The ‘C’ Word

There is much controversy surrounding the word I’m thinking of.

You don’t hear it much out and about, but most know its meaning. It seems that it’s always used in a negative way, often as an insult, and has been known to induce attitude shock or offence (so much so that artistic expression of the concept is, in certain countries, considered so inappropriate that it’s actually illegal). This is somewhat unusual, as it acquired the power to insult when it was never originally supposed to, and became synonymous with words and ideas to which it once bore no relation. In fact, when it first came into being, it was often associated with something rather wonderful, but if you tell someone today they’re a complete c______, I doubt you’ll get a positive response.

Yes, communism has been a controversial word for a long while. Somewhere down the line, it became a well-known enemy, and we saw it as such for the remainder of the twentieth century. We even created brilliant works of propaganda on the concept; perhaps it was coming to overthrow your democracy and install a dictatorial puppet state, or maybe it was (and there is truth behind this, though aggression was obviously far from one-sided) on the verge of flattening New York with a nine-megaton bomb, but it was a monster all the same. Society came to agree that whatever the communists were planning, something bad would happen as a result.

The question is, however, when did this all start?

Ever since 1917, many saw in communist Russia a foe. This can be traced back to the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, a conflict that occurred just after the catastrophic defeats of World War One. But the communist terror and angst that would later plague Europe and North America was, at that point, largely nonexistent; in these early years, the west was largely unaware of both the political terror and the military challenge the regime would later provide, and thus, to call yourself a communist probably didn’t mean a great deal, for communism was really just another radical idea. I once read an American newspaper headline at the time of the Russian Revolution, which described the Bolsheviks as ‘extremists’, comparing them with ‘moderate governments’ before them. Whilst I definitely felt anti-Bolshevik sentiment expressed there, the article implied nothing significant or special about their cause – the only distinction it drew between the party that would later lead their future nemesis and the easily forgotten Provisional Government, which assumed power for a brief, eight month period before October, was a mere statement that one was radical while the other was moderate.

In fact, many in the west were far more open to the prospect of communism than this. George Bernard Shaw, for example, even advised the British unemployed to travel to the USSR, under the impression that they would be given a job. It’s also known that the intelligentsia in the United Kingdom were a lot more sympathetic towards the Soviet Union than you might expect, and many respected their ideals in a way that would seem unimaginable during the years of the Cold War. This continued throughout the repression of Stalin’s era, and people still managed to find sympathy with his political system. I even heard that information regarding oppression in the Soviet Union was actually covered up by those able to do so, for fear that it may soil the image of Russia that many westerners undoubtedly clung to.

Only thirty or fourty years later, however, far from withdrawing information to preserve Soviet support, western governments would dress-up and dramatize reality in the Eastern Bloc almost to an unfair level, printing McCarthyist slogans in black, probably against a red background and a hammer-and-sickle to add a sinister quality. After the 1917 revolution, tensions did occur between the communist and capitalist world, but during the war something snapped, and relationships deteriorated almost to the level of sparking a World War Three. Communism, as a term, almost became synonymous with fascism, and I’m willing to bet that plenty don’t know the difference, which is strange, given that only a few decades previously, this word would have accurately described the views of many in the west.


There isn’t one explanation for the change, nor for why it occurred at that moment, and on reflection, it may seem odd that the Cold War began in 1945 and not 1917. After all, an obvious explanation for the post-war tensions is the lack of any need preserve a situation of comradeship with the Soviet Union, once fascism had been finally defeated, but nor was there a need to maintain diplomacy throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s. It would also be easy to assume that communist aggression towards the west began only after the war, but this is again untrue; Lenin once referred to England as the Soviet Union’s greatest enemy, and Soviet military action in the then-British colony of India proves that such statements weren’t at all hollow. So, as I understand it, there is only one reason as to why perceptions of communism changed worldwide, this being military prowess.

The USSR emerged from the war a highly capable country, and, if another conflict was to occur, the prospect of a western defeat was incredibly likely. Thus, though tyranny, repression and starvation were known prior to the war, they were largely ignored. Now that the west had a reason to fear the regime, however, a hatred for communism, with the assistance of these facts, was cultivated in no time. Whilst writing, I’m aware that I’ve come across as critical towards Soviet communism, and I am (by ‘Soviet communism’, I mean the Soviet Union after 1924), yet I’m a communist nonetheless, and I’m also critical of the west during this scenario, for I feel that the demonization of communism didn’t occur due to the oppression and failures it brought about where it was attempted, but simply due to the fact that it provided a potential enemy. This highlights a disgusting aspect of the political situation in the western world, this being the opportunistic tendencies of democratic, western governments, to ally or break with the worst kinds of states or governments when it suits their own interests, no matter how authoritarian, repressive, or simply wrong they may be (I’m not talking about a credible means-to-an-end kind of scenario – although this is likely a popular justification – I’m just talking about when it suits the interests of the international capitalists). To the western world, such an ideology wasn’t evil from the start; it only became so when it threatened capitalism. This was why the ‘C’ word gathered such negativity. Not because of careful observation of socialism’s many failures, but due to the material conditions the capitalist world found themselves in. In short, it was it only when it actually stood a chance that communism stopped being cool.

Though quite different in content, this entry was inspired by the excellent post ‘The s-word’ by ‘Guts of a Beggar’, which you can find here:

If you liked this entry (or even if you didn’t!) I’d recommend reading its predecessor.

On Patriotism

As I write, patriotic thought is on the rise.

From the nationalist, anti-US current developing in Russia to the successes of far-right parties across the UK with the increase in foreign immigration, the country one belongs to surfaces more and more amongst other political issues. The reason behind this is probably due to a variety of factors, perhaps as a reaction against the political and economic unions of today, such as the EU, or in the form of national self-determination, opposing the rule of other nations, such as in Scotland or Kashmir. It would thus seem difficult to make assumptions or generalisations for such a vague and simple manner of political thought, though there is an underlying definition to be understood.

If you simply type in the word ‘patriotism’, here’s what Google will give you:




  1. the quality of being patriotic; vigorous support for one’s country.

“a highly decorated officer of unquestionable integrity and patriotism”

In the entry ‘Nationalism, Imperialism, and Communism’ I made clear my hatred for nationalism. Today, against the backdrop of increasingly-patriotic world, I’ll take that one step further and explain why I believe patriotic thought, even in casual circumstances, is unhealthy, damaging, and also completely irrational.

Take Russia for an example, a country in which ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ is actually able to translate itself into ‘hatred of another’. Is this not proof that patriotism is a corrupting manner of thought; one that is able to completely distort perceptions of the world? It would even be possible for any leader could cultivate such a force, using it to brainwash their population and justify inhumane actions ‘for the glory of the motherland’. Patriotism, capable of arising in any country under any regime, can serve to counteract the process of fair, logical decision-making, when an individual will side with their country no matter what. Even ‘weaker’ patriots, happy to draw limits on their support for the nation, fall into the same trap: if you belong to a country, if you believe in that country, then imagine how readily biased you’d be in the need to choose a side.

This can be clearly seen in the example of the Vietnam War, in which many atrocities, violations of international treaties, and inhumane acts of violence were committed by the United States in the invasion of an innocent country thousands of miles offshore. This war in particular suffered a great deal of internal opposition, yet a proportion of society managed to be persuaded, and that was enough. If these people were born without a nationality, without any reason to side with the U.S. government, I’m certain that fewer would chose to do so. Thus, many that could prevent authorities from committing such atrocities do not, merely because they blindly support the country of their birth, for no real reason whatsoever.

Yet this isn’t even the worst of it; to develop a true understanding of this idea, I believe it’s necessary to consult history, and what does this tell us?

Well, as you might have expected, it’s not good news…

The twentieth century saw the establishment of patriotism in its most extreme format, with the global rise of fascism. A fascist regime is an example of patriotism taken to the furthest extent possible, with nationalistic thought not only embedded in the regime, but existing as the basis upon which the government, the military and the economy all stand. The ideas that motivated Hitler, Mussolini or Franco were not only patriotic in nature, but they placed the idea of national glory where the communists of the day placed the achievement of a classless society. In other words, they valued their nation more than anything.


To reach conclusions, however, we must look at the regimes from which these movements arose, for a trend between fascist nations such as the Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy or imperial Japan is clearly visable: each one of them quite simply formed out of a miserable society. This could be due to a disaster, such as the horrific earthquake experienced by Japan in the 1920’s, which has been thought to have sparked the rise of Japanese imperialism, or just a general want for change, such as that in post-1918 Germany. Either way (doubtless, there are also many other ways), we can see a trend developing here. Nationalism, like a political tumour, has a tendancy to arise out of chaos. It ties the people of a nation together using an already-existing middle ground, and gives them something to believe in when nothing else will. It isn’t surprising then, that Germany and Italy (two nations where nationalism burned as brightly as ever) were countries in which a revolution was most expected. Instead of staging one, however, the people resorted to an easier form of change, looking to nationalism as a ‘cheap’ alternative.

Whilst these three countries are obviously extreme examples, it says a great deal on patriotism in general. The idea develops as a creed the populace will turn to when they have nothing left to believe in, so they chose to place their faith in the most simple idea available, this being their own country. It has the potential to curb real political change and distracts the population from the truth of the matter, despite how appaling such truth may be. Just look at the military, who often endure horrific conditions whilst living in fear of their lives, and desperately need something to believe in, something to fight for, something which enables them to keep pushing on. It’s thus no surprise that patriotism is not only rife among the fighting forces but is implemented artifically by those in command.

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I think I’ve made my point clear as to why such thought is far from healthy and should be considered dangerous, but I’d like to finish by pointing out the true nature of the idea, and why this is relevant in discussing the concept.

What does it mean to be a patriot?

For the simple definition of the term, the one given above is adequate, yet what a ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ actually consists of is an entirely different matter.

I’d consider it vital to understand that ‘one’s country’ consists of no more than several hundred square kilometres inside an artificially-drawn borderline, somewhere in which they live their life. It may sound like a romantic idea, yet the actuality is plainly ridiculous, despite how many continue to cling to it.

On that note, coming back to the UK, several informative leaflets on the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP) recently came through my door in the run-up to the General Election. Reading through what the party had to say, I noticed that the slogan ‘Believe in Britain’ was used (well, in fact it was proudly displayed in capitals).

‘Why?’ I found myself asking. ‘What is there to believe in about Britain? In itself, the United Kingdom is merely a relatively small nation-state off the North-western coast of Europe. Within this country there are many greats, yet there are also many wrongdoers, and I’m not too sure what makes the general spread of the population so special. Perhaps you should tell me to ‘Believe in UKIP’, but what is there to glorify about one country out of hundreds, which just so happens to be the one in which I live and which you intend to govern?’

It certainly seems odd. Surely we’re too intelligent a being to devote ourselves entirely to an area of land, simply because it was one we grew up on, or live in today.

Sadly though, this just isn’t true.

The image depicting an individual playing a brass instrument was provided by Wikimedia Commons, on which it was uploaded by the German Federal Archives under the following licence: