“If you look around the world you will see that the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans and the Asiatics. It is not to be desired that they should come; that we should have a mongrel race…”
Hitler? Goebbels? No. This quote belongs to John A. Macdonald, a virulent and genocidal white supremacist. As James Daschuk reminds us in his book Clearing the Plains, Macdonald played no small part in the ethnic cleansing of the West in advance of white settlement, and even went so far as to boast about the fact the Indigenous population was being illegally starved to death. This is the “father” of Canada, a country which, according to a recent Fulcrum letter, “stands tall in the free world as a country of hope and opportunity.”
It is often claimed that universities are spaces for informed debate. It is therefore surprising when so many students jump into public discourse so obviously and profoundly uninformed. An example of this can be seen in the redbaiting of Marcus Mattinson’s letter “OPIRG supporting radical communists.”
The problem with redbaiting is this: it demands accountability for the historical crimes of some (the scary communists) and not others (the colonists and the capitalists). Thus it constructs certain lives as disposable. These lives belong to labourers exploited in dangerous working conditions, to Black and Brown people facing mass incarceration and an epidemic of racist police violence, and to Indigenous peoples who had the bad manners to live since time immemorial where we now need a pipeline, a dam, or a condo development.
There is no mention from Mattinson of the millions upon millions of deaths resulting from American Cold War imperialism or the illegal invasion of Iraq. That is to say, there is no mention whatsoever of distinctly capitalist crimes against humanity. These crimes are simplistically explained away as either tragically necessary or accidental. There is no consideration of the fact that for many around the world it is the Stars and Stripes together with the Maple Leaf which are symbols synonymous with death and destruction. Indeed, Mattinson should ask an Indigenous person exactly which “evil” states have for centuries “suppressed individualism, human rights, and democracy.”
We cannot be satisfied with the intellectually dishonest attribution of guilt to a singular and undifferentiated “communism,” one abstracted away from the historical conditions (like fascism) which shaped the development of communism in different ways in different contexts.
To move in anti-capitalist circles is to know that there is no end of sectarian critique leveled at “villains” like Stalin, not least because they often purged other anti-capitalists. But Mattinson wouldn’t understand these nuances, as he has unfortunately never allowed himself to move beyond the caricature of communists offered to him by his high school history class.
—Gareth Mandin, graduate student in Feminist and Gender Studies at the U of O.