John Riceburg: The first demonstration of the year

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Please watch how you phrase things, it sounds ignorant.

Having read both this and your article in the recent Exberliner magazine, I find some of your phrasing to be historically ignorant and even a bit snide - I don't now how you can write "Clearly it’s a bit weird" or, in the Maoist article, "Despite its oddball ideology, which involved the spread of a 'cultural revolution' from the Third World to the First through student 'red guards' .... German Maoism sucked up some of the best minds of its generation." No one knew that communism would end up failing in either of these times, and Maoism was an extremely appealing alternative to those against American imperialism, particularly in the 1960s and in light of the Vietnam War and as a utopian socialist vision of what an ideal society might look like. To look back with hindsight and dub these movements as a bunch of hogwash is misdirected at best and positively ignorant at worst. Stop reading wikipedia or what's on the NYT bestseller list and using it to write articles and start actually doing some decent secondary research on your topics, as any good journalist should do.

HistoryGrad more than 3 years ago

decorum

Show some respect to the millions of victims of Communist mass murder.

heinz more than 3 years ago

Mass murder

So every person who died under a regime that called itself Communist is a victim of Communism?

What about the millions of people every year who die of hunger or treatable diseases? Are these hundreds of millions of victims of capitalist mass murder?

John Riceburg more than 3 years ago

Phrasing

hi History Grad,

I'm sorry you didn't like my phrasing. But as someone who has supported the LLL Demonstration for many years, let me ask you: What do you call a 5-year-old girl from the MLPD children's organization saying "I like Stalin" in a speech? What do you call the young guys trying to destroy the plaque for the victims of Stalinism shouting "Viva, viva, viva, Stalin, Stalin, Stalin"? Isn't "weird" the right word for that?

And what do you call a Communist organization in West Germany in the 1970s demanding a strengthening of the Bundeswehr and the NATO, or singing patriotic songs and calling for German nuclear arms, or praising Pol Pott as a model revolutionary leader? Isn't "oddball" the correct term?

I know that many young Maoists has the best of intentions: Tariq Ali said they had the "best of reasons" and "wanted to change the world". But good intentions don't make the ideology they chose less oddball. There were, after all, plenty of alternatives to Maoism.

And do you want to see a bibliography for my Maoism article? There's a lot of first-rate research that's been published on the "K-Gruppen" in recent years. You're not the only History Grad :-)

John Riceburg more than 3 years ago

Response... matter of language, not your argument

"What do you call a 5-year-old girl from the MLPD children's organization saying "I like Stalin" in a speech? What do you call the young guys trying to destroy the plaque for the victims of Stalinism shouting "Viva, viva, viva, Stalin, Stalin, Stalin"? Isn't "weird" the right word for that?"

I would call it "extreme" in the present, given that leftists that go that far are not currently in the majority. I think "weird" (or a term such as "oddball") is an indication of a very particular point of view on the subject. (By your own admission in the rest of the comment, this is clearly a personal POV as well.)

"And what do you call a Communist organization in West Germany in the 1970s demanding a strengthening of the Bundeswehr and the NATO, or singing patriotic songs and calling for German nuclear arms, or praising Pol Pott as a model revolutionary leader? Isn't "oddball" the correct term?"

At the time, no. Again, you are writing with decades of hindsight, and you do not have the same knowledge base to work off of that they did. It is incredibly difficult to understand what it was that those people were thinking without attempting to recreate the worldview and knowledge set that they had to work with. We live in a time of information overload and they simply did not; more importantly perhaps, they lived in a postcolonial/post WWII world in which radical decolonization was happening before their eyes - in other words, radically different circumstances than anything we can possibly imagine today. They constructed their views and arguments based on what they knew and with hopeful visions of the future in what must have been a disconcerting, chaotic, and confusing time.

I guess what I'm generally suggesting you do it not judge from the present but rather take into account the historical context - a theme that I'm sure you must have run into in a historical methods class at some point (http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2007/what-does-it-mean-to-think-historically).

Might I suggest some sources for you on the subject? I think you might like them, and I've found them incredibly useful while writing my dissertation, which includes two chapters on the 1960s:

http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=ChristiansenThird

http://www.amazon.com/Making-World-after-Empire-Afterlives-ebook/dp/B005EJR64A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389710201&sr=1-1&keywords=making+a+world+after+empire (especially the introduction about the formation of a "community of sentiment" that formed around people supporting Afro-Asianism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Darker-Nations-Peoples-History/dp/1595583424/ref=pd_sim_b_1

You'll notice that these books are not about Germany, but then, many involved in Maoism, Afro-Asian, and post-colonial/decolonization movements in the 1960s were not often thinking exclusively in such nationalist terms; many saw themselves as part of a global phenomenon.

HistoryGrad more than 3 years ago

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