Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?

Dispelling the Myths of Socialism Part I:

Liberals never cease in presenting, without a shred of evidence, that their ideology is somehow non-violent while socialism and communism are inherently violent.  I wanted to take a moment to dispel this fallacy once and for all on both fronts.

First of all, if we’re going to accept that liberalism is non-violent, then we would have to ignore the bloody history of the transition from feudalism to liberal, democratic capitalism.  The Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, the American Revolution: all of these were liberal revolutions against monarchies (although the French Revolution, granted, started out as a proletarian/capitalist alliance, it ended up as a purely capitalist overthrow of the monarchy).  Given this bloody history, how can liberals turn their noses up at us socialists as subhuman and accuse us of the very same evils they themselves engaged in? 

Secondly, and more importantly, who ever said that socialists ever wanted violence?  This may come as a shock to the know-nothing liberals who gallivant around believing they know Marx just because they’ve skimmed the Communist Manifesto, but Marx never actually said that the socialist revolution had to be violent.  In fact quite the contrary.  In a speech Marx delivered in Amsterdam on September 8th, 1872 entitled “On the Possibility of Non-Violent Revolution” (which, given the title you should know where I’m going with this), he said:

“But we have not asserted that the ways to achieve that goal are everywhere the same.  You know that the institutions, morals, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries… where workers can attain their goal by peaceful means.”

Liberals everywhere deserve to have this thrown right back in their face not necessarily because of their arrogance, but because this argument is indicative of a political system which bears no resemblance to the philosophical tradition on which it claims to be based.  In fact, I would go so far as to state that it is indicative of the absolute poverty of thought of most people who today call themselves liberals.

27 Responses to “Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?”


  1. 1 D.A. Becker 28 January, 2007 at 7:24 am

    I’d say capitalism is the CAUSE of most violence. Greed = capitalism, and aren’t most crimes based on Greed? Of course there are the poor lads who lost their wives to some other guy and go totally nuts, and other sad people, but most crimes, and big crimes are based on money. Organized crime isn’t about relationship problems, it’s about the dollars.

    And workers are being surpressed by their superiors all over the world; forced to work for a few cents a day, because the other option is death through starvation. Or corruption: I can only imagine one reason for a policeman to fail his duty, and drop his honor.

    It’s because capitalism is founded on a basic human flaw, that it only produces more mistakes.

  2. 2 paulitics 28 January, 2007 at 10:08 am

    D.A. Becker – I agree with you 100%. I was just writing this more for the liberals who may stumble across my blog (and there are quite a few mostly because of my polling resource page), so I just wanted to stick with the hard history argument here since it’s relatively easy to posit and more or less irrefutable.

  3. 3 Joseph Krengel 28 January, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Well, I didn’t realize that I was such a schmuck. I wish someone had told me that as a liberal I actually believed that communism was inherently violent and liberalism inherently peaceful…

    Thank god we have morally superior people like you around to remind us what we really think.

  4. 4 paulitics 28 January, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Canada’s Debate – I may not have been referring to you when I said that liberals argue that socialism is violent, but your ad hominem and vacuous post, I would argue, does a fairly nice job of demonstrating what I referred to as the presence of a “poverty of thought”.

    Thanks for helping me with one of the points I was trying to make.

  5. 5 Joseph Krengel 28 January, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Ah, but you did refer to me. You did not say “some” liberals, or identify specific people. You used the words “never cease,” “everywhere” and “most” to demonstrate your belief that the majority of liberals hold this viewpoint… If your post was misrepresenting your true opinions then you would have likely amended your original comments to address this misrepresentation.

    The only conclusion that I can draw is that this is in fact what you believe. As for the reply on my own site; I’m sorry that you find it vacuous, but I did state my own views. I appreciate your out-of-hand dismissal.

    The fact of the matter is that no political system is inherently violent or non-violent; but people are. This is not every person is violent, but that every society will have violent traits. This violence can manifest itself in any number of ways, a man who beats his wife, a leader who seeks to dominate others, etc. But if you want to take a hard history approach to human nature, then it becomes pretty obvious that Paul is full of shit, that people are schmucks, and that any social or political system of sufficient size is going to have some violence.

    If of course you admit that you are not in fact qualified to put words in the mouths of the majority of liberals, then I would be more than happy to remove the pejoratives I have attached to you.

  6. 6 paulitics 28 January, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I admit fully that I am not qualified to put words in the mouth of anybody and as such I would never attempt such an act. If you had read my post carefully, you’d have noticed that I never said that ALL liberals believe that socialism is violent.

    I opened the post with a broad generalization (“Liberals never cease in presenting….”) which intentionally lacked any quantifier and thus cannot be taken as referring to a specific percentage of liberals but rather, broadly, to the liberal school of thought in general.

    The same is true for my next statement “how can liberals turn their noses up at us socialists”, which also, intentionally, is lacking a quantifier.

    Now, where I DO use quantifiers is at the end when I write “Liberals everywhere deserve to have this thrown right back in their face” and “it is indicative of the absolute poverty of thought of most people who today call themselves liberals”. And I still stand by these two statements.

    My contention here, isn’t that all liberals believe all socialists are violent but rather that ALL liberals must be confronted with this erroneous belief which is rather predominant in their school of thought (and quite prominent also at the academic levels of your school of thought). Just as every good socialist worth his/her salt has addressed the perversity of stalinism and disavowed it from our school of thought, I was arguing that it is the responsibility of every liberal to disavow this patently erroneous assertion and until such time as every liberal takes this stand, it is important for us socialists to continue to throw this back in their faces for its sheer disingenuousness.

    Lastly, I have no interest in you removing the pejoratives on your site. They more strengthen my argument than weaken it.

  7. 7 Joseph Krengel 28 January, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Your post is coming into view… a bit, but I still think it starts from an erroneous place. I have never encountered this belief; which you insist dominates academia and liberal thought.

    As to your lack of qualifiers, when you make generalizations you are implying without overtly stating that this is what you feel regarding all liberals; which is no better than coming out and saying it.

    As for my pejoratives, I don’t think they do you as much good as you seem to think; you persist on identifying yourself as superior… people who agree with you will dismiss my language out of hand, and those who don’t won’t need any encouragement from me to disregard you.

    This is of course ignoring your gross double-standards regarding the self-introspection of the two schools… You suggest that every socialist “worth his salt” (and entirely subjective measure) has dismissed stalinist or power-socialism, therefore socialists are free to castigate other schools; yet every liberal is required to distance themselves from power politics, with no qualifications or exceptions.

    If you do not see the moral relativism inherent in your argument, there is little to be gained from discussing it further.

  8. 8 paulitics 28 January, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Considering that you called me a “dickhead” in the title of your post and considering that the inclination to strike out and attack one’s opponents is diametrically opposed to the inclination to discuss with one’s opponents, I find it ironic that you conclude by stating that “If you do not see the moral relativism inherent in your argument, there is little to be gained from discussing it further.”

    That said, regardless whether you are genuinely interested in discussion or not (and in my very brief experience with you I’ve had plenty of evidence supporting the latter possibility and only this one token sentence supporting the former), I AM interested in discussion and as such I would like to reply.

    Firstly, if you have never encountered the argument of which I speak, there are far too many liberal theorists and liberal pundits who still, to this day, spout the factual inaccuracy to which I was pointing for me to point them all out. However, as a very very small sample of such thinkers, I can suggest the works of, most famously, Karl Popper but also Terrell Carver, George Soros and Friedrich Hayek. In addition, the pundits who baselessly perpetuate this belief are even more still to numerous to name but can be uncovered with very little energy.

    Secondly, a lack of quantifiers, by definition, does not refer to all of the referent. Thus the purpose of not using quantifiers.

    Thirdly, if you’re going to be so outlandish as to tell me that I identify myself as superior, you’re going to have to back that up with SOMETHING. I also found this ironic as initially you accused me of putting words in liberals’ mouths.

    Fourthly, I think you don’t appreciate the extent to which a viceral hatred and universal disavowal of stalinism is pervasive within modern socialist scholarship. Indeed membership in every socialist organization with which I am familiar would be witheld were an individual to identify as a stalinist. Conversely, liberals have not undergone even a fraction of the intellectual honesty of disavowing the argument that socialism is inherently violent as socialists have with stalinism. The argument that socialism is violent can still be used in both popular and academic liberal publications without completely distroying the authors reputation in the same manner that a pro-stalinist quip would destroy a socialist’s career.

  9. 9 Joseph Krengel 28 January, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Thirdly, if you’re going to be so outlandish as to tell me that I identify myself as superior, you’re going to have to back that up with SOMETHING.

    Well, I think that describing an entire school of thought and most of its adherents with the phrase “poverty of thought,” and using terms like “know-nothing” “arrogance” implies a certain self-suggested “superiority,” wouldn’t you? It is quite one thing to criticize an idea, but when you directly criticize the people that hold that idea you cross the line between discourse and diatribe.

    Now, I do realize that I am guilty of the same, but I am the first to admit that I am a hothead, and I would never presume to judge an entire body of people.

    Karl Popper but also Terrell Carver, George Soros and Friedrich Hayek.

    I’m not familiar with Popper’s supposition of socialism as power-politics, but Soros and Hayek are not classical liberals. Hayek is the archetype of neo-liberalism itself.

    Secondly, a lack of quantifiers, by definition, does not refer to all of the referent. Thus the purpose of not using quantifiers.

    You’re half right. A lack of quantifiers does not refer directly to the referent; what it does is implicate them by providing no criteria by which to draw distinctions.

    Fourthly, I think you don’t appreciate the extent to which a viceral hatred and universal disavowal of stalinism is pervasive within modern socialist scholarship. Indeed membership in every socialist organization with which I am familiar would be witheld were an individual to identify as a stalinist. Conversely, liberals have not undergone even a fraction of the intellectual honesty of disavowing the argument that socialism is inherently violent as socialists have with stalinism. The argument that socialism is violent can still be used in both popular and academic liberal publications without completely distroying the authors reputation in the same manner that a pro-stalinist quip would destroy a socialist’s career.

    I have never read any contemporary socialist material which registers a trace of Stalinist influence; but I still don’t understand how you are extrapolating this standard for liberal criticism. Modern liberals have thoroughly repudiated the excesses and hardships that have stemmed from neoliberal or post-liberal theory and economics, as well as with the ideas themselves. Yet you yourself draw no distinction between liberal and neo-liberal, in spite of this repudiation. Therein lies the double-standard which I find galling.

    The fact remains that a liberal discourse is concerned primarily with liberalism, and a socialist discourse is concerned primarily with socialism; which is why Stalinism (and violence in general) has been repudiated so thoroughly. Socialism and violence have been historically connected (albeit unfairly) and it behooves socialists to distance themselves from that… in the same way that liberals have repudiated neoliberalism.

    The fact that liberalism has not embraced the distinction to the same extent signifies nothing only the extent to which socialism and violence have been linked (albeit unfairly.)

  10. 10 paulitics 28 January, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    “I think that describing an entire school of thought and most of its adherents with the phrase ‘poverty of thought,’ and using terms like ‘know-nothing’ ‘arrogance’ implies a certain self-suggested ‘superiority,’ wouldn’t you?”

    No, I wouldn’t. If the only evidence you can marshal to this argument is something as opaque and subjective as what these phrases SUGGESTS to you, don’t you think that you should formally retract your argument that I see myself as superior?

    As for the liberal theorists I outlined, keeping in mind that these are but a small sample and were merely the first thinkers to came to mind (although since Soros self-identifies as a liberal, I think it’s still apt to characterize him as such but that’s neither here nor there), Popper is really by far the most famous of the liberals who posit the argument I refuted in my initial post. While he didn’t start the lie that socialism is inherently violent, he certainly popularized it academically (Socialists have more or less always been accused of being violent in the non-academic world).

    As for your contention that it benefits liberalism to distance itself from neo-liberalism just as it does for socialism to distance itself from Stalinism, I think this is missing the point I was driving at in my initial post. My point was merely attempting to draw attention to the intellectual dishonesty of the charge levied from the platform of the liberal school of thought against socialism that it is violent all the while refusing to apply the same standards to themselves (which, after all, is the definition of hypocritical). It is immaterial to me whether it is or is not in either school’s best interest to distance itself from some other school. Whether certain liberals earn brownie points for distancing themselves from the classical period of their philosophical tradition on which neoliberalism is based (especially the work of Adam Smith) therefore isn’t really a concern of mine, although my respect for such liberals would certainly increase.

    In short, I don’t think it is necessarily intellectually virtuous to do something which is in in one’s own best interest to do. It is precisely because it isn’t in liberalism’s best interest to recognize that their school is at least as violent as the socialist school that liberals have not taken the uniform stand to make such arguments unacceptable. Socialism’s break with Stalinism, on the other hand, may be in its best interests now, but it wasn’t in its best interests at the time and this is evidenced by the fact that this break ultimately resulted in the fracturing of socialist and communist parties worldwide (even in Canada today, we can still see the residue of this with the fact that we have two communist parties). The virtue of a given thinker and the virtue of a given school, in short, in my eyes, is determined by the extent to which it stands on something which is not beneficial to it. Liberalism, as a school, may yet acknowledge what I am asking it to recognize, but until such time, I will continue to argue that these charges against socialism constitute hypocrisy.

    Lastly, I still find it ironic that you accuse me of crossing the line from discourse into diatribe considering the history of this exchange.

  11. 11 Joseph Krengel 28 January, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I’m sorry, I actually retracted my earlier language on my own blog and forgot to provide a direct link here.

    I think you have misunderstood the point that I am trying to make. I wasn’t speaking in terms of self-interest when comparing the degree of introspection that liberalism and socialism evince.

    What I was trying to suggest is that the standard that you apply is not fair. You are saying that Socialists regards socialism with a certain strictness that liberalism does not; and therefore socialism is more intellectually honest… which I feel is unfair.

    What I am saying is that socialism takes as nuanced an approach to liberalism as liberalism does to socialism; not out of self interest, but out of the very nature of the discourse of each.

  12. 12 paulitics 5 February, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Joseph – I just wanted to apologize myself that this latest comment of yours was not posted as soon as you made it. For some reason my spam blocker is overly sensitive and I have no idea why, but for some reason it blocked this comment of yours (as well as some comments made by other individuals on other posts on this blog).

    Once again, my sincere apologies.

  13. 13 Robert 23 January, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    One minor point is you should make an effort to differentiate between small l liberalism and big L Liberalism, failure to do so will confuse the Americans who equate liberalism with social democrats and not with Libertarianism (which is basically the right of freedom loving capitalists to own slaves but only in the good Christian way).

  14. 14 paulitics 23 January, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Robert – that’s a good point. However in my defense, I don’t know if there’s a solution to that problem that wouldn’t confuse at least some demographic of the population. You’re right about Americans equating liberalism with social democracy, but if I were to use an upper-case “L”, then that’d be confusing to Canadians who would think I was talking about the Liberal Party of Canada.

  15. 15 marjon 13 July, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    The only way socialism can ever succeed is with 100% volunteers.
    It must fall apart when one individual refuses to give ‘from his ability’.
    Classical liberalism respects individual rights, rights to property and rights to protect that property, with violence if required. All voluntary exchanges are non-violent and involuntary exchanges require violence.
    I know of no socialist governments where 100% of the victims are volunteers, therefore such governments must commit acts of violence to maintain the system.

  16. 16 Dennis 30 March, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Socialism fails every time. Socialism is owned by control freaks who feel the need to put themselves on a pedestal while they have millions of peons working for them. Although nothing is perfect, Capitalism means freedom and it rewards those who try and work hard. The lazy stay at the bottom where they belong. Many years of prosperity in the U.S. are due to Capitalism, but the socialist have invaded and slowly have taken control and now look at the results. We are no longer free from tyranny. Socialism will go to hell because man was created to be free.

  17. 17 john surreal 16 May, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    whose to say one group is perfect and another is evil. All groups have thier morals and moral failings. I have seen republicans say that they love god yet treat those diffrent as trash. I have seen librals yell over Gay rights yet they have been less than accepting for those who have mental retardation.
    No one is totally commited to their convictions and hypocrisy is a human thing not just for one or another.

  18. 18 jean pierre 30 June, 2011 at 8:53 am

    The problem now is the word socialism is a rather loaded word…most cannot decern the difference between totalitarianism and socialism. I have noticed that on americain continent that many do not even try they have been propagandized so heavily that they will not affiliate with any Marxist view. Even the working classes here will not discuss such without distaste. The old cold war has had its effect even to these good workers who are crushed under capitalism’s foot. Rather sad.

    Marxist ….Internationale socialistes.

    VIVE ..parti communiste francais

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  1. 1 Canada’s Debate » I see your “hypocrisy,” and raise you a “dickhead” Trackback on 28 January, 2007 at 11:53 am
  2. 2 Canada’s Debate » Nifty Trackback on 28 January, 2007 at 4:50 pm
  3. 3 Canada’s Debate » Mea Culpa Trackback on 28 January, 2007 at 6:01 pm
  4. 4 Marx on religion: Dispelling more myths about socialism « Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Investigations Trackback on 18 May, 2008 at 6:32 pm
  5. 5 Victory! Marxist/Anarchist party wins seat in Quebec election! « Paulitics Trackback on 8 December, 2008 at 11:24 pm

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