I made a mistake yesterday, as people with a taste for smart-mouthery on the Internet often do, by responding too quickly to something. On Wednesday, the leftist social critic Marshall Berman died. On Thursday, the website Tablet published an appreciation of him and his life by Todd Gitlin. Gitlin is a good writer and Berman was his friend and it was a sweet piece. It was the headline that struck me. “Marxist Humanist Mensch,” the piece was called. My tweet read: “Imagine a tribute to a Nazi humanist mensch.”
The purpose of that tweet, if one must locate a purpose in a one-liner, was simple. Why, after the real-world manifestations of Marxism in the 20th century had led to (by some estimates) 60 million deaths, would it still be considered a positive thing to be described as a “Marxist”? No one on earth wishes to be described as a Nazi, because of the murderousness of that real-world political philosophy; why would this not be the same with Marxism?