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All I Needed to Know About Communism I Learned from Cold-war Propaganda

Several days ago a close friend and comrade emailed me the comic collection This Godless Communism which was a J. Edgar Hoover approved anti-communist propaganda series.  Although it is hilarious for its historical and theoretical inaccuracy, its mindless reification of capitalist ideology, and the fact that it is aimed at 1950s USAmerican families who are apparently all white and patriarchal, it is an interesting read due to the anti-communist discourse it represented.  All of the hallmarks of anti-communist ideology that continue to this day (communism was just as bad [if not identical as totalitarianism] as fascism, communism is about mindless hive-mind collectivity, communism is about a flawed notion of "human nature", communism is anti-freedom, communism killed multi-millions, etc.), and that even infect some "leftwing" understandings of actually existing socialism, are present in this comic.  So I figured it might be useful to go through some of this comic's claims about communism that still linger amongst the masses in those countries who have been heavily indoctrinated by this bullshit.

1.  World domination

Okay, maybe "world domination" is not the first thing people think when you tell them you're a communist, but some of them do think that the communists of yester-year were primarily interested in world domination.  Enough Red Dawn like movies, where communists from Latin America parachute tanks into America only to be defeated by a highschool football team (Wolverines!!!!), and you have a discourse about how the communism-that-no-longer-exists was trying to take over the world.

Evil Stalin explains his plan about dominating the world that most of the "free world" had apparently forgotten after  World War Two.

The best thing about this ideology is that it demonstrates the utter hysteria of a ruling class that actually was/is dominating the world, and competing imperialists who attempt to extend world domination through the export of capital, trying to claim that the people who have been fighting against said domination are actually the dominators.  It's a bit like a school-yard bully telling everyone else in the school that the people he's been beating up are the real bullies so you should all allow him to keep beating them up to prevent the REAL bullying.

The fact that imperialist countries have to work hard to make people accept their domination as freedom usually means that they also have to work hard to explain away organic resistance as some sort of alter-domination conspiracy.  The oppressed tend to be drawn towards initiating autonomous communist movements because this makes sense for the oppressed… and they never were tricked into doing so by some all powerful communist bureaucracy.  Other communist countries, when they actually existed, would send material and ideological support to other organic movements––which would spring up as the natural result of imperialism and class warfare––because communists want to see a better world, not because they want to dominate it.  But apparently the demand for real equality means domination in the anti-communist discourse because, let's be fair, the tiny population that constitutes the bourgeoisie thinks that losing their ability to exploit the majority of the world constitutes domination.

2.  No democracy

We are still given this bifurcation between communism and democracy because capitalism, a theoretical term which is often conjured away in this fallacious either/or comparison, is considered synonymous with democracy.  Granted, there were deficiencies in actually existing socialist nations when it came to party democracy but this did not necessarily mean that there were deficiencies when it came to other concepts of democracy.  If democracy means the people can collectively vote/decide/argue/debate on given policies, then there is no possible way the pitiful democracy of bourgeois parties competing against bourgeois parties, with votes cast in a meaningless affair where bourgeois politicians will screw you over anyhow, can compare to something like the riotous democratic upsurges in, say, China's Cultural Revolution where the exercise of democracy was considered too chaotic by some.

Apparently the Tsarist government in Russia was a representational democracy

Capitalism only permits a certain level of democracy because it possesses global hegemony.  And this democracy is bounded by the constitutions of every state that practice said democracy: there is no way that a party proclaiming the death of private property in the US, for example, can overturn capitalism through the electoral system because the US Constitution is founded on a notion of private property.  If such a party did win (and the bourgeois electoral hegemony would prevent it from winning in the first place) it would have to still pursue a revolutionary agenda in a violent sense because the ruling class would be protected by an entire legal apparatus that would deem any actual communist measures illegal.  But hey, voting for Capitalist A or Capitalist B once in a while is apparently a democratic exercise, even if it doesn't change shit, so capitalism must all be about FREEDOM.

3.  Death of the Family

Okay, this one is great.  Communism in some ways does mean the death of the family, specifically the current historical form of the family, and I don't know why the hell people think this is a bad thing.  Capitalism also meant the death of the family––the death of the feudal/tributary family.  So what if communists declare the death of the capitalist family, i.e. the death of the nuclear and thus intensely patriarchal family that is the building block of capitalism?

"Where is my god-given right to reproductive labour?"

Hilariously enough, the above panel is meant to be an argument against communism.  "But with my wife working who will care for the children?"  Oh dear gods!  Women are no longer understood to be natural house-workers and care-givers!  The natural order has been attacked by godless communism and the patriarchal husband no longer has absolute conjugal control of his spouse!  (One would wonder what 1950s anti-communist hysteria would think of queer families… probably imagine it was the most horrid communist plot…)

4.  No free-will

Communists are against freedom and free-will.  They are such uber-collectivists that they believe all human beings are determined by some sort of hive mind consciousness––like the Borg in Star Trek The Next Generation.  It's not enough to simply claim communism is anti-freedom because it's anti-democratic… the point is to claim that communist philosophy itself is opposed to any sort of understanding of freedom so that it can be nothing but a totalitarian ideology from the get-go.  In order to do this, 1950s anti-propaganda awkwardly tried to make sense of the influence of Hegelian philosophy on Marx:

Apparently Hegel, though he was dead by the time Marx encountered Hegelianism, still managed to be Marx's philosophy professor.

Look at how Marx in this panel deviously strokes his jaw as he somehow figures out that he can use Hegel's philosophy to prove that there is no such thing as free will––this was always Marx's plan!  Note also how Marx's Catholic friend [for some reason this 1950s comic claims that Marx had a lot of Catholic friends who were worried about Marx's evil atheism] is angry about Hegel's philosophy because its supposed assault on free-will is somehow anti-Christian.  Apparently the entire free-will versus determinism debate that continues to plague Christian theology (not to mention aspects of secular ontology) doesn't matter: according to 1950s USAmerican anti-communist propaganda, Calvinists must be raving communists since they believe free-will is a myth.

One wonders why a 1950s propagandist would strain his [I am not being gender neutral here because 1950s America was patriarchal and this comic, especially in light of the panel reproduced in point #3, was doubtlessly written by a man] limited philosophical faculties by attempting to make sense of Hegelian philosophy.  Hell, Marx abandoned everything Hegelian except for dialectical logic by the time he wrote Capital; the reason he was interested in Hegel in the first place had nothing to do with some supposed debate about free-will that is misrepresented here to begin with.

But your average anti-communist propagandist wasn't interested in understanding why Marx could say that people were free and determined at the same time, nor were they interested in the dialectical logic behind this statement… Perhaps you have to congratulate them somewhat for figuring out this must have something to do with Hegel, though clearly they didn't know why.

In any case, the point here is to prove that the philosophical underpinnings of communism are opposed to any sort of freedom.  A freedom, according to Marx's wise Catholic friend, that can only be understood through some sort of theology that ignores even the debates in theology itself… The point, then, is that Marx clearly wanted to found a philosophy that was all about totalitarian unfreedom.

5.  Communism isn't popular

No, it always has to be forced on people because people, left to their own natural devices will always choose something that resembles capitalism which, don't-you-know, is the telos of history.  This is because humans are naturally selfish.  So, according to this understanding, world historical communist revolutions were unpopular and, just like coups where imperialists spend billions to overthrow popular governments and massacre those who dare to stand in their way, communism is some conspiracy on the part of an elite group of would-be totalitarians who, acting according to Marx's secret philosophy of unfreedom, have to trick the masses into following their evil schemes.

Lenin explains the theory that he wrote down nowhere about how his vanguard party is just some sort of elite conspiracy that will trick everyone into following his totalitarian plans.

It is important to note, however, that even some leftists who have never read Lenin will make these same pronouncements about Lenin's theory of the party of the advanced guard––that it is about some elite conspiracy of intellectuals––and so we must wonder whether this anti-communist ideology has had some influence amongst even those who claim they are anti-capitalists.

Whatever the case, communist movements have emerged and continue to emerge because they are popular.  They are popular because the majority of the world is oppressed and, whatever Hoover might have wanted people to believe in his approved comics, the oppressed generally do not like their oppressors.  It's not like you have to trick the masses into hating the minority of people whose wealth would not exist if not for massive exploitation; often it becomes pretty clear that, while capitalists might need workers and peasants in order to be capitalists, workers and peasants don't need capitalists.  Lenin did not have to make up some sort of secret conspiracy, as the above panel claims and as many people today still believe, in order to convince most of the Russian population to unite as a revolutionary force. Nor did he hide his beliefs within the ranks of some secret elite cabal.

6.  The Leader is Always Right

But communism is about some sort of supreme leader, isn't it?  Granted there have been cults of personality, but it's not like these haven't been interrogated by communists.  Nor have they been as entirely cut-and-dried as some would like us to believe.  Whatever the case, it's a pretty dubious assertion to claim that those who have provided concrete analyses of concrete situations were doing so simply so that they could ensure their own personal dominance over everything.


Every communist party has a history of line struggle and it is important to note that line struggle is one of those things that is seen as extremely worthwhile by a lot of communists.  It is also important to note that these cult of personalities, problematic as they may be, are nothing compared to the cult of capitalism which has violently resulted in billions upon billions of deaths.  But oh well: I guess we're free if we don't have a "supreme leader" (something that is a bullshit charge against communism anyhow) and still murder billions!

7.  Communist News is Always Propaganda!

Because the bourgeois press, apparently, is the free press.  No, the newspapers and television channels and magazines owned by capitalists can't be lying to us.  Only that which is produced by anti-capitalists is propaganda designed to undermine our fifth estate.

Communists gain converts by spreading lies

No news source produced by communists tell the truth; they are all about supreme leaders and anti-freedom and totalitarian and such.  They will even shut down our free press when they achieve world domination.  This is because they will be government presses which, for some reason, are less free than corporate presses.  Freedom and truth comes from big corporations and not big government––and the latter, in capitalist countries, is somehow not a representative of the former.

8.  Anti-imperialism is a lie

Since imperialism, according to imperialists, is supposed to be understood as aid and development, then people who declare themselves "anti-imperialists" are supposed to be seen as morons who are against all of the wonderful things that the free-market brings to those nations that we are meant to believe are not oppressed because of capitalism.  So when communists, especially when they were organized and a threat to the world order, declared World War One to be an inter-imperialist rivalry that should be resisted by workers, the imperialist camp was greatly offended.  Possibly they were even confused because, according to their own way of operating, they couldn't really understand why anyone would tell people not to fight for their nation.  Must be another conspiracy for world domination [see above]!

The only reason the Bolsheviks rejected WW1 was to undermine the morale of soldiers.

Communists always have ulterior motives, even when they have the good sense to condemn global imperialism and try to convince soldiers not to fight in stupid wars because the ruling classes want them to… imperialists, after all, have never really understood the concept of anti-imperialism.  If they did, they might disappear in a poof of logic.

9.  Worse than fascism

Since communism is totalitarian then, in the capitalist mind, it is similar to fascism.  In fact, it has to be worse than fascism because capitalists have historically collaborated with fascists––and because fascists are just extreme and monolithic variants of capitalism.  Indeed, much is made out of the "Hitler-Stalin Pact" by capitalist ideologues––regardless of the historical fact that it only existed because nobody would unite with the Soviet Union to fight fascism when it was in its infancy and Stalin only made this pact so as to give the Soviet Union time to produce an army capable of fighting fascism––who seem also unwilling to address the fact that they were economically and politically encouraging fascism, hoping it would be a staunch anti-communist ally.

Apparently fascism liberated people from communism

Due to the embarrassing fact that the monolithic capitalism of fascism led to genocide, capitalist ideology has worked very very hard to produce propaganda arguing that communists have killed more people than capitalists, even fascists, have and will ever kill.  Hence all this recent garbage about the multi-millions personally murdered by Mao.

10.  Solidarity is evil

Any political solidarity or internationalism with oppressed people is communist trickery.  Communist conspirators are everywhere, with their despicable "human rights" and their charities, using these causes to plot world domination:

Hold on there, Bill!  The Spanish Civil War is a communist plot!

And the fact that the capitalist imagination, because it cannot help but think of the world according to its logic, claims that all organic anti-capitalist movements must be conspiracies means that even liberal charitable and human rights challenges to its hegemony must also be controlled by some tiny class, akin to capitalist parasites.  The fact that communists have always been at the forefront of social welfare and charity in capitalist countries––and thus the fact that welfare capitalism wouldn't exist without the blood shed by capitalists––is something the capitalist propagandist will always ignore.


In any case, these are only some of the hilarious "lessons" about communism that 1950s propaganda can teach us.  Some of the wilder ahistorical claims, or the "communism is the work of the devil and so we must pray to combat it" bullshit, are even more humorous because they don't resonate with the current anti-communist discourse.  (I doubt that claims about St. Fatima appearing to Russian peasants in 1917 to warn them about the evils of communism will be taken very seriously by anyone not born in the US Bible Belt.)  I urge everyone to read This Godless Communism for shits and giggles, at the very least to maybe understand how some of our own feelings about actually existing socialism have been influenced by a 1950s anti-communist discourse… And besides, even if it's an extremely vile piece of capitalist-fascist propaganda, it is still better than a certain comic I reviewed here two years ago.

[If you found this entry as amusing as the sitcom episode you have paid to watch on cable or "Netflix" then please consider donating, according to your means (or not), to MLM Mayhem.]


  1. Awesome post. I gave some people the link to it because you do a good job of debunking many common "arguments" against communism that people mindlessly repeat.

    #5 reminds me of this debate I had on an internet forum with a libertarian from Texas (always a good use of your spare time). He simply refused to accept that in 1917 the Bolsheviks had won a democratic majority in the Petrograd soviet fair and square. Of course he couldn't produce any evidence to dispute this. He simply repeated lies and insinuations of the kind you read from bourgeois historians, so that the worst possible motive was assigned to the Bolsheviks at any given time and everything was seen in the most sinister light.

    Lenin, you see, really sent his "agents" to "infiltrate" the soviets. The October Revolution was not a popular revolution at all, but a coup by military force. The soviets themselves were really bodies for an "intellectual oligarchy" and non-representative of the majority of the population, because they were primarily composed of workers who looked down on the peasants (hmm, wasn't it the Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies, and didn't peasants make up the majority of Russian soldiers at the time?). And so on.

    How exactly does a small, fringe group with no popular support take over a vast nation of 150 million people? The answer: it doesn't. But of course, my libertarian friend wouldn't let little things like "logic" or "history" get in the way.

    He actually had the balls to tell me I needed to "read some history". Now, I read widely, from historians all kinds of political backgrounds. The guy said I needed to read "real" history, not the apparently glorified propaganda you'll read in, say, Leon Trotsky or Ted Grant. Rather, he cited anti-communist hacks like Richard Pipes as examples of this supposedly "objective", "non-partial" history. Apparently, having a PhD makes you infallible.

    This is why I try not to waste time getting into political debates on the internet anymore. Oh sure, maybe very occasionally you'll have a productive conversation. But in the vast majority of cases, if you go on some general interest site and start to make arguments defending Marxism, people immediately begin rattling off all the usual cliches - "it's good in theory but not in practice", etc. - like they actually know what they're talking about.

    It's sad that people who've never read Marx or Lenin feel they can speak authoritatively on what these men did and/or what they believed. But the ruling class wouldn't have it any other way.

    1. When this was x-posted on /r/communism some rightist piped in about how he thought the comic was "accurate" and this blog post was "naive"... Which shows just how ideologized some people are when it comes to communism––I mean, if I was an anti-communist I would at least try to be sophisticated enough to realize that a comic that claims Marx was literally taught by Hegel and that the Tsarist government was "representational" might not be the best example of anti-communist accuracy. In any case, he was banned from /r/communism almost immediately.

    2. I remember now another one of the libertarian dude's "arguments" - he claimed that if the Bolsheviks DID win a majority, it was only because they rigged the election or stuffed the ballot box. Coincidentally, that's the exact same argument U.S. Republicans use whenever a Democrat wins the presidential election - but don't you dare suggest to them that George W. Bush may not have won fair and square in 2000!

      Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see, an affliction which tends to be more acute among rightists. It brings to mind an anecdote I read in Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler. When the future Führer was still an unknown failed artist in Vienna, he supposedly read voraciously - but only to confirm the views he already held (there's actually a passage in "Mein Kampf" where the fascist pig talks about how he retains only what he considers necessary in his reading material). Honestly, there's not a huge leap between that and getting all your news from conservative talk radio, which only confirms its listeners' existing worldview. "Yeah! You tell 'em, Rush!"

  2. I became a communist by reading and watch war-propaganda, both from the Russian side and the American.

    1. Interesting... Did you just decide Russian propaganda made more sense?

  3. In Sweden in the 50s some socialdemocrats and rightwingers wrote a book named "the remote controlled" in with they mean that the swedish communist party with hade gained lot of support after the second world war were remote controlled from the soviet unionen. at the same time the socialdemocrats were taking orders from washington in the same way that they were taking order from berlin in the second world war up to the soviets won the battle of Stalingrad


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