Marxism and the Militias

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Sep 1 09:15:08 MDT 1995


This is a follow-up to the last post on learning from Lenin's method.

1. Neil Harding commenting on Lenin:  "Lenin's access to the
appropriate statistics on peasant life, perhaps also his lifelong
insistence upon the tidy and proper arrangement of statistical data, owed
not a little to a certain Ivan Markovich Krasnoperov who was a veteran of
the Narodnik revolutionary movement of the 1870's, a personal friend of
the legendary Dobrolyubov and now employed as head of the statistical
bureau of the Samara Gubernia administration. Krasnoperov was no longer
active in revolutionary circles but was a frequent visitor to the
Ulyanovs. It is reasonable to suppose that is was from him the Lenin
imbibed his life-long regard for proper statistical preparation -- an
enduring trait in his writings, which, as we have seen, Mikhailovsky had
already noted. (Lenin's works are spattered with angry outbursts against
slipshod statisticians, tsarist and Soviet.)"

2. A sample article from Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer:


   Crime is hot again, reportedly having surpassed the economy in the
public mind as problem number one, and the opportunist Clinton is all
over the issue. In a February 15 Ohio speech to "members of the law
enforcement community," the Effuser-in-Chief said the work of his
audience "is probably more important to Americans today than it has ever
been in the whole history of the country." The president concluded his
speech with a multiply devious use of statistics (and some Bushian
syntax as well): "And let me say, when I see what has happened in the
crime area -- three times as many murders today as in 1960, three times
as many violent crimes per police officer as there were 30 years ago,
and three times as many births outside marriage -- where there has never
been a marriage -- also related to the ultimate crime problem. I realize
that a lot of these things are going to require the American people to
get together and get something done.... [W]e're going to do our best,
starting with the crime bill. We want you to help us. Thank you and God
bless you."
   There is no question that the U.S. is one of the most violent
societies on earth, a heritage that goes back to the first European
settlers who regarded the indigenous population as so much underbrush to
be cleared. Our murder rates, for example, are anywhere from two to ten
times those prevailing in Western Europe and Japan. But is the crime
rate soaring, as Clinton and TV newsblasters say?
   No. Take murder, which is not only the gravest crime, but the one
for which the best statistics exist. Other crimes, like rape and
robbery, are frequently not reported to police -- but the cops have a
very good idea of the number of murders that occur. The number of
murders per 100,000 population has doubled since 1960 -- the president
conveniently forgot the population increase, no doubt to keep his nice
threefold structure intact, and to exaggerate the problem -- but almost
all that doubling happened in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1992, 9.3
people were murdered per 100,000 persons, a bit above early-1980s
levels, but little changed from 1970s levels. Of course the rate is 9.3
too high, but the trend doesn't comport with the public hysteria.
   Numbers covering crimes other than murder are far spongier. Police
statistics, which show a near-doubling in the violent crime rate (i.e.,
rate per 100,000 persons, rather than raw numbers) may just be
reflecting a greater propensity to call the cops. Also, not all police
departments fill out the forms they file with the FBI with equal degrees
of competence or care. A better method of studying crime trends is the
Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which
it has carried out annually since 1973. The NCVS is a poll that asks
respondents whether they've been victims of a crime during the survey
period. While people do lie to pollsters, there's no reason to believe
they lie more or less now than they did 10 or 20 years ago. So, in the
words of Tony Pate, research director of the Police Foundation, the NCVS
"is a preferable indicator, seeking as it does to get at unreported
crime and [since it is] applied in a standardized fashion over time."
   NCVS figures for the violent crime rate are plotted nearby. The
line is about as flat as can be -- a sharp contrast with the
incarceration rate, which has zoomed northward. The U.S. jails a larger
share of its citizens than any country in the world, even South Africa
or China (see chart below).
   Along with the NCVS data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics
helpfully supplies a table that compares the risk of criminal
victimization with what it calls "other life experiences" -- experiences
of a decidedly unpleasant kind. The table reveals that people are half
again as likely to be injured at work as they are to be victims of any
violent crime, twice as likely to be hurt in a car accident as to be
injured by a criminal, and four times as likely to die in a crash as at
a murderer's hand. But you don't see many yahoos carrying on about our
morbid reliance on automobiles or the intolerable risks of workplace

Who's victimized?
   Lefties have been understandably reluctant to talk about crime
because fearmongering is the favored tool of bigots and social
disciplinarians. But, as with the discomfort with talking about welfare,
that has ceded important rhetorical ground to the right. Besides
pointing out that the boom in lawlessness is statistically overblown,
it's essential to point out too that crime, like health, wealth, and
wisdom, is not distributed very equally. In particular, the popular
image of cowering whites besieged by black criminals is completely at
odds with the facts.
   Not surprisingly, the poor and nonwhite are far more likely to
report to pollsters that they fear walking in their own neighborhood
than the affluent and white -- with good reason. According to the NCVS
figures for 1991, black women are 39% more likely than white women to be
victims of a violent crime other than murder, and black men 62% more
likely than white men. Households with incomes under $7,500 were three
times as likely to be violently victimized. The risks are roughly equal
for crimes against property -- purse-snatching or breaking & entering --
but considering that the rich and white have, in general, more things to
steal than the poor and black, this is a perverse kind of
   When it comes to murder, the contrasts are even sharper. Half of
all murder victims are black, even though only 12% of the population is
-- meaning that blacks are four times more likely to be killed as
nonblacks. Cliches to the contrary, interracial murder is extremely
rare: 91% of white victims are iced by whites, and 87% of blacks by
blacks. (About three-quarters of all murderers and murderees are male,
parenthetically.) The white homicide rate of 4.6 per 100,000 is roughly
on a par with France and Italy though it's still three times the
Japanese rate -- but the black rate, 32.1 per 100,000, is like nothing
else seen in the northern hemisphere.
   It's all too easy to take those numbers and launch into a
moralizing tale of "black-on-black" crime, one that conveniently
represses any consideration of white-on-black racism. Clinton floated
another convenient explanation -- an epidemic of bastardy. But over half
of all Swedish births occur without the blessings of the state, yet
their murder rate is less than a fifth the American rate; nearly the
same share of births occur out-of-wedlock in Canada as the U.S., and
their murder rate is less than a third ours.
   But facts aren't what politicians, columnists, and assorted
agitators are interested in. They're interested in getting votes,
selling newspapers, stirring up racial hatred, encouraging citizens to
surrender their civil liberties, and diverting public attention from
mass misery and social decay. At that, they've been very successful.

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list