Debate: Was Wolfson’s ‘Communist Bop’ in good taste?

YES – Charlotte Cooper-Beglin

Whoops, I must have missed the memo that told us bops were supposed to be in good taste! In the sweaty throng that swarms our JCR every bop night, I have seen lots of things; two guys dress as ‘2 Girls 1 Cup’ smothered in hummus and chocolate sauce, a formidable Thatcher costume in the wake of the former PM’s death, and innumerable straight guys in make-up, stilettos and tutus for Queer Fest.

So is Wolfson’s ‘Communist Bop’ in the best taste? I hope not, as that would make it all rather dull wouldn’t it? Part of the point of bops as an institution is surely to be able to don some fabulous creation that would produce a lot of stares/ridicule/sharp intakes of breath if you tried to wear it to Bridge. But I also don’t think it’s morally abhorrent. Communism itself isn’t evil. It has had many different manifestations in different ages, regimes and thinkers. The glaringly obvious point is that many horrific atrocities have happened under the guise of communism, but that is not inherently what communism is. It’s an ideology, with a variety of political and historical realities.

Admittedly, that makes it a bit different from your usual bop theme. I can picture the attendees gazing perplexedly into their staple fancy dress box at a cowboy hat, feather boa and battered pair of fairy wings as they try and come up with a costume for this one (suggestions on a postcard please).

History and ideology shouldn’t be kept locked up in the library, confined to a separate sphere of intellectualism. It’s the stuff of culture, and we should be able to drag it down into the sphere of humour and play with it in everyday life. Has no-one seen the wonderful Marxist reimagining of popular culture on Tumblr? Check out ‘Cosmarxpolitan’ and ‘It’s raining Mensheviks’, The point is these irreverent uses of politics and the past aren’t meant to offend anyone; rather they subject figures from history to our own wit and ridicule.

Also, communism seems like a pretty funny theme to me. Marxist intellectual jargon, uniforms and symbolism, coupled with a range of excellent facial hair amongst the leading figures is surely a recipe for a fun night. Not forgetting the opportunity to make a variety of puns on ‘The Party’. ‘Toe the Party line’, ‘unwavering loyalty to the Party’, ‘a revolutionary Party’. Anyone?

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The clear objection is where do you draw the line? Is it okay to dress as Stalin?Would it be okay to have a ‘Nazi Bop’? I think not, but it’s hard to create a rule of thumb as to why. We should be able to judge when something is just a bit controversial or when something has crossed the line and actually becomes hurtful or hateful. The particular place of Nazism in our culture and history, and its fundamentally racist ideas surely give everyone the gut feeling that some uses of it are just plainly a bad idea.

So no, I don’t think the ‘Communist Bop’ is offensive, to the contrary, I support their right to (in the words of the Facebook event) “party under the banner of The Party for an evening of revolutionary proportions”. And for those who despise Communism, remember: one of the best ways to attack something can be to take the piss out of it.

NOJoe Miles

Wadham has a reputation for radical politics, which I feel is a little unfair.
Not all of us are concerned with equality. Some of us want no more than a black shirt, a nightstick, and the freedom to engage in the systematic beating of political opponents. This is why as of today I am proud to announce that I shall be launching Wadham’s first fascist themed Bop. Featuring such hits as Giovinezza, Tomorrow Belongs to Me, and the Horst- Wessel-Lied played by our special guest DJ Tommy Robinson — the Bop will be an enjoyable evening.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; that this is utterly insulting to the people who suffered because of the unrealistic demands of a utopian ideology. To the naysayers I reply that wasn’t true fascism; it has merely been perverted by well-meaning but ultimately flawed leaders who put their personal interests before the well-being of the country. I imagine by now the preceding paragraph has caused spluttering outrage, and possibly a sharp profits boost in Amazon’s soon to be launched ‘Munitions and Weaponry’ department .

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A fascist themed bop, even if therewere anything good to be said about its values (and unlike communism, there really isn’t), will always be roundly condemned because of the effect it had on Europe for a decade or so (in the case of Portugal and Spain, even longer). The word ‘fascism’ invokes imagery of death camps, the suppression of political thought, and the execution of anyone opposed to the regime. That is why, no matter what your opinions on the aesthetics of Nazi Germany, actually celebrating a night dressed as an officer of the Waffen-SS would leave you with precisely zero chance of premarital intercourse.

So why do we think that a communist themed bop is acceptable? We might argue that the ideology itself isn’t intrinsically wrong — that for all its flaws, communism is at least a good idea in principle. Yet even if we accept that communism is a good ideology, that doesn’t make celebrating it acceptable.

On every metric, the attempt to implement communism has been far more damaging than its fascist counterpart. Hitler is regarded as the most evil man in history for the genocide of millions. The effect of the several decades of forced collectivizations, political purges and mass terror and industrial murder was far worse, numerically, than the crimes of Nazi Germany.

Yet not only does the ‘Communist Bop’ actively embrace this ideology, it also glorifies the regime of Stalin. Even if a ‘Communist Bop’ can be considered acceptable, paying tribute to a murderer certainly is not. I visited East Berlin recently, and the legacy of the Berlin Wall angered me just as much as the atrocities of the Gestapo. As far as I could see, they were equally as domineering and unforgivable. This is the problem with radical ideologies — not content with their own space, they seek to redefine society and exclude those who disagree. In fact, I might host a bop this weekend after all — an Anarchist one. Everyone’s invited, you can turn up whenever, share drinks with whomever and if you don’t want to come along, that’s fine.