Tell Me But Don’t Go There: Talks with the Last Communist

I have neglected this blog for two reasons. First, it’s high summer and time to sail and fish (with distressingly little danger to the fish population of Monterey Bay, I must confess). Second, my French friend, the Last Communist (Le Dernier Communiste, le 12 Juin 2013) is visiting.

The Last Communist is an uncommonly gracious man. He allows me to do what I have little opportunity to do with American “progressives”/liberals/greenies. He slows down long enough for me to dissect what’s wrong with his thinking. Like his American cousins, he shows a tendency to change the subject when he finds himself unable to answer an objection. He does it slowly enough though that I am able react. (Also, sitting at my dinner table kind of blunts his reflexes.)

At one point, he invites me to explain to him the causes of the American Civil War (of the War between the States). Quickly, he specifies which kind of explanation I must use and which ground I may not tread:

The War has to be the result of a crisis of capitalism. If I present my explanation without this kind of sub-explanation, he will not believe me, he asserts. And then, if I say something to the effect that the population, the rank-and-file Americans, became disgusted with the facts of slavery, I will lose my credibility in his eyes.

Now, considering the possibility that any social or political crisis has economic roots is one of two things: It’s a good habit of thought, a useful tool, or it’s a religious belief.

Now, interdicting the kind of explanation that makes moral crises autonomous can only be based on a religious belief.

My friend invites me to explain a complex event without violating his religious convictions, convictions that I understand but don’t share. The experience is a lot like trying to argue with Jehovah’s Witnesses who show up at your doorstep, all nice and neatly dressed, and smelling of soap: “Yes, -they say – but Jesus loves you nevertheless.”

I can’t just make light of my friend the Last Communist. He is a mature man of talent with remarkable achievements to his credit and with demonstrated courage. He is also a kind person, very easy to like. This makes his sort of dogmatic obstinacy, his forceful yet unconscious rejection of straight rationalism even more difficult to understand.

Like the very concept of individual liberty, the pursuit of rational argument free of superstition is a rare event in human history. The space to invent and re-invent the first and to engage in the second must not be taken for granted; it needs to be carefully protected.

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About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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2 Responses to Tell Me But Don’t Go There: Talks with the Last Communist

  1. Tige d'airain says:

    It’s a mystery to me, almost all of us are unable to discuss political matters with objectivity. This lake of rationalism is even greater when religion questions are concerned. I am sure that psychologists can explain this phenomenon by the cultural environment in which we have spent our adolescence. As a support of the right political parties, I most of the time, think that the options taken or supported by the left political parties are wrong.
    As far as your communist french friend is concerned, I have difficulties to understand his motivations to continue believing in the same ideas he had subscribded when he was an adolescent, ideas which I consider as utopias.. but I might be unrationnal thinking so.
    Anyway its an unquestionnable truth than there is currently more communists in the northern suburbs of Paris than in the rest of the world including the People Republic of China (I have excluded North Korea from the figure since they have, since 1953, left our world to join the tragi-comic world of ‘Père Ubu’).

    • I think that people of the left are more prone to this kind of flight from rationality than are conservatives. The reason is this: Conservatives refer to the past. Their discourse is thus limited, bounded by what is known to have happened. On the left, prevail all kinds of future utopias with no tight links to reality. Everything is allowed then!

      In addition, left-oriented social schemes, defined broadly, are known to have failed on a massive scale. That makes one dogmatic.

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