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on December 05, 2016 at 12:53PM
heres a cool idea: what if in 2017 tumblr commie kids gave up the creepy romanticization of the soviet union thing in favor of the aesthetics of american labor history–the haymarket riot, the pullman strike, the great railroad strike, emma goldman & yiddish socialism, woody guthrie, pete seeger, paul robeson, the iww and the 1912 textile workers’ strike, the ladies’ garment workers’ union, wpa murals, the american communist party, bread and roses, the union maid. that’s the Good Shit if yr looking for historical leftist culture imo
Seriously tho, kids.
The USSR was a blood-soaked mess. A racist, anti-semitic, sexist blood-soaked mess at that. Do not repeat the sins of the Left of the 60s/etc by ignoring that. (Same goes for Maoist China, etc.) To ignore that is to literally piss on a truly appalling number of graves As an allegory, Animal Farm’s inaccuracies were that it’s not grim and horrific enough. The most conservative and hesitant and “well we don’t want to be hysterical about this” count of Stalin’s death toll, not including famine-victims, is 4 million; the one which, after various amounts of research, I find most convincing is about 20 million. Mao’s Great Leap Forward killed anywhere from 18 to 50 million, and we have literal footage of Tienamen, guys.
This is not the good example you are looking for. Do not romanticise them.
100% go back, as OP says, to the things that actually had good results (like a 40 hour work-week and basic human worker’s rights and shite) and did not do them over mountains of corpses. We have lots! They even included (gosh!) women! and queers! and people of colour/different ethnicities! They do all the things you want.
These are your models. Not those bloody handed bastards over there.
honestly, now is more important than ever to remember the historical contributions that the working class has made for social movements, given how much the media have taken blaming them for the rise of fascism.
From Trump to Brexit, the narrative being spun has been that of “the working class were too poor and too dumb to know better” and how both Brexit and Trump spoke for them or to them, even though a majority of that demographic are non-white/immigrant/minorities who are severely affected by the political outcome. It’s a false narrative and it is both classist and racist and erases the fact that labour rights and worker’s rights and social rights in West Europe and Americas have come from and were heavily supported by the socialist left and working classes.
Just to start off, I was reading the other day about The 1936 Battle of Cable Street, which was a stand organised by the local working class comprising of Jewish locals, the Irish locals, Labour and Communist party members in a demonstration against a Nazi march that lead to confrontation with the police (Discworld fans, read the fuck up about this because you will find a lot of what Pratchett was referencing in Night Watch).
I’m sure there’s probably a lot more examples, and what OP mentioned definitely deserves more historical context and background. But the fact is that those historical contexts are either forgotten or ignored by the tumblr social justice commie kids scene because clueless privileged teenagers are more willing to worship dead genocidal dictators for cheap aesthetics than do actual fucking research.
There’s a difference between celebrating bloody totalitarian regimes and celebrating actual socialist and leftist movements that had a positive outcome, in all their complexities, struggles and conflicts. And that difference means research and looking at the contexts of historical and social political landscapes of the time, the sum of which unfortunately can’t be reduced to sickle-and-hammer on a pastel colour palette.
Also please be aware that the horrors that were brought down on people in the USSR and other regimes are within living memory. There are witnesses, victims and perpetrators STILL ALIVE, and potentially on tumblr. This is not some far off thing that happened hundreds of years ago. PLEASE understand how the trivializing and romanticizing of these regimes and their imagery can be very triggering.
My family on my father’s side ended up in Canada fleeing the Holodomor. That whole side of my family tree just ends around 1933 - the records to trace it back any further than that simply don’t exist. Like, I’m sympathetic to socalist causes, but if you want to get me on side, maybe don’t hold up the regime that murdered 50% of my ancestors as your go-to example?
Yeah, I did a paper on Stalin in school, going in with the idea that “anybody Joe McCarthy hates can’t be all bad”, and coming out with “Stalin is pretty much all bad”. From his sneaky rise in the Party leadership, turning people against each other, to what he did with power: torture and starvation and exiling whole peoples to Siberia and informants everywhere and indoctrination and show trials where former comrades confessed and named other people. He was a monster.
And for the personal touch, my great-grandmother was an illegal immigrant to the US, fleeing Stalin and Hitler both, the rest of her family all died except one uncle. Two out of about 30 people.
So any idealistic young communists and socialists out there, that is the wrong damn model to take. Not that there are any superfantastic models, but some are better than others. Just because we have a fascist President-elect does not mean we have to be extreme in the opposite direction.
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