Let’s call each other comrade

I have the privilege of working for an extraordinary man, Chuck Swindoll. He’s smart, kind, competent, fair, engaging…the list goes on and on. He’s the greatest person I’ve know personally. 

One of the things I love and respect about Chuck is that he insists on being called Chuck. Not doctor or president or chancellor (he held both positions at a major seminary), or even pastor; he wants his colleagues, friends, admirers, and even children to call him Chuck. I like that; it’s admirable and right.

Years ago I worked with a man who had an honorary doctorate and he insisted on being addressed as Dr., even by his wife when they were in public. Ugh…

In our culture we often overuse titles and postnominals. Why don’t we just use first names? Or, better yet, here’s a meaningful, egalitarian term that implies unity and solidarity.   

I like the term comrade. 

Because of its common usage in portrayals of the Soviet Union in Cold War films and books, the term has become strongly associated with Russo-Soviet communism, even though the Russian word is tovarisch, not comrade. Admit it: When you read the title of this post, what came to mind? Did you resist the term?

But the term comrade (which means “mate, colleague, ally, team member”) actually derives from the Spanish and Portuguese term camarada. Political use of the term was inspired by the French Revolution (following the Revolution, French titles of nobility were abolished), after which it grew into a common and preferred form of address between members of a group regardless of class, rank, or status. Indeed, in communist Russia, Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the Soviet Union, would greet a factory worker by calling him tovarisch, and the factory worker felt comfortable calling Khrushchev tovarisch.

But the word has been misunderstood and sullied by social and historical influences, so I’m going to use it sparingly. If I know you have read this post, I may, with a concealed smile, greet you as comrade. But when I stand before the congregation at my church, I’ll refrain.

Just call me Don, or comrade. 

28 Replies to “Let’s call each other comrade”

  1. Well Comrade Don –

    I much prefer calling folks by their Name.

    To me the use of comrade denotes that all the people that are comrades are the same and that there is the lose or disregard for individuality!!

    I don’t have any basis for that, just how it has come across to me over the years and my view, unsubstantiated, of the communist system of how everyone is treated the same and everyone gets the same, wears the same clothes, etc. as you seem to still see in China and Korea.

    So, I’ll probably call you Don, and you can call me Jay, or Ray or whatever, but I’d prefer not to be called comrade. Jay Stevenson

    1. Thanks, Jay, for responding. You’re right, the term comrade spoken in a Communist country has a distasteful ring to it. But in its Spanish form (original) it is pleasant. Thanks for our friendship and for singing in the choir. Our program last Sunday was terrific. Don

  2. Hi, Don,
    Yes, the “ouch” factor took effect at the title “Conrad.” Perhaps there were too many years associated with death and abuse for it to successfully crawl out of its “hole of disuse.”
    Contrary to its negative mental image for many is another common word that is used in many American families, especially those where mines were producing fuel for the growth and preservation of America. It’s use stemmed from the need of a man in a mine to have someone he could depend on in an emergency . The name “Bud” did not come, then, from the branch of a Hydra, but from the “Buddy-System” used in mines.
    When our boys were growing up I called each of them “Bud” at various times, and often. My Dad called my brothers “Bud” and they have used tgat term with their boys. In mines, on farms, in factories and in homes its use is common in some areas.
    Now that our sons are getting closer to retirement, I still find myself saying, “Hay, Bud,, what do you think about……”. I just love knowing that they understand my American-rooted heart and the endearing use of the words, “Bud, we’re so glad you are here!”

    1. Karen, Thanks for telling the story. Four years ago I got a Golden Retriever and named him Buddy. The name says it all…
      Merry Christmas. Don

  3. Hi Comrade… giggle giggle. My name is Peter and I have been a huge fan Of Chuck Swindoll for over 35 years. I’ve not had the opportunity to meet him, and am jealous of you, being able to work with him. I have also enjoyed your posts for a few years as well and didn’t even know that you were associated with Chuck!?!

    Anyway, just wanted to mention that and say thank you for all of your wonderful insights, please keep up the good work!

    Blessings, Peter

    1. Peter, thank you for kind and encouraging words. Yes, Chuck is an amazing man; I am so fortunate to work with him. Merry Christmas. Don

  4. I call close friends ‘Beloved’ and I think “Friend” is good. Like so many good words, Comrade might take a while to redeem from history and politics. Language is important and perhaps thinking and behavior changes begins with some language change. I would like to remove “Boo” and “booing” from sports vocabulary. I would also like to use the pronoun “WE” in place of so many labels and ‘they’ and ‘them’ s. Thanks for your articles, cartoons, and insights, “comrade”

    1. Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are well said and worth saying. I hope that our national conversations can become more civil. I hope 2022 will be a good year for you. Don

  5. Truthfully, my first impression of your title was very positive. Love all your post; this one included. Thank you comrade.

  6. Cute one Don (Comrade) – Thanks for the education – but being 79 years old and considering how we were raised in West Texas, I think I will stick to Don –
    Regards,
    Rod Taylor

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