “boom” was not a result of welfare policy or make-work schemes or excessive unionisation - the postwar US was handed exceptional circumstance in which to thrive. In the modern day those same policies lead to a $22T national debt and populace unprepared for a sudden $400 bill due to the pervasive Keynesian discouragement of saving.

                                                                                            I don’t think you read the book, because you sound like you missed the point, Hazlitt doesn’t encourage hiring “impoverished domestic servants”, but smaller government by virtue of letting people keep more of their money. I’ll maybe check out Mazzucato’s book some time, but it seems to handle a mostly different issue?…

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                                                                                              Adam Smith. Who pointed out, among other things, that government policies to keep interest rates moderately low discouraged speculation and encouraged patient investing. Or consider Thomas Jefferson’s argument for exponential taxation on inheritance to prevent the kind of overconcentrated stagnant and oligarchic economic and political system he saw in France - where the mass of people could only hope for job cleaning the toilets of the rich. Or consider President Madison’s explanation of how Federal government intervention to encourage manufacturing might be contrary to theory, but worked (as it did). Mazzacuto goes through value creation in the modern economy and points out what should be obvious, that government investment in R&D and infrastructure is key to value creation. That’s something I learned as a graduate student a million years ago, reading the software that Bill Joy and others wrote at Berkeley, paid for by the defense department. It’s because government investment is not constrained by individual profit considerations that it can invest in hugely unprofitable projects like GPS and then give away the results. Keynes explained how government spending could end recessionary cycles, but it’s bizarre how people can drive down public roads, go to state or publically supported schools and universities, use the government created internet, and imagine wealthy people would have done all that on their own initiative..

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                                                                                                I’m not here to argue in depth with what you’ve just said, I don’t think the comments section on lobsters is the place for that. However I think you must’ve misunderstood if you’ve actually read Hazlitt. He isn’t an anarchist. He’s the man who effortlessly tore Keynes a new one in The Failure of the New Economics, but that’s beside the point. Hazlitt was completely comfortable with the government doing certain things, just preferably not things based on the fundamental fallacy of failing to analyse the effects of a certain policy on all groups over the long term, as opposed to certain special interest groups.

                                                                                                He wouldn’t have argued against state provided roads (he actually says government is needed for bridge building in One Lesson) and other similar projects, don’t be ridiculous.

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                                                                                          Just another workday in NL

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                                                                                            Before upvoting this, please remember that the many of the people organising and participating in May Day celebrations are literal Marxists and Communists - supporters of an ideology with an order of magnitude more deaths on their hands than Fascism.

                                                                                            https://www.greenleft.org.au/sites/default/files/styles/glw_full_content/public/widerimages/p3%20May%20Day%20march%20in%20Melbourne%20in%202012..jpg

                                                                                            Yes, there’s a place in the world for unions and organised labour in general. But that’s not what this day is about.

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                                                                                              an ideology with an order of magnitude more deaths on their hands than Fascism.

                                                                                              This is unsubstantiated rhetoric that mostly originates from “The Black Book of Communism” which has been thoroughly repudiated and is a laughing stock in History departments.

                                                                                              Also, as someone who’s read The German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach, it’s a bit funny to read an oxymoron such as “Marxist ideology”. The humor is a bit double edged considering there truly was a state ideology for Stalinist State Capitalism (“diffuse spectacle” as coined by Debord), and although there truly was nothing Marxist about Stalin’s reactionary productivism, it’s synonymous to many with Marx.

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                                                                                                Wow, this is really useful context. I’m always surprised to see the “Communism? They’re pro STALIN!” line. It’s good to know where this propaganda is coming from.

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                                                                                                  Oh! I had long known that Holocaust Denial is a (despicable) thing; I’d not encountered … Communist-Democide Denial? … before.

                                                                                                  Here’s a good primer for you:

                                                                                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_killings_under_communist_regimes

                                                                                                  Let’s say the Black Book was wrong; other estimates range between ~20 million people (comparable to the Fascists, I think) to ~120 million.

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                                                                                                    Yeah, they’re pretty direct about their evil. Smarter regimes try to make the evil look like a good thing or just stay secret. Let’s look at the machinations of a militant, capitalist regime. Holy shit, it looks like their damage goes far and wide even though not highest in actual numbers of murders. Still doing it, too.

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                                                                                                      Thank you for the wikipedia link. I am obviously misinformed so that I did not consider to read wikipedia before I wrote my comment.

                                                                                                      I’m not sure where in “The humor is a bit double edged considering there truly was a state ideology for Stalinist State Capitalism (“diffuse spectacle” as coined by Debord), and although there truly was nothing Marxist about Stalin’s reactionary productivism, it’s synonymous to many with Marx.” you thought I’d be interested in defending Stalinist State Capitalism, which is basically all that article is concerned with. All I contended was the supposed “fact” that “Communism killed an order of magnitude more than Fascism”, which is not only false, but fascist-apologia. Which is interesting to me that you’re so concerned about that specific point. You really seem to have missed the entire point of my comment, actually. I’m not intending to respond to any further comment from you until you manage to respond to one of mine.

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                                                                                                        How is it Fascist-apologia to claim that they killed in the order of tens of millions of innocent human beings, while simultaneously accusing Communists of killing in the order of hundreds? I’m concerned that you’re mistaking my strident opposition to Marxism and Communism for support for Fascism.

                                                                                                        I’ve addressed the ‘No True Scotsman’ concern elsewhere on this thread: https://lobste.rs/s/qj3cts/happy_international_workers_day#c_wldyi3

                                                                                                        Suffice to say that trying to redefine certain Communist states as “not Communist” is to avoid the issue that every single state that has described itself as Communist has either started as, or descended into, totalitarian brutality. To rebrand Stalinist as a species of Capitalism is to entirely miss the point of any definition of Capitalism, and falls squarely into the realm of Marxist propaganda.

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                                                                                                    Before upvoting this, please remember that the many of the people organising and participating in May Day celebrations are literal Marxists and Communists

                                                                                                    Thank you for the advertisement. Everyone, please do remember that most of your workers’ right were indeed won by radical political struggle.

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                                                                                                      Very much agreed. It’s completely off topic for this site (and I flagged it as such).

                                                                                                      It’s truly astonishing to me not only how many people are openly communist, but that nobody seems to care. Compare that with how many people are rabidly anti-fascist, and you’re left to wonder that perhaps the entire world is just primarily made up of people that cannot see beyond their own tribe.

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                                                                                                      Monopolies are bad. Except when it’s a cartel-driven labour monopoly, for some reason.

                                                                                                      I look forward to hiring a union-approved sysadmin to click next on my machines because only union-approved sysadmins are allowed to run installers from union-approved software vendors.

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                                                                                                        I only bother to reply to union-approved straw men.

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                                                                                                          We’ll deal with it when it happens. Meanwhile, you’re introducing a hypothetical, future scenario that 100% contradicts current reality in most industries: cartels of a few big companies controlling most of the market, massively overpaying executives who have many protections (largely from that money), and minimizing pay to workers who have little to no rights. Cartels everywhere lobbying Congress in similar directions with unions barely able to keep up. Failing actually given number of at-will employment states.

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                                                                                                            cartels of a few big companies controlling most of the market,

                                                                                                            So let’s change the situation to cartels of a few big companies controlling most of the market + programmer cartel-union. You are not arguing for maximisation of utility to society but that-fat-guy-is-eating-half-of-the-pie-so-give-me-the-other-half-the-other-10-people-be-damned.

                                                                                                            and minimizing pay to workers who have little to no rights.

                                                                                                            Workers have all the negative rights they ought to have. The rights being proposed here are rights that require violating other people’s rights. It’s an injustice to infringe on others for your own benefits.

                                                                                                            Failing actually given number of at-will employment states.

                                                                                                            at-will goes both ways. If anything, at-will makes it easier to employ and therefore make more jobs and I would argue that it’s better to have a shitty job than no job at all (because if the reverse is true you can just quit).