It is not surprising that after a century and a half of fierce
conflict, the defenders of socialism, Communism and capitalism
should have considerably muddied the waters by caricaturing each
other's positions and misusing each other's terminology. One might
suppose that with the collapse of Communist states internationally
and the end of the Cold War these the ideas could be examined
more dispassionately, but the problem is that leftist ideas are
not being examined at all except in the rarefied atmosphere of
Western universities and in scattered disempowered political movements
around the world. Previous generations of Americans often had
misconceptions about Communism, but the current generation usually
has no conception of it at all.
Although there are some cases where common student notions are simply wrong (Karl Marx was not a Russian, for instance), clearly the most important controversies surrounding this subject cannot be settled easily; indeed, many of them cannot be settled at all. What follows is my own attempt to sort out some terms and ideas in a way that may help the student to make sense of history and current events without in any way claiming to be an authoritative "last word" on the subject. These are clearly just my own personal views, but may serve as a starting point to articulate your own, whether you agree or disagree with them. It is also only fair that someone who teaches such a highly controversial subject should let you know what his own attitudes are.
List of MisconceptionsCreated March 31, 1998
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