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What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Communist Military

(To read the entire "Our Communist Military" series, please click here.

And as we now have to clarify in each one of these posts, we don’t actually think that the military is “communist”. That’s a rhetorical stand-in for socialist, liberal, progressive, what have you.)

If there’s been one consistent piece of blowback we’ve received for our “Our Communist Military” series, it’s been that...

We don’t know what communism is!

Commenters on the Doctrine Man facebook page wrote, “I highly advise they educate themselves on the meaning of the word ‘communist’.” Or you can go find This Ain’t Hell’s response to “Our Politically Correct Communist Milblogs”. (We’re not going to link to it.) The comments section goes nuts because This Aint Hell’s readers think that we think that they’re communist.

Dozens, and we mean dozens, of people became infuriated (infuriated!) that we would call them (or the military) communist. Or people thought we were really, really ignorant. Luckily, our readers came to the rescue in the comments section of “Our Politically Correct Communist Milblogs”:

“I am confused why you used communism, an economic theory, to describe the military. I’ll agree all military gear is ‘communal’ but there is the idea of ‘private property’ as in, better have all your gear for an inspection. It’s not your gear but you better have it shined or else.” - Shreck 


“I think the C.‘s (and feel free to correct/clarify), are using “communism” in the sense of communitarian social system, more so than any arrangement of ownership of the means of production, and its pejorative status among the objects of this series’ criticism.” - Duck 


“@ Shreck – On the use of the word “communist”, I’ll be honest: I think that it’s more of a rhetorical point than anything. If anything, it should be “our Liberal military”. But it gets people’s attention, though we don’t mean it as proper communism.

That said, for this post, apportioning out rewards, like the title “hero”, without regard for accomplishment sounds like communism to me.” - Eric C 


“@ C.‘s – Maybe you should start including a disclaimer making it clear that you don’t think the US is full of people committed to the communist ideology, and that you are using the term as a rhetorical device to highlight tendencies which create inconsistencies in the worldviews of many military folks.

That might finally end all of the hang up on the term that seems to prevent engagement with the actual argument.” - Duck        


“Would you mind if we steal almost your exact verbiage? That about sums up exactly what we were trying to do.”   - Michael C

We now open each new “Our Communist Military” post with a disclaimer--see above--explaining that we use “communist” as a rhetorical device. (It’s called hyperbole.) We don’t think the military is “communist” proper. I mean, the military isn’t even a government, nor an economic system.

But we’re writing this series to argue three things:

1. Though people think the military is politically conservative, in many ways, it’s incredibly liberal.

2. The rest of society can learn from what the “communist military” does well...

3. And what it doesn’t do well. Some of the military’s “socialist” programs just don’t work. At all. The military needs to learn from what the private sector does well. (Check out this post, for example.)

In short, this series has criticisms for the left, the right and the media. The takeaway? Sometimes the boxes in which we categorize people and organizations just don’t make any sense.

Which is the whole point of the title.

two comments

You guys are way too nice. Your critics don’t understand your use of hyperbole or irony to make a point not because you didn’t explain it well enough, its because they are not smart or self aware enough to get it. Which is the entire point of calling it communist, so that you can bring awareness to the fact that what many members feel is this great “conservative” or libertarian organization is actually communitarian and has to be IOT be successful. Which makes them not getting it prove your point even more. I marvel at your endless patience.

As much as I like most of your content, I think the rhetorical construct misses the mark here. The point you’re trying to make is that the military is a paternalistic enterprise with collectivist values starkly at odds with the small-government ethos espoused by conservatives. But that gets lost because the term “communist” has very specific implications that you’re (deliberately) ignoring. The targets of your critique can use the communist straw-man and ignore the more subtle criticism that you’re trying to make.

So, I don’t think the disclaimer really solves the problem. Which is too bad, because there’s a good piece of commentary in there.