NYPD Celebrates May Day

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

So just as I was good and irritated with the Occupy crowd for co-opting the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders . . . the NYPD goes and makes me feel some sympathy for them.

In anticipation [of May Day protests] Monday, the FBI and NYPD raided the homes of protesters.

“There were a number of visits between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning and at other points in the day that appeared to target people that primarily the NYPD, but in one instance the FBI, wanted to ask certain questions to,” Gideon Oliver, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which often represents Occupy protesters, told Buzzfeed. “Questions included things like ‘what are your May Day plans?’ ‘Do you know who the protest leaders are?’ ‘What do you know about the May Day protests?’ and such.”

Gawker reports that Zachary Dempster said 6 officers broke down the door of his Bushwick apartment at 6:15 AM, reportedly executing a warrant for the arrest of his roommate on a 6-year-old open container charge. Dempster believes, however, that cops used the raid as an excuse to question him about May Day.

And an hour later in Bed-Stuy, one of Dempster’s activist friends’ apartment–which he shares with 6 other Occupy protesters– was also paid a visit by 6 of New York’s finest. From Gawker:

The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid. The officers ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked our source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but our source said the message was clear: We’re watching you.“We’re experienced at accommodating lawful protests and responding appropriately to anyone who engages in unlawful activity, and we’re prepared to do both,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told Bloomberg.

Presumably that doesn’t include the unlawful activities of NYPD.

Think about what just happened, here. On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government agents staged early morning raids on the homes of suspected political dissidents, detained them, then interrogated them about their plans and political affiliations. And of course this isn’t the first time this has happened. There were similar preemptive raids ahead of the 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis. Almost none of the charges resulting from those raids stuck, and the city has since been handing out settlement checks like parade candy.

Bonus bit of May Day trivia: American Cold War presidents responded to the commie May Day celebrations by declaring May 1st “Loyalty Day.” Because nothing celebrates “freedom” like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!

Bonus, bonus bit of May Day trivia: The old Catallarchy blog had a tradition of using May Day to commemorate the victims of communism. Here’s a particularly good entry from 2005.

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114 Responses to “NYPD Celebrates May Day”

  1. #1 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Volokh’s on it:

    http://volokh.com/2012/05/01/victims-of-communism-day-4/

  2. #2 |  James | 

    Errrr….

    “…the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders…”

    Are you joking? Christian (or most other religious) holidays could easily qualify for the same statement. That aside, May Day existed long before the the Soviet Union.

    Come on, Balko.

  3. #3 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    The police mentioned are just being nostalgiac…remember May Day used
    to be full of young maidens in white surrounding 40 foot
    phallus-symbols. Accordingly, these cops are being huge dicks
    in celebration of the festival spirit.

  4. #4 |  EBL | 

    James, no they really cannot not. 100 million deaths in less than a hundred years. That is a record that cannot be topped.

    So Happy Mayday!

  5. #5 |  Vertov | 

    …because the threat of Communism is alive and well, let us again casually red-bait people on a day normally associated with labor unions.

    In other news, Hitler-Hitler-Hitler.

  6. #6 |  Onlooker | 

    “Because nothing celebrates “freedom” like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!”

    LOL! Classic line Radley.

  7. #7 |  SamK | 

    I’m not on the May Day thing. I know plenty of people who celebrate the old school version even today and unless they’re calling it the “international workers day” they’re not talking about the Soviet’s co-op of the holiday. Even wikipedia only gives the IWD a single line in the article to direct to another article discussing it because *it’s a separate thing*.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

    I’m doing May day today and I could give a fuck less about the commie version, please don’t shit on a holiday I’m damned fond of simply because assholes do something on the same day.

    …it’d be as if a bunch of wankers killed a bunch of kids on Christmas and we decided to stop celebrating Christmas because it was a celebration of infanticide. Fuck that.

    Of course, I understand the ridiculousness of the police action and I understand it’s even more ridiculous in juxtaposition with the IWD, but May Day is not the thing you hate here, it’s a celebration of spring and I intend to deflower some maidens in the old way rather than get hung up on communist propaganda.

  8. #8 |  SamK | 

    …Yeah, I vented too much on that. I understand you’re not saying May Day sucks. Carry on as if I wasn’t a complete idiot, g’night.

  9. #9 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    SamK,

    Nice apology. Sleep well.

    (for when you wake up)

    according to scripture a bunch of wankers in the pay of Wanker-in-chief “Herod the Great” did slaughter a bunch of kids in connection with the birth of Christ. See; “Massacre of the Innocents”

  10. #10 |  James | 

    EBL –

    Yeah. The murder density of the Soviet regime was extraordinary. But I think the idea that someone was shouting “In the name of communism!” while filling mass graves is a little silly. Whereas “In the name of Christ!” is pretty easy to incorporate into religious motivated killing.

    I guess what I’m saying is that Soviet (and Chinese) communists may be responsible for a gruesome body count. But Christianity has been the explicit motivation for it’s own massive body count.

  11. #11 |  Miko | 

    May Day as a labor holiday was originally begun in the United States by libertarians within the unionization movement as a response to the Haymarket Massacre. It may have later been “co-opted” by the Soviets, but the fact that Occupy is choosing to commemorate it is a return to historically libertarian and American roots. We couldn’t have co-opted it, because it was our heritage.

  12. #12 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    James,

    “I think the idea that someone was shouting “In the name of communism!” while filling mass graves is a little silly.” is really a fairly silly statement, considering that Lenin and Stalin were both notorious for purging people for “deviationism”, i.e. not being sufficiently Communist. So did Mao. So did Pol Pot. Of course those people were REALLY put to death because they were somebody’s political enemy. And the same could probably be said of the majority that were put to death “in the name of Christ”.

    This is the second time I’ve run into this false distinction while commenting on the Blogs, BTW. What or who fed it to you?

  13. #13 |  AlgerHiss | 

    It is beyond sad how there are a gazillion memorials, movies and remembrances of the Holocaust, yet barely any mention of the most monstrous ideology of the past hundred years: Truly a victory for leftists worldwide.

    A couple of sites:

    http://www.globalmuseumoncommunism.org/

    and…

    http://victimsofcommunism.org/

    And a most detailed account in print:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674076087/theagitator-20/

  14. #14 |  Chicagojon | 

    @11

    Apparently May Day may started long before the Haymarket massacre in Australia but I didn’t track this back to a better source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1894/02/may-day.htm

    Ignoring the history of May Day in America and elsewhere pre-communism and dismissing it as “the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders” is ignorance at its finest even without looking into that 100 million number.

    Happy May Day all. I’m wearing red as I always do. I hope that’s okay even though the red color was later co-opted by mass murderers.

  15. #15 |  Chicagojon | 

    er, probably should have written “Apparently May Day started in Australia long before the Haymarket massacre in Chicago but I didn’t track this back to a better source”

  16. #16 |  CyniCAl | 

    The new tallest building in NY is called the “Freedom Tower.”

    Funny, when the original buildings were built, they were called World Trade Center 1 & 2, or nicknamed “The Twin Towers.” No mention of freedom, and this was only 40 years ago or so, up until a little over 10 years ago.

    Now everything has to be called Freedom. It’s a “lady doth protest too much” situation. If you have to go around pointing freedom out to people, chances are there’s none of it. And there is none of it.

    I guess we’ll know that freedom has been restored to this land when no one thinks twice about it. Won’t be in my lifetime.

  17. #17 |  Angie | 

    Thought this might amuse some, more May Day reading –

    “We are here today because capitalism has destroyed basic human need,” said a 20-year-old protester who only identified himself as Connor.

    “I am sort of into the libertarian/communist thing myself,” he said. “I am an advocate of human need, not monetary need.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/05/01/BA671OBO28.DTL#ixzz1teZ62MuP

  18. #18 |  M’aidez! « Blunt Object | 

    […] NYPD celebrates May Day (The Agitator) […]

  19. #19 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Angie,

    What do you want to bet that “Conner” is the type of twit who wears a Che t-shirt and has a “Free Tibet” sticker on his backpack?

  20. #20 |  SJE | 

    May Day is a spring festival dating back a very long time. In Northern Europe, it typically included a number of rituals thought to originate in pagan times (e.g. Morris dancing, the original and not at all sexy pole dancing). The idea of people having a day off on May 1 is, therefore, very old. Because it was not associated with a specific religious festival, it was easier for others to co-opt it for their purpose.

    Christmas is itself a co-opting of a previous pagan festival: Sol Invictus, the birth of sun, and just after Saturnalia. The actual timing of the birth of Jesus is much more likely to be Sept/October.

    I think we should co-opt May 1 as Venus Green day, in honor of my new hero.

  21. #21 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Get your facts straight, Radley. May Day, as an international workers’ holiday, was coopted by the Soviet Bloc. It had its origins in America, and was as American as apple pie. May Day originally celebrated the American General Strike for an 8-hr day in the time of the Knights of Labor, which culminated in the Haymarket police riot.

  22. #22 |  Radley Balko | 

    Ignoring the history of May Day in America and elsewhere pre-communism and dismissing it as “the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders” is ignorance at its finest even without looking into that 100 million number.

    Ignorance at its finest! Should I be flattered or offended?

    I’m well aware of May Day’s history in the U.S. and elsewhere. What’s your point? Mine is that it has since been an official state holiday of every murderous communist regime on the planet.

    Also amusing that you refer to a site called marxists.org to support your point that there’s more to May Day than communism.

  23. #23 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Some informed free market commentary on May Day:

    http://c4ss.org/content/10207
    http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/05/01/may_day/
    http://mutualist.blogspot.com/2005/04/may-day-thoughts-individualist.html

  24. #24 |  Radley Balko | 

    but the fact that Occupy is choosing to commemorate it is a return to historically libertarian and American roots.

    So then why are the Occupy protesters carrying signs endorsing Marxism and calling for an end to American-style capitalism?

  25. #25 |  Jim Collins | 

    Because the Occupy protestors went through our public education system that is now run by the Communist converts who were aided by the KGB in the 60’s.

  26. #26 |  Radley Balko | 

    But I think the idea that someone was shouting “In the name of communism!” while filling mass graves is a little silly.

    The Ukranian famine was a direct result of Stalin’s plan for state control of private farms. For example, farmers were barred from keeping seed grain, and executed if they were caught doing so. The idea was to make them completely reliant on the state from season to season. It’s arguable that Stalin didn’t know famine would be the result of his policies, although most historians believe the plan all along was to get the Ukranians out of the way so he could use the fertile land there to feed Russia. But it’s inarguable that once the Ukranians were starving to death, Stalin did nothing to stop it. He even accused them of using their own starvation as kind of PR stunt to undermine his five-year plan.

    And of course the political prisoners who died in the gulags died for insufficient adherence to communist doctrine.

    It’s not as if Stalin was a brutal dictator for whom communism was a convenient tool. He was first and foremost a communist. Dictatorial powers, mass starvation, and gulags were the only ways he could implement it.

  27. #27 |  Jamie | 

    Wow, as much as I agree with Radley on some things…

    If some thugs layered their assholishness on top of a holiday, we hates it. But Christmas doesn’t count.

    Calvinball, now also fun to play with aesthetics!

  28. #28 |  (B)oscoH | 

    I invited all my Facebook friends to join me for Occupy Bagel Shop in a bustling Los Angeles suburb this morning. Protestors were instructed to wear Ché t-shirts and bring their MacBook Airs or Pros. Very small turnout :(. My demand for a bagel with lox and a large caramel machiato was met by the owner of the shop in exchange for about $10 cash.

  29. #29 |  CyniCAl | 

    @23, +1 for Charles Johnson.

  30. #30 |  Justthisguy | 

    Heh. Silly me, I thought May Day was about getting laid. IIRC, it was an ancient Pagan Fertility Festival, and that’s why the Church tried to suppress it.
    Let us all dance around the Maypole, and I speak as a Christian. Too many “Christian” wives don’t seem to want their husbands to get some from them, these days.

  31. #31 |  picachu | 

    Sorry for the threadjack but here is some hopeful news. A bill to hold cops personally liable for camera arrests!:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/04/hold-cops-personally-liable-for-camera-arrests-connecticut-bill-says-yes.ars?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss

  32. #32 |  picachu | 

    And by the way, with that last post I totally win this thread!

  33. #33 |  colson | 

    @Kevin Carson – How do these Occupy organizers think the general public is going to view the protest when it was intentionally chosen on a day the general public – arguably, in the present – associates with the vileness that is Communism? That’s the point I seemed to pick up when Radley later said:

    “On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government…”

    I’d be pretty annoyed too if the point of the protest is to win hearts and minds. That is, until the cops did what they did.

  34. #34 |  Kevin Carson | 

    RB: “So then why are the Occupy protesters carrying signs endorsing Marxism and calling for an end to American-style capitalism?”

    1) “…the Occupy protesters” aren’t a monolithic entity. They don’t have to sign a loyalty oath to any particular creed to get their membership card. They include everything from Marxists to Obama liberals to anarchists to Paulistas and free marketeers.

    2) You really think “American-style capitalism” and Marxism-Leninism are the only two alternatives? You don’t think there’s anybody out there who criticizes corporate power and plutocracy on free market grounds?

    C’mon, Radley, if a cop or prosecutor demonstrated the critical thinking skills you’re displaying here you’d crucify him and feed him his testicles in a bowl made from his fucking kneecaps.

    Admit you stepped it and quit digging yourself deeper.

  35. #35 |  Todd | 

    It’s also worth noting that Marx – the man – had fuckall to do with Soviet atrocities, so invoking his name here only further adds to the intellectual dishonesty.

  36. #36 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Colson: “Free markets” are commonly associated in the public mind with the stuff that people like Tom Delay and Dick Armey talk about: selling the country to Halliburton and turning it into one big dioxin-soaked sweatshop on the model of the Marianas Islands.

    That’s a misperception that’s propagated by both mainstream Right (See, those corporate Leviathans earned their wealth in the free market! Hands off us rugged individualists!) and Left (See, enslavement by corporate Leviathans is the natural outcome of a free market unless we protect you!). They have a shared interest in this misconception because corporate and state power, and mainstream liberalism and conservatism, prop each other up like Oceania and Eurasia.

    The same was true of the Soviet bloc pretense that they were the sole legitimate heirs of the 19th century workers’ movement, and the U.S. pretense that its corporate statism was the only alternative and bulwark against Innernashunul Commonism.

    If you allow the enemy to define the terms of discourse and the conceptual categories, you’ve already lost.

  37. #37 |  Radley Balko | 

    “…the Occupy protesters” aren’t a monolithic entity…..”

    Did I say they were? I was pretty clearly referring to those out protesting today.

    They include everything from Marxists to Obama liberals to anarchists to Paulistas and free marketeers.

    Condescend all you want. But if you’re arguing that any significant portion of the idiots who intentionally chose May Day to go out smashing windows, assaulting onlookers, and carrying “The Return of Communism” banners are secretly Paulistas or free marketeers, it sure as hell isn’t my critical thinking that needs work.

  38. #38 |  Radley Balko | 

    It’s also worth noting that Marx – the man – had fuckall to do with Soviet atrocities, so invoking his name here only further adds to the intellectual dishonesty.

    Read the book Bloodlands.

    Also, name a single Marxist government that didn’t murder people.

  39. #39 |  Radley Balko | 

    You don’t think there’s anybody out there who criticizes corporate power and plutocracy on free market grounds?

    Not at the Occupy protests I’ve been to. Haven’t seen a single one. I’ve seen plenty of criticism of crony capitalism. I’s always followed by demands for more government regulation. Or demands that government ban banks. Or take over entire industries.

    If there’s an Occupy protester out there who advocates more economic freedom as a remedy to corporate-government power, I’d like to meet him.

  40. #40 |  b-psycho | 

    Where did he say the ones smashing windows were free-marketers?

  41. #41 |  iceberg | 

    @RB

    “If there’s an Occupy protester out there who advocates more economic freedom as a remedy to corporate-government power, I’d like to meet him.”

    Perhaps you should talk to this fellow:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIpJJGiP26A

  42. #42 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Radley,

    It’s no use arguing with somebody who is determined to excuse Communism as a system. These “useful idiots” absolutely have to deny the simple truth; that Communism is synonymous with mass death. There are a few, a very few, brave ex-pinkos like David Horowitz, who can accept that they spent (in some cases) decades running interference for monsters. The rest cannot accept that they are accessories to mass murder, because the knowledge would destroy their shallow little minds.

    Frankly, I think this explains the width, and depth of their assorted delusions. They deny cruel reality as a means of necessary self-defense, and everything else seems to follow.

  43. #43 |  b-psycho | 

    David Horowitz still excuses murder, he just uses different rhetoric to do so.

  44. #44 |  Jeremy Weiland | 

    If there’s an Occupy protester out there who advocates more economic freedom as a remedy to corporate-government power, I’d like to meet him.

    Pleased to make your acquaintance, Radley. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one.

    What people don’t understand about Occupy is that having some coherent political program is not really what it’s about, at its core. What Occupy is about is creating a space where a genuine political forum among the people can occur. As somebody who’s spent way too much time arguing minutiae with fellow libertarians, it is a breath of fresh air to really engage with the full spectrum of politically conscious people out there. We work together, we debate, and we become friends. So I’ve been able to get through to people — and have them get through to me — in a way that’s rarely been possible before, because the unique conditions were never there.

    In reality it’s an attempt to build a genuine, dynamic, and self-governed civil society that can displace top-down administrative conceits, and it’s arguably a more libertarian project than shoving Milton Friedman down the throat of anybody in arms reach of me. I cannot tell you how many liberal fellow occupiers have become anti-state since joining my local occupation.

  45. #45 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I have two theories about Communist governments, that I believe alternately according to my mood.

    1) Communism concentrates so much power in the hands of the State that it naturally attracts every power-mad psycho out of the woodwork, and the most vicious are the ones that survive to run things. The scholastic dreamer-revolutionaries get liquidated early.

    2) Since the people who believe in Communism tend to believe theory over observable fact, when they find that they can’t, in fact, do what theory says they should be able to they start looking for witches under the bed, and the bodies stack up like cordwood.

  46. #46 |  Todd | 

    Read the book Bloodlands.

    Also, name a single Marxist government that didn’t murder people.

    Since it’s not possible to name ANY government that hasn’t murdered people, if follows that I can’t fill your disingenuous request.

    And did you really just respond to an accusation of itellectual dishonesty with a strawman?

  47. #47 |  Jeremy Weiland | 

    The old Catallarchy blog had a tradition of using May Day to commemorate the victims of communism.

    Maybe in that case we should use July 4th to celebrate all the victims of capitalism, i.e. all the wars America has fought, all the people its law enforcement has killed, etc.

    Would you want OUR politicians and OUR government to be the exemplars of capitalist ideology? Or would you want to make a distinction between the ideology and the practice in order to ensure that the word “capitalism” can be meaningfully used as a political term and not just thrown around as a synonym for “USA”?

  48. #48 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Um, name one government that used “free market” legitimizing rhetoric that wasn’t a bulwark of corporate privilege?

    States are instruments of economic exploitation by a ruling class. And they legitimize their exploitation by coopting popular symbols and concepts into their official ideology. So the “Marxist” states legitimized the power of the bureaucratic oligarchy by cloaking it in the rhetoric of the red banner and the Internationale. And the capitalist states legitimized the power of the corporate and plutocratic rentiers with rhetoric from Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek.

    But guess what? The enemies of class rule recuperate the same symbols and rhetoric and turn them against their rulers. In the Soviet bloc, workers in East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968 used libertarian communist slogans: they put factories under worker self-management and proclaimed “All power to the workers’ councils” — before the Soviet tanks crushed them. And in the West, there are left-wing free market organizations like Center for a Stateless Society and Alliance of the Libertarian Left that critique corporate power in terms of genuine free market principles.

    BTW, apparently “clearly stated” = “read into it after the fact because it wasn’t originally clear at all.”

  49. #49 |  jmcross | 

    “If there’s an Occupy protester out there who advocates more economic freedom as a remedy to corporate-government power, I’d like to meet him.”

    The young man in the tie addressing Occupy Pensacola is Calen Fretts, LP candidate for Congress FL-01.

    http://www.libertarianpoc.org/photos/index.htm

  50. #50 |  Kirsten (in MT) | 

    Radley, I can verify that the free market crowd has been represented at Occupy Missoula (Montana) events. I invite you to come on out and meet me. Aside from myself, a pro-free market anarchist, we also had a contingent of Ron Paul people marching on our very first protest march and participating in other Occupy activities.

  51. #51 |  Kirsten (in MT) | 

    Oh, yes, I forgot. I have also heard we have at least two local Tea Party folks also participating in Occupy Missoula. I don’t know if these are part of the Ron Paul contingent I saw or not.

  52. #52 |  Kevin Carson | 

    I’ll mention market anarchist James Tuttle, of the C4SS board of directors, the Tulsa Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and Tulsa GMB of the Wobblies, who participates in Occupy Tulsa and advocates the removal of corporate privilege in accordance with free market principles. Also market anarchist “Hogeye Bill” Orton of Occupy Fayetteville. Roderick Long of Occupy Auburn. Charles “Rad Geek” Johnson, sometime of Occupy Auburn. These are just of my personal acquaintance.

  53. #53 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Also — how could I have forgotten — Brad Spangler of Occupy Kansas City?

  54. #54 |  jmcross | 

    Lost in all the blather about commies and pagan holidays is the disgusting reality of cops performing their dynamic entry stunts to enforce open container laws. Sure, it’s just a pretext for their real agenda, but even your average bootlicker ought to see the Stasi parallels.

    “Schild und Schwert der Partei”

  55. #55 |  Kevin Carson | 

    @KirsteninMT posted about some friends in Occupy Missoula, but it hasn’t showed up here yet.

  56. #56 |  StrangeOne | 

    I really hate arguments of semantics. Which is all these ideological debates are. One side tries “guilt by association”, the other side cries “no true Scotsman”, and it never amounts to anything. It doesn’t matter what you call it. America killed millions of Native Americans, Germans gassed millions of people, the Soviets starved and murdered millions, as did the Chinese, and the Japanese.

    All governments are evil. There’s a lot of shitty people out there, and whats true of septic tanks is true of society; the biggest pieces of shit always float to the top. If you even want a chance at decent government you have to live in a place small enough / poor enough / isolated enough that no one wants to take it over. Even then you have to look out for those religious / ideological assholes that want to take things over and meddle in peoples lives because it’s the closest thing approximating fun they are ever gonna get out of life.

    I don’t know why so many people feel compelled to go to bat for all of these ideologies you have nothing to do with. No one here ran a freaking gulag, we don’t have to make excuses for any government past or present. Call a murderer a murderer and to hell with whatever title, flag, or philosophy they used.

  57. #57 |  Kevin Carson | 

    I don’t think most of the people taking issue with Radley want to defend the Marxist-Leninist regimes — any more than someone who resents free market ideology being blamed for Pinochet is defending Pinochet.

  58. #58 |  Roderick T. Long | 

    And Occupy Auburn was started by Ross Kenyon of the Center for a Stateless Society.

  59. #59 |  CyniCAl | 

    Who knew there were so many anarchists?

    ;-)

  60. #60 |  K Gallagher | 

    I don’t think most of the people taking issue with Radley want to defend the Marxist-Leninist regimes — any more than someone who resents free market ideology being blamed for Pinochet is defending Pinochet.

    For that matter, I’m completely with Charles Johnson in that we should declare a day (Or two, or 30) to remember the dead of State Communism, but that it shouldn’t be allowed to co-opt and corrupt May Day. Make it the 6th of March, when Krondstat began. Make it the 18th of November, when they kicked down the doors and kicked off the Holodomor in earnest by confiscating the Ukranian grain. So much to choose from that has nothing to do with Haymarket.

    Tying all that Evil to May Day seems to smack of “It starts with honoring the workers and demanding an end to bailouts, and then, all of sudden, you’re behind the Iron Curtain” red-scaremongering. Which got us “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day” in the first place.

    -Free Marketeer, sometimes of Occupy Cleveland (Though usually unable to make it to occupying Cleveland, I admit.) Cleveland Occupy always seems to have a nice gaggle of Paulsters there.

  61. #61 |  JOR | 

    All you dumb shits who were pumping the genius of Steven Pinker should know better than to claim Communism is worse than Christianity/Islam/Monarchy/classical imperialism/whathaveyou just because they happened to have a larger pool of victims.

  62. #62 |  Jamie | 

    Just an example of all of those murderous, unAmerican hippies, enslaving us all and controlling the means of production, taking us all down the road to Orwell’s bleak, horrible future.

    In other news, May Day in San Francisco was great. Talked to other liberty-minded people about how finance is, in fact, a vampire-squid, and which politicians might actually do something. And I thank Radley for hosting comments that he disagrees with.

  63. #63 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: CyniCal #16:

    Interesting suggestion. Ever since 9/11, I’ve found the juxtaposition of vicious attacks on civil liberties and jingoistic chest-thumping about “freedom” quite odd, to say the least. It’s disturbing, too, of course.

    It’s as though these people really don’t understand what they’re saying. My gut feeling has generally been that the rhetoric isn’t so much Orwellian as simply deranged. The frequent appeals to “freedom and liberty” by people who don’t understand synonyms adds to the sense that the screechers really don’t know what the hell they’re saying. It’s reminiscent of all the yelling after the First World War about “Americanism,” a practically meaningless term that was quickly coopted by everyone who had a social control mechanism to impose on the country, most of all the prohibitionists, who had already perverted the meaning of temperance.

    One situation about which I was really on the fence was the renaming of Newark Airport after, God help us, “Liberty.” I knew full well to be scared, but I really couldn’t tell whether to be scared because the Orwellian tyrants were bullying everyone else into silence or because the country was just losing its damn marbles. It was probably a bit of both. I was honestly baffled by it and disturbed that I really couldn’t figure out exactly what had possessed the jackasses who had renamed it. If possible, I’d like to know precisely what sort of insanity to expect in the Fourth Turning so that I can brace myself for impact.

    I lost my country on 9/11. I’d love to get it back someday, but I’m not particularly hopeful.

  64. #64 |  (B)oscoH | 

    #62: As that annoying pedant Frank Luntz recently put it, freedom according to Republicans is getting their Social Security checks on time.

  65. #65 |  Andrew Roth | 

    If this comment thread proves anything about communism or socialism, it proves that Godwin’s Law applies to libertarians when they raise the specter of either ideology to score points in an unrelated debate.

    On the whole, this is the worst thread with the lowest signal-to-noise ratio that I ever recall seeing on the Agitator. With a few exceptions, it’s just an ideological pissing match in which the giant penis comments actually elevated the discourse.

    With a public discourse of this caliber, it’s no wonder that the popular understanding of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc is so spotty, e.g., that Stalin isn’t universally mentioned in the same breath as Hitler. Communist history isn’t taught in the schools, there’s next to no reputable popular historiography on it, and with rare exceptions (oddly including P.J. O’Rourke) libertarian commentary on it is hopelessly shrill.

    Hopefully the next thread on commies won’t suck so much maypole.

  66. #66 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #63:

    There was a bizarre case recently in Costa Mesa, CA, along the same lines, which Steve Lopez covered in hilarious detail in his LA Times column. Jim Righeimer, a newly elected city councilman, apparently assumed that the Tea Party types were serious about fiscal discipline and small government, so he made a big deal of talking trash about public employee unions and their extravagant pensions. This backfired when the city’s Republican establishment promptly turned on him, more or less for dissing them and their buddies. It turns out that an awful lot of the people who can afford to retire to Costa Mesa are public-sector pensioners. I couldn’t tell from Lopez’s piece what Righeimer really thought about the reaction to his hard line, whether he was a true believer with a fire in the belly or a cynical demagogue who wouldn’t publicly admit that he’d made a big tactical error, but it sounded like a few of his constituents were ready to take him down to the beach and throw him to the sharks.

    OC politics is a three-ring freak show of rich NIMBYs biting the tit that suckles them. It’s the same thing with John Wayne Airport and that stupid “Great Park” on the old El Toro property. The usual attitude is, “like hell I’ll drive to LAX, but why do planes have to make so much noise? Can’t the pilot turn down the engines so I can sleep?” Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy and a former sheriff doing hard time on the Front Range with Rod Blagojevich are just the cherries on top of the crazy sundae.

  67. #67 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Two more points re: #63:

    1) Fabius Maximus published a great essay in February on the Republican understanding of “freedom.” The essay focused on Freudian neuroses and projection among authoritarians as a political style, but the cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy required are very similar to what Luntz described:

    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/35479/

    2) I’ve come to despise the national Democratic Party almost every bit as much as the national Republican Party. Things are generally better at the state level, but at the national level both parties have become utterly contemptible. A pox on both their houses.

    Actually, I like to phrase it differently. If corporate entities have personhood, I say that the Democratic and Republican Parties need to both be shackled, put on a prison van to Terre Haute and given the needle. Federal death penalty for both.

  68. #68 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Slightly related to the topic:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/154830/10_unbelievably_sh**ty_things_america_does_to_homeless_people?page=entire

    The article mentions that the property rights of homeless people are frequently ignored, and that this should be of interest to libertarians.

  69. #69 |  Yes, Government Should Have a Monopoly in Security – It Really Works! Trust Me! (and other news…) » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko: NYPD Celebrates May Day […]

  70. #70 |  Delta | 

    The only people I know still demonstrating against the wars are part of the Occupy movement; the Occupy movement has been a key part of anti-NYPD frisking demonstrations each of the past several months; and Occupy seems pretty uniformly anti-drug-war. To my understanding, thousands of people marched energetically and peacefully in NYC yesterday (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/05/01/nyregion/01cityroom-ows-sideshow-13.html). In addition to economic issues, there were lots of signs for general human rights, against Arizona-style anti-immigration laws, etc. The May Day marches in NY were endorsed by over a hundred community groups and local unions (http://maydaysolidarity2012.org/coalition/).

    The fact that this can be written off as a bunch of window-breakers — because they are pro-union and differ on some economic issues — is pretty darned close to “mindless partisanship”. I know that with my personal priorities, I’d be willing to relinquish some of my economic hopes if it meant we could end the foreign wars, the drug war, and the police state. But if people can’t find any reason to make bridges or common cause over those issues, then I guess all of us consistently and deeply committed to civil rights issues should just evacuate the country right now.

  71. #71 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I do get SOOOOO tired of the moral equivalence game. “Americans killed millions of Natives” is bushwa. Exclusive of introducing diseases that the Native Americans had no resistance to (and that doesn’t count, because the Europeans didn’t understand the mechanism and therefore could not have done it deliberately), the European invaders – Americans, Spaniards, and Canadians combined – killed a few million over 600 years. That includes war dead, BTW. Not a noble history, granted. But also not 100 million, exclusive of war dead, over the course of a single century.

    Communism takes the already murderous tendencies of the State and expands their scope by an order of magnitude. The three (numerically) greatest mass murderers in human history are two communists and a socialist, with Pol Pot getting a Dishonorable Mention for killing between a quarter and a third of his small country’s total population. Anybody who still believes, at this late date, that this is a coincidence, is a dolt.

    I TRUST no government. Government is like fire; it would be very difficult to live comfortably without it, but you have to watch it constantly. Those who still flirt with Communism often claim that it would be “more efficient”. They are exactly right. Communism’s efficiency greatly magnifies the damage the State can do, and is proof the an efficient government is an authentic menace that should not be tolerated.

  72. #72 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @#7

    it’s a celebration of spring and I intend to deflower some maidens in the old way

    I’m betting this didn’t happen.

  73. #73 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    But Christianity has been the explicit motivation for it’s own massive body count.

    Holy shit, James. How on Earth can you rage against someone for blasting communism/killing because they didn’t mention Christianity/killing WHILE YOU FORGET TO MENTION all the religions of the world that result in killing.

    See? It ain’t so easy being Mr. Aware.

  74. #74 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Boyd Durkin,

    Exactly! I had (emphasis on past tense) some friends who were totally sold on the moral superiority of Buddhism. They condemned Christianity for all the wars fought in its name, and lauded Buddhism’s non-violence. I told them “Get your hands on a Japanese-English dictionary, look up the word Yamabushi, and get back to me.”. For some reason they stopped exercising their moral superiority on me after that.

  75. #75 |  KristenS | 

    I find it interesting how there is almost no discussion whatsoever of the ridiculous and scary police raids, which is the actual topic of this post. Instead I see a lot of whinging about how Balko has it all wrong regarding commies and May Day.

  76. #76 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    #35 | Todd
    It’s also worth noting that Marx – the man – had fuckall to do with Soviet atrocities, so invoking his name here only further adds to the intellectual dishonesty.

    To say Marx–the father of communism–had fuckall to do with Soviet atrocities is itself such an act of intellectual dishonesty that it predicts no common ground from which to begin meaningful debate. Communism (like any ideology that promotes an all-powerful state) results in mass killings by that state as a way to implement policy and control the population. Marx’s inability to understand human nature (both the corruptive influence of power and the desires of the common man) tie him to the consequences of his ideology. Maybe we should throw in a few more examples of history’s mass-murdering Communist regimes (as CSP did above)? Own that baby, Karl.

    Interesting that you call out Radley for a strawman, but reading your original post I see nothing other than a bold, unsubstantiated claim. Step up your game. Plenty of examples here to teach you. If you see some ignorance, expose it and explain what the truth is. Then, respond to the test hammers of criticism to either strengthen the premise or assign it to the trash heap of falsehoods. Harumph.

  77. #77 |  StrangeOne | 

    C.S.P. @ 71

    Seriously, after railing against the defenders of communist genocide you’re gonna stick you’re neck out for American genocide?

    I’m well aware that infectious disease wiped out the majority of Natives, the effectiveness of which was noted by European settlers and occasionally used as a weapon of war. It’s why most of the Mississippi was deserted by the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the thriving trade culture along the river made disease epidemics particularly effective. But around the early 1800’s many populations were recovering, at exactly the same time of aggressive westward expansion.

    We’re dealing with: 1) Victims that were mostly illiterate and did not keep census figures 2) Aggressors that were not willing to keep accurate records of the dead 3) Indirect methods of genocide, most notably the devastation of buffalo populations to starve plains peoples that depended on them. The only reason we’re even aware of the gravity of Nazi and Soviet genocide is that we have reliable figures from earlier governments to compare populations to. No such information exists for a great number of the destroyed Native cultures.

    Taking all of that into account we are still left with hundreds of thousands, at a minimum, murdered by previous incarnations of US government. The only reason more weren’t killed is because of the degree to which their populations had already been devastated. That’s not even taking into account the suffering caused by repeated mass displacements of people.

    Again, this all comes back to the initial point I was trying to make. No one here is a cavalrymen from 1850. Why do people defend, and excuse, and declare “bushwa” over crimes committed by complete strangers a hundred or two hundred years hence? Is it some conditioned vestige of reflexive nationalism? For instance, why did you try to divide up the responsibility for Native deaths between America, Canada, and the Spaniards, but calculate communist deaths as one big pot? Does the total dead being north or south of some arbitrary (but still very large) number make it excusable? Granted, if somebody tried to say “the devastation of the Native populations is the worst thing ever” it would be a woefully ignorant statement. But to turn around and say “the crimes of others clearly overshadows our historical dabbling in genocide” is just as confoundingly ignorant.

    We can agree that communism was an order of magnitude (several actually) worse in total deaths, but that is completely independent of what we know was done by the US government. This is about calling a murder a murder. It doesn’t matter if the death toll is a hundred or a hundred million, both are unambiguously evil acts.

  78. #78 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “I’m well aware that infectious disease wiped out the majority of Natives, the effectiveness of which was noted by European settlers and occasionally used as a weapon of war”

    This charge has been made a lot, but its chief proponent is Ward Churchill, a man who writes papers under other names so he can refer to them in his own research. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in them. The Germ theory of contagion wasn’t generally accepted until the 20th century (one of the big breakthroughs was Walter Reed’s work in Cuba, starting in 1900), do any efforts the Europeans may have made wouldn’t have worked very well. The spread of smallpox through the Americas did wipe out millions, but the mast majority of those deaths were certainly not a matter of deliberate policy, and the veracity of the few deaths that some people want to attribute to “germ warfare” is highly suspect.

    All of which, of course, as you intended, misses my point, which is that Communism murdered in ONE CENTURY a number of people that dwarfs efforts of less than five centuries standing, of which there are damned few because man’s attention span isn’t that good.

    I’m not defending Europe’s dealings with the Amerindians. I’m pointing out that Communism takes the already murderous propensities of the human race and multiplies them significantly, in terms of output over time.

  79. #79 |  Red_anonymous | 

    Radley, by the same logic, I never saw you complain about people who celebrate July 4th despite all civilians killed by Americas murderous wars… Or is it just easier to take cheap shots at a regime that has collapsed over 20 years ago?

  80. #80 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Um, Mr. Schofield… Which superpower was it that backed Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge against Vietnam, and then backed the Khmer as “freedom-fighters” against the Vietnamese puppet regime in the ’80s?

    As for deaths inflicted by imperialism, let’s restrict it to the modern era: King Leopold’s wars (aka death squads) in the Congo, the untold milions of peasants dispossed from land in modern-day reenactments of Enclosure in the third world (the British seizure of 20% of the most fertile land in the East Africa highlands is just one example), the total death tolls into the millions carried out by American-backed death squads or militaries in Central America since the overthrow of Arbenz, the up to a million killed by Suharto with the CIA Jakarta station providing helpful roundup lists, Mobutu’s victims, the millions killed by strategic bombing and Agent Orange in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (!), the people tortured and disappeared thanks to Kissinger’s Operation Condor and the overthrow of Pinochet, the millions of civilians starved or killed in the two Gulf wars.

    And you win on the point about only a few million Indians being killed over several centuries. Maybe it’s because the total population of the Western Hemisphere, after all those deaths from infectious disease that don’t count, was so comparatively small. So the Europeans, god bless ‘em, were humane enough to only enslave and work to death the people they could actually get their filthy fucking hands on. Yes, it’s certainly commendable that their murder and larceny only extended as far as their reach. Woo-hoo!

  81. #81 |  Radley Balko | 

    I never saw you complain about people who celebrate July 4th despite all civilians killed by Americas murderous wars…

    You won’t see me out demonstrating on the Fourth of July, either. Or really celebrating it, to be honest. In fact, I mocked “Loyalty Day” in this very post. So what exactly is your point?

    Or is it just easier to take cheap shots at a regime that has collapsed over 20 years ago?

    “Cheap shots” at the friggin’ Soviet Union? How rude of me to kick a regime that murdered tens of millions of people while it’s down! I will try to be more considerate of murderous regimes in the future, “Red.”

  82. #82 |  Red_anonymous | 

    Not participating is not the same as mocking the people who do. You don’t celebrate May Day yet you wrote a blog post condemning it and the people who celebrate it. Would you do the same for the 4th of July?

    Kick the Soviet Union all you want, and I will personally come join you. It just seems to me that our anger is better channeled and put to better use in protesting current day murderous regimes as opposed to ones that have gone down the trashcan of history. Will you join in mocking american patriotism and celebration of wars as opposed to just being quiet about them and abstaining from celebrations?

  83. #83 |  brian | 

    On a note related to the point of the post, plainclothes NYPD officers arrest a woman at yesterday’s Occupy protest in Union Square, and refuse to show ID. Looks very much like kidnapping to me.

    http://gothamist.com/2012/05/02/video_plainclothes_nypd_officers_re.php#disqus_thread

  84. #84 |  SamK | 

    I think the point I’d like to see taken from all this rather ramshackle debate is that many of us don’t believe the dogma that it was COMMUNISM that was the driving force behind killing all those people. It was the evils in man himself and that whether you’re using COMMUNISM or CAPITALISM or some other -ISM as an excuse there are a hell of a lot of dead people.

    I don’t really care for using raw numbers to tally the evils of things like old-world IMPERIALISM and the Irish potato famine (that’s in CAPITALISM’s court if any -ISM gets a tick) for comparison to the more modern world. Stalin’s purges etc were committed where there were more people and more modern methods of killing them. The percentage lost isn’t particularly high when you look at history, it’s just that it’s just as fuckall brutal instead of being ‘civilized’ as we like to think of the modern world.

    Excuses are bullshit. Powerful states without powerful citizens kill citizens and those WITH powerful citizens find someone else to kill. The numbers are so high that I can’t believe we’re arguing over whether some asshole carried a digit when adding up the totals.

    I know communism is Radley’s sacred cow of evil and I understand why. I’m not terribly fond of the system, I just don’t think it’s the reason behind the evils of the Soviet Union. The lack of a second amendment style law and vast reserves of readily available weapons inside the USSR seems a likely issue when compared to the US…that and roads, overall development, resource availability, etc, which wasn’t exactly comparable to the US even before the communists came into power.

    If we’re going to blame an -ISM let’s blame the modern definition of FASCISM (police state / total control) which is perfectly happy living with CAPITALISM, COMMUNISM, IMPERIALISM, and all the other -ISMs…it doesn’t matter how you distribute bread, it matters whether your citizens have any power to tell you no when you over-reach.

  85. #85 |  Radley Balko | 

    Will you join in mocking american patriotism and celebration of wars as opposed to just being quiet about them and abstaining from celebrations?

    Only if you promise to spend 30 seconds on Google before you accuse me of “being quiet” about America’s warmaking.

  86. #86 |  Personanongrata | 

    Bonus bit of May Day trivia: American Cold War presidents responded to the commie May Day celebrations by declaring May 1st “Loyalty Day.” Because nothing celebrates “freedom” like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!

    I propose a :

    Fuck The Government Day!

    Where citizens proclaim our loyalty to one another and to our creator given liberties, which no government instituted by men (not even this charade of what once was a republic) can deny any human-being such as but not limited to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    So, say it loudly, say it proudly, say it often enough that it echos in the minds of the war criminal, human-being torturing, drone strike ordering, US gulag archipelago creating, treasury looting, traitor scum pliably supine sycophants infesting this nations capital:

    Fuck The Government

  87. #87 |  Red_anonymous | 

    Sorry, my last statement came out wrong. My intent was not to accuse you of staying quiet against American warmaking. For what it’s worth, I know that you do speak out. I confused my words and my sentence was poorly written.

    My point from the beginning is the following: You stand against the crimes committed by the Soviet regime (Bravo!), but you think that Soviet national holidays (and holidays appropriated by the Soviets) should not be celebrated and you mock the people who do so.

    At the same time, you stand against the crimes of the American government (Bravo!), yet you don’t ridicule the people who do celebrate American national holidays. You don’t personally partake, yet you don’t write posts about it (a 30 second google search of “radley balko 4th of july” didn’t return much).

    Why do you have a different reaction to the two very similar situations?

  88. #88 |  picachu | 

    Personanongrata: “I propose a :

    Fuck The Government Day!”

    I really really like this. I don’t have a facbook account but I recently read about a “Fuck Washington” campign on it and from what I remember the people who run facebook shut it down. I’m not sure of the details, does anyone remember this?

  89. #89 |  Personanongrata | 

    picachu | May 2nd, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    Personanongrata: “I propose a :

    Fuck The Government Day!”

    I really really like this. I don’t have a facbook account but I recently read about a “Fuck Washington” campign on it and from what I remember the people who run facebook shut it down. I’m not sure of the details, does anyone remember this?

    Take it and run.

    Fuck The Governmentis simply a string of words found in most any dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary, OED, being one) which when placed together in certain order allows for the external thought process of one to be communicated to many, anyone who tells you otherwise can go fuck themselves.

  90. #90 |  Stop the War on May Day! | Bleeding Heart Libertarians | 

    […] I think Shawn in the comments (here and here) hits the nail on the head when he describes “the attempt to make International Labor Day about the crimes of governments rather than the struggles of individuals, to turn a workers’ celebration into a day of mourning,” as making a “false parallel between popular struggles and state crimes.” (See also some of the commentators at Radley Balko’s May Day blog post.) […]

  91. #91 |  Kevin Carson | 

    I also like Fuck the Government Day. That might be one thing everyone in this thread can agree on.

  92. #92 |  Radley Balko | 

    Why do you have a different reaction to the two very similar situations?

    Because your premise is absurd. The U.S. government has done some evil things. It has done nothing remotely similar to the Great Terror, or the Ukrainian famine, or the gulags. Or what the Soviets did to the Poles. We don’t shoot dissidents in the head as a matter of policy. We don’t impose policies that cause tens of millions of people to starve to death.

    There are in fact things to celebrate about America. Like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yes, they’re flawed. But they were also the first of their kind, in that they posited that government derived its powers from the people, and not the other way around. Free market capitalism has led to a standard of living and human flourishing unprecedented in the history of humanity.

    I favor a government limited to protecting natural rights. In that sense, the U.S. government is far from perfect. And U.S. history is ripe with abuses, some of them horrifying and brutal. But none of that is anywhere near as evil as the Soviet Union. Or Mao. Or Pol Pot.

  93. #93 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    The other thing about the US as compared to the communist dictatorships is that life was much better for a very high proportion of people– that’s why people risked (and still risk) their lives to move to the US.

  94. #94 |  SamK | 

    Radley, I love you man, but the lack of an above-board purge *inside* our borders is the only thing I really feel we’ve got any moral high ground on.

    “We don’t impose policies that cause tens of millions of people to starve to death.”
    No, but hundreds of thousands is enough for me, and there are certainly reasonably reputable reports that put only the following incident in the millions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctions_against_Iraq#Estimates_of_deaths_due_to_sanctions

    This was a political maneuver, not an act of war, and we knew what was going on on the scale of decades. It’s not like we didn’t have time to make a change.

    Next, whether you like it or not, as it’s been mentioned above, the founding of the country was pretty hellish and it wasn’t Communism that supported dislocation/genocide of the American Indian nor massive importation of slaves and the associated atrocities.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocides_in_history#United_States_of_America

    There’s tens of millions of people right there. I know you’re no racist, but we’re suffering the lasting after effects of the slave trade even today (minimally and mostly socially, but it’s there). There’s not a hint of Communism in early American history or anything but the worst of crony capitalism. Human nature using the available system to be as bad as it could be.

    The atrocities in Central America, South America, the Middle East may be in pursuit of foreign policy goals but you’re stretching things a bit if you’re dismissing the influence of Capitalism on these things (I don’t think you are, yet).

    The drug war didn’t evolve out of Communism or Socialism. It evolved out of us, and we claim Capitalism. Perhaps moneyed interests didn’t do some rent-seeking to ensure that the drug war expanded and maintained markets for their products (military goods for police, testing facilities & products, etc) and perhaps one of the reasons we can’t seem to get that monkey off our backs is because it makes so goddamned much money for some people.

    We fought a damned war and immediately handed out no-bid contracts…we didn’t need to fight it to maintain a stable oil supply; hell, we screwed up the oil supply getting in there…maybe the crony capitalism wasn’t the biggest driving force here and maybe it was.

    Modern US fuckups that are, at a minimum, associated with capitalism aren’t as in your face as what Stalin did, but they do affect hundreds of millions of people, killing at best a single zero less than those communist efforts, and there aren’t many dead men who give a damn whether you think it was ok to kill them in pursuit of your goals because you paid lip service to moral motivations for your actions.

    I still think the US is the best place to be, and I fought for the US because I was an idealist, but I’m personally affected by the laws passed here restricting movement and can’t even leave the country without asking permission anymore. Refusing to accept the evils propogated by America completely denies us the power to do something about it.

    Evil is evil, I don’t give a damn if communism was worse, we’ve got plenty of it here at home to work on.

  95. #95 |  SamK | 

    Also, we certainly killed an American who was saying things we didn’t like. We even made headlines about it, and you’ve blogged about it. We make excuses for it, grand ones, and we all feel ok about it…but he’s still dead.

    Shot in the head as a matter of policy or whomped by a paveway as a matter of policy, dead is still dead. When it’s only a matter of “how many more people did they kill” as opposed to “whether or not they killed people over their speech” I’ve lost any interest in discussing the evils of communism. The soviets supported a regime that slaughtered Poles. We supported tens of thousands of dead dissidents in Argentina. Super…where do I sign off on not giving a fuck which -ism it was they were killed over?

    Maybe the marxists in Argentina were killed because of terrorist actions? Maybe that’s sounding way too goddamned familiar for a reason.

  96. #96 |  Stop the War on May Day! | The Agora Telegraph | 

    […] I think Shawn in the comments (here and here) hits the nail on the head when he describes “the attempt to make International Labor Day about the crimes of governments rather than the struggles of individuals, to turn a workers’ celebration into a day of mourning,” as making a “false parallel between popular struggles and state crimes.” (See also some of the commentators at Radley Balko’s May Day blog post.) […]

  97. #97 |  Red_anonymous | 

    So youre reducing ocw, labor activists leftists, socialists marxists and others to the crimes of the soviet union. And you associate practices that can remotely intersect the soviet union with its evils. May day is also celebrated by peopke who have nothing to do with the soviet union but since you dont agree with labor movements, its convenient to lump them with the crimes of the soviet regime. Is this your version of godwins law? It seems that you had issues with the “red” in my screenname. Am i allowed to wear red tshirts or does that make me de facto a soviet executioner?

    But when it comes to the US youre more nuanced: US governments have committed crimes but theyve also done some good. And you realize that lumping unrelated things is absurd.

  98. #98 |  Matt Curtis | 

    Aha. So I’m coming into this late, but let me see if I get the gist of the thread. In his original post, Balko equates Occupy NYC’s decision to demonstrate on May 1 with a celebration of Stalinism; Balko says he’s well aware of the history of International Workers Day (which is what we’re talking about, not pre-Christian Spring/fertility celebrations but since the Soviets celebrated it, subsequently everyone who dips a toe in the holiday is celebrating the Ukrainian terror famine. Cock waving ensues on all sides.

    It’s silly and basically just a device for exposing one’s biases rather than a thoughtful discussion. Like any taint of communism is the Libertarian dog whistle equivalent of the Christianeer Gay Menace.

    Anyway. As others have pointed out, IWD was propagated to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket Massacre, becoming a public holiday in dozens of countries largely through the efforts of the Second International. Yes, socialists. Who, mind you, were murdered en masse by the Bolsheviks as soon as they had the opportunity. Today IWD is celebrated by such unreformed totalitarian commie states as Israel, South Korea, Germany and pretty much the rest of Europe, South Africa, etc etc. The U.S. Labor Day holiday was established in the Fall specifically because the authorities wanted to avoid any pesky association with Haymarket.

    The broad brush used to paint Occupiers has already been dealt with by other commenters. As someone who’s spent the last 20 years studying and living/working in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union I’d also argue that it’s intellectually lazy to impugn Soviet citizens in relation to the holiday. The entire population of the USSR was not sitting around for 70 years rubbing their fingertips together, mwahaha’ing and concocting nefarious schemes. For most people, it was/is a day to rightly celebrate their achievements in work (or just have damn day off). Tarring everyone with the evils perpetrated by the Party is akin to saying everyone in Tennessee is racist because the Klan used to be a big deal there.

  99. #99 |  Radley Balko | 

    I don’t disagree that most of the atrocities in your comment happened, or that they weren’t awful, or that they weren’t caused by U.S. policy.

    I do disagree that they had anything to do with capitalism. Crony capitalism isn’t capitalism. Slavery, by definition, has nothing to do with free markets. The drug war was born out of the early-20th century progressive movement, which was a hell of a lot closer to socialism than to free market capitalism. The modern incarnation of the drug war came from Nixon, the last U.S. president to impose wage and price controls. No-bid contracts between private firms and the government . . . aren’t remotely free market. Neither are the firms that sell weaponry, that engaged in government-mandated drug testing, or that run private prisons. Making money that was taken from other people from gunpoint isn’t free market, again, by the very definition of “free market.”

    America’s treatment of indigenous people, along with slavery, is unquestionably worst blight on our history. But your link doesn’t suggest “tens of millions,” it suggests tens of thousands. The latter sounds low to me, but it’s an impossible figure to estimate. In any case, there’s no modern ideology you can honestly tie to manifest destiny. Even our adventures overseas, which I think are foolish and destructive, aren’t about colonization. And again, our slaughter of Native Americans had nothing to do with free markets or capitalism.

    Modern US fuckups that are, at a minimum, associated with capitalism aren’t as in your face as what Stalin did, but they do affect hundreds of millions of people, killing at best a single zero less than those communist efforts . . .

    You write this in various form a few times, but I don’t see any sources to support it. Stalin murdered millions of people over about a 15-year span. He did so either directly, or as a direct result of his policies. There’s nothing in U.S. history that remotely approaches that.

  100. #100 |  captainahags | 

    I think the point that people are trying to make, which keeps getting lost in the “who killed how many people and when and why” debate, is that people are getting annoyed at you (Radley) because in the first sentence of the post, you take a cheap, logically unsupported shot at OWS protestors, using nothing more than an attempt at guilt by association. “OWS celebrates May Day. Stalin celebrated May Day. OWS IS STALIN!!11!!” I mean, it’s like denouncing vegetarians because Hitler was a vegetarian. And even if you want to call it International Workers’ Day and make the same argument, it’s been pointed out to you several times that its origins were in fact as American as it gets, and had nothing to do with communism.

  101. #101 |  SamK | 

    Dammit Radley, you just did “no true Scotsman” as if you don’t know what it is. You’re better than that.

    Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism. It happens. It’s like saying you can set up a retail operation and not have shoplifting. Nearly your entire problem with communism isn’t the philosophical idea, the utopia of perfect distribution of resources, but how it’s executed. Communism isn’t based on mass executions, so by what you just wrote about crony capitalism it’s not communism’s fault that Stalin or Mao killed millions of people.

    Of course the shit we’re talking about isn’t free market! It’s the real world result of capitalism hitting reality. The free market doesn’t exist and isn’t going to exist in the modern world. It’s right up there with the communist utopia…neither of them have *ever* existed except in the tiniest moment in the tiniest bubble of political accident that vaporizes in history. The things you bring up hating about communism are the same damned thing in a different country…they’re not the a pure philosophy, they’re what happens when you try to effect it.

    You’re not arguing that an actual, full-blown, 100% free market society has ever existed are you? The US sure as hell hasn’t been that country, so why are we discussing capitalism at all? If the purity of a culture is necessary before we can discuss a political philosophy’s impact we’d come to a full stop because NOTHING HAS EVER BEEN PURE.

    We can argue all day about whose murderous history is worse, but I get the feeling you’re just going to keep saying the US is better because we didn’t kill as many people “directly”.

    Are you really saying that capitalism is *inherently* incapable of producing purges, massacres? That a 100% free market would be devoid of cultures that commit genocide? That human beings wouldn’t wipe out their enemies right and left, women/children/elderly, cackling as they do it, simply because their industrial capacity was free of regulation? Maybe if we had a free market then everyone would have everything they want and we’d all live in a utopia without aggression and war?

    You haven’t said that…but you’ve repeatedly said that “nothing in US history remotely approaches…”. This specifically suggests that the horrors ascribed to the system you hate don’t happen in “our” system.

    So let me distill it then. My question is this: Do these things happen in our system or not?

    Not “do we murder fewer people”, not “are we less evil when we suck the resources out of a culture and people starve to death”, not “fewer people starve to death when we steal from them”, but DOES IT HAPPEN IT ALL.

    I say it does.

    We can move from that to: Is it significant? Is it anything more than an aberration?

    Yes.

    Was Stalin worse? Sure.

    There, we’ve covered the whole thing. Stalin was worse. God I’m proud of not being as bad as Stalin. It must be because we’re not communists.

  102. #102 |  Radley Balko | 

    Dammit Radley, you just did “no true Scotsman” as if you don’t know what it is. You’re better than that.

    If you point to a Japanese man and declare him a Scotsman, it isn’t a fallacy for me to point out to you that no, in fact, he isn’t a Scotsman. You’re trying to blame slavery on free market ideology. The word free is part of “free markets” for a reason. The mere fact that money was exchanged for human beings in the slave era doesn’t make slavery free market. Sure. There was a market for slaves. But it fails to meet the free test because, you know, they were buying and selling human beings..

    Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism.

    You could just as easily say it’s an inherent part of government interference in the economy. You can have crony capitalism without capitalism. It’s called fascism. You can’t have crony capitalism without heavy government involvement in the private industry.

    Are you really saying that capitalism is *inherently* incapable of producing purges, massacres?

    Am I saying that governments in capitalist countries aren’t capable of atrocities? Of course not. I’m saying there’s nothing about capitalism or its implementation that would make a government prone to such things. Free markets are about leaving people alone to engage in voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions.

    Communism makes every citizen the property of the state. That requires a significant amount of coercion. It also requires a mass conceit that government planners know best, and a willingness to sacrifice lives, which the government can do when it owns them, for the greater good. There’s a reason why mass famine and starvation have followed every communist “5-year plan.” And there’s a reason why every attempt at a communist government has been totalitarian.

    That a 100% free market would be devoid of cultures that commit genocide? That human beings wouldn’t wipe out their enemies right and left, women/children/elderly, cackling as they do it, simply because their industrial capacity was free of regulation?

    You’re not arguing honestly, here. The grounding principle of free markets is that every individual owns his own body, and owns the product of his own labor. Those of us who advocate for free markets don’t advocate for anarchy. There would still be laws against murder, raping, and pillaging. You would still have a government to enforce those laws.

    The things you bring up hating about communism are the same damned thing in a different country…they’re not the a pure philosophy, they’re what happens when you try to effect it.every attempt at communism has resulted in totalitarian government, mass human misery, mass murder, and mass suppression of individual rights.

  103. #103 |  Radley Balko | 

    As someone who’s spent the last 20 years studying and living/working in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union I’d also argue that it’s intellectually lazy to impugn Soviet citizens in relation to the holiday. The entire population of the USSR was not sitting around for 70 years rubbing their fingertips together, mwahaha’ing and concocting nefarious schemes. For most people, it was/is a day to rightly celebrate their achievements in work (or just have damn day off). Tarring everyone with the evils perpetrated by the Party is akin to saying everyone in Tennessee is racist because the Klan used to be a big deal there.

    Who the hell is impugning the evils of communism to the citizens of the Soviet Union? Seriously. Show me where I’ve even come close to doing that. The citizens of the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries were the victims of communism. I mean Jesus. That’s the whole fucking point.

    My guess that the citizens of those countries celebrated in state-mandated May Day activities because they were mandated by the state. When there’s a gun in your face, real or implied, you do what you’re told.

    I find the choice of May Day irritating because it has become historically linked to those mandated celebrations in totalitarian countries. Yes, symbolism matters. The left seems to understand this in other contexts. There are lots of dates on which to celebrate the contribution of labor that don’t carry the same historical baggage.

  104. #104 |  SamK | 

    >every attempt at communism has resulted in totalitarian government, mass human misery, mass murder, and mass suppression of individual rights.

    This is all we’re arguing about. So has every attempt at capitalism and free markets, communism has just been worse. I’m only looking for you to say that free markets and capitalism aren’t a panacea that eliminates the horrors of humanity as expressed by communism. That’s all.

    …ok, and the idea that slavery isn’t capable of being a free market result is blithering foolishness. The freedom of the cattle isn’t the freedom of the market. You define it that way, but a completely free market provides what is desired and slaves were desired. You’re arguing for a market restriction on selling slaves. That’s not 100% free market, it’s your personal beliefs.

  105. #105 |  SamK | 

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time in old Eastern bloc countries, def not 20 years, but most of them could have cared less about communism vs what’s in place now. They were the victims but they were the communists too…much like us, to them politics was just bullshit that the few pushed on the many.

    They celebrated holidays because they were human, not because they had a gun to their head. I’m sure North Korea’s different.

  106. #106 |  Radley Balko | 

    You’re arguing for a market restriction on selling slaves. That’s not 100% free market, it’s your personal beliefs.

    Are you being willfully stupid, here? You can’t have a “free market” in buying in selling human beings, because a “free market” is entirely predicated on the idea that people own their own bodies and own the product of their labor. Free markets are about voluntary transactions between individuals. You can’t have a voluntary transaction between individuals that’s contingent upon the involuntary servitude of another individual. This isn’t that difficult of a concept.

  107. #107 |  SamK | 

    I’ll even drop the slavery discussion / free market philosophy and eat “willfully stupid” if you’ll comment on:

    “…free markets and capitalism aren’t a panacea that eliminates the horrors of humanity as expressed by communism. “

  108. #108 |  Morning in America » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] On May Day 2012, some Occupy protesters, observing May Day with protests and occupying, had already experienced just how much like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany America has become, especially in New York. […]

  109. #109 |  Kevin Carson | 

    “But none of that is anywhere near as evil as… Pol Pot.”

    Some of that *was* Pol Pot. The U.S. backed Pol Pot’s regime against the Vietnamese invasion, and supported the Khmer Rouge guerrilla resistance against the subsequent Vietnamese puppet regime. And in fact the death toll inflicted in South Vietnam, Laos — and yes, in Cambodia — by U.S. strategic bombing and chemical warfare was comparable to that inflicted by Pol Pot.

    “Crony capitalism isn’t capitalism.”

    This is remarkably close in spirit to saying Marxism-Leninism isn’t true communism. I think “capitalism” is a good term for referring to the actually existing system of historic capitalism as it emerged from feudalism, and has existed for the past 500 years or so. And that actual social system has been characterized from the beginning by capitalists exercising power through the state and obtaining profits and rents on artificial property rights enforced by the state. I like to distinguish capitalism, in this sense, from the free market.

  110. #110 |  Jeremy Weiland | 

    You can’t have a “free market” in buying in selling human beings, because a “free market” is entirely predicated on the idea that people own their own bodies and own the product of their labor.

    I don’t think this is as cut and dry as you like to depict it. David Graeber explores how our Lockean concept of private property and liberty have their roots in Roman law surrounding slaves. For a taste of the argument, read this.

    No, this doesn’t mean that if you’re a libertarian you’re a crypto-slave-owner. It does mean that markets — free ones, slave ones, mixed economy ones, centrally planned ones, all of them — derive from the extra-economic, politically constituted rules set up for them describing what legitimate property is, what legitimate property isn’t, and what rights, privileges, etc. are conferred on somebody when they are said to “own” something. These rules are arbitrary and have changed throughout history quite a bit. They are not above moral reproach, and they are only self-evident when you’re steeped in a culture that assumes those rules from the get-go — let alone cultures where monopoly law codifies these definitions. In other words, the problem isn’t that there has never been a free market, but that *every* market has been “free” — subject to the mores of the time.

    As much as I appreciate the market concept as a system for allocating resources, there’s no magic sauce in it that makes it morally superior to other systems. Would anybody really argue that the Iroquois, a tribe that distributed resources through collective pooling, was automatically evil simply because other collectivists have committed atrocities?

    You can’t have a voluntary transaction between individuals that’s contingent upon the involuntary servitude of another individual.

    Sure you can: you just say the slave is not human. That’s how it worked in the past.

    Is that morally wrong? I’d agree with you that it is — but it isn’t wrong because it’s somehow a rejection of market principles. It’s wrong because it’s a rejection of our current mores about humans — mores that precede the economics. This libertarian essentialism clouds our thinking about these matters, especially at a time where property as a concept is under intense strain and flux.

  111. #111 |  supercat | 

    #101 | SamK | “Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism. It happens. It’s like saying you can set up a retail operation and not have shoplifting.”

    The duties involved in running a legitimate business do not involve shoplifting. They may entail *dealing with shoplifters* or *coping with the effects of shoplifting*, and it may not be possible for a business to 100% prevent criminals from committing theft against it, but does that mean that the act of shoplifting would be regarded as part of a legitimate businessman’s duties.

    Free-market economics intrinsically rewards people who maximize their productivity and minimize their needs. There’s no need to force people to work as hard as they can or consume as little as they can. If someone would like to work less but consume less, that’s his prerogative. If someone else would like to have a more lavish lifestyle, he’ll have to spend more time working to pay for it, but that’s his prerogative too. Socialism and communism fundamentally distort the incentives which would be present in a free market, to the point that they no longer prompt people to voluntarily maximize productivity or minimize consumption. Absent such incentives, governments have to compel such behavior by fiat, because otherwise people would have no reason to do it.

  112. #112 |  Mississippi Airports Affiliation Poker Run 2012 | namadomain | 

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  113. #113 |  Pyrrhic Victory « The Honest Courtesan | 

    […] to steal the day from the communists by declaring it “Loyalty Day” in the US (because, as Radley Balko aptly observed, “…nothing celebrates ‘freedom’ like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry […]

  114. #114 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @110 – Easier, simply argue that it’s acceptable for people to surrender certain rights by contract.

    Sadly, people will end up doing it in the next few decades if it’s legal or not, simply to have food and shelter, as capital continues to steamroller wages and people decide that they really, really need to eat more than they need liberty.

    @111 – It encourages people to keep as much of others productivity as they can, rather. Which is why we’re seeing the ever-smaller return on people’s labor.

    Also, to everyone – the Spanish Civil War.

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