File this under least surprising story of the day. Yesterday the Communist Party USA published a response to an “adolescent” who wrote in to ask whether or not freedom would still exist if Communists were in control of the United States government. The not surprising part? The person responding on behalf of CPUSA said the answer was no. Here’s the question that prompted this revelation:
Hello. I am an adolescent who is thinking about joining the CPUSA once I am at the legal voting age. My History teacher told me that in a Communist country, no one has individual rights. I asked her to give me specific examples of what rights I would not have and she said something along the lines of,” We wouldn’t have freedom of speech. Like for example, I wouldn’t be able to say an opinion that was different from how the majority felt.” My question is, since this a progressive party, If we had a Communist President and a Communist country with communist laws, would that mean people who are conservative in any way could not not be able to say or do anything that was politically incorrect? –Madeline
I don’t know many teens who refer to themselves as adolescents, but whatever. Here’s the reply from CPUSA:
Thanks for writing in, and for a terrific question. It really got me thinking! In our perspective, dissent, protest, disagreement and debate are a vital part of the democratic process–as vital, in fact, as arriving at and implementing a collective strategy. We don’t see CPUSA as ruling a single-party state; instead, we hope to be one of many parties and organizations working together to build socialism.
That doesn’t sound so bad.
So, in a socialist USA, will people be allowed to say ‘politically incorrect’ things? The short answer is that it depends on what kind of things, and where.
I doubt a government based on our vision of Bill of Rights socialism will be handing out fines to people who use the term ‘snowflake’, but I also don’t think it will issue permits for Nazi rallies, use publicly owned media to promote racist conspiracy theories, or let trolls make rape threats over social media.
Well, I’m glad the communist state police won’t be handing out speech tickets, but the end of freedom of assembly seems like a bit of a downer. No permits for Nazis could also mean no permit for any other group seen as incompatible with “a collective strategy.” Would a group of business executives be able to hold a pro-capitalism march? Your guess is as good as mine.
As for “publicly owned media” promoting conspiracy theories, I guess he’s talking about social media companies like Facebook. Those aren’t owned by the government, at least not currently, so it’s not clear how CPUSA would be in control of them in this hypothetical future. Have they been expropriated? It’s unclear.
I think the term ‘politically incorrect’ is a trap. It gets used to cover up what we’re really talking about, which are patterns of speech that promote white supremacy, male supremacy, and other forms of inequality. An awful lot of awful conversations wouldn’t happen if people had to say “I heard a great joke about how Black people are inferior!” rather than “I heard this hilarious joke, but it’s super politically incorrect.”
He’s talking more generally now but clearly, the goal is to stop “awful conversations.” At what point do awful conversations become illegal? Who is monitoring them? And what happens to those who have these bad conversations? Do those people get re-education from the government?
The idea of political correctness also implies a certain kind of censorship and constraint, as if not saying the n-word means I’ve given up some part of my freedom in response to social pressure.
That Ayn Rand, individual-vs-society line is how the right wing has trained people to think about freedom. For them, it’s not freedom unless it comes at the expense of someone else, the First Amendment was written to protect bigots and trolls, and the whole foundation of liberty is under attack when a university suggests that its students avoid racist stereotypes in their Halloween costumes.
The first amendment was “written to protect bigots and trolls” sort of sums it up, I think. Apparently, it guarantees freedom to no one besides hardcore Nazis and racists. I guess they missed the whole “free speech movement” in the 60s.
Unfortunately, some liberals buy into that idea as well. They think that shutting down a Nazi rally, or preventing religious fundamentalists from verbally abusing patients outside abortion clinics, would compromise free speech rights for everyone. It’s the ‘I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it’ thing.
It’s also nonsense.
You see, free speech for everyone isn’t really that important, certainly not for the 40%+ of Americans who consider themselves pro-life. They can just learn to keep quiet.
So there you go, adolescent Madeline. Under CPUSA, things wouldn’t be so different except that everyone to the right of Trotsky would need to get used to having no freedom of assembly or speech. And really, that won’t be so bad because limiting free speech to socially approved groups couldn’t possibly go wrong or lead to state control of everything you do or think. Trust the communists.