Richard Wolff’s video lecture, “As Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens, Thoughts of Socialism Return Again” is awful. Here are the three most rage-inspiring reasons why I hate it:
Reason 1: Richard Wolff loves feudalism in a contradictory fashion.
Wolff uses a pleasant tone to describe feudalism, claiming, “Everyone had a place,” and “It was very organized.” Never mind that under feudalism, 90% of the population were commoners or peasants who had almost zero say in the system because they were stuck paying taxes to the lords and kings who had all the power. But hey, at least it wasn’t capitalism! Wolff switches to a sarcastic, aggressive tone the minute capitalism comes on the scene, and he throws in as much violent language as possible. Capitalism started a “violent revolution to destroy feudalism and open a place for itself.” Soon, they started chopping off peoples’ heads in the “individualist free-for-all” that was “dripping blood from every pore!” Things really get confusing though, when Wolff announces that capitalism is unfair because some people get to be on top making all of the money and decisions. Because…wasn’t that…what feudalism was about? This doesn’t make any sense.
Reason 2: Richard Wolff claims that I haven’t been paying attention.
He says, “This is confusing, isn’t it? So, what is socialism? There is no answer to that. People who speak about socialism in the singular haven’t been paying attention. Socialisms there are, and they have been for a long time.” And then he goes on to say, “The idea that there is a single thing called socialism (or Marxism or communism) is a fantasy in the eyes of people who don’t know very much about this.” Throughout the video though, Wolff refers to the concept of socialism in the singular, saying things like, “Capturing the state is the means to socialism,” and, “Socialism is about a different vision for how you organize and understand what society is.” If there is no answer to the question “what is socialism?” then what is Wolff even talking about? Why is he not saying, “Capturing the state is the means to Marxist Communism,” or, “Democratic Socialism is about a different vision for how you organize and understand what society is”? He continues to use the term even while claiming that it has no definition. Would a Professor of Economics who earned degrees at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford really not notice this contradiction?
I recognize that the various socialisms differ and that it is semi-impossible to prove to what degree a person has or has not been paying attention to a particular issue, but it is by no means unreasonable to speak about socialism in the singular since it is a single word. If the socialisms have nothing in common, then why do they all still use the same term to define themselves? Wolff’s comments belittle those seeking intellectual integration on an issue that is actually extremely important for humanity. If deeper, more principled sense can be made of the concept of socialism, then let those who would look for it continue to look for it, and do not insult them.
Perhaps what Wolff really means is, people who speak about socialism in the singular are inconveniently getting in the way of my desire to destroy capitalism, so I will smugly dismiss them from my position of intellectual power. It will help the public be less afraid of socialism if I convince them it doesn’t really mean anything.
Reason 3: Richard Wolff casually brushes away the horrors of the Soviet Union.
Wolff seems to think that social sacrifice is noble, and he admires the Russian people for giving up as much as they did in pursuit of their worthy goal of reorganizing society so that it would work in the interest of the whole community. But what about the famines and the gulags and the mass shootings in the streets? In response to these crimes against humanity, Wolff merely says (and I quote word for word), “But did it work that way [as they had hoped]? No. But that’s not because they are bad; it’s not because they are stupid. It’s because that’s how history works. It’s an understandable thing!”
Somehow, capitalism drips blood from every pore and needs to be obliterated, but socialism’s crimes, committed by the likes of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, and Mao Zedong, are just “an understandable thing.”
I repeat, “[The slaughter, torture, and starvation of millions of people] is an understandable thing.”
“IT’S AN UNDERSTANDABLE THING!”
I’ll just end there. Richard Wolff sucks.