Muddy descriptors of the left and plausible deniability:
Communist, Bolshevik, Trotskyite, Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist, left, New Left, socialist, anarchist, [xx] rights, mainstream, liberal, sincere.
Okay, we've gone through a brief explanation of terminology and language that people belonging to the catch all term of "Communist" use to obscure who they really are. We've also briefly described how these folks use language to demonize and diminish those who oppose them. As we move along here, note carefully that the assault by the left on those who refuse to go along with their program involves the logical fallacy of the ad hominem argument. For those who took logic in college (is it actually taught any more?), a logical fallacy is essentially a fallacious argument used to win that argument under phony pretenses.
An argument ad hominem by the left "wins" said argument by snaring those in the audience who can't tell the difference and persuading them by smearing or slandering (usually without evidence) their opponents and demonizing them. This distracts the unaware, leads them to distrust (without evidence) the opponent and thus to trust the ad hominem attacker. In addition, it frees the attacker from any necessity for making an argument of actual substance. Since the left actually possesses no arguments of actual substance (merely dogma enunciated by the Party cognoscenti which may or may not be fact-based), ad hominem vilification of the opposition is their best approach, as it covers up the fact that they don't have a logical leg to stand on. While primitive, this is also pretty sophisticated in its own way. Since few people, save for attorneys, bother with logic any more, it's easier and easier to scam an audience with such a non-argument.
Further, by doing this again and again, and eliminating your opposition by these means, you rob your opponent's side of vital credibility (albeit wrongly and cheaply), which, over time, requires you to engage less and less. This is great for people like our leftist friends who basically have no time for the unconverted or for those who aren't gullible.
One of the flavors of ad hominem used by the left relies on a general misunderstanding of the terms I introduced at the top of this entry. All these terms, in the end, describe people who are devoted to the principles set out by Karl Marx. Problem is, even those well-versed in Marxism tend to disagree with the nuance of any definition setting down the meaning of those words. They'll pick a trivial quarrel with a portion of your definition and distract the audience to the point where no one is paying any attention any more. And so they win by default.
We're not really going to try to define each of these terms here. This isn't a cop out. It's only an acknowledgment that it's intentionally (on the part of the hard left) impossible to come up with a definition of any of these words that will please them. Hence, they'll reject out of hand any attempted definition which, of course, will prove that you actually don't know what you're talking about and therefore have no credibility.
For purposes of my entries here, I'm taking the position of a philosopher who is going to stick with his initial basic concepts but who, sometimes by trial and error, will refine those concepts and related definitions over time to make them more precise.
This is tough with labels for the left. In the first place, if you try to stick a leftist with one of these labels, he'll use the variation of ad hominem described above to peg you as an idiot who can therefore be ignored. This rope-a-dope frees him from having to confront the fact that his belief system is antithetical to the average little d democrat. Having to do so would be a great inconvenience.
In the second place, by refusing to really pin down the definition of these terms for the public, a leftist fallaciously gains that greatest of all political powers, "plausible deniability." That is, you can flat out deny that X is so, even if you can't prove it, because your opponent is an idiot. Plausible deniability for most audiences is quite enough, and today's short attention spans allow the miscreant to escape without having to explain anything.
For the record, my loose definitions of the above terms are as follows:
Communist: a hard leftist operating in the tradition of Karl Marx as explained by Engels and practically implemented by Lenin. The tradition includes a hatred of the upper classes, a contempt for the middle classes, and a desire to exterminate or "retrain" all of them by violence if necessary (or fun)
Bolshevik: an early name for the above that's still used semi-humorously sometimes, in contemporary writing. Variant: Bolshie.
Trotskyite: Lenin's co-revolutionary and a master philosopher of violence. Running afoul of Stalin, he was exiled and eventually hunted down and killed in Mexico. In the process, somehow, Trotsky--who in the Russian Revolution's initial stages was as bloodthirsty as anyone else--somehow got the reputation as a more intellectual Marxist, more "moderate" even. Thus, he became anathema to true believers, particularly Stalinists, perhaps mostly because believing in Trotsky during Stalin's reign was guaranteed to get you killed. People still call themselves Trotskyites or Trotskyists in some quarters which always makes for furious, murderous arguments on the left. Shouting "Trotsky" in a room full of leftists is pretty much again to shouting "Fire" in a movie theater. The man has been overcome by the legend, and no two leftists will agree.
Marxist-Leninist: see the above. I call them Communists and consider this a synonym. Castro, at least the early Fidel, would have been happy to agree.
Stalinist: After Joseph Stalin. Basically any Marxist-Leninist who has gone completely psycho. It's a demonstrable fact that Stalin, not Hitler, was the greatest mass murderer of all time. If you even had a family name of someone unrelated whom Stalin didn't like, you and your entire family were likely to be hunted down and exterminated. Just to make sure your family's corpse wouldn't rise again in the afterlife, Stalin loved staging "show trials" of his enemies. They were, of course, always convicted, sentenced to death or exile in Siberia (i.e., death), their property, such as it was, confiscated, their very names effaced from monuments or reference works. Basically, the scorched earth approach. In point of fact, many of today's leftist use and prefer to attack their enemies with a more nuanced version of the Stalinist approach in this country. This means that the opponents generally don't die. But their reputations do. Blogs like the Daily Kos--essentially a carnival of non-stop, vicious ad hominem slanders of anyone who opposes them--are perhaps the best exemples of the kind of Stalinism that drives the left today.
Left, New Left: terms that describe the earlier American left (roughly from 1920-1960), and the Boomer radicals who followed. The former were sneakier (a la Popular Front subversion), while the Boomers of the New Left preferred violence, street theater, and confrontation a la Stalin.
Socialist: Like Communist, but with slightly less of a pejorative connotation, socialists basically favor a flavorless Marxism in which a benevolent state takes everyone's money via massive taxes and redistributes it the way it sees fit, making everyone equally miserable. Europe perfected this cradle to grave government interventionism after WWII. The Nobel Prize hacks, sensing in Barack Obama a fellow traveler, granted him a Peace Prize to encourage him to follow in their steps. The bulk of today's Democrat politicians are now at least socialists, with many being considerably worse.
Anarchists: Real anarchists are very few today. Those who do exist are, for some, indistinguishable from libertarians. In point of fact, libertarians believe in very, very limited government, pretty much cops and an army to keep order domestically and abroad but that's about it. Anarchists go one step further and want no government of any kind. The thuggish gangs in the "Mad Max" series of movies are pretty much what real anarchists want, I guess. In point of fact though, for roughly the last 15 years or so, "anarchist" has become another code word, like "progressive," behind which particularly violent leftist hide. By proclaiming they're "anarchists," they can dissasociate their violence from the actions of the Marxists who quietly support the violence so the Marxists can proclaim plausible deniability. (See how this works.) The funny thing about today's "anarchists" (whose most popular activities involve causing violence and destruction at World Bank meetings) is that most are easy to identify. They wear stocking masks and dress like ninjas.
[xx] rights: A weasel term of the left, a way of creating a kind of anarchy by declaring every whim to be a "Constitutional right." I.e., animal rights, which is sort of funny since animals don't have any rights at all in the wild. Ask a zebra who's just been brought down by a pride of lions and about to be served for dinner. Creating neverending streams of "rights," which ca then serve as the excuse for demonstrations, you can create an endless onslaught on order and on all things the middle class holds dear.
Mainstream: used to describe Marxist-Leninist thought. That's mainstream. Anything at odds with it is right-wing extremism.
Liberal: A once proud term even used by Republicans to describe themselves, meaning "freedom-loving," "individualistic," "compassionate" but not condescending, and basically all things that every good American could believe in. Now warped into yet another benign synonym, if not for Communist, then certainly for Socialist. "Liberal" has become so imprecise, deliberately so, that its now only marginally useful to Republicans who stoop to ad hominem attacks on the left as it does now conjure up for many some distasteful socialist connotations.
Sincere: A catch all adjective used facilely to justify the actions of any of the above. As in "the anarchists who trashed downtown Seattle were sincere in their beliefs." My usual rejoinder to this cheap excuse: "Hitler was sincere, too."
These definitions are meant to be useful, if provisional. Scholars, if any of them even care, will probably denounce all of them. But the "real" definitions for these and related terms are a moving target as implemented by the left. By picking such things as these definitions apart, one is gradually distracted from the main argument--capitalism vs. communism--and loses interest, allowing the left a series of continuous, low key, but very real incremental propaganda victories while at least obscuring if not obliterating any meaningful counterattack by those who oppose them.