catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The lingering respectability of communists

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In this morning’s SMH Gerard Henderson writes about something we discussed exactly a year ago, the lingering respectability in some sections of Australian society of mass murderers and their apologists, provided they give themselves the title ‘communist’.

Henderson suggests that:

The left retains its heroes only because so many leftists are in denial about the real crimes of communists…

There are I expect the leftist equivalents of Holocaust deniers, but I am not sure that this is the main problem here. After all, there was always a leftist line of argument that admitted that their heroes weren’t saints; that you had to break eggs to make omelettes, that the end justified the means. These days, communists are not reduced to their (in my view appropriate) pariah status because the left has shifted from an ends-based morality to an intention-based morality. So long as you intend to create a more equal and better society you are worthy of some respect, particularly if (as in Australia) your political failure means that there are no ends against which the intentions can be judged.

Another possible reason for the light treatment of Australian communists is that the Australian left suffers from the same problem as the post-communist societies of Eastern Europe: so many people were implicated in the crimes of the regime that a complete purge is not possible, because there would not be enough people left to run all the institutions. Unlike the intention-based morality, this effect will pass, as former communists and their fellow travellers age and die.


Written by Admin

January 10, 2006 at 6:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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