A while back I sparked a bit of controversy by using the word "communist" freely. Part of the official speech policy of the US is that only Stalin is a communist. Even other people that call themselves communists are mistaken, see e.g. Mao. Also, no one is a socialist besides Marx and maybe Lenin.
For example, if I were to point out that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a socialist (because he’s the leader of the Socialist Party in France), and point out that was running the IMF quite without incident, and then draw the conclusion that the IMF is (or at least was) socialist, my inference would be considered absurd.
For that matter, the policies of France’s Socialist Party aren’t markedly different from the policies of the Democratic Party in the US. At this point, you’re required to turn off your brain.
Similarly, if you note that Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist and note that he votes indistinguishably from many Democrats and draw the inference that there may be some socialist influence the Democratic Party, you’re crazy.
You’re not allowed to call Obama a communist, but in his memoirs we note that:
Young Obama identified with the extreme Left under his very first mentor, to whom he refers in Dreams merely as "Frank," to avoid dealing with the fact that Frank Marshall Davis was an unrepentant Communist
(Wikipedia calls him a "labor movement activist" which is Wikipedia-speak for "unrepentant Communist").
Logic has clearly broken down. Are these terms useless? Should they be retired? If everyone is a socialist is no one a socialist?
In the comments to my previous post, TGGP wrote:
Communism involves state ownership of the means of production, Nazis had no problem with redistributive taxation.
That’s the classic definition, but you’ll note immediately that it says nothing.
The "state" is not a thing in any meaningful sense. I work for the government, is "the government" the state? I spend all my working hours arguing about policy with other parts of the government. Sometimes various parts of the government actively work against each other. How could the government own anything?
Someone at some point must exert control – a vague, ill-defined entity cannot occupy this role no matter how convenient it is – and this person is the owner. Perhaps under communism this person exercises sovereignty over a territory, but the sovereign being the owner of enterprises within his domain is much older than "communism".
So what are we left with?
I’m not sure. I have no desire to attract additional readers by using appropriate terminology. So, setting aside the bullshit and the speech codes, what the heck is a commie?