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Stalin's shit smelled like roses

Be the revolution with just 4 words

Just say the words, "Stalin's shit smelled like roses." It is that simple

If you're curious, I'm sure that this blog post will be quite long. I intend to explain this. I anticipate typing a lot of words in the attempt. I suspect that I will fail in many ways. My central assertion, however, is that my feeble attempts are not relevant. You may or may not want a Communist revolution. You may have ideas about what that means. You may have read longer treatises, more eloquent or boring than this one. You may have already taken a nap by this point in the text. I've already established the point. It doesn't matter. Just say the words

"Stalin's shit smelled like roses." It's the zero entry kiddie pool of the Communist revolution. You don't need to repeat it precisely. You don't need to accompany it with any ritual or any paraphernalia. The revolution will be accessible and it is

"Stalin's shit smelled like roses"

Why those words?

Also, why not?

There is no reason to choose those 4 words over many others. I could've chosen Marx or any other Communist leader. I chose Stalin because he's supposed to be embarrassing for Communists. My personal beliefs that Stalin was a relentless pragmatist and that relentless pragmatism can have terrible consequences for a people whose leader bears that affliction have no consequence in this discussion

Equally essential to this argument, in the sense that it is also irrelevant, is that his shit did not stink. I do not know; I have no way of knowing. I have neither evidence nor the intent to entertain arguments for or against this proposition. There are times to ask what we know and how we know it, then there are times to get off the epistemological passenger train at the next stop, or sooner, because it's just privileged fuckery given everything that's happening today

This is not a debate, but I will say this in defense of the proposition. In contrast to those who would argue the point, I am willing to attempt complete transparency with respect to the objective of making this assertion. I will not obfuscate the point by cloaking the words in a semblance of science or religion. I do not pretend that the words are true or that it is important to believe

Just say, "Stalin's shit smelled like roses," or words to that effect

How does it work?

There's a science called propaganda, using the word science here in the loosest possible sense, that asserts when a message is repeated often enough that it doesn't matter whether it is true or not, whether it is believed or not, its effects on the world are the same as if it was a true and sincerely held belief. It's unclear whether propagandists actually believe this. I'm not sure whether I believe it myself, but it is very much a factor in our present reality. Candidly, I find myself repeating it, though I wish it were not so, as if it were some form of Rocko's Basilisk

In contrast to propaganda that leads to othering, well, others, and uniting people behind hatred, the assertion that Stalin's shit smelled like roses seems like a small matter. If you want to end capitalism and imperialism, or even just end the specific flavor of capitalism or manifestation of imperialism that is annoying you at the moment, repeating the message "Stalin's shit smelled like roses" brings us towards the goal of ending that

How is this different from right wing propaganda?

In Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Bluebeard, an artist makes his reputation creating works of art that are nothing more than a specific blue paint and masking on a canvas and he loses everything when the paint turns out to be woefully impermanent. After many years of retirement in disgrace, he finds another cache of his beloved pigment, produces a fantastic work with sufficient representational elements to receive public acclaim (again) although the work, itself, endures barely long enough to vindicate the artist. The moral is that it is not art that makes the artist, but it is the artist that makes the creation art

Right wing bullshit is shit all the way down. "Stalin's shit smelled like roses" is a surface varnish protecting the work underneath from a damaging environment

We give intellectual assent to the idea that we shouldn't debate fascists, but we do it anyways. We also debate fascism with liberals who are uncritically repeating imperialist and fascist propaganda, and we shouldn't. It simply doesn't matter whether the individuals we're drawn into engaging against, in our workplaces or on social media, are sincere. They are repeating propaganda, doing the work of fascism, and the only effective countermeasure is to be blatantly obvious about responding in kind

In the absence of the courage or physical ability to declare that repeating right wing propaganda is violent by actually punching the person in the nose, saying that Stalin's shit smelled like roses is a close approximation of proportional response. This violence is superficial, transient, and non-lethal, in contrast to the violence promoted by right wing narratives and by the people who promote them, when they are permitted power

Socialism and Communism are rigorous, formal approaches to economics and social science, but it's exhausting and counterproductive to attempt a rigorous argument when the opposition is either disingenuous or uncritically repeating disingenuous sentiments. Stalin's shit smelled like roses and the reason I champion this assertion is that I do not want my fellow leftists to be disadvantaged by conscience or rigor by those who have neither. It is enough that we are (collectively) capable of nuanced arguments and a creative defense of our ideas, or rather that our ideas are defensible. It is unnecessary that every soldier of the revolution understand or be able to mount a defense on every point. "Stalin's shit smelled like roses" is as reasonable an argument as any we face

Capitalism is exploitation by definition and defending it is reprehensible. It's no kindness to pretend to listen to those attempting to do so. Do you really want to be dragged into an argument about how many people have been killed by each economic system or be forced to make the point that the vast majority of deaths attributed to Communism would more fairly be attributed to sanctions and wars waged by capitalist nations? Of course not! If we absolutely must be dragged down to their level, asserting that Stalin's shit smelled like roses is much less violent to ourselves


"Stalin's shit smelled like roses" is a simple way to identify as a Communist and disarm critics. It doesn't make any demands or commitments. It doesn't promote injustice or lethal violence. You can interpret it as performance art, ironic detachment, an insight into the reality that the worst of communism is better than best of capitalism if you don't participate in privilege. It doesn't matter

What matters is that we perform Communism in matters big and small, and "Stalin's shit smelled like roses" is a small way, which makes it a very good place to start

How many times have you been rendered speechless by a line of right wing bullshit too dense to unpack? Been silent in the face of racism or other injustice? Cornered by your own privilege and simply not known what to say?

Now you know. Say it. Print it on a red hat. Buy a t-shirt. Post red flags, hammer and sickle, and tanks all over the place. Or just say the words

Stalin's shit smelled like roses