A communist’s guide to debating with ideological opponents: reactionary, liberal, and anti-communist leftists
1/x
Recognize that debate is a form of ideological conditioning. Never think that what happens on twitter doesn’t matter. Every experience we have in life shapes who we are.
The average person does not spend much time debating ideas with those outside their own ideology; these conversations and debates are important and affect our thinking. The audience is always far greater than just the other person
Try not to label the other person, because labels like conservative, reactionary, liberal, etc., are all highly contested and don’t usually mean that much to the other person. Focus on what they are saying and where it leads
If a person is against universal healthcare, for example, point out that even in a rich nation like the US, lack of access to healthcare kills tens of thousands of people a year (pre-pandemic), and ask, what is your proposed solution to this problem?
“Letting people die doesn’t feel like an option to me” is usually better than “you callous murderer”
Remember that you represent Marxism / socialism / communism to some extent, so try to conduct yourself with honor. To me that means you try to seek common ground and avoid cheap shots
Don’t forget that every conflict -- from a debate on twitter to a physical fight -- causes the same activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) and this is stressful. Consider whether or not you have the emotional energy for it right now
Sometimes self-care means walking away from a fight
Try to de-escalate where possible
Refrain from insults if possible. If you are insulted, remind the opponent that insults don’t help, but actually weaken, their case
Use humor; sometimes a joke is the only response to the absurdity of a person’s ‘argument’
Sometimes you get further by asking questions than by demolishing a person’s points. People have to figure things out themselves, and asking questions can be disarming
Do not take it as your responsibility to provide the person with links to articles, videos, peer-reviewed journals, etc. These will inevitably fail to be read / understood. However, if you have them handy, post them, because others observe and might be helped by them
You will, in general, not change someone’s mind. You can give someone things to think about, and we know that a small % of people do change their views, but it’s a gradual process. Do not expect to get credit
The US education system is weak in terms of teaching respectful debate, so not many people have any sort of training in constructing an argument and disagreeing respectfully.
People get offended, then angry, then spin out into personal attacks, which are mostly imaginary projections.
Peoples’ grasp of systematic thinking about society and the economy is similarly weak. We have been trained and encouraged to uplift our own personal, anecdotal experiences as the ultimate standard, and this does not provide any basis for evaluating society.
This is why overblown narratives about grandparents who fled Cuba or the USSR or questions like ‘why don’t you move to Venezuela if you love socialism so much’ are often seen as the ultimate shutdown, when in fact they mean very little and do not constitute any sort of argument.
I could easily reply that my own grandfather died from lack of access to healthcare under capitalism, and then we’d be deadlocked by this absurd standard
I personally do not waste much time with the truly reactionary, unless it is either entertaining or I feel there is something to be learned from it. Some do, and that’s fine. Liberals I will occasionally interact with.
I like talking to leftists, because I feel that is where communism most easily takes root, and there is often plenty of common ground in terms of policies
If you are going to get into debates, remember that there is the mute button and the block button, and these are fine to use. You do not owe anyone a response to anything on twitter, and not responding does not mean you have lost an argument.
I hope you will use these ideas only for good, and never to see through my own arguments
Like everyone else, I am learning -- if you comb through my replies, you’ll find lots of places where I have fallen short of these principles, and I’m sure I’ll fall short in the future, so never think that I have it all figured out :)

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