Exploitation, Social Justice

Victims of Communism Day

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin writes:

May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day…

I’m certainly not in favor of having the state murder and oppress anarchists. (That would be suicidal on my part.) But given how communists have co-opted May Day, it’s hard for me to want to celebrate it.

An excerpt from Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know:

Marxists say that if we want to realize social justice, we cannot have open markets and strong economic rights. Neoclassical liberals respond that if we care about the poor, the last thing we’d want to do is inflict Marxism upon them.

In a hypothetical fairyland, Marxism might be wonderful for workers and the poor. We don’t live in fairyland.

More on G. A. Cohen and the desirability of socialism here and here.

An excerpt from my paper, “Is Market Society Intrinsically Repugnant?”

Cohen claims that actors in market societies are motivated by greed and fear. He is right; many of them are. What are people motivated by in socialist societies? In the USSR, Cuba, or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, were people motivated by love and community? No, they were motivated even more strongly by base emotions, such as fear and the lust for power.

Cohen of course would say he is not defending the USSR or the Khmer Rouge. When he says agents in a socialist society are motivated by community spirit, he is discussing an imaginary and fictional socialist society. Because Cohen’s camping story is fictional, Cohen can simply stipulate that the characters in his story have whatever motivations he likes.

However, notice how badly this weakens Cohen’s argument against capitalism. Cohen says that an advantage of socialism over capitalism is the kind of motivations it engenders and relies upon. When Cohen says that agents in capitalist economies are motivated by greed and fear, he is articulating what he takes to be an empirical generalization about real-life, non-ideal capitalism. When Cohen says that agents in socialist economies are motivated by altruism and community spirit, Cohen is not making an empirical claim at all. Instead, he is simply stipulating that the people in his camping trip have good motivations.

Thus, Cohen is not doing social science. He is not helping us discover what motivates people in different regimes. He is not showing us how different regimes change people’s motivations. He is not doing empirical comparative politics. He has not given us any reason at all to believe that socialism engenders or relies upon better motivations than capitalism.

If one really wanted to know what motivates people in market society, one would have to leave one’s armchair in All Souls College and do genuine social scientific research.

  • Fteson

    Ilya is absolutely right. Exhibit A against the academic left is how they covered for Soviet crimes for more than 70 years.

    • berserkrl

       Exhibit A against the academic left is how they covered for Soviet crimes for more than 70 years.

      Seems rather collectivist to lump “the academic left” all together this way.  Many academic leftists have been sharply critical of Soviet crimes.

      We don’t like it when the whole free-market movement is condemned for the idiocies of some its members. Shouldn’t we refrain from doing likewise?

  • Guest

    It might not be a bad idea to reappropriate May Day to remember the victims of the Soviet regime. But if that’s the case, how about reappropriating July 4th to remember all the innocent civilians killed and being killed by the USA in its endless wars?

    Who’s with me? I’m assuming not too many because it’s much easier to take cheap shots at Soviet regime who has disappeared 20 some years ago.

    • I’m planning to write a post against the American Revolution on July 4th.

      • Guest

        I haven’t been so glad to be proven wrong…

        • Wait until you see the “in poor taste” post I’ll on Memorial Day.

    • Ilya Somin

      If the wrongs of the US were on anything like the same scale as those of communist regimes, this would indeed be a good suggestion. In the real world, it’s obviously not – especially since many of the US’ “endless wars” actually were against brutal totalitarian regimes. Like many other governments, the US government has sometimes waged unjust wars. That’s worthy of condemnation. But it’s not on par with the 100 million dead of communism.

      • Damien S.

        OTOH the unjust wars of the US, and the unjust trade policies it pushes, continue killing people to the present day, while Communism basically *lost* 21 years ago.  Austerian capitalism is killing people in Greece today (though I don’t blame the US for that).

        Also, the majority of those victims were less about Communism and more about two crazy dictators, Mao and Stalin.

        And many of the US wars were against a brutal ‘totalitarian’ regime on behalf of a brutal ‘authoritarian’ regime.  Yay.

        • Ilya Somin

          I think US trade policy  (which has done a lot to promote free trade, which even most left-wing economists see as beneficial to the poor) and recent US wars generally do a lot  more good than harm. Neither, of course, is anywhere close to perfect. Yet even if both are significantly worse than I believe, neither is remotely as bad as communism.

          As for “two crazy dictators,” you are very wrong about that. The USSR started killing people by the millions before Stalin took power and would have done so even if he were defeated by Trotsky (who criticized Stalin for not being radical enough, and taking too soft a line on collectivization – the Stalinist policy that killed the most people).  Communist dictators other than Mao and Stalin (Pol Pot, North Korea’s rulers, etc., also killed large fractions of their nations’ populations). And two of those dictatorships (Cuba and North Korea) continue to kill  and oppress innocent people in large numbers today.

          • berserkrl

            I think US trade policy  (which has done a lot to promote free trade

            Well, they’ve done a lot to promote policies with the phrase “free trade” attached to them.

            recent US wars generally do a lot  more good than harm

            Massive civilian deaths abroad; rising costs, civil-liberties violations, and risk of terrorist reprisals at home — what exactly are the good results that counterbalance these?

          • Eek – are some of the people involved here, in addition to falling back on standard neo-liberal positions on economics, also “neo-libertarian” warmongers? The cognitive dissonance at this blog is overwhelming.

          • Oh the terror! People disagree with us!

      • Guest

        Ilya, what for you is a good number of civilians for the US to kill before it’s no longer viewed as a justified warmaker? What number do you have in mind?

      • Rad Geek

        In the real world, it’s obviously not – especially since many of the US’ “endless wars” actually were against brutal totalitarian regimes. . . .

        Shame how all those dead civilians kept getting in the way of the brutal totalitarian regimes the U.S. government was fighting wars against.

        U.S. bomber wings show up over Tokyo, planning to firebomb a “brutal totalitarian regime,” and somehow instead they end up killing 100,000 men, women and children in a single night, who were not part of the regime and had no control over it. They show up over Hiroshima, and in Nagasaki, expecting to drop atomic bombs on a “brutal totalitarian regime,” and somehow instead they end up dropping them on cities of hundreds of thousands of people, wiping out about a quarter million civilians in the process over the course of just over 72 hours. Years later, the U.S. government comes to Viet Nam, intending to wage war against a brutal totalitarian regime, and somehow by the time they leave, the brutal totalitarian regime is still flourishing there, but 4,000,000 other Vietnamese no longer are. A man with less perspective might think that this sort of thing was a sign that the U.S. government, like every other government, doesn’t actually wage war against “regimes;” rather that it wages wars on countries and peoples who are inevitably become the overwhelming majority of the victims of the war. Perhaps this was done in the hopes that by doing it, they might somehow get at the regime hiding behind those people in those countries. If so, then the question of justice here certainly turns on something more than just the quality of the ends for which these megamurdering means were deliberately chosen.

        But it’s good of you to note that this massacre of millions has, on occasion, every now and then, in spite, of course, of the countervailing considerations, in the full light of objective reevaluation, led to wars which were in some sense unjust, and therefore worthy of condemnation, even if not worthy of being mentioned or remembered in the same breath as the victims of the U.S. government’s geopolitical enemies.

        • Ilya Somin

          I think there is an obvious difference between civilians killed in the course of military operations aimed at military targets, and civilians rounded up in concentration camps, deliberately starved to death, and the like (as under communist regimes).  That’s not to say the former are always justified; merely that it is not nearly as bad as the latter. It’s reasonable to argue that the strategic bombing of German and Japanese cities in WWII   was morally wrong (though it likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives on net, by helping to put an end to two horrendous totalitarian regimes).  But it’s not in the same class of evils as the Gulags or Auschwitz.

          In addition, I think many of your figures for casualties are way off standard estimates by historians (e.g. – nowhere near 4 million people were killed in the US bombing of North Vietnam).

          • berserkrl

            there is an obvious difference between civilians killed in the course of military operations aimed at military targets

            The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were not aimed at military targets.  They were chosen specifically for their civilian demoralisation potential.

            civilians rounded up in concentration camps

            Well, thank goodness FDR didn’t do anything like that!

          • berserkrl

             And of course the u.s. in WWII was allied with Stalin, and its “liberation” of central and eastern Europe consisted mainly in taking the civilian population away from one murderous regime and handing it over to another.

          • Look up General Plan Ost.

          • No, he didn’t. In no way were the Japanese internment camps anywhere as horrible as Treblinka… or the Gulags.

          • Rad Geek

            I think there is an obvious difference between civilians killed in the
            course of military operations aimed at military targets, and civilians
            rounded up in concentration camps, deliberately starved to death, and
            the like (as under communist regimes).  That’s not to say the former are
            always justified; merely that it is not nearly as bad as the latter.

            Well. A few things.

            1. I know this is a popular opinion, but if you’re going to insist on it, I’d like to know why you think this is the case. War atrocities leave their victims quite as dead as prison-camp atrocities, and I can’t see even a prima facie why the victims of one suffered less evil than the victims of the other. Do you? Why?

          • Rad Geek

            2. I don’t think that the line between prison-camp atrocities and
            wartime atrocities is really as easy to draw as you seem to think it is. You
            write as if there were “military operations aimed at military targets,”
            which juon the one hand, and (non-military?) operations aimed at
            civilian targets, on the other. Many of the most inhuman crimes and
            conditions inflicted on prisones at Auschwitz, Treblinka, etc. were
            specifically justified by Nazi war aims and military decisions. The U.S.
            military, for its part, certainly repeatedly used “military operations”
            in war and counterinsurgency as a basis for rounding up and
            “reconcentrating” civilians in barbaric and lethal conditions (see for
            example the extensive use of “reconcentrados” by the “Constabulary”
            during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines).

          • Rad Geek

             3.In any case, the low-altitude firebombing of Tokyo, and the atomic
            bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were not
            “military operations aimed at military targets,” unless your notion of a
            “military target” is so expansive that it could encompass entire urban
            centers encompassing hundreds of thousands of people in residential
            neighborhoods. In reality, all three targets were deliberately chosen in
            order to inflict the most damage and the greatest number of deaths
            among ordinary people. The idea was that this would break “enemy”
            morale. Which no doubt it did — but by methods no different from those
            of the Condor  Legion in Guernica, or of the Japanese air force in Shanghai, or, for that matter, the Einsatzgruppen SS in their wartime
            round-ups and massacres throughout the eastern front. (I hope that you
            don’t intend to argue that deliberately massacreing civilians in
            wartime, if there is some war aim to be advanced by it, is itself
            morally different in some significant way from, say, the Gulags, or
            Auschwitz. But if you do intend to argue that, I’d certainly need to know why.)

            4. I don’t want to get into a long argument about different methods of
            estimating of the civilian death toll of the Vietnam War, but the number
            I cited is one of a range of commonly-printed estimates of the total
            civilian death toll from the war. It is at the high end of the range,
            but most other estimates are of the same order of magnitude, ranging
            between about 1,000,000 and 4,000,000 total deaths (*).  It is not an
            estimate of the death toll (only) from bombing North Vietnam. I may have made this less clear than I could have by including the Vietnam War death toll alongside the death toll of specific bombing raids. But in any case, by more or less all estimates, the U.S. military and allied governments killed several times more civilians in their ground combat, napalm “air support,” etc. for their “counterinsurgency” war in South Vietnam, than they did during their bombing of North Vietnam (as horrible as that bombing was).

            (* This particular one was published by a the Vietnamese government
            ministry in 1995. That might be a reason to worry that they are
            exaggerating for political purposes, but at the time the Vietnamese
            government was actually seeking normalized trade relations with the
            U.S., and the publication of the figures required them to admit that
            they had been lying about death tolls throughout the war, in order to
            minimize the totals and to preserve morale. Hirschman et al.’s
            “Vietnamese Casualties During the American War: A New
            Estimate” (1995) used demographic methods to get an estimate of just
            under or just over 1,000,000 from 1965-1975, Robert McNamara published
            an estimate of about 1.2 million civilian deaths 1960-1975, etc. Lowball
            estimates like Lewy’s claim only about a quarter million civilian
            deaths, but without getting into the problems with their methods, I’d
            like to let the “only” there stand in all its horror.)

  • berserkrl

    May Day is still celebrated by labour activists, including libertarian ones.  Communist states may have tried to co-opt it, but we never gave it up.  Trying to turn it into a victims-of-Communism day would be just one more attempt to co-opt it.  We’re not going to give it up for that either.

  • Agreed that totalitarian communism is responsible for a great deal of death and suffering. Although I would submit to you that it was the “totalitarian” much more than the “communism” that was responsible for that agony. This isn’t to defend state communism; it clearly is a failed ideology. Rather, I think it’s important to distinguish between economic systems and political systems. Hitler’s Germany wasn’t communistic and they killed a fair number IIRC. And it’s not like Capitalism=Peace+Freedom, either. Unless you don’t want to count our recent forays in the Middle East in your catalog of death.

    I guess -ism’s are like that. Religions, economic philosophies, political philosophies.  They can be good, bad, or indifferent. But they all share the property of being vulnerable to co-option by nefarious actors with horrible results.

    • Kuze

      “Although I would submit to you that it was the “totalitarian” much more
      than the “communism” that was responsible for that agony.”

      One leads to the other. You can’t create a lever of that much power (the central planning of an economy) and not expect somebody to exploit it. There are no angels among us who are either smart or pure hearted enough to run a such chaotic, non-linear thing as an economy.

  • Richard

    The glibness with which you move between ‘communism’, ‘marxism’ and ‘socialism’ is astonishing given that this is supposedly a devoted to nuanced political theory.

    • Richard

      supposedly a *blog devoted…

    • In my defense, when I am careful, half of the people misunderstand me, and when I am not careful, the other half misunderstand me. 

      • Shawn P. Wilbur

         Unfortunately, there is no careful argument which justifies the attempt to co-opt a workers’ celebration because authoritarian states have attempted to co-opt it in the past. The degree of carelessness required to confuse the historical 8-hour movement or the masses of people in the streets yesterday with the authoritarian “communist” states is pretty overwhelming.

        • Really? I think Ilya nails this one on the head. The Swastika is now a Nazi symbol, though it used to be an innocent symbol. May Day is now primarily associated with state communism, though it used to have innocent connotations.

          I posted this is response to USSR nostalgia I was reading, FWIW.

          • May Day is primarily associated with state-communism? Your assumptions are off. I don’t think most people who engage in activities on May Day are thinking about state-communism, let alone *are* state-communists. Perhaps the right-wing elements of the libertarian narrative have gotten the best of you.

          • Damien S.

            “May Day is now primarily associated with state communism”

            Citation needed.

            Oh, and the Swastika is a Nazi symbol in the West, especially the particular version they used. In the East, it still denotes Jain or Buddhist temples, gets used in Hindu ceremonies, and is given as a name to girls.

          • Shawn P. Wilbur

             No. It doesn’t even begin to fly, unless your notion of  “careful argument” is one which must reduce actual diversity into some neatly packaged, single “association.” It really is not a question of  present vs. past associations, but of how you interpret the continuing diversity. And if it actually was a question of that sort, then there would be other problems, like the relative decline of authoritarian socialism versus the increased prominence of anarchism, the resurgence of radical labor, the emergence of Occupy, etc. Like the official “Loyalty Day” (aka “Americanization Day”) in the US, the attempt to make International Labor Day about the crimes of governments rather than the struggles of individuals, to turn a workers’ celebration into a day of mourning, ends up looking, whether it is willful or not, like a bit of nostalgia for the simplistic ideological clashes of the Cold War, and presents an inane, false parallel between popular struggles and state crimes.

            And it sure doesn’t give me much hope that “social justice” will be given any very useful treatment from folks who will ignore the workers in the street to wring their hands some more about Stalin.

          • good_in_theory

            80 states officially celebrate May Day.

            Markedly few of them are (or ever were) state communist.

          • May Day is now primarily associated with state communism …”

            You just seriously killed your credibility with this statement. If I were you I’d cut my losses and post a retraction of this nonsense.

          • Rad Geek

            @facebook-1702318862:disqus : “May Day is now primarily associated with state communism,  …”

            By whom?

            That seems to be what you primarily associate it with, but I have to wonder how widespread you seriously believe your associations to be.

            In the two communities I’ve lived in for the past several years (in southern Nevada, and in eastern Alabama), May 1 seems primarily to be associated with street protests in favor of immigration freedom.

  • Silly Wabbit

       I know you are an uber smart dude but I cautiously challenge your understanding of Marxism (or at least Marx).
        I’m not defending Marx nor am I am Marxist. I’m sure a few theorists writing in a post-Marxist frame have written some work I have found engaging but in general I don’t have any great sympathy for Marxism. 
       However, we should note that within Marxism there is a long tradition of anti-Sovietism. One doesn’t have to dig very deep to find Trotsky and a little more investigation will lead to Luxembourg and Pannekoek. There are literally dozens of anti-Soviet Marxist theorists. Some people even call this tradition “libertarian marxism”.
      Within the broader left there is a strong tradition of both anti-sovietism and anti-marxism (or Marxist Leninism). 

       Ultimately a lot of it comes down to definitions and ontology. I guess I prefer more refined “isms”. 
       It should also be noted that Marx said very little about how communist society was supposed to work and other theorists came along and filled in those gaps.  Sometimes I question whether a concept like “marxist society” is really meaningful. We might be better off to talk about “Stalinist society” or “Maoist society”.

       Also, I’m not sure that those of us who are in the U.S. are really being honest with ourselves when we point fingers at other regimes. The U.S. has a profoundly violent history that should shock the conscience of any self-described libertarian. We were a slave state, than an apartheid state, then a mass incarceration society, and we constantly start wars. Even now a sizable portion of our population (and many of our leaders) want a war with Iran. 

      Granted, we can say that in some way all those things weren’t “true capitalism” or didn’t really represent “free markets”. The latter is undeniable. But if we are talking about “actually existing” systems of political economy the “capitalism” of the U.S. doesn’t really look much better in terms of its death toll. 
       In general I found this post strange because it echoes cold war politics that should now be defunct. “Communist have coopted May Day” seems like an odd pronouncement from someone who is under 60 (as I assume you are). I don’t have exact numbers but I would imagine that the total membership in pro-Soviet organizations in the U.S. is currently at or near zero. So its hard to see how a possibly non-existent group of people have co-opted a holiday. 

    • good_in_theory

      ” In general I found this post strange because it echoes cold war politics that should now be defunct. “Communist have coopted May Day” seems like an odd pronouncement from someone who is under 60 (as I assume you are). I don’t have exact numbers but I would imagine that the total membership in pro-Soviet organizations in the U.S. is currently at or near zero. So its hard to see how a possibly non-existent group of people have co-opted a holiday.”

      Indeed, 80 countries have “co-opted” May Day and made it an official state holiday.
      Last I checked there are presently 4 state-communist countries in the world.

      So if Communists are appropriating May Day, they aren’t doing a very good job of keeping it to themselves.

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  • As I posted on Ilya’s facebook page, I think that talking about such a reclamation is pointlessly antagonistic toward social democrats and the non-Communist labor-inspired left.  It was their holiday first.  We should aspire to a political world in which there’s a deep cleavage between liberal-constitutional-democrats, understood to encompass us and social democrats alike, and totalitarian or authoritarian or deeply anti-liberal views.  That means that we should not lump together the liberal and social democratic left with the evils of Communism.

    We should focus attention on what’s called Black Ribbon Day in Canada and the 
    Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism in Europe, August 23.  If I had a magic wand to wave for re-conceiving holidays, it wouldn’t be this change of May 1;  it would be expanding Black Ribbon Day to include the victims of Communism writ large rather than only Stalinism.  But the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact seems like the right moment to commemorate the evils of totalitarianism.

    Now, I favor reunderstanding Columbus Day as a day to commemorate the genocide and expropriation of the European conquest of the western hemisphere.  But I’m a white American, the group whose triumphant history Columbus Day originally celebrated.  If a social democrat wants to rethink May 1 in terms of Communism, that would be the same kind of thing.  But for libertarians to suggest it antagonistically is *not* the same kind of thing.  It’s not “ours” in the right way.

  • This post was up in another form before and then removed (for what I had hoped was better judgment) and with it my and others’ critical comments. I see that this time, Brennan has added some nuance to address the comments we left without mentioning that it is in response to that criticism. The nuance is lame. As Roderick points out, we never gave it up.  Given how Brennan and others have co-opted May Day, it’s hard for me to want to celebrate their suggested alternative.

    • Damien S.

      Oh, thank you.  I was wondering if I’d hallucinated quoting from Wikipedia about ILD.

  • Jessica Flanigan

    Presumably you would also disagree with GA Cohen that in principle (what you call ‘hypothetical fairyland’) socialism is best. I’m guessing this in part because you called yourself an anarchist earlier, and so you would reject Cohen on the merits and not just in practice and application, so why focus on the fact that Cohen is doing a different project than social science, why not just attack the view on his own terms? He argues that even if we can’t get from hear to socialism, socialism is morally best. You reply that trying to get from here to socialism would be a disaster, but so what? What I think (and I think you do too) is that socialism is not morally best even in the ideal case. 

    Also, wouldn’t you agree that even if everyone were motivated by greedy intentions that capitalism would still be morally preferable, because it’s permissible to exchange and contract even if it’s for greedy reasons? The response to Cohen shouldn’t be that he’s bad at doing the social science about people’s motivations, it should be that people’s motivations ire irrelevant because people have economic freedoms that merit protection in a market society, which would not be respected in a socialist regime.

  • My first thought upon reading this post was: why are BHL writers sounding like cold warriors? I mean, really? Thinking that “communists” (which of course always only means state-communists, right?) have “co-opted” something? Focusing on “communism” (rinse repeat) as if it were a significant threat in the world? And turning something that is supposed to be about workers liberation into a rationalization for an anti-communist message? Talk about co-opting!

    • Fteson

      Simple: if you love freedom, as libertarians do, you must condemn the crimes of communism. Period. That is not being a cold warrior, or any kind of warrior.

      • “The crimes of communism” – granting whatever you think that means for the sake of argument – have nothing directly to do with May Day (if it does have something to do with it, in any sense, it’s precisely the ways in which the state-communists *crushed the workers movement*). 

        This is an ideological pet peeve being imposed onto the subject matter, which amounts to a gross misreading or misconstrual of what May Day is both historically and today – which is not particularly a justification for state-communism. Bringing state-communism into it is shadowboxing.

        It’s rather sad that instead of expressing sympathy for the struggle of workers, one has to use them as cannon fodder for one’s own, obviously separate, political-ideological focuses or pet peeves.

  • good_in_theory

    As I said in the previous incarnation, why not just salute the flag for Law Day and Loyalty day if you want to return to McCarthyism.  It’s 2012.  Cold war is over.  Get over it.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/36/115 http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/36/usc_sec_36_00000113—-000-.html/ 

    If you’re going to re-christen something about May 1st because of your libertarian anarchism, how about you do it with the holidays that were created by fiat by the actually existing state in which you reside as part of a campaign of political repression.   Seems like a better target than the one created by, you know, anarchists, which was (never completely) appropriated by now-dead states.

    One might also recall how the state in which we live, the US, appropriated May Day and Haymarket and worker struggles for the 8 hour working day – to engage in a wave of political repression and state murder of anarchists and socialists and other undesirables in concert with privately hired thugs (ah, the Pinkerton detectives, a great example of our future ‘private enforcement agencies’ in libertarian anarchy, I’m sure).

    (PS – where I live, here in a city in the US, May day is chiefly celebrated by immigrants rights groups and workers who have nothing to do with state communism.  Aren’t these people ostensibly the object of BHL pity?  Unsurprisingly, always an object, never a subject.)

    • good_in_theory

      To make this concrete, how about (American) BHL’s forget about May Day (not even recognized in the United States as a holiday, though celebrated officially by 80 countries world wide, many of which are liberal democracies and have absolutely nothing to do with the bogeyman of state communism), and focus on rechristening the vaguely fascistic state holidays of their homeland, May 1st’s Law and Loyalty Day?

      Perhaps a memorial to the victims of Gilded Age and Cold War political repression and military invasion?

      US backed military interference and killing  in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East?

      Victims of America Day, anyone?

    • “Your holiday! Your holiday!” – as if someone owns a holiday, as if holidays are not reappropriated and altered all the time.

      • good_in_theory

        What are you talking about? I haven’t referred to anyone’s holiday, in the sense of the holiday being owned by someone.

  • I’m aware that since the only thing hard Libertarians are supposed to value if they want to keep the name is property.  Property, property, property! Which only makes them mirror images of the Communists who are supposed to value only labor.  Labor, labor, labor!

    It suddenly occurs to me why I have so little tolerance for hard Libertarians.  They’re as ruthless about their fetish as the f*cking Commies are about theirs.

    So tell you what.  If Volokh is willing to turn May Day into Victims of Communism and Victims of “Primitive” Property Accumulation Day fine.  Otherwise he should go ruin his own holiday.

    Although why stop there?  Given the timing and all, why go all out and call it All Victims of Attempts to Apply Fanatic Ideologies Day?


  • Kevin Carson

    May Day is “largely associated in the public mind” with communism, in part, because the ideological apparatus of the American state worked so hard to tar it with that association.

    • The ideological apparatus of the American state…and bleedingheartlibertarians.com. I guess the former needs all the help it can get.

  • famadeo

    May Day: conmemoration of the dignity of the worker — leftist sensibilities. Is there overlap? Obviously. But in order to reduce the former into “Communism Day” (or whatever) there are a couple of premises missing.

    Why wouldn’t a libertarian (even within it’s parameters) want to celebrate such an occasion?

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  • Kevin Carson

    Not only does U.S. trade policy do a lot to promote “free trade,” it does the opposite. The centerpiece of American “free trade” agreements, far from simple tariff reduction, is the imposition of “intellectual property” monopolies that essentially give transnati0nal corporations a deadlock on international trade.

    Patents and copyrights perform the same protectionist function for the transnational corporatee economy that tariffs did for the old national industrial economies a hundred years ago. A patent or copyright, exactly like a tariff, is a restriction on who is allowed to sell a given good to a particular market.

    It’s this monopoly which enables TNC headquarters to outsource all actual production to Asian job shops while retaining control of marketing and IP, and to charge a $200 brand-name markup for a pair of sneakers that cost $5 to produce. It does this by making it illegal for those same job shops to produce identical shoes, minus the swoosh, and market them to the local population for $10. It is these monopolies which prevent competition from passing along the cost savings from innovation to the consumer, and allow state privileged corporations instead to enclose them as a source of rent. It’s patents on dual-purpose technology that enable Western TNCS to secure lockdown on the latest generation of production technology and prevent the emergence of indigenous competition in the Third World.

    Because of this highly statist system of global “intellectual property” law, the great majority of TNC profits are royalties on copyright or embedded patent rents on the intangible value of physical goods.  The most profitable industries in the corporate global economy are either heavily dependent on IP (entertainment and software), heavily subsidized by home governments (armaments and agribusiness), or both (biotech, electronics, pharma).

    Besides this there’s the other highly profitable category: extractive industries. You don’t even want to think about the massive evictions and clearances of the  native population, the state preemption of vacant land, and the slave labor that’s gone into colonial mining operations around the world.

    The global corporate economy, and the “intellectual property” regime at the heart of it, are almost as dependent on the Soviet nomenklatura’s system of power on harsh information lockdown. DRM, anti-circumvention laws, website seizures with no due process, ubiquitous surveillance, etc., constitute a level of police statism equivalent to that of the Drug War. It’s no coincidence that violators of the corporate-state information control regime, like the old Samizdat publishers, are known by the state as “pirates.”

  • Kevin Carson

    Um, there should be a “not” in that first sentence.

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