[Marxism] Hungarians long for communism.

David Picón Álvarez david at miradoiro.com
Thu Jun 5 06:48:58 MDT 2008

From: "Haines Brown" <brownh at hartford-hwp.com>
> Of course, democratic forms or civil rights are important and do
> affect the quality of our lives, but if we are really in touch with
> the working class, even here in the US, political forms are not the
> primary way that we assess our situation.

There seems to be a tendency to think that any increase in abstract freedom 
is worth any decrease in concrete freedom. Abstract freedom being, roughly, 
what one could in principle do unopposed by the State or other institutions, 
and concrete freedom being what one can in effect do, given the reality of 
things, the economic situation, etc. This is a fairly weird quirk, but it 
seems to hold for many people. Perhaps it is a transposition of the 
psychological trait that causes most people to overestimate their abilities, 
which also causes them to overestimate their bargaining power or leverage, 
and makes them believe that they will be able to transform that abstract 
freedom into concrete freedom by individual action. No matter that this is 
proven wrong time and time again.

> What do people here think of when discussing the quality of their
> lives?  For example, my impression is they think about the buying
> power of their income in relation to both basic subsistence and
> cultural expectations. Can we put appetizing or nutritious food on the
> table? Do we have the assurance of stable decent housing?  Do we have
> job security, and is our work experience appealing? Do we have decent
> medical care? But social relations contribute perhaps as much to the
> quality of our lives as our economic condition. Do we have a rich
> social environment that is stable, reliable and rewarding? Are family
> relations stable and positive? And there are also cultural factors. Do
> our children get a decent education? Are there social norms that are
> positive and give purpose to our lives and which we can offer our
> youth as direction in their lives?

Part of the problem is that many of those things are very difficult to 
quantify, whereas things like purchasing power, hours of leisure, etc, are 
at least more amenable to an illusion of quantification (not making a claim 
one way or the other on whether that illusion is accurate or not). It is 
difficult to determine improvements or failures in the cultural norms, the 
educational system, and even comparisons are difficult. This perhaps does 
not excuse the economistic tendency to ignore those factors, but makes it 

> The majority of the comments appended to the article were dismissive
> of the Hungarians polled: they are fools, ignorant, liars. Assuming
> the poll is at all valid, it strikes me as unwise to discount the
> opinion of others just because it fails to accord with our own biases
> and prejudices. This is especially so when we are blind to anything
> that does not accord with the capitalist ideology that we all too
> easily swallow.

Well, isn't it expecting a lot that people will see new evidence and 
immediately think "oh, there is something in there, maybe Marx was not the 
Antichrist after all". Ideally, of course, people would be more rigorous 
about the way they make judgements, but, in practice, there is a very strong 
hegemonic ideology that opposes such a stance, and breaking with it entails 
a strong cognitive dissonance that many people find hard to accept. It would 
entail admitting that the cold war was wrong, that the capitalist State 
doesn't look for our interests, that the political parties, the media, the 
education establishment (for the most) and other institutions we trust and 
need to trust to live in society are subverted against our interests. 
Speaking outside the US here, but I don't imagine this is any easier there.


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