Continuing the debate: Capitalism, communism, Mao


Graphic by Alexandra Parris

The recent article published by Maddie D’Iorio in defense of Tigers for Liberty’s “Commie Cookies” display is worth reading. It clearly establishes that Tigers for Liberty (TFL) is concerned with shock value, not activism or substantive debates. Instead of responding to the extensive investigation of the historical context for Maoism in China, D’Iorio elected to dedicate the entire article to doubling down on their racist display, leveraging all the classic justifications for racism to boot.

Her article comes out of the gate with the “but I have a Chinese friend” argument. Going even further, she claims that the personal experience of this Chinese TFL member somehow warrants the other racist tropes in the display. Interestingly, the experience cited is with the One Child Policy, which was instituted under Deng Xiaoping, not Mao. Their defense of fortune cookies was even more suspect. D’Iorio gets as far as admitting that fortune cookies are a caricature of Chinese culture, yet somehow still manages to conclude that it is acceptable. 

On the issue of the display illustrations, if D’Iorio is right and these were based on Maoist propaganda, we would challenge them to produce an example which contains analogous drawing of Mao and lettering in English. Anytime you want to show us these posters, feel free to find us around campus. We are, after all, also Trinity students who work in the library, eat at Mabee and go to class.

The goal of our last article was to prompt TFL to engage in a nuanced debate and informed activism in response to communism. Instead, they attempt to flip the script by claiming, “Is it not more upsetting to remember the fact that 60 million people died at the hands of this leader?” It is simply baffling that TFL would imply that the choice is between their racist tabling and a return to Maoism. As we made very clear in our first article, TFL should criticize Mao without racist caricatures. In the name of continuing the nuanced debate occurring outside of Tigers for Liberty’s purview, we would like to build off our last article as well as Noelle Barrera’s recent piece. To begin, we agree with Barrera’s claim that we need “major change in the way our society is structured” in order to avert mass chaos brought about by environmental and economic crisis. Beyond identifying an awareness of a need for change, we would like to begin looking forward to possible solutions that are adequate for the scale of the problem at hand. 

One alternative — which appears most consistent with the democratic socialist values identified by Barrera as well as with the preference for communism or socialism feared by TFL — is a Guardian State. This solution recognizes that the state is the only body capable of overcoming market forces, which lock in an unsustainable and violent form of social relations. For instance, a strong regulatory state may be the only way to challenge the control industrial agri-business has over global food production. A Guardian State would reconfigure the major sectors of the economy, creating communal systems of agriculture and local production of essential goods. Instead of suspending civil rights, the state exists to actualize a strong set of positive economic rights — like universal basic income, healthcare and education. 

Against potential objections, we would argue that bringing a powerful state to bear against the overwhelming power of capital in today’s economy is a necessity. Economic growth is coupled with environmental degradation. A capitalist system will always fail to change consumption habits and address the exploitative relationship between production and the environment.

We hope that this solution prompts engagement from readers on all sides of the political spectrum. Contrary to the message sent by D’Iorio, we do think the public forum is the best place to discuss our political ideologies. D’Iorio’s alternative to public discourse seems to be relegating the entire debate to an email or short conversation in Mabee. It is contradictory to take issue with a response in the public forum to a demonstration intending to raise public awareness. A public response is the most “adult” way to handle this issue, as it avoids singling out individuals for the actions of many members of a club. 

Echoing our last article, we hope TFL drops their defense of racism and instead engages with the substance of the debate they claimed is so important to have.