Feb 7, 2011

Collateral Damage


Christ Jesus Lord God Jehova,
Beat it on away from here now.
Make way for a new guy with no religion at all—
A real guy named
Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME—
I said, ME!

Don’t be so slow about movin?
The world is mine from now on—
And nobody’s gonna sell ME
To a king, or a general,
Or a millionaire.” (Hughes)

Langston Hughes, an American Black Poet of the 20th century, disrupted all social measures and convictions during the rise of Communism in the West. During that time, the Communist Party of the USA adopted the slogan “the united front from below”. The party devoted to championing the rights of African-Americans and fighting alongside the farmers and the working poor.

Hughes’ literary work was mostly associated with the Communist Party. The poem above clearly shows his deep affiliation to the Communist thought or ideals. Hughes despised the structured and organized power. In other words, he was against what the Manifesto of the Communist Party calls a bourgeoisie. “By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of special production and employers of wage labor. By proletariat, the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live” (McLellan 16). This idea of freedom from slavery or from the established deprivation of the right to taste of one’s fruit, this longing to stop the exploitation of the black was an attraction to Hughes towards communist because “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation” (McLellan 32).

The communists believed in the working class, in its emancipation. However, Communism in Europe took another stance during the Great Purge of Stalin. Hughes as many other writers of his time were drawn to the promises of freedom from the segregated USA. The leaders of the American Communist Party, along with many writers and intellectuals at the time, did not question the acts of purging by Stalin (Communist Party of the United States). After the rise of Communism in Europe, various philosophers, writers, and journalists justify the works of the authoritarian and totalitarian States behind the Iron Curtain. During the period extending from 1940-1950, Senator McCarthy and Edgar Hoover established a blacklist in which they incriminated prominent American figures of working with the enemy of the capitalist system, the Communist party (McCarthyism).

Here an ethical dilemma is raised. On the one hand, Communist leaders promised freedom and rights. On the other, some of its leaders showed totalitarianism. The conflict resides between the freedoms of slaves in the US by influence of Communism and the justice concept in leaders to be applied at all times. Was Langston Hughes right to encourage Communism after the Great purge? Was it just of him to disregard these acts for the sake of freedom?

During this semester, while studying about ethics and leadership, many paradigms were discussed in class. These were the essence of any conflict of ethical nature. There are as many paradigms as one can name when it comes to freedom, justice, mercy, truth, honesty and the list goes on and on. In this paper, the clearer relation would be between freedom of expression and freedom to acquire the rights that are one’s natural right. From a Black Struggle point of view, communism was their one ticket against the democratic capitalist system that kept them tangled to slavery for a long time. However, based on their ‘visionary’ plan to change the American Capitalist society, the communist Americans disregarder and shone off the many massacres in Europe, in the name of shutting capitalism down, by the communist Stalin Regime.

It must never be forgotten that freedom, liberty, and justice are class terms, and have never been anything else since the rise of private property and the beginning of political society, with its class struggles. Justice, democracy, and liberty are weapons used in the class conflict in propertied society by the ruling elements against the exploited slaves, serfs, and workers” (Marxists Internet Archive (2006)).

From an anthological point of view, freedom is man’s unavoidable condition. It is an end, a barrier to be overcome. Jean Paul Sartre asks a question about Marxism and freedom and the bourgeoisie. He says: “Was Marx not right to dismiss ‘freedom’ as empty bourgeois rhetoric unless defined in terms of ‘freedom and necessity’ the central dialectic of history?” (Caute). From this, we can understand two terms: that of freedom and that of necessity.

The black freedom necessitated a big, unprecedented movement to fight the oppression of that capitalistic system. In other words, it called for a universal action, one which the capitalists would be surprised with its strength and ability to change. So it wasn’t really a surprise to see black writers and different other authors endorse communism despite the fact of its cruel attacks on European grounds. While comparing and contrasting freedom versus Justice, we might want to discern between two concepts of freedom: a negative and a positive freedom. “The concepts of freedom are notoriously various and tricky. The distinction between negative and positive freedom has been drawn in many different ways… Real, substantive, or positive freedom is to be contrasted with formal or negative freedom… Generally, if I am positively free to X I am also negatively free to X, but not always. If someone tries to coerce me or places obstacles in my path, but the obstacles are not completely effective, so that I can still get X if I try to get X, then I am positively free with respect to X but not completely negatively free.” (Arneson).

From this perspective, justice then would be sided with the effect of either type of freedom. If positive freedom prevails then justice is to go for it. Whereas if negative freedom is more affecting, justice will have to raise the bar in order for it to regain ground and be complacent with freedom. By projecting these concepts, one is reminded of the perception of crimes against humanity. By definition in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, these crimes are defined as "particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings” (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court). Haven’t the blacks endured grave humiliations and a degradation of their human bodies and souls? However, would that be avenged by siding with more crimes or even by disregarding the killings of many in the name of their emancipation and acquiring of their rights?

The title of this paper was Collateral Damage. But who has suffered it? Could it be the Stalin regime in the face of the justice hypothesis? Was it Langston Hughes who wouldn’t incriminate Stalin? Was collateral damage the very essence of Communism in the West? To answer all these rhetoric questions, one might have to go back in time, study the history of the era. Maybe, one can take a psychological approach and justify each and every act. It could be the fear of imperialism that made Stalin re-act with his Great Purge. His justice was the right freedom for the ideology to escalate and prosper In the face of capitalism and the harsh system of bourgeoisie.

In the aftermath of the Communist era, I personally refer its fall to the fact that it preferred total anarchist freedom over a positive freedom that can grant liberty with justice, at the same time. Having to liberate the economical system from the claws of a democratic monopolistically republican regime would have contributed to a less violent world and more tolerant cultures. Yet, being glued to the greed of power, nor freedom neither justice can be realistically able to promote a global tolerance of the many differences in the world. Capitalists want to dominate world economy for greater profit. Communist approaches, sided with socialism, want to break down the chains of the aforementioned regime. Two extremes have torn the blue planet into a chaotic entity. Would consociationalism be an answer to the irrevocable anarchy of regimes today? The Netherland was the first to apply it in 1917 and it helped the state to manage its internal conflicts. I leave my reader to think about this last question, in the hope of waking up one day to a sunny bright sun and a velvety blue sky, where the leaders are merciful, just, honest, true, and loyal and believers in freedom.

Works Cited

Arneson, Richard. "REAL FREEDOM AND DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE." October 1996. Philosophy Faculty. January 2011 .

Caute, David. "Introduction." Sartre, Jean Paul. The Age of Reason. London: Penguin Classics, 2001. vi-ix.

"Communist Party of the United States." Spartaus Educational. 14 January 2011 .

Hughes, Langston. Goodbye Christ. New York: First Vintage Classics Edition, 1995.

"Marxists Internet Archive (2006)." The Communist Review (September 1922): Vol. 3, No. 5.

McCarthyism. 2011 .

McLellan. "The Manifesto of the Communist Party." The Essential Left. London: Counterpoint, 1986. 16.

"Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court." 1998-2002. Wikipedia. 2011 .

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