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I finally got around to reading the various communist newspapers I picked up at the G20 protests. Saneometer ratings:

  • Worker's Vanguard - About as sane as Glen Beck on Cough Syrup. Paranoid and demonising. Single-minded magnet from all perspectives back to a single idea. Ahistorical.
  • Spartacist - Slightly saner than Rush Limbaugh, makes arguments that one could restate and agree or disagree with. Shows some understanding of history. Questionable tactics, insufficiently careful.
  • For the record, I consider both Marx and Trotsky to be pretty sane, although I disagree with them on several matters of tactics and principle.
I am always disappointed whenever I read socialist newsletters, and usually disappointed whenever I talk with other socialists. They usually assume bad faith (far too broadly, at least), often assume conspiracy, and their conclusions drawn from historical events are usually just as thin as those who say 「Socialism can't work because of the Soviet Union」.

Perhaps the mistake is assuming that the mass philosophy of any movement is likely to be of quality. Even the American Revolution was based on shoddy philosophy (whether it brought a net positive or negative to the world is left for judgement elsewhere). I sometimes wonder, if we assume that the best political philosophies have nuances, and further assume that most people will not have developed philosophical virtues sufficient to grasp those nuances, whether rapid development of those virtues in the demos or development of trust of appropriate leaders pending slower development of those virtues is the more appropriate tack. As advertising and political campaigns have shown us, people are easily swayed by bad arguments, by appearance, and by soundbytes. These problems are just as present within a revolution as outside - corruption within any structure other than the demos is as much of a concern as the demos being led to bad conclusions by a charismatic and skilled leader. Perhaps there is no principled solution, in which case we should try for both virtuous leaders and rapid development of political virtue in the masses - teaching skepticism, independent inquiry, socialist values, etc.

Currently: Feeling pretty shaky, so I went to Tazza d'Oreo, where I am now. Maybe I'll swing by 「Fuck Yeah Icecream」 in a few hours. I seem to be torturing myself with dreams recently. On the upside, that Pecan Pie, as usual, was excellent.


teaching skepticism, independent inquiry, socialist values

Interesting to me that you put those together; I would rather teach the first two as much as possible, and allow for independent conclusion of the third if possible. (Whatever my political views, I'm not nearly as sure that _those_ are right, as I am that the basic values of skepticism and critical thinking are right. As to my specific views, I would rather have them checked independently.)

Of course, given the way political arguments go amongst even the very smart, I don't really know what you can do to avoid ending up with lots of people who have excellent intellectual skills, but just enough self-deception to use them in support of the conclusions they find personally satisfying. (Hell, I can't prove I'm not doing that myself.) I think most extreme political philosophy shows up this way. I know you will probably agree if I put extreme libertarianism in this camp, and would probably put most libertarianism in it. :-)
Sloppy thought is possible regardless of one's orientation - a lot of people approach philosophical fields and they "want to win" too much, hiding themselves from people who might poke holes in their ideas, accusing like-minded with whom they disagree as being traitors, etc. Over the years, I've occasionally lurked on christian and judaist message boards and listened to various factions argue, and this struggle is enacted repetatively - it's strange and somehow fascinating to watch the Young Earth Creationists declaring Old Earth Creationists as having sold out Christianity and badly reinvent the beginnings of theosophy that much greater minds have taken much further (e.g. Aquinas).

On the teaching comment, I don't think skepticism or independent inquiry actually lead to any particular values. I recognise that GROUP(skepticism,independent_inquiry) is distinct in kind from GROUP(socialist_values,liberal_values,secular_values,enlightenment_values). While I can respect someone with well-thought-out values that differ from mine (hence my friendliness to certain preachers/jesuits/rabbis/other philosophers), for a movement I would like to see, I would like to have an actual reasonable value-convergence. I don't think you could really check your specific views unless you have an æsthetic, a deeper set of values, or a metaphilosophy to check them against. It is easier and requires less digging/change of depth to check your arguments and specific policies than to check your values.