Setting the Record Straight
on Socialism and Communism

Readers Respond to

You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...
The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation:
Its History and Our Future.

February 3, 2014

From a reader on But How Do We Know Who’s Telling the Truth about Communism?

I do agree that cooperate media almost always represents concepts with specific intent. There is an agenda to push for a particular point of view. They sell what they want to sell regardless of the truth. The facts are distorted in order to drill a point home. People often do the same to win an argument or at times they might innocently try to get a point across. I don’t have any issues with the main point of the article. I understand it well.

The writer would connect much more effectively with a larger audience if she/he is able to be more sensitive with the subject of “God”. I want to learn about other beliefs and other people’s version of the truth. I need to learn more. We need an even or at least a fair playing field for all creeds & principles. However; I do not appreciate being insulted because my belief is not “scientific”. Please refer to the following:

“At different points in the history of the world, most people thought that the earth was flat….that the sun revolved around the earth….and that slavery was completely natural and acceptable… and most people today still think that God created human beings and all life on earth. 0 for 4!”.

You are comparing my belief in God at the present time with those who believed “slavery was completely natural and acceptable” back in the 14, 15, 16, 17.....centuries. Clearly, you expect most of us who believe in God today would know better in the near future. We would know the truth then and act accordingly. It seemingly suggests that those who still believe in God now and/or later would be as misguided as those who have approved of Slavery throughout history.

I am about connecting people. I am not about putting an idea or an individual down. I would like for the author to find better ways of presenting a point of view. It’s about coming together, finding ways to make things fair for most if not all.

In another part of the article, a point is made about Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin and the “Abolitionists” & the implication that their approach was scientific. The first three entities & the Abolitionists do not fit in the same category. Please note that there were Christians who were Abolitionist. Can one be a Christian & have a scientific approach in understanding life?

Again, I am trying to be part of the solution. You have to be extremely careful with the subject of “GOD”. As friends, we can discuss the subject inside & out, up & down and in any form or shape. Normally, there is no need to be sensitive when having a heart to heart with a friend. There is familiarity. There is history. There are opportunities to explain your intent over & over.

When your audiences are first time readers who are receptive and willing, then you would need to be more selective with words. You want them to come back for more. “God is not scientific but our approach is all about science” does not connect. It disconnects. That’s your puzzle. To inspire and integrate the other side to at least pay attention is a huge task. I wonder how many Cornel Wests are out there.


January 28, 2014

We recently received this letter and in the interests of timely posting, it is in English below, based on a Google translation.

Hola Amigos

Tuve la oportunidad de leer la entrevista "No sabes lo que crees que "sabes" sobre..." a Raymond Lotta, es interesante la forma como Lotta aborda la historia del socialismo y la manera como apunta a derrumbar la demonizacion que sobre el el comunismo se ha construido. Veo un llamado claro y preciso a contextualizar los hechos históricos, entre ellos el gulag, cuestión que en algunas investigaciones de otros historiadores de forma asombrosa se pasa por alto o se enjuicia de forma apriorista. Y cuestión a la que esperamos contribuir con mas investigación.

Les sugiero que si se publican mas cosas se indiquen las fuentes en las cuales se sustenta Lotta, no digo simplemente para contrastar "el discurso de Lotta contra otro discurso", sino como parte de demostrar que la investigación histórica realizada por ustedes se sustenta en fuentes rigurosas. Así mismo, porque es importante que la gente conozca esas fuentes y seguirle la pista a algunas investigaciones en las cuales se sustenta el trabajo realizado por ustedes. Esto es clave como parte de demostrar epistemologicamente que es posible conocer la realidad, entre ella la realidad histórica...


Hello friends,

I had the opportunity to read the interview “You don't know what you think you ‘know’ about...” with Raymond Lotta. It is interesting how Lotta discusses the history of socialism and how to break down the points on the demonization of communism that has been built. I see a clear and precise call to contextualize historical facts, including the gulag. I am concerned that in their research other historians so amazingly overlook facts or use an a priorist method. And I hope to contribute with more research.

I suggest that if more things are published, Lotta indicate the sources that he uses. I say this not simply to contrast “Lotta’s narrative with other narratives,” but as part of demonstrating that the historical research is based on rigorous sources. Also, because it is important that people know these sources and to track what your research work is based on. This is a key as part of epistemologically demonstrating that it is possible to know reality, including historical reality.


January 5, 2014

Dear RCP

I really liked it, with the aspect of evolutionary trends, and potential blockages. Send me downloadable posters I can post for you. Thanks!


January 5, 2014

When I first came to the United States in the early part of the seventies, all I could hear from the media and people I talked to was about how the Chinese have gotten crazy under Mao’s leadership. I did not know any better and I stayed neutral. Today, we have a regime, installed and aided by United States, Britain, etc. in Ethiopia. The Western media were clamoring the new government’s practice of free markets and pro-Western attitude. In short, allow me to list what it means. In terms of freedom we have none, corruption is way up, indigenous people are being chased from their lands and driven to refugee camps because their lands are leased to Chinese, Indian, Saudi Arabian investors. I am talking about fertile lands as large as England, thousands of young girls are sold to Middle East to work as maids where they are abused, killed, denied their wages, etc. The youths of Ethiopia have turned to migration in hopes to make a living anyplace and anywhere. Furthermore, by decree, no one can own land in Ethiopia and all the lands belong to the government, making it easy for the government to kick the people anytime they want for whatever reason. Education is available only for the ruling ethnic class, health is unheard of and genocide is being practiced in many places in Ethiopia and this has been proved by Human Rights Watch. All opposition journalists are in jail for many years for writing any kind of criticism against the government. Even peaceful, legitimate demonstrations are banned and those who participated are beaten and jailed. People are starving than ever before, and inflation is so high the money does not buy much unless it is in thousands and parallel to this, unemployment is highest than anywhere on earth and according to the people life is hell in Ethiopia, but to my surprise I have not heard from the US and Western media that there is not anything wrong with this picture. Last but not least, the government is interfering with the religious establishments. The Muslims cannot worship as before, the government is controlling and Ethiopian Orthodox Church is reorganized with government installed officials who would do their biddings. The icing on this story, the junta that is ruling Ethiopia, including the generals and colonels are all from a minority ethnic group and they are all millionaires and billionaires and where on earth they invest their money? In the US and Western banks depriving Ethiopia of any economic progress.


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January 5, 2014

Estimados compañeros: He participado en otras iniciativas del PCR como “Pongamos las cosas en claro”, y creo que es muy importante poder difundir la perspectiva de la nueva síntesis con respecto a la historia de las revoluciones socialistas que nos han precedido (soviética y china), aclarar sus logros y sus debilidades, las limitaciones de las otras revoluciones que se han presentado a lo largo de la historia, y por qué la nueva síntesis nos brinda un nuevo punto de partida para hacer una revolución mundial que vaya más allá de lo que se ha podido lograr históricamente.


Dear comrades, I participate in other RCP initiatives, like “Set the Record Straight,” and I think it is very important to spread the perspective of the new synthesis concerning the history of the socialist revolutions that preceded us (Soviet and Chinese), to clarify their achievements and their weaknesses—the limitations of the other revolutions that have occurred throughout history, and why the new synthesis gives us a new point of departure for a world revolution beyond what has historically been achieved.


January 5, 2014

Well, here are my paltry few thoughts on Revolution #323, in no particular order.

I think the issue as a whole does a good job of presenting the history of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions as a coherent whole without getting too myopic about details. Particularly good for me were the descriptions of the Cultural Revolution—in fact, I would say I was left wanting more. My only real suggestion for the future, then, would be more extensive use of footnotes for this purpose (or perhaps a separate small piece) as the format permits. I’m certainly no expert in that regard. I also found the discussion of the contradiction between the defense of the socialist state and the advancement of world revolution to be illuminating, especially in the context of the Soviet Union.


January 5, 2014

When you deny human nature and all of the sins that come with it, you take away the very soul of people. We, humans, are not robots or scientific creatures. We encompass within us, good and bad. We can control this “nature” but we first have to be aware and accept who we are. We are filthy, sinful people with often perverted lustful needs and greed. This nature is the driving force behind the system. I agree, the capitalist system is the foundation that supports this “nature.” But, the system wasn’t created by a machine, it was created by “human beings” who cultivated their desires into a system of greed and exploitation. Communists have this great scientific method to solving all of the problems of the world, but how will they solve the “human” problem? Transforming the way people think is just another form of controlling the people, and ignoring human nature is just another set-up. It’s just like saying, “Hey, look over here, don’t look over there, we have the answers!” But, you really don’t, it’s just another bag of tricks. I agree, Revolution nothing less, but a true leading party wouldn’t be some cold scientific organization that is emotionless, robotic, and not in touch with the true nature of humanity. Just keeping it real, how can anyone trust a party when historically proven, human beings are flawed regardless of any system.


January 5, 2014

I have just finished reading the issue of Revolution about the history of Communism and I have to say I found it very informative.

I was particularly interested in the sections on Stalin and Mao. I’ve never heard of this side of an opinion on either of them and I was hoping that you could give me the titles of some good books regarding these two historical figures.

[R]egarding Stalin. I will refrain from commenting on Mao as I don’t feel that I currently know enough about him and the situation he was in to give an intelligent answer on that particular subject.


When the Bolshevik Party came to power in Russia they inherited on of the most backward economies in the world. Essentially, the Russian economy was still in the 19th century at the time of the October Revolution and if fell on Lenin to consolidate the power of the revolution and fully establish the rule of the Party over Russia. This left him no real opportunity to concentrate on modernizing the Russian economy while he was still alive as he only ruled the new fledgling Socialist state for 6 or 7 years during which time he faced the very real threat of being overthrown by the still smoldering Capitalist class which naturally left him little time to worry about the economic conditions of the country.

Stalin, it seems, had a better grasp of the counter-revolutionary situation in the Soviet Union at the time and seems to have been better able to successfully put down the opposition in a relatively short amount of time. After this problem was overcome, due to his position as the new leader of the Soviet Union, it became his responsibility to begin thinking about the rising reactionary forces rising against Russia from the outside. So he very logically concentrated the vast majority of Russia’s recourses to developing as large an industrial revolution in the cities which brings me to my next point;

Peasants and farmers:

Once again Lenin inherited very backward conditions in the new Soviet Republic. The peasants and farmers in the rural areas were still very much tied to the land by semi-(if not outright)-fuedalist systems of government. Because of the newness of the incoming socialist republic there were undoubtably mistakes made by the central planning authorities in Moscow, especially when Stalin came to power in 1924. Which probably intensified the hardships of the peasants in the hinterland as Stalin concentrated and allocated to much of the rural recourses such as food to the cities in his program of building up the industrial capacities of the Soviet Union in his anticipation of foreign conflict.

This was a bad mistake Stalin’s leadership because when Germany invaded in 1941 probably contributed to the reason why so much of the rural population initially welcomed the invading forces as liberators until the Nazis began their program of the total annihilation of the “inferior” Russian and Slavic populations of the occupied territory which naturally brought the conquered population back to the loyalty of the Soviet Republic as they began to realize what the Nazis were planning.

So I would chalk this situation up to one of Stalin’s more grevious errors of his administration.

The Purges of the 1930’s:

Stalin most probably was right strategically to purge the military because it was probably a hot-bed of counter-revolutionary influence as the armed forces tend to be more conservative as in the current situation of the U.S. Military of today. (This pure speculation on my part) But however he must have underestimated the power of nationalism embodied in the military of any nation and we all know nationalism has a very powerful effect in rallying the people of given nation to feats of great heroism and self sacrifice and I believe that until the imperialist threat, particularly Germany, was at least significantly weakened or outright destroyed that Stalin could have marshaled and exploited this simmering nationalism in the defense of the Soviet Union and socialism in general. (How’s that for a contradiction!). So therefor I think that was another possible mistake on Stalin’s part--correct me if I’m wrong.

Women: (this whole section is just my theory on what you brought up in the whole section on Stalin and his anylisis.)

Perhaps Stalin thought that by reeling in some of the rights that had been granted and once again tying them to a more traditional family unit that women would produce more children than otherwise thus more manpower to man the critical industrial and military base of the Soviet Union. (For better or for worse on this whole count). Which I believe that he would have seen as a temporarily necessary evil. (Once again, pure speculation on my part).

Gulags and Prison Camps:

As the responsibility for running, developing and defending the only truly socialist state in the world, it seems that he was willing to do anything to protect it sand that meant not only defending it from outside influences but internal forces as well. Which he seemed to take very seriously. Yes there were definitely excesses and mistakes made but in his mind he was doing the best he could with the resources available to him.

So I would chalk this one up to mixed results.

Please if you feel that I have made mistakes or have the wrong interpretations please email me back and point out where I have gone wrong.


Read full interview You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future

Reports on the Special Issue

February 2, 2014

Getting Into the Special Issue on the History of Communist Revolution

Some Initial Experience at Revolution Books, NYC

Revolution Books in NYC recently inaugurated a discussion series on the special issue of Revolution newspaper: “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future.” I wanted to share with others some of how we are going at this.

We felt that it was important to provide people with the means and opportunity to really dig into the issue: the history; the method and approach of the interview and entire issue; and the relevance of all of this to today. We decided not to make major presentations, with big background preparation, to be followed by question-and-answer sessions. Instead, we wanted to create an atmosphere where people, with different levels of knowledge and understanding, could collectively engage with the special issue.

The format that we are going with is to give a brief (no more than 10 minute) welcoming and opening to everyone in attendance—saying a few things about the importance of the interview and what we will be getting into on any particular evening—and then to quickly break into two or three discussion groups, each with a designated leader.

We sent out e-mail announcements letting people know that the first session would focus on the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik Revolution, and gave the link to those two sections, while encouraging people to read the whole issue

The orientation we put out was, “let’s get into this deeply, so we can take it out widely... and stir up all kinds of discussion and debate.”

We kicked off the first small-group discussion by going around asking people what really provoked them, or jumped out, in reading the interview—what kinds of issues about the actual history, the method and approach, or whatever. We wanted to let people say some things but didn’t want this to become too big a deal... because, after all, the point is to really get into the material.

Then the discussion leaders posed these two sets of questions:

The Paris Commune

1) Why was the Paris Commune a milestone for proletarian revolution, even though it was defeated within three months and really didn’t establish a socialist society?

2) What is the current appeal of the Paris Commune, in terms of the outlook of anarchists and others, including social movements like Occupy and thinkers like Alain Badiou—and what lessons do communists draw from this experience?

The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

1) The interview talks about the titanic changes that took place in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and early 1930s and says that this was an exciting and great place to be... unlike anything else on the planet... that the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the time were two different worlds. What did people learn and what do people think about this? And why was leadership so necessary to establish and forge this kind of new society?

2) The interview argues for a scientific methodology in evaluating Stalin’s role in the Soviet revolution, as opposed to the “ritualized demonization” of Stalin. Let’s talk about this methodology and how it is applied.

The general feeling was that the discussions went well. One of the things that we found is that you can make positive use of “un-evenness”: some people have gotten into the interview more deeply than others, some have more background knowledge, some may know more facts than others but have more difficulty grappling with the method and approach, and so forth.

As it turned out, two of the three groups didn’t get past the Paris Commune in this first session. So we are going to continue with the Bolshevik revolution in the next session. And we’ll continue to post our discussion questions, along with any further thoughts on how people might go at this and what is being learned.


January 20, 2014

A reader responds to What's Wrong with ‘History by Memoir?’— a section of the interview “You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future.”


December 16, 2013

From a reader:

The other day I got together with a newly forming Revolution Club in an oppressed area to talk about the special issue of Revolution: You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About...The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. This was a small grouping of Black and Latino people of different ages. Some people felt more comfortable talking in a group than others, but all were part of the discussion, and most had read some of the special issue. We opened up the discussion asking if there was any one part people read they wanted to discuss, or if there were things they've heard about the history of the communist revolution when they've been out talking to people that they hadn't known how to answer and wanted to learn about. Read on...