CB linked to an interesting point of view the other day that drew the comparison between the situation in this country and how communist Russia was run. A comment on this post suggested that it was interesting that "the wingnuts fought so hard against the commies" since they achieved the same result, in some respects, as the Kremlin in America. Not one to risk letting the wingers sound like heroes, because it's not true, I had to jump in. I responded to this in a few comments (starting here), and used that an opportunity to explain a few things. I'd like to re-cap that here.
My initial response is that the conservatives opposed Russia so determinedly in the Cold War not, of course, because they opposed all the excesses of social authority that led to human rights abuses. Those abuses, in fact, as we should all know, had nothing to do with the ideology of socialism of itself. The right wingers turned a blind eye to those kinds of abuses when they found those abuses to be useful concomitants of their own plots, such as during the East Timor/Indonesian conflict, to take one piece of evidence. There are many more inconsistencies along these same lines, and there are many left-wingers who are much more knowledgeable about them than I am, but I still feel confident referencing them because I've read and heard about many of the examples.
So even besides the human rights abuses, even without the violations of freedom, the right wingers still objected to socialism- because what they really opposed about it were the good parts of communism. These are the parts you left-wingers unfortunately mostly don't take the time to articulate and advocate expressly, because you're naive and dull enough to equate advocating for Castro Cuba in general, or similarly apologizing for the USSR, with advocating for the good parts of communism and socialism-- the parts you actually believe in, even though it's the human rights abuses of the USSR and Castro that the USSR and Castro have become equivalent to in the public mind in this country. Unfortunately, regardless of whether in this context it's way too easy and logical for your political opponents to paint you as anti-freedom and anti-human rights when you blanket-support those regimes of those countries- that is, without making a distinction between the consequences of totalitarianism/authoritarianism, on the one hand, and the consequences of socialism, on the other- you people vocally support Castro and the USSR. Back to the matter at hand: the spin you unfortunately walk into is just spin, and the rich conservatives (the conservative leaders) opposed the communist countries because those conservatives wanted money, just like they want money now, and they were so scared that what happened in Cuba would happen here and someone else, instead of them, would be planning the wealth-redistribution in this country. In the USSR, the leaders did it subtly, redistributing wealth to themselves through corruption and in the names of freedom and equality. Here, the leaders (the right-wing leaders of huge commercial corporations) do it subtly, redistributing wealth to themselves also in the names of freedom and equality (think of the conservative rhetoric surrounding the flat-tax and the estate tax). They wouldn't be any less opposed to authoritarianism in this country if they could practice it, I think, it's just that they couldn't get away with it here because people here do not want a conservative revolution. The conservatives need to be more subtle, also, they feel, because otherwise the communist revolution they feared might come would come and take it all away from them. That is, it would be someone else doing all the redistributing, not them, and it would get redistributed to America's downtrodden, not to them, and also perhaps to a new group of authoritarians who would be abusing socialism, just like they had in Russia. The idea of socialist wealth redistribution didn't appeal to middle-class conservatives, either, because no one like that wants wealth redistribution to the blacks. Racism is an unspoken tenet of conservatism in this country and you don’t understand shit if you don’t understand that.
The USSR was, and similar countries are, imperfect implementations of an idealistic, and by my view, maybe impossible vision: authoritarian, totalitarian and corrupt when they are not supposed to be, and poor enough so that the equal society could not be a functional society, could not give its people plenty. But the wingnuts aren’t scared of authoritarianism, they’re scared of wealth redistribution that they’re not in charge of, and they're scared of being out of power.
Recent events will bring this into relief, especially, in my mind, the U.S. Supreme Court's recent and controversial Kelo v. City of New London case, which concerned the government's power of eminent domain (to seize property from private citizens for public use, a power seemingly implicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution's Takings Clause, found in the Fifth Amendment: "no property shall be taken for a public use, without just compensation. . ."). In Kelo, the court's more liberal members voted as a block to uphold the taking at issue, and the conservatives voted against it, in a ruling that held at stake the legitimacy of takings. In fact, the conservatives have funded scholar-lawyers working in think tanks and test-case law offices to oppose takings on constitutional grounds and to oppose similar powers allowed to the government under the constitution. Why are the Republicans against eminent domain and the liberal wing of the court for it? Obviously, such powers are necessary to wealth redistribution. The principal boogeyman of conservative politics is taxation. Conservatives are in favor of a system that makes it easier for the propertied (e.g., whites and the rich) to keep their property and harder for the downtrodden (blacks and immigrants who are struggling against the remains of the hundreds-of-years long history of being spit on or short-changed in some way each day because of their race-- the remains which continue to tax their all-too-human coping mechanisms and weaknesses, making it all to easy for racists to rationalize these peoples' disproportionate criminal convictions and lack of success) to attain some of it.
You may ask more specifically what eminent domain has to do with racism. It could be something as simple as the government's wanting to take a house owned by a rich old white person, and compensate them for the taking, on the edge of a downtrodden black neighborhood- and to turn it into a pool, so the kids in the neighborhood have something to do all day in the summer instead of getting involved with drugs.
But let me set up the horror story conservatives see for you: Affirmative action by itself isn’t enough to solve the variety of social problems that minorities are beset with as remnants of historical racism. Studies have shown that our society is not significantly less segregated than it was thirty years ago, and, the money earned by affirmative action isn't making it back into the communities as much as would help. The effect on other minorities besides the specific person who is hired or recruited under the affirmative action program is minimal. Apparently, most of the negative effect of historical racism comes from having one's Kindergarten-to-twelth-grade education in a neighborhood consisting wholly or almost wholly of others suffering the same historical effects. And so, despite affirmative action, you still have the criminal underclass in black neighborhoods (which you wouldn't have if you didn't have blacks in our country- someone would have to get the short end of the stick so the conservatives could be rich, and those people would just be white- we'd have a white criminal underclass). Kids who aren’t being raised right in bad neighborhoods go to all-black public schools- and even though those schools may be funded better than before, they still can’t get the best teachers, because you can't blame a person for not wanting to live and work in a community where her own students might rape her or a 6-year-old kid might point a gun at her. You can’t take the kids away from the bad influence in the neighborhood.
Racism's tenets are incorrect, and the situation of Blacks can be improved. But the effective way to do it is to break up the segregated blocks in the inner cities and segregated suburbs, and to have Americans living in real desegregated neighborhoods instead of keeping the huge de facto ghettos we still have now. The whites don’t want their little girls to grow up with the blacks and that’s what this is all about. None of these people want to have to live with the black man, or to give him a dollar.
For those of you who know a little law: I’m not saying that the government having the power of eminent domain means the Supreme Court, one day when it's more liberal, would use the 14th Amendment to say that Brown v. Bd. of Ed.- the desegregation decision- isn’t working, and that therefore the ghettos have to be broken up somehow (housing redistribution via eminent domain) to achieve the goals of equality and equal treatment in the 14th Amendment (or that congress one day would make the same decision and decide to issue stronger federal desegregation legislation- pursuant to its 14th Amendment enforcement powers). I'm not even saying there are a lot of people who would think the Supreme Court would do this. But doubtless there are people who think that someday they might do it. What I am saying is that, despite liberals’ belief that so many conservatives are not racists and misogynists, but really just jolly, light-hearted, folk who happen to see things a little differently than us because they’re just a little dumb (with, albeit, a few mean people among them) the kind of concerns I've described do loom in the background for a lot of conservatives' political thinking and are what really motivate all these political confrontations, are what motivate resistance to anything that looks like a move towards affirmative action or wealth redistribution. People are scared that you’re going to take the lunch right out of their hand, so to speak, and give it to a black guy-- and they’re scared of black guys.
It’s a painful trade-off- what do you do? If you do more to integrate Blacks, you get them better socialized as a group (because right now they’re not as well socialized, and whites are better socialized- meaning you have a higher ratio of Black Americans relative to the total number of members of their own race, as opposed to white Americans relative to the total number of members of the white race, committing violent crimes, and not achieving as much education- some of these statistics are attributable to racism, like racist law enforcement, but not all) and you get less crime and violence in the long run, but as with all integration, it will cause pain, temporarily. For example, there could be crime in places where it never was before, and racial confrontation, and whites there will blame it on blacks- if the blacks had never come, they'll feel, there wouldn't have been this crime in the neighborhood. This would disappear over time, though. If you keep putting off the problem, you keep having a criminal underclass committing crimes against people. As I said, if we didn't have a black underclass, we would have a white underclass, but the effects of racism and remnants of historical aggravate make the conditions creating an underclass, and aggravate the social problems that underclass suffers. In other words, a uniform racial criminal underclass in a society that mostly composed of members of a race other than those of the underclass is going to be a worse criminal underclass than one in a society consisting of members of one race could be. That's why it's even more important to integrate to minimize the effects creating the underclass is a mixed-race society like our.
The racist Republicans don’t care about that dilemma, because they just see all blacks as genetically bad, and incapable of improvement. So they think it’s not a question of improving their lot- and these are the people giving the marching orders for a lot of the Republicans.
This in turn points to how Blacks become really important to conservative politics, and you start seeing black faces providing deceptive conservative lines on Fox News. The conservatives need conservative Blacks to screw over the rest of them, to try to make them think that all the looting of social programs that benefit minorities is somehow justified. Because publicly, to most of us racism is wrong. So conservatives do things to promote even blacks to being racist against blacks. Blacks will accept it if another black person is talking about it to them, but otherwise it will all too quickly and clearly appear to be the racism it is.
I hope you found this enlightening and it will help you better talk about these things to people you know.