To the U.S. (and to a lesser extent other western democracies) freedom is the great buzzword or logo: we fight wars for freedom, our soldiers died for our right to be free, the U.S. was founded for freedom, “sweet land of liberty”, etc…
To many Islamic nations wars are fought for Allah or Islam and the worship of Allah is what is hailed as the great cause to which their land is dedicated. While both freedom and Allah can be more jingoistic or simplistic than accurate, both are also at least to a degree accurate.
What is/was the buzzword similar to freedom or Allah that communist nations (currently or in the past) rallied around? The state? The workers? Or what exactly?
Note that communism was supposed to be an ideal condition of society in which everyone would be equal, well provided for, flourishing, and, indeed, free. Nations or states would no longer be necessary, and would wither away. No so-called communist state ever claimed to have achieved communism; it was an ideal that they claimed to be working towards, and restrictions on freedom, conflicts with other nations, and other sorts of unpleasantness were all justified as unfortunate but temporary necessities arising from the difficulties of the struggle to reach true communism.
Terms like Party or Motherland seemed to be big catchphrases in the books I have read, like “A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich” or “MiG Pilot” (about Victor Belenko, a Soviet pilot who defected in the 1970’s).
Most revolutionary movements are defined more than what they’re against than what they’re for. That means that the communist “catchphrase” is very often “down with capitalism!” or “down with imperialists!”.
That said, I wouldn’t say that most people fight for an abstract phrase - rather, they fight for their nation and its symbols. The French fight for La France, the British fight for Queen and Country, and the Soviets, once you cleaned away the communist veneer, ultimately fought for Mother Russia.
Marxist thought is predicated on the assumption that such things as political freedom and what have you are all contingent on economic freedom. Of course Marxism seeks to secure political freedom for the workers and humanity at large (note that Marx believed that capitalism would develop in such a way that the working class would eventually include the vast majority of the people, with only a very small minority of bourgeois left, all of them opulently rich). However, this political freedom for one thing entails the possibility to control the means of production, and as far as anything else is concerned, political freedom is meaningless to a Marxist if it is not concomitant with economic power. Who cares about freedom of expression or the right to vote if you have nothing to eat? The only way in which those freedoms are meaningful is 1) if people are not actually starving and 2) if those votes and those expressions concern what really matters in society, which is the distribution of wealth and power and control over the means of production.
As a final note, however, I’ll add that, given Marx’s view that all history hitherto is the history of class struggle, and also his view that the revolution would put an end to that, with the working class coming out victorious, I guess that in communism there really would not be a lot of politics since there are no fundamental differences of interest - because the question of distribution of economic power and wealth has been solved. So you would have your freedom of expression but the things that you might want to express your opinion about are either not important or things that everyone agrees on.
Actually, the translation of ‘Genosse’ (in German) and Tovarishch (from the Russian) into ‘comrade’ in some of the western communist movements needs to be regarded as an error. Neither of these original words connote anything of friendship, as comrade does do. Rather, both are used to denote that somebody is also a member of the same group as you are. For instance, someone that I went to school with and who was in the same class as I was, would be a ‘tovarishch po klasse’, or class-mate, even if I hated him or her. So tovarishch/Genosse simply relates to other communists being fellow party members, again without this meaning that they are actually fellows in the same way that class-mates need not be actual mates.
It’s a bit off-topic but I am wondering if it’s accurate to imply that China is a communist nation in the traditional economically socialist sense of the word.
I’ve only spent a bit of time traveling around there in the last few years, but I thought several cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing) were at least trying to be as economically capitalist as Hong Kong was when I was there 40 years ago. It’s still rudimentary, because it’s young.
The government may be structurally Communist at some root level, and it certainly is not very open to the broad vote of the polloi in determining direction and policy, but to this inexperienced and untrained eye, them guys are about as economically capitalist as you can get. Dog eat dog city over there. (Man eat dog, too, but that’s more of a food story than an economic story…)
I can understand why “harmony” might be a buzzword positioned by the government. Economically it seemed like it was every man for himself, and some of 'em doing quite well, thank you. There were developments outside of Beijing most Americans would be unable to afford.
It seemed to me the practical buzzword in China was “How can I get more money?” and not “How can I help us all succeed?”
Yeah, of course it’s not economically communist in any meaningful way. But despite economic changes, its power structures are still very old-school, the party is extremely powerful, and there is plenty of lip service payed to communist ideology.
Much ink has been spilled about the “harmonious society” campaign, as it’s become associated with increasing social controls. The way that it is automatically invoked in meaningless statements and used to smooth over some pretty controversial stuff has given the word an ominous double-speak feel.
I hear my students parroting it a lot when they talk about sensitive issues. They’ll say, for example “It is important to prevent internet access to pornographic materials in order to promote a harmonious society.” But when pressed on what exactly a “harmonious society” consists of, they can’t really give a real explanation or discuss how the position they are taking relates to that. In a sense, “harmonious society” has become a way of saying “it is better not to think about or discuss critical issues,” and the campaign has been quite successful- you can barely escape the phrase.
And the Polish Union Solidarity was specifically anti-Communist, as the Communists had become everything they claimed to oppose.
Liberty (promise, although it seems to be the liberty to do what you want as long as it’s what the government wants you to do) and equality (defined as “let’s chop tall people off at the knees”) are two big ones.
I think the buzzwords are pretty much the same for 99% of parties/ideologies; what changes is how they’re defined. The notion that “equality means everybody must have exactly the same resources” makes my skin want to crawl away into a separate dimension, but I’ve heard it both from people calling themselves Communists and from people calling themselves Democrats (neither were American, so not those Democrats).
That’s interesting, I’m trying to come up with a way to say “coworker”, “companion” or “classmate” in Spanish which doesn’t have the “mate” implication and failing. In Spanish you class-mates or work-mates aren’t expected to be mates in the way your BFFs are mates, but the “mates” part even comes before the “where” part. After all, class and work are very common places to meet people who graduate from acquaintance to friend.
Sorry, out of time again. I’ve been looking for that expression for over a decade. The reason I’ve been on this quest is because I did notice that other cultures/languages don’t have that implication at all: when I was in Germany, the other students viewed each other and me as enemies/competition; my american students didn’t think of working in groups unless ordered to do so and would never have thought of asking a classmate for notes for a missed class, help with a problem (I guess you guys would consider it tutoring and charge for it), or any of those other things which were par for the course in my Spanish classes.
I’ve heard communists claim to be fighting for “Progress!” They considered themselves the next evolutionary stage of civilization beyond exploitative capitalism. Therefore, they consider communist nations to be progressive and more advanced.
In late 1941, when Stalin’s back was up against the wall and the Nazis were at the very gates of Moscow, all of the Communist rhetoric was speedily dropped and Soviet propaganda shifted instead to emphasize the soldiers’ responsibility to the Rodina or Motherland.
When push comes to shove, patriotism trumps ideology.