Socialists and the ‘Pet’ Contradiction

sleepwalkers_stephen_king_monster_morphingJon Hochschartner writes at Counterpunch:

Socialists, like everyone else, absorb our culture’s contradictory messages regarding the value of animals. We learn that certain species, such as dogs and cats, should be cherished as members of our families. While other other species, such as pigs and chickens, should be viewed as resources to be exploited. By looking at the relationships between three influential socialists of varying perspectives — Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Alexander Berkman — and their companion animals, I’d like to illuminate the irrational positions they held and so many of us continue to hold toward other species.

In 1938 the surrealist writer Andre Breton traveled to Mexico to visit the exiled Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky. As Breton walked with the old Bolshevik, he was disappointed to find that when Trotsky spoke of his dog, “his speech became less precise, his thought less exacting.”

In fact, Breton continues, Trotsky “went so far as to express love for the animal, lending it natural goodness.” Since here Breton uses the impersonal pronoun, which one would apply to non-conscious objects, it should come as no surprise the surrealist argues, “there was something arbitrary about endowing beasts with feelings.”

But Trotsky, apparently, would have none of it. According to Breton, it “became clear that (Trotsky) was vexed to follow me along this path: he clung to the idea…that the dog felt friendship for him, and in the full sense of the word.”

The Polish Marxist Rosa Luxemburg had a deep bond with her cat Mimi, who she described as her “daughter.” Her letters include frequent references to Mimi. In one, for instance, she enthusiastically describes Mimi’s meeting with the Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin.

“She also flirted with him, rolled on her back and behaved enticingly toward him,” Luxemburg writes. “But when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger.”

When Luxemburg was imprisoned in 1916 for her opposition to World War I, she apparently had the option of taking Mimi with her. But she regretfully decided it would be cruel to do so, as the conditions were too harsh for her beloved companion.

Read more here.

19 Comments on "Socialists and the ‘Pet’ Contradiction"

  1. Meecheroo | Sep 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

    That picture looks so familiar. Is it from that movie “Sleepwalk” where the mom has some strange relationship with her son and there are cats everywhere?

  2. Woobniggurath | Sep 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” To expect people to act with rigorous uniformity of values is the same unrealistic expectation which economists are blinded by.

  3. Derpus Mcgoo | Sep 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    I don’t get the point of this article at all, other than that the author wants me to know he’s a member of PETA?

  4. if we learn to love pigs, does that mean we must learn to eat dogs?

  5. Bruteloop | Sep 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    What are we meant to be giving a shit about here? People being inconsistent?
    Is it like that whole Hitler was a vegetarian thing?

  6. Andres Schiffino | Sep 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm |

    This is ridiculous. People like this writer fail to realize that humans eat animals because they provide nourishment, not because we are evil and cruel. If animals didn’t have protein, humans and other animals wouldn’t have evolved to eat meat.

    A more interesting article would be how the Nazi’s were anti-vivisectionists and animal rights activists yet allowed men like Josef Mengele to experiment on live people.

    • Good point! The nazis were also big proponents of pseudo-scientific beliefs.

  7. Cortacespedes | Sep 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |

    Moral absolutist claptrap. Future study into plant consciousness does not bode well for vegans with this mindset.

  8. I’m really not impressed with people who talk of themselves as their pet’s “mommy” or “daddy.” I love my dog, but it had a dog mother and dog father, who did for him exactly what a dog mother and father were supposed to do. Seems dishonoring to them to speak as if they didn’t exist.

  9. InfvoCuernos | Sep 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm |

    Have we learned nothing from Animal Farm? All animals are NOT created equal, some are more tasty.

  10. Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Sep 7, 2013 at 11:18 pm |

    Different relationships warrant different interactions.

    This article seems to chronicle the author’s (failed) attempt to merge his political identity and his dietary dogma.

  11. kowalityjesus | Sep 8, 2013 at 1:54 am |

    This reminds me of a pathetic video I came across lately where two people live out a vapid lifestyle centered around entertaining animals. I cannot express how troubled this makes me that 1)it exists 2)it is so highly rated on youtube.

    Has anyone known a heterosexual couple that will start dating and at some point, to defer attention from their vacuous relationship, get a dog or two dogs. Then eventually they add a human child to their dependents (its almost worse if they don’t). I have known at least 3 couples that have followed this format. This makes me sad and I am only partially cognizant as to why.

    • Oh yeah, they are so goddam smug and full of themselves! Little humans walking around on four legs? More like parasites.

      It is interesting that the author chose this subject. I recently had a conversation with my old anthro professor about the rise of fake liberalism and the amount of time and money wasted on these little polluters. Walk down any gentrified street and your nostrils will be assailed by the stench of dog urine. Sit on any trendy sidewalk cafe and you will most likely have to endure the mindless baby talk. No wonder we are sliding into decadence.

      • kowalityjesus | Sep 13, 2013 at 12:29 am |

        Very interesting concept, fake liberalism! I can’t think of what it specifically is, but it sounds very poignant.

        I had a dog growing up, and love the shit out of them. It gives a lot of people companionship. But some people waste their time and precious silence with them to prevent from doing something effectual in their life, sort of a comic relief from the cold winds of history…that ends up polluting one’s soul, imho.

        In Paris, I guess they have more dogs than kids. Goddamned shame. They have bigger worries than budget problems, like population COLLAPSE problems. : (

        • sooo, if there ever is a food shortage in France, Paris can grill the hot dogs?
          I had a dog when I was young, as well. I tended to view it in a more heroic light, not some cutesy little beast that needed constant attention. She was what is considered a working dog: she didnt want to come in the house unless it was below freezing or raining, and she didnt need a leash.

          It is hard to identify with some of my liberal friends because my upbringing was much less bourgeois than your average suburban home. Not that it was soft and easy, but life did have a simpler quality back then, but, I digress!

  12. MatterEater | Sep 8, 2013 at 10:48 am |

    more interestingly, the Reagans loved their dogs and fed them well, while federal school food programs counted “ketchup” as a single serving of vegetables. Other free market advocates, had no empathy for animals, such as Romney strapping a dog to his car’s roof. What does this mean? Absolutely nothing of course. People and their pets defy logiic.

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