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'Soviet Russia' red herring?

McGrath of Harlow 25 Nov 06 - 09:11 PM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Nov 06 - 09:13 PM
Big Mick 25 Nov 06 - 09:26 PM
Metchosin 26 Nov 06 - 01:50 AM
GUEST,Student J 26 Nov 06 - 03:53 AM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Nov 06 - 10:31 AM
Alba 26 Nov 06 - 10:42 AM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Nov 06 - 06:59 PM
GUEST,lox 27 Nov 06 - 07:13 PM
michaelr 27 Nov 06 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,memyself 27 Nov 06 - 07:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Nov 06 - 06:43 AM
Paul Burke 28 Nov 06 - 07:27 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Nov 06 - 07:57 AM
Wolfgang 28 Nov 06 - 09:15 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Nov 06 - 09:46 AM
Little Hawk 28 Nov 06 - 09:57 AM
Wolfgang 29 Nov 06 - 11:38 AM
Paul Burke 29 Nov 06 - 12:07 PM
Little Hawk 29 Nov 06 - 01:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Nov 06 - 03:26 PM
Little Hawk 29 Nov 06 - 03:36 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 29 Nov 06 - 07:55 PM
Little Hawk 29 Nov 06 - 09:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Nov 06 - 09:45 PM
GUEST,Gza 29 Nov 06 - 10:12 PM
Teribus 29 Nov 06 - 10:43 PM
Little Hawk 29 Nov 06 - 11:00 PM
Little Hawk 29 Nov 06 - 11:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Nov 06 - 04:36 PM
The Sandman 30 Nov 06 - 05:03 PM
Little Hawk 30 Nov 06 - 05:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Nov 06 - 08:18 PM
Les in Chorlton 01 Dec 06 - 03:58 AM
Piers 01 Dec 06 - 04:11 AM
Wolfgang 03 Dec 06 - 02:43 PM
Little Hawk 03 Dec 06 - 03:01 PM
Les in Chorlton 03 Dec 06 - 05:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Dec 06 - 06:43 PM
Little Hawk 03 Dec 06 - 06:57 PM
Piers 04 Dec 06 - 07:49 AM
Little Hawk 04 Dec 06 - 08:05 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 04 Dec 06 - 10:13 AM
Little Hawk 04 Dec 06 - 10:34 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 Dec 06 - 05:42 AM
Wolfgang 06 Dec 06 - 07:26 AM
Les in Chorlton 06 Dec 06 - 12:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Dec 06 - 01:07 PM
Little Hawk 06 Dec 06 - 01:54 PM
Cluin 07 Dec 06 - 01:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Dec 06 - 02:06 PM
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Subject: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 09:11 PM

Seeing the stories this week about "the radioactive spy", the ex-KGB spy in London, Alexander Litvinenko, who died plausibly accusing Putin of having had him murdered, an old thought has recurred.

For all those years the Cold war was seen in terms of an ideological conflict between "Socialist Totalitarianism" and "Western (Capitalist) Democracy", and the collapse of the Soviet Union was seen in these terms. And it still is.

But there is another way of seeing things, and that is as a matter of a kind of Russian bureaucratic imperialism which, in its esentials, predated the October Revolution, and which has continued, in its essentials, in the wake of the end of the USSR. The fact that, during the days of the USSR, the Russian Empire used the language and some of the theoretical apparatus of Socialism can be seen as a contingent fact that was not really all that significant. A kind of spin.

Everything is changed in Russia - capitalist enterprises, the paraphernalia of a consumer society, millionaires, gangsters, high fashion, religion. But in another sense, nothing has changed. Yes, they have elections - but then they always had elections, and the government always got in, and that's how it still works. There's a press, and media - and the government controls it. And where people get out of line, they die or vanish, the same as before.

Maybe people should stop blaming what happened during the Cold War on "Socialism", and stop using the collapse of the Soviet Empire as a way of proving "Socialism just doesn't work". After all they could just as easily use the present state of Russia as proof that "Capitalism just doesn't work". The truth is "Socialism" and "Capitalism" are both of them a kind of camouflage for a system that has never really been either Socialist or Capitalist.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 09:13 PM

This ought to be in the BS section. (See, I said it first.) Though I'm sure I could find a few songs and suchlike to tie in to it.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Big Mick
Date: 25 Nov 06 - 09:26 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Metchosin
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 01:50 AM

For what its worth, I'm in complete agreement with your observations McGrath.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: GUEST,Student J
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 03:53 AM

We covered the very subject in Sociology class and came to much the same conclusion McG. Very interesting.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 10:31 AM

So the logical consequence should be that people putting forwards socialist solutions to the problems of the society and the world can hope to start getting a fair hearing once again.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Alba
Date: 26 Nov 06 - 10:42 AM

Yes that would be logical conclusion one would reach McGrath but, sadly, since when has "Logic" been allowed in a discussion about Socialism on the Mudcat:)
T'would be refreshing if it was however:)

Jude


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 06:59 PM

I'm not especially thinking about the Mudcat here. We do have some pretty odd arguments soemtimes, but they tend to be pretty open.

What I have in mind is a sort of knee-jerk reaction in the media generally, and in most politics, to the effect that all that stuff about socialism is outdated and irrelevant, and that the collapse of the Soviet Union shows that it-just-don't-work.

The fact that, for most socialists outside the grasp of the Soviet Empire, what was happening there was always seen as a gross distortion of any possible model of socialism, and was frequently described and attacked as "state socialism" or even "state capitalism" - that has been brushed aside. "Socialism" - that's a-no-go area, lets talk aboutb something else...

I have a feeling that this period might be drawing to an end, and that ideas and policies might be allowed to stand and fall by their own merits and demerits, rather than by association with the Soviet bogey.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: GUEST,lox
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 07:13 PM

Thing is that the old adage "they tried it in Russia and it didn't work" was never an intelligent reasoned argument anyway. It is just one of those points that stupid people drop like lumps of lead on any intelligent discourse without really knowing what they are talking about.

It's difficult to explain why it is shallow without going deep, and you can't do that with someone who a) doesn't know any history and b) has already made up their mind anyway.

It was always, and will continue to be the lazy mans tool where he wants to be definitive and be listened to without having to display his total ignorance.

It is repeated ad nauseam in this regard, and will continue to be. To expect intelligent debate on the basis that the russian regime is changing is ... optimistic ...


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: michaelr
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 07:13 PM

It is to be wished for. Marx's ideas weren't so bad, you know -- they've just never been implemented as he intended.

On the other hand, it's always been my feeling that "socialism just doesn't work" because most people don't want to be equal. The human animal's main motivator is greed, after all.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: GUEST,memyself
Date: 27 Nov 06 - 07:26 PM

The old fella and I were having a talk about some of this sort of thing in the summer, particularly the matter you bring up in your initial post, of Soviet Russia in many ways being a continuation of Tsarist Russia. Now, the old fella's certainly not what you would call a left-winger - in Canada, anyway - but in conclusion, he said, "You know, the ironic thing is that communism probably would have worked out quite well in the States." The implication was that the elements that have made the U.S. such a successful capitalist economy - Yankee know-how, chutzpah, pragmatism, etc. - are the same things that would have made it a successful communist economy. He wasn't completely serious, but he did have a point.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 06:43 AM

I was thinking that - I can imagine a world in which Russia had gone down the road of having the kind of Mafia and Kremlin Capitalism they have today, and the States had gone the road of an American style Socialism.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 07:27 AM

The real problem with "equality" is convincing enough people that reneging on the deal is a poor choice. In the 90% of the world that isn't Europe, the USA, Oz and other westernised countries, the choices are usually fairly stark: behave morally, and at best you will scrape mere survival. Cheat and lose, and you'll be the same. Cheat and win, and you'll live the life of Larry.

The big difference in the developed world is that most people more-or-less conform, and have a reasonable life; those who cheat and lose might go to jail; those who win live in the said Laurentian manner. So cheating may bring a worse outcome than conformity.

Socialist movements have historically suffered from the ease with which leaders can either be offered a taste of the good life, or the fact that once you are in control of the distribution of resources, cheating becomes an obvious strategy, just as long as you can convince the masses that you are still on their side.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 07:57 AM

Socialist movements have historically suffered from the ease with which leaders can either be offered a taste of the good life True. But in that they are no different about from what other leaders. All successful politicians, and most unsuccessful ones, seem to come out from power a lot richer than they went in.

It's a failing in the way we run things all right, but it's not really anything to do with the economic system as such.

However the suggestion that people as a whole behave more honestly and morally in Europe and America than elsewhere seems to me pretty questionable. The prevalence of institutionalised bribery doesn't really go to prove that - we've got different but in many ways equivalent practices throughout our own society, more especially at the top.

And typically this kind of thing, where it is institutionalised, isn't seen as cheating, whether it's clerks accepting bribes, or executives accepting bonuses. Breaking deals is something that is different, and is relatively uncommon in most societies. One exception being in England with the common practice of gazumping in house sales.

The biggest thing that gets in the way of "equality" is insecurity, the feeling that only by grabbing more than you need are you going to be safe from having to get by on less than you need.

There are people who seem to have an insatiable appetite for more and more. When it is drink that is involved, it is recognised as a disorder, an addiction. In healthy societies people see it in the same light when the insatiable appetite is for money and possessions.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 09:15 AM

Interesting thoughts.
So we also should blame the murders the GDR secret service ordered in West Germany German bureaucratic imperialism and in other Socialist countries as well?
Socialism has been tried in many other places.
To blame the failure on "Soviet Russia" looks to me like wanting to avoid learning from a much more general failure.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 09:46 AM

When you have an empire, that shapes what happens in the various parts of that empire, and East Germany was part of an empire. That means that a lot of what went wrong in East Germany and the other satellites can indeed be laid at the door of Russia, and of the model of "socialism" imposed by Russia.

Much, not all. There was no shortage of willing agents. But there never is in any empire. And in the case of Germany this was in a society with a tradition of authoritarian bureaucracy in Germany going back a long way.

My point is, authoritarian regimes around the world will use whatever label is most convenient. Sometimes they may call themselves "socialist", sometimes "free enterprise", sometimes "democratic", sometimes "Islamic" or "Christian", or whatever. We shouldn't be too taken in by these labels, so as to by blindly lend approval to a regime merely because it has "our" label; nor should we give too much weight to these kind of things when making judgements about how we should seek to order our own societies.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Nov 06 - 09:57 AM

I'd agree with your post that started this thread, McGrath. It was never a point of "socialism" having been tried in Russia and having failed. After all, socialism has been tried in some Scandinavian countries (democracies) and other places and has undoubtedly succeeded. ;-) (What was tried in Russia and failed was an overly rigid authoritarian political system which attempted to compete economically and militarily with someone else who had considerably greater financial and human resources, and bankrupted itself in the process. The Russians would have failed regardless of whether they were capitalist or socialist, because their approach was too heavy-handed to keep their population happy and they took on more than they could handle in military spending. The same thing happened to the Nazis...but in a hot war, not a cold war, so it happened a lot faster and more violently.)

You speak of a form of "Russian bureaucratic imperialism which, in its esentials, predated the October Revolution"...

Yes. Very much so. But one could just as well speak of British bureaucratic imperialism...a long established force which has profoundly altered world history as it went all over the globe conquering other places.

Or American bureaucratic imperialism...first proclaimed in the Monroe Doctrine...expanded greatly after the very convenient (from the USA's point of view) Spanish-American War...and gone totally hogwild since the end of WWII.

Or German bureaucratic imperialism...begun successfully under the wise hand of Bismark...gone to ruin and disaster under the less wise hands of Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler.

Or French bureaucratic imperialism...quite successful at times, but hampered considerably by Great Britain's skill at warfare on land and sea.

Or Spanish bureaucratic imperialism...which made them the world power for awhile, but was brought down gradually by the English.

And so on, and so on....

Then there's the Japanese, the Italians, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Chinese...

There are a whole lot of bureaucratic imperialists out there waiting their historical turn at becoming THE world power. All of them will pretend to be the most progressive society with the best ideas. All of them will assert that in some way they are saving the world and leading it into a better age. All of them do it strictly for their own gain. It has little to do essentially with either capitalism or socialism...although it can harness either one in service of imperial ambition.

I'll say this, though...large-scale capitalism, by its very nature, seeks to expand and enlarge itself indefinitely and to devour all available resources and take over all available markets. In so doing it becomes a menace to the natural environment and to everything living on this planet. As such, it may prove to be the greatest threat of all, since it is driven not by the urge to do anything genuinely useful, but simply the urge to make more money. And money is a completely artificial thing. It's a mere idea that people made up. It's a fiction that we all agree to pretend is real. It's not wise to devote the entire resources of a world merely to accumulate more of an artificial thing that cannot be eaten when all the real edible stuff is gone.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 11:38 AM

In National Socialist Germany, the "socialist" bit was but a label, but in the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics it was more. They have tried a lot of concepts which are concepts of a socialist economy with extremely little success. If one compares East and West Germany which at the start had fairly equal conditions, the difference in productivity after a short time of socialist economy was a telltale sign.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 12:07 PM

I think you've got the wrong end of it there Wolfgang. West Germany was pampered after the war, precisely because Communism - and more strongly Socialism- was seen by so many an alternative model to Capitalism. The place to see how Capitalism really works is Africa and Central/South America, where they haven't had to buy off their populations. That's our future too, if we don't succeed in keeping them scared.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 01:50 PM

Excellent point, Paul. Either capitalism or socialism can work well when a government is both morally upright and responsible to its people. They can both become a disaster when a government is immoral and irresponsible.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 03:26 PM

I take your point Wolfgang - but the model of socialism imposed on East Germany, as on other satellites, was very much shaped by the Soviet occupiers, and by the adoption of the Soviet model.

It involved was a rigidly centralised control economy, subordinated to the needs of the Soviet Union, combined with a repressive police state.

It's fair enough to say that it has been demonstrated pretty conclusively that that is not a viable way of doing things. But to go further and decide that it proves anything about the viability of other forms of socialism, as has been done, is going far beyond the evidence.

As fair to conclude from the present Russian model, and from the experience of the kind of countries Paul Burke referred to, that Capitalist societies necessarily have to be grotesquely brutal and inefficient, and incompatible with any genuine democracy.

One way and another the Bolshevik revolution was a disaster, and especially so for socialists.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 03:36 PM

Probably because it happened in Russia...a country with a long history and tradition of hardline rule by absolute rulers and oppressive tyrants. Russians, in fact, seem to feel a bit more   comfortable with the heavy hand of authority than without it, given recent experience. What I mean is, a lack of strong and ruthless centralized authority there seems to lead to widespread crime and corruption that gets totally out of hand.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 07:55 PM

My 2˘...

An economic system is nothing but a tool for distributing resources. No economic system is inherently good or evil any more than a power drill is good or evil. The same power drill can be used to build homes for the needy or to torture Iraqi civilians. It depends on whose hands it's in.

A society's economic system is always secondary to its political system. An authoritarian political system will invariably use a society's economic system as a means toward its own authoritarian ends, not the good of the society.

If Kim Jong-il were to renounce communism and embrace capitalism tomorrow, do you think anyone in North Korea would notice the difference?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 09:16 PM

"No economic system is inherently good or evil any more than a power drill is good or evil."

Exactly. It's the man (or men) wielding the drill who are the crucial factor. What are their intentions? What are their purposes?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 09:45 PM

Which doesn't mean that there aren't significant differences between power drills, and some are much better value than others, and some aren't anywhere near as reliable as others.

I suppose you could stretch the analogy and say that the better the power drill the more damage it could do in the wrong hands.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: GUEST,Gza
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 10:12 PM

There are so many ways of applying either socialism or capitalism that any generalized statement about them will not suffice. Besides, most societies now are a very mixed combination of the two...so they obviously can be made to work together harmoniously.

Thus the original point about the Soviet system being used as a "red herring" to damn socialism generally is clearly correct.

The problem with the Soviet system was not that it employed socialism. The problem was that it employed ONLY socialism of a very rigid and centralized sort, along with a repressive police state...and a single political party that was made into a secular god in that society. Socialism does not require any of that being done in order for it to BE socialism.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Teribus
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 10:43 PM

Hey guys, tell me what the level of grain exports were from the US to Russia during the time of the Tsars, compare that to the fact that not ONCE during its entire history did Communist Soviet Russia EVER manage to feed it's own population. Now tell me why?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 11:00 PM

Because they were too busy building tanks, airplanes, guns, and missiles, I expect. North Korea has a similar problem.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Nov 06 - 11:09 PM

Besides, who is defending Soviet Russia here? We are defending socialism, not the Soviet system. That was the point of the post that started this thread. Socialism is not an all-or-nothing proposition, it's an integral part of all modern societies, and all democracies, the USA included. You cannot HAVE a functioning modern society without a good deal of socialism.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Nov 06 - 04:36 PM

And as a war geared economy, the USSR was a lot more successful than Tsarist Russia had been, against a much stronger Germany.

But neither of them did a good job for ordinary citizens, and nor does the present regime.

Clearly Soviet Russia is a very poor role model for anyone else, but it shouldn't be used as a demonstration of how socialist ideas are fundamentally flawed; what happened in Soviet Russia was a gross distortion of anything that can fairly be called socialism.

I'm reminded of when Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation, and he replied "I think it would be a very good idea", And there is another quote, from Chesterton - "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Nov 06 - 05:03 PM

well said master mcgrath.
I understood trotsky believed that Socialism could only be achieved if it was implemented throughout every country of the world simultaneously.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 30 Nov 06 - 05:38 PM

Yes, because otherwise the nature of institutionalized human and corporate greed and the willingness of ruthless people on the bottom to be hired by ruthless people at the top and paid off handsomely to bring down any emerging socialist enclave would probably nip it in the bud quite effectively...in most cases.

This has occurred many times already, specially in Latin America. History is littered with the corpses of egalitarian idealists, such as Emiliano Zapata and his followers in Mexico...or Allende and his followers in Chile.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Nov 06 - 08:18 PM

The logic of globalisation, both in manufacturing and such, and in communications, especially through the internet, are potentially leading us into a world where a lot of ideas associated with socialism, that were previously impractical, become possible. And a lot of ideas associated with capitalism become increasingly impractical.

In fact it becomes increasingly difficult to preserve all kinds of property rights of capitalist enterprises in face of these changes.

And the way that information of all kinds is beginning to be passed around the world, and throughout the whole of society, is going to make it increasingly hard to play the game of divide and rule.

At some point egalitarianism moves on from being something that can be brushed aside as impractical idealism, it becomes a practical necessity. After all, just consider how extreme and even crazy ideas that we take today for granted, and see as commonsense and essential to society, would have seemed only a relatively few years ago.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 Dec 06 - 03:58 AM

People gathered and hunted and lived a life descibed as primitive communist.

People farmed and lived lives dominated by the ownership and control of land and food.

People worked in factories built through industrialisation and investment capital.

The lives of people were determined by the means of production. So far so predictablt dull marxist I guess. I assume, probably wrongly, that most people who have looked at this badly reitterated argument see how works. The means of production: gathering and hunting, farming, industry have a very big affect on the lives of the people.

Capitalism and Industrialization are two sides of the same coin. Marx said, I think, that the class that owns the means of production will run things for themselves and that it was more or less inevitable that the working class can only get justice by taking over the means of production and in the end they will.

One major hole, yes I know their are many, in this argument seems to be:

What will be the means of production in a socialist society? Won't it just be industrial capitalism? And doesn't that just mean Capitalism with a kind face?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Piers
Date: 01 Dec 06 - 04:11 AM

Les, my friend Alan has recently posted a couple of articles on his blog which might be of interest to you:

How Socialism Can Organise Production Without Money

World Commonwealth

Piers


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 02:43 PM

Soviet Russia is a red herring, but not in the way the majority of posters here take it to be. Take a look at all the countries at the right side of the Iron curtain, some of them (China, Albania,...) quite independent of the USSR. If you are not myopic you can see clearly how productivity went down in each of these countries when Socialist elements were introduced.

To blame the failure of Socialism in half of the world on Russia and its specific situation is a red herring for those who are attracted by the emotionally appealing elements of Socialism.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 03:01 PM

Let's look at it from another angle, Wolfgang. Will the world (as a livable place for human beings and other creatures) necessarily be improved in the long run by a social philosophy that seeks to indefinitely expand and enlarge the gross national product, the production of consumable materials goods and the profitable returns of that production?

Or is that a philosophy that contains the seeds of its own destruction?

I think we are already seeing the answers all around us. We live in a society that is digging its own grave...for money.

If the above philosophy is the only one that can sufficiently motivate people to achieve the holy objective you mention (productivity going up)...then maybe human beings on this planet are just too stupid to go on living, and they will go the way of many extinct species before them.

We'll see. Or our grandchildren will.

How much more "stuff" do we need to be happy, Wolfgang? How many more weapons do we need to be "safe"?

REAL socialism has not yet been tried on this planet, because most people are too brainwashed by materialism to have any idea how to even set about trying it. I don't expect that to change during my lifetime.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 05:24 PM

Well said Little Hawk. The historic view from the left was that capitalism would in the end lead to its own calapse.

The point we are now at is the warming of the planet and the chaos that wil result.

The historic view is in a sense irrelevant. Capitalism in its present form seems unwilling or unable to respond effectively to the inpending chaos.

perhaps their is no way back


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 06:43 PM

The historic view from the left was that capitalism would in the end lead to its own collapse...Capitalism in its present form seems unwilling or unable to respond effectively to the impending chaos.

And this suggests that it will indeed collapse.

True enough, the Marxists, and indeed Karl Marx (who once said he wasn't actually a Marxist) didn't think too much about the environment and limitations imposed by it. (Unlike the anarchist Kropotkin). So the predictions they made about how things would work out as Capitalism collapsed aren't too relevant.
........................
The point about "all the countries at the right side of the Iron Curtain" is that their "socialism" didn't have its sources in any breakdown in the Capitalist system, because they didn't really have a Capitalist system (leaving aside some of the European satellites, such as East Germany, where other factors came in, notably military conquest and subordination to the priorities of the Kremlin).


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 03 Dec 06 - 06:57 PM

Both the communists and the West have completely missed the point of life, as far as I can see. They both succumbed to the materialist viewpoint that says, "More is always better." They were both wrong. The Soviets collapsed first, that's all. They had an inherently weaker system to work with, and one that wasn't as good at marketing goods and ideas. The West's brilliance with marketing will not save it from the eventual consequences of its gross materialism.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Piers
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 07:49 AM

When Marx wrote about capitalism collapsing it was not about any inherent component of the market mechanism or environmental catastrophe. It is about the action of people bringing about the change of capitalism to socialism/communism.

So-called 'communist countries' like former eastern-Europe and Cuba were based on state-capitalism. The means of producing and distributing wealth were controlled by a minority, workers were paid less that the value of what they produced, goods and services were distributed on the basis of ability to pay or to create further wealth - the essential features of capitalism existed. Socialism/communism entails that the means of producing and distributing wealth are controlled democratically (in the literal sense) by everybody, goods and services are distributed according to need - a world of free access.

It is true that Soviet Russia developed out of a mainly feudal society, they were not in a position to develop a socialist society because they lacked the forces of production to meet even basic needs. But the main reason is that a socialist/communist society must be borne democratically, because it is to be run democratically and for it to work requires a majority of people to want it and understand it. We cannot be like the capitalist society were we are forced to do things and don't have a say in how things are run - socialism means no leaders and no followers. The Bolsheviks were into hierachy and elitism in a big way. Lenin said workers could only organise into Trade Unions and needed a revolutionary elite, a vanguard of the working class to take place of government, and introduce socialism on the workers behalf - it never happened. The Blanquists at the time of the Paris Commune had similar ideas to the Bolsheviks in the early 20th century. Marx and Engels were very critical of them.

Capitalism is not going to collapse because it isn't about physical relations between things. Wages, prices, profits, property, growth, productivity, the state, etc, etc, are social relations between people and as long as they are accepted by most people then they exist. We have to make a revolution not sit around waiting for it.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 08:05 AM

"The means of producing and distributing wealth were controlled by a minority, workers were paid less that the value of what they produced, goods and services were distributed on the basis of ability to pay or to create further wealth - the essential features of capitalism existed."

Exactly! (grin) Sounds a lot like modern multi-national corporatism, but without the marketing savvy, that's all. You can suck people in a lot faster with "surround sound" and fast food and Nintendos than you can with big Mayday parades, crummy little 3rd rate cars, and speeches about the glory of "the Party".

The Russians didn't have real socialism. No country has yet had real socialism, as far as I know. Real socialism would provide goods and services according to actual need, not according to whether you have the money to pay for it or not. I have seen such a society depicted on a TV show (Star Trek), but it has not happened in reality...except for some of the simple hunter-gatherer societies of the past, and a few isolated spiritual communities here and there.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 10:13 AM

I think that what I am about to say has already been said in some of the posts above - but I suppose it can't help to say it in a slightly different way (and if I get it wrong, please feel free to shoot me down in flames!).

My (shaky) understanding of Marxism is that it is an evolutionary theory of human society. Said societies go through/will go through various stages, and the ultimate stage is socialism. The various stages include: hunter gathering, primitive agrarianism, feudalism and industrial capitalism. To reach the ultimate socialistic stage a society must go through the industrial capitalist stage and possess a fully fledged working class. This working class will be in the vanguard of the progression to socialism.
The trouble with Russia, at the time of the October Revolution, was that it only had a tiny working class and the vast majority of the population were peasants. The new leaders of the new Soviet Union had to 'shoe-horn' an unready and unwilling population into this new type of society. As the first half of the twentieth century progressed this was done with increasing brutality but because Russians were used to brutality, and were used to being brutalised, they went along with it. Eventually the whole thing proved to be unsustainable.
My, decidedly unMarxist (and probably reactionary) view is that all political/economic ideologies are dangerous oversimplifications and tend to lead to death and suffering (for someone, somewhere) and are all, ultimately, unsustainable. Down with ideological world views, I say!


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Dec 06 - 10:34 AM

Sounds reasonable to me. Kindness, fairness, and sanity are superior to any ideological world view anyone can make up.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Dec 06 - 05:42 AM

"My (shaky) understanding of Marxism is that it is an evolutionary theory of human society. Said societies go through/will go through various stages, and the ultimate stage is socialism. The various stages include: hunter gathering, primitive agrarianism, feudalism and industrial capitalism. To reach the ultimate socialistic stage a society must go through the industrial capitalist stage and possess a fully fledged working class. This working class will be in the vanguard of the progression to socialism.

Me too Shimrod. This model clearly argues that the way wealth is produced, (gathering and hunting, farming, industrial production) is powerfully predictive of the type of society ( primitive communism, agrraian fuedalism and eventualy industrial capitalism) that is created. So far so historical.

The big quaetion is whatever socialism is, will it in one form or another use industrialisation to create wealth? If so how different will it be from benificial, or otherwise, capitalism?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 07:26 AM

Little Hawk,

your understanding of the word 'productivity' is too narrow and your understanding of the word 'socialism' is too broad.
Products include of course also bread (fresh water) and other things we need and not only ever more of stupid merchandise. Productivity also can go up without more things being produced if people produce the same amount of things in fewer hours.
Socialism for Marx was of course including materialism. The word for you seems to be something completely different that has not only not been tried out but never beden described in enough detail.

Even countries (in East Europe) that had been exporters of food in market economy had shortages in food in a socialist system of production. The typical East German joke about that was: What will happen if the Sahara will get socialist too? Nothing during the first ten years, but then the sand supply will run short.

Piers,
who is making the revolution in your opinion? A radical elite against the will of the masses? That's how it sounds and it would be scaring if I would think that there were many people thinking like you.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 12:39 PM

People didn't move from gathering and hunting to farming or from fuedalism to capitalism because they got a new idea, they moved because planting wheat creates a hell of a lot of food. Later coal, steel and steam made industrialisation inevitable.

Marx thought Socialism inevitable, but what will the means of production be like?


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 01:07 PM

Socialism didn't begin with Marx, and it didn't end with Gorbachev.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Dec 06 - 01:54 PM

I don't regard what was practiced in East Germany and the Soviet Union as any kind of socialism that I would ever support, Wolfgang.

What I have always been in favour of...in the scope of our present social realities, you understand...is a harmonious combination of capitalism and socialism.

1. Capitalism to stimulate innovation and provide employment in small to medium-sized business activities in all areas of the economy...

2. Socialism to take care of larger national concerns such as a national health care system, some (but not all) educational institutions, some (but not all) communications and media networks, some (but not all) transportation systems, some (but not all) systems with regard to protecting the natural environment, and then you have government, the courts, the military, etc...which essentially pretty well have to be socialist institutions (meaning: you get paid by government paycheque). And so on...

That's sort of vaguely what we have in Canada right now...except that our economy is really controlled by a bunch of huge multi-national corporations and major banks...and that is what I don't like about the situation.

But what I ultimately envision...and it has never been tried...is a society such as was presented on the show Star Trek Next Generation, and that would be a truly socialist society where everyone had all their material needs met fully and there was no money at all. The motivations for getting ahead in that society would not have to do with money or material gain, they would have to do with much more subtle and far more meaningful matters. If you've seen the show, you know what I mean.

It would not be possible to instantly get people from our society to adjust to a situation like that, because they are completely unaccustomed to it. They are used to focusing on acquiring money and material goods and fighting for "survival of the fittest". As far as I'm concerned, our present society is still in an adolescent stage of consciousness...like a 14-year old...and it will probably remain so for some time to come.

I guess that's still better than being like a 6-year old. We have made some progress in the last few thousand years.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: Cluin
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 01:36 PM

Socialism was never given a fair shot in the USSR, just as Democracy was never given a fair shot in the West.


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Subject: RE: 'Soviet Russia' red herring?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 02:06 PM

They were as socialist as they were democratic, and as democratic as they were socialist. And they proclaimed themselves as both socialist and democratic.

But somehow no one seems to say that the downfall of the Russian Empire proved that democracy doesn't work.


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