21 comments on “Mark Twain, Cats and Communism

  1. Your very interesting post (and the dialectical debate that followed) have reached Italian marxists/cat lovers.
    And although we have no information on Gramsci’s position towards cats or dogs (although I feel he would definitely be classified as a cat person) I thought we would share this nice image found on the web:
    /Users/marco/Desktop/images.jpg

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  2. After all the attempts to incorrectly categorize cats as Trotskyites, Maoists, bourgeois, etc., Mike Oliver nails it brilliantly. Heinlein. Not only do cats exhibit individualism and independence, they are suspicious (contemptuous, really) of anyone who tries to impose authority over them. Plus, Heinlein wrote about cats as extensively as Twain.

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  3. Lets be clear here, cats are not communists or anarchists, cats are not human beings. The point is cats cannot be controlled, this drives Stalinists nuts( I basically consider Maoism to be a form of Stalinism with a few differing traits) it offends them that this clearly “inferior” being won’t take their lead while Trotskyists are more likely to accept it and even enjoy the challenge of being in a relationship with a cat on their terms. The dog follows the owner loyally because the owner knows best and will direct the dog in ints own interests the dog cannot discern for itself. Supposedly, this is clearly not always the case. Ain’t that Stalinism in a nutshell. Trotskyists, ideally are less into being dictators. There are however plenty of dictatorial personalities that identify as Trotskyists and plenty of Trotskyist leaning organizations have been ruined by a dictator who rails against Stalinism whil acting like Stalin. I think the problem with Trotskyists is they get really dogmatic, they take their ideas too seriously and so they get dogmatic about them, Trotskyists are very idealistic. I love my cat and hes definitely a cat, nobody tells him what to do, he will meow for pets and yet be in a really inconvenient spot to pet him in but if you try to pick him up he gets mad. He doesn’t like to get picked up. It makes sense, he doesn’t like to be reminded I’m way bigger than him and can overpower him and his will if I really want to. I am kind of the same way. I don’t know that cats are like Trotskyists as much as Trotskyists are really like cats. I like dogs too, some dogs, it depends on the dog. I however don’t treat dogs like inferiors and talk down to them. I find it irritating when someone speaks to a mature adult dog like a baby.

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  4. You’ve completely missed the point. Twain’s not talking about *class* independence. He’s talking about individual indpendence. Cats aren’t communists; they’re individualist anarchists. Instead of Lenin you should be talking about Heinlein.

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  5. Pingback: Catpitalism Vs. Dogmunism?: Lenin’s Cat and Other Stories « The Myth of Syphilis

  6. I enjoyed this very much, which I found when I was curious about Lenin’s cat. More of us Marxists need to write with such whimsy. The Romanovs had a dog, which the family’s executioners did not spare. Perhaps, for Lenin, the dog-cat rivalry went that far.

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  7. I’m a cat lover and a Marxist, definitely on the Trotsky side of this debate. HOWEVER… dogs are more much more collective in the way they work and live – but also subservient to their masters. The cross-class which you cite. Cats, by contrast, are independent and more self-reliant. Loyal to their own class perhaps, but perhaps this is bourgeois class loyalty. We go to work to serve them.

    Perhaps with the socialist revolution cats would come under collective leadership and dogs would cast off the muck of ages and become masters of their own destiny. We will see.

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  8. Thanks for responding to this old article angelica. For some reason lots of folks still stumble on it. Yes more socialists and cats and more socialist cats (or are they to anti-social to be socialists themselves?). Thanks for the link.

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  9. This is all a while after the post, but more socialists and cats: Marx himself was quite ambivalent about cats. His own cat habit, even. When he had pennies to spare he’d buy his children cats; yet still, he regarded them as a bourgeois frivolities. Rousseau, on the other hand, while quite an arsehole in certain ways, was perhaps the first to propose the argument that Twain takes – http://virtualstoa.net/2012/01/11/rousseau-and-boswell-on-cats/ : “They do not like cats because the cat is free and will never consent to become a slave. He will do nothing to your order, as the other animals do… A hen would obey your orders if you could make her understand them, but a cat will understand you perfectly and not obey them.”

    Brilliant. More socialists and cats, pls.

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  10. Fascinating! I’m writing about Mark Twain and cats both in his stories and in his life, and here’s a reference I hadn’t known about–plus Lenin and Trotsky, what a bonus!

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  11. You know, I’m not sure if I could call the RCP maoist anymore. As Avakianists (oy vey), I think they prefer ferrets or perhaps one of those blind shrews. The way my theory (sic) works:, Maoists are dog lovers, but dog lovers are not necessarily maoists.

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  12. Murphy,

    I did hear of this. “cats domesticated themselves” which means they can just as well undomesticate themselves as they daily do. After a quick perusal I BELIEVE the poem is by Gunter Kunert and was published in a 1961 (untranslated) collection called Tagwerke. He wrote poems on paintings and pictures, most famously of Goya. I would love to see a copy, I’ve never read it.

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  13. On the independence of cats, I was impressed by the archeological research (or was it biology?) recently that posited that cats were the only animals that domesticated themselves. When humans began storing grain 10 or 12 thousand years ago, it attracted mice and rats, so cats discovered that living among humans was a better deal than foraging in the wild. So, they’re only with us til a better deal comes along — dependent on no one, as Twain said.
    By the way, does anyone know the poem in German based on the above photo of “Lenin mit einer Katze”? I thought it was Volker Braun but can’t find it in any of his books.

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  14. Yes, yes. Trotsky would never name his dogs after The Lords of Olympus. I wonder who they might be named after. Knowing Trotsky some obscure Hungarian opera. Lorca doesn’t have to read it, Lorca already knows it.

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  15. During the French Revolution, cats were considered revolutionary while dogs were associated with the despised “aristos.” In the cartoon movie “Gay Puree,” one of the good guy cats is actually named Ropespierre. Of course, during the siege of Paris by the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war neither of furry friends fared too well.

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