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So like a lot of communists, I get tired of constant debates about 'was X historical figure mostly good,' (leaving out those who choose to worship any world leader who claimed socialism and deny any faults at all.) We should borrow what worked, recognize their mistakes, and move forward rather than get into pedantic bullshit about where they fit on a d&d alignment chart.

And it's bad strategy. Maybe people like Che can be rehabilitated, but with the exception of some of the shit going down in a few places in Asia right now, trying to prove Stalin did far more good than bad is a waste of time, (also inaccurate, which I'm sure I won't get much debate from other anarchists on.)

Regardless, it comes up a lot, and I probably lean more Marxist then most of y'all and find myself wanting to defend the Soviet Union and Cuba etc. not for sentiment so much as frustration that people make sweeping, inaccurate claims about communist states not realizing everything they criticize is done on a larger scale in their own nation, (these are usually Americans, and of course the gulags and UMAP never touched the scope of labor camps that exist in the US.)

Even though I don't like bringing up these things, they will come up, and I've recently realized almost all the info I have on major communist leaders comes from either;

Western propaganda trying to spin things to look as bad as possible, or just making shit up

Hardcore Leninists and apologists who will go to any lengths to defend their heroes.

And I'm left trying to parse what is what. All this to say, do you guys know of the least biased, (note, I didn't say the most balanced, balanced reporting is a crock of horse shit,) sources on the following people? Like, dispassionate stating of the facts best we can figure them and the reasons things happened. Usually I can tell the authors bias by the second paragraph on any of these things.

I'm interested in the most famous ones, just because they are more likely to come up, and I don't need obscure examples because the kind of anarchy/communism I prefer has never really existed, anyway.

Lenin, Mao, Chavez, Guevarra, Stalin, and Castro are probably good places to start.

I'm asking this on an anarchist board not a Marxist one because if I hear the, 'Stalin did nothing wrong, kulaks deserved it,' joke (? how often is it a joke?) one more time I'm going to explode. Also I think I'll get slightly less biased sources, and I'm an anarchist myself.

Thanks.
by (360 points)

I really like The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic by Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh. It is addressing the historical period leading up to the 20th century, so not directly addressing the Soviet Union etc. but is coming from a very interesting perspective influenced by marxism and anarchism.

Also, I would second Dixie Be Damned, which is great.

It sounds interesting, thanks!
There are also several communistic books on little black cart publishing, here are two that I really enjoyed:

http://littleblackcart.com/books/communism/nihilist-communism/

http://littleblackcart.com/?subcats=Y&pcode_from_q=Y&pshort=Y&pfull=Y&pname=Y&pkeywords=Y&search_performed=Y&q=endnotes+3&dispatch=products.search

Also, it would be nice to read an abridged version of das capital by marx so that you have an understanding of marxism. It's still really hard to read (i read an older abridged version), but to me it was worth it:

https://www.amazon.com/Capital-Abridged-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199535701/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489559728&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=das+capital+abrigded
counter-revolutionary :P

The best abridgement of Das Kapital is "The Reproduction of Daily Life" by Fredy Perlman!

1 Answer

+1 vote

These debates you're describing sound awful. Are you sure you want to continue hanging out in those spaces?

As to your question, my answer won't actually point to any biographies of these authoritarians, but I hope it will serve as an answer anyway. First it sounds like you would get a lot out of "A History of Separation" in Endnotes 4. It does not deal with the various leaders and figures, but the main argument is that we should not try not to look at historical moments through the lens of our own principles -- which, they argue, are too informed by our benefit of hindsight.

I have to add, since I am recommending the essay, that I actually hated it, or at least it left a very bad taste in my mouth, because it treats "the class" as a homogeneous consciousness and essentially erases anarchist and other libertarian thought from history. In other words, it chalks up all the communist atrocities to "well this is just where the class consciousness of the time was at, and who are we to judge that, we're standing on their shoulders" or some such bullshit. The fact that many people -- anarchists, but also many communists (though apparently not of the Endnotes sort) and also just regular people -- were definitely not in agreement with Leninism, Bolshevism, with Castro or Mao, is grossly waved away. It's also bonkers to me that they treat the authoritarians' actions as a pure expression of the class consciousness, but maybe that comes with the territory of believing in class consciousness at all?

Anyway, it is very much aimed at the sentiment you express of being tired of debates about whether certain historical figures were mostly good or not. So I do recommend it. But then you should also check out Dauvé and Camatte, who are two of the theorists that Endnotes are positioning themselves against in this debate. I'd also recommend reading Monsieur Dupont, and definitely, definitely check out "The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism" by Fredy Perlman, which is like a breath of fresh air in these musty rooms you seem to be hanging out in.

Edit: I thought of another source that's worth checking out, and more to the point of the question asked, as it talks about Bolshevik stuff from the inside: Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge.

by (19.9k points)
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