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October Revolution

by DoDo Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 03:33:13 AM EST

On a snowy day in St. Petersburg 88 years ago, something happened.

For me, back under the ancien regime, 7 November meant having to stand through one hour of an absolutely boring ceremony with the whole school (with, on average, a dozen of us fainting and falling); and was a rather glaring sign of foreign occupation*.

With the Soviet Union long dead, it is even less relevant today, you’d think. But, as I will argue in four steps, it has much more relevance to our present situation (and indeed to what we do here at EuroTrib) than we’d like to admit – and that we should take the neocons’ rhetoric more seriously.

(Some of you won’t like it. If I was bold enough, most of you won’t :-) You can flame me.)

  • For new readers to ET: I’m in Budapest/Hungary.


1. Romanticism

Even while we hated 7 November and knew the system is based on lies, we still had romantic illusions about the original event – some widespread even in the West. But one does well to discard them all (as I did when learning more).

The tale sold to us kids (corrected only in high school) was about oppressed workers overthrowing the Tsar – but the Tsar was overthrown half a year earlier: the Bolsheviks toppled the new bourgeois government, capitalising on its broken promises. Lenin wasn’t the purity whose legacy got corrupted by Stalin – the first gulags (in which the inmates’ deaths were planned in) were created along the White Sea Canal construction under Lenin, just a few months after revolution. Dzerzhinski’s Cheka (the later KGB) started the Red Terror at the same time.

Stalin didn’t start the conflict with the peasant majority either. The hero of Western intellectual communists, Trotsky, earned the hate of peasants with seizure of surpluses, with draft in harvest-time into a Red Army disciplined by commissars and statutory executions, and with putting down the thus ignited uprisings. In fact, (re-)starting collectivisation was a 180-degree-turn for Stalin, adopting Trotsky’s position – and the limited market economy in-between (in the twenties) can be seen as the early economic failure of the Revolution.

What came after could be termed state capitalism – with the Party members, being the effective owners, acting as capitalists. That it came to this is a straight consequence of Lenin’s concept of a revolutionary avant-garde: from early on, steering from above meant the hollowing-out of the democratic element of the Revolution, the soviets (workers’ councils); and as selection overtook election, the nomenclature became the new elite. And thus not just peasants but workers too became subjects instead of constituents.

Also, in the early years, there was an alternative that was both left-radical and democratically supported: in Siberia, a rival government, consisting of other communists (Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) and liberals, implemented similar sweeping reforms and raised its own Red Army, without terror. But this government was overthrown in a coup by ex-Tsarist Rear-Admiral Kolchak - with predictable results on the morale of Red Army 2.0 turned White Army 3.0.

2. Then again...

If one wants to pass judgement on the October Revolution, the focus of the above treatment is too narrow. What were the alternatives? The Whites had their own, White Terror. Most were not much more democratic, and were supported by foreign powers with their own imperial agenda. We are speaking of a country in which just a few years earlier, the government’s chosen method to confront public discontent was to blame the Jews and instigate massive pogroms1.

Indeed the weakness of the Kerensky government, and then the ease with which the Siberian government was toppled, could be read as proof positive that well-meaning progressives stood no chance, that there was neither a real pluralistic alternative, nor a non-revolutionary way to push out the old elites. That the Red Army was ten times as big as all the Whites combined implies more than just Trotsky's harsh methods, it implies mass popular support. The Bolshevik Revolution was a genuine attempt at making real progress, but there were too many paths to catastrophe.

It is a commonplace that outside Moscow, the countryside looks as if it were 100 years ago, and power didn’t change either – then Tsar Nikolai, now Tsar Putin. This is not completely true either. The decrepit wooden houses in those villages reached by no paved road have electricity and flowing water. Pension is not much, public transport crappy, but neither existed 100 years ago. There are no big landowners: collectivisation can, the land distribution during and after Trotsky’s requisitions can’t be undone.

Attitudes changed too. People of every background value their children’s education very high. Curiously, even while the regime was built on a pile of lies clear to everyone, some of its professed ideals were adopted by a majority. The oligarchs of the Yeltsin era were detested so much that it was no wonder Putin could finish them off so easily. And even while the Politburo and Central Committee members had their private dachas, full-comfort with Western accessories, what struck me when seeing the first pictures after 1989 was the lack of ornaments: a kind of Puritanism forced even on the dictators.

3. Armistice

But, you might protest, not only were the above often the results of propagandistic moves, but all of these advances happened in the West too – and got much further, without the bloodshed!

I don’t think so.

Western social reforms happened with the backdrop of the Soviet Union. The connection is rather clear in the case of the US New Deal2 (where indeed the New Deal, the FBI and the bad news from Russia combined to root out social movements), and fascisms (which often defined themselves in contrast to Bolshevism). The waves of reforms after both World Wars, especially after the second, when the welfare state was implemented Europe-wide by either Social Democrats or Christian Democrats, happened with comparatively little resistance from the elites – at any rate, much less than before the wars. (After all the violent death of expansive fascism3 made that a less attractive alternative.)

The result of these reforms was a society no more fitting classic Marxist theory: the new majority became the middle class. A Middle Class dreaming of becoming Upper Class, and even tough, like before, those dreams come true only for a lucky few, this prospect banished thoughts of revolution – or even class, hence the illusion of a classless society. To put in simple terms: the have-mores could now count on a majority of have-somes against the have-nots to defend the status quo.

What I want to get at here in Point 3 is that the European welfare state, and the US New Deal, came to be because most of the elites agreed to an armistice in the class war – and that not the least because they were scared of a communist revolution at home, scared because of the apparent indestructibility of the Soviet Union.

Thus, it seems to me, to put it drastically: the well-being of many of yours was made only possible with the deaths of millions of Russians (& other subjects of the Empire)4.

There is one group of ideologues apparently aware of this fact.

4. Neocons

I was annoyed to no end by American triumphalism (most strongly the neocons, but not just them, and not just Republicans) about supposedly "winning" the Cold War. If anything, this was the implosion of the regime – with unfolding events taking the West by surprise.

However, looking back at the events of the last one-and-half decade, I now see more to it.

Imagine it from their point of view: where every menacing progressivism is somehow connected to the Commies, where the threat of WWIII and the "threat" of social changes are intractably connected as a single existential threat. The ex-Trotskyists among them must have known both that the Soviet Empire grew out of genuine leftist attempts at change (see point 2) and that the seeds of its massive problems were planted in the very beginning (see point 1). What a feeling of relief the collapse of the Soviet Empire must have been. A massive failure of the Left. No more fear of final defeat. No realistic alternative.

No more need for an armistice.

You won – you won the freedom to re-start the class war, and the confidence that you’ll win.

For wider parts of the economic, political and media elite (both in the USA and Europe), this doesn’t need to be more than half-conscious. And with 'class war', I mean neither a grand conspiracy nor every rich man participating – just that those willing to bend the truth to defend their situation will do so, and that those whose view on reality is constrained by their position will stay so. But for the neocons (and partially the neoliberals), the end goal is clear: undoing one hundred years of social progress.

Thus was national health care defeated, the Greenspan bubble economy set off, and thus unfolded the Bush admin’s bold dismantle-it-all policies. Thus came the Social Democrat retreats worldwide in face of ever increasing neoliberal demands in the nineties, the economic and social 'reforms', and the flunky statistics much criticised here at ET. And these will continue: what should they fear?

After all, the erosion of the middle class is very slow. Even if the coming collapse of the credit-based US economy is worse than generally expected, it may take decades until the new underclass (which again fails classic Marxist analysis: it’ll be less of a workers’, more of a service class) becomes the majority. Until then, the middle class will behave like a toad boiled slowly. And the present underclass is not much active either – compare and contrast the present uptick in arson attacks and urban violence in France (the "riots") with, say, recent events in Argentina or Bolivia, or indeed, 1968 (as eloquently argued by Jérôme or Ritter, Jérôme again and others). (It would be the height of irony if China, an officially communist country now with rather brutal worker exploitation, experienced a revolution...)

Conclusion

No, I don’t want to suggest that we will need a revolution to stop this, not to speak of red terror. But what I do think follows is that today, for a leftist government to be really successful as a leftist, it must be prepared to wage some serious conflict, and not falter in face of heavy and constant opposition5. For us Europeans, that means we can’t simply dream of a return to the consensus-building system of the "Rhineland Model", because most of our industrial bosses aren’t a partner in that – they now dream different dreams. At the same time, focusing on what our opponents do wrong is not enough - the October Revolution should be a lesson that the task is difficult: there are too many ways for good intentions to lead to catastrophe.

  1. This was when the anti-semitic 'classic' "The Elders of Zion" was forged by the Tsarist secret service. Later the White propaganda would create the idea that Communists=Jews. (I think the importance of the Russian propagandists is greatly underestimated, that of 19th century German anti-semites overestimated among the historical origins of Nazi ideology.)
  2. Keynes wrote this:
    The authoritarian state systems of today seem to solve the problem of unemployment at the expense of efficiency and of freedom. It is certain that the world will not much longer tolerate the unemployment which, apart from brief intervals of excitement, is associated and in my opinion, inevitably associated with present-day capitalistic individualism. But it may be possible by a right analysis of the problem to cure the disease whilst preserving efficiency and freedom.
    I recall a much better quote than the above, from some originator of the New Deal, that connects "saving capitalism" with possible socialist revolution, but couldn’t find it. If you know it, please post it!
  3. Fascism didn’t die with WWII: the Spanish and Portuguese versions lived on – tough growing sclerotic – until the seventies, and then reincarnated in South America.
  4. One can speculate whether it would have worked if Revolution happens say in England first, but I’m sceptical – Marxists were too naïve to have enough checks and balances against individuals with ambition for power, and even with worker control rather than centralised planned economy, I suspect it would have failed economically on the development front.
  5. There is a much moe recent and much less bloody example than the October Revolution. Tough Chavez may be criticised for many things, this is certainly a lesson from Venezuela.

Display:
Great post, I have some disagreements but no time to go into them right now. It does remind me of an excellent Leninist student I had who wrote a paper on the Hungarian Revolution which argued that the problem with the Bela Kun government was that it was nowhere near bloodthirsty enough - no true terror. In particular he mentioned Trotsky's policy towards the peasants which he described as 'promise them everything, give them nothing, massacre all those that resist plus a random proportion of those who don't, pour encourager les autres if you will. He did have a point, the Hungarian revolutionaries did retain a certain degree of what the Bolsheviks would have disparaged as bourgeois moral scruples.
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:28:07 AM EST
Good comment, inspired a tangential reply.

"Kingdom without a king, led by an Admiral without a sea"

Hungary between the World Wars was a place of dark ironies. To explain the above, a recap: -

Like in Russia, first there was an autumn bourgeois revolution. Unlike in Russia, this meant an end of fighting, but as other fighting parties only capitalised on this with territorial grabs, the government weakened. Like in Russia, then came the second revolution by the communists, but unlike in Russia, the Whites, led by an Admiral of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, defeated them (followed by White Terror). Then in Paris, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire was cut up, Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory, half its population and about a fourth of its ethnic-Hungarian population.

Now, for the right, there was (is) the national-pathologic "Thesis of the Holy Crown": that the Hungarian royal crown and the Carpathian Basin are divinely connected and indivisible. As this became the official ideology to reinforce claims to the lost territories, when the Admiral installed himself as dictator, he took the title of Governor - and chased away the Habsburg heir, who would be the rightful heair of said crown!...

And the dark irony of the Red-White confrontation was: the Whites capitalised on the Reds' open back just during the latters' (successful) campaigns to regain territory, and then lost much more territory with abysmal dyplomacy in Paris. (The delegation was led by the ex-education-minister responsible for the harshest anti-minority policies...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 07:01:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent post!

I agree with you regarding the triumphalism of "winning" the Cold War when it was more of a case of the Soviet bullfrog, having puffed itself up beyond sustainability - exploding.

The same neo-cons would have apoplexy if you suggested that the Vietcong, simply by being around when the American forces destroyed their own self-belief, "defeated" the entire US amed forces.

I suppose in five hundred years from now, Chinese historians will conclude that the only effect of years of turmoil and the deaths of 50-75 million people was to move forward the date when an American landed on the moon from 1999 to 1969...

by Saif on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:52:40 AM EST
There is actually a case to be made that it was the runaway arms race that destroyed the Soviet economy. If it hadn't had to commit an ever-incresing proportion of its (slowly-growing) GDP to military expenses to compensate for the military budget of the US which, having faster GDP growth, could do more comfortably.

Then you investigate a bit and find that in the 1970's the CIA had an accurate assessment that the USSR was not a very potent threat and was economically overstretched. Then the neocons (yes, the same people now calling the shots) got Bush the Father to authorize an exercise in "competitive threat assessment" called "Team B". Team B fabricated data and used Rumsfeld's rule that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence to argue that the USSR was far, far ahead of the US militarily. Ford increased the military budget accordingly. The Carter administration continued this and (through Zbigniew Brzezinski) played a key role in miring the USSR in Afghanistan. The US bounced back from Vietnam, but the Soviet system was too rigid to recover from Afghanistan. When Reagan won the presidency the neocons set to work on closing the "missile gap" and started working on "Star Wars".

So, actually, one could argue that the neocon strategy of exaggerating external threats and cooking intelligence if necessary worked against the Soviets. It forced them into overdrive and they collapsed under their own weight.

I may sound conspiratorial, but these are the same people, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush the Father... Their names keep cropping up, they have been in control of various branches of the US government most of the last 30-35 years, and have succeeded in subverting the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA. Quite an accomplishment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 06:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points, but I'll extend it after a quibble. The quibble is that even the CIA estimate was an over-estimate (if I remember correctly, by 50%, while Team B pushed it to 200% - but don't take my word on it).

Now, the neocons do claim after-the-fact (rather dishonestly) that they pushed the Soviets out with the armament race they fomented. But the problem with this widespread view is that dictatures do not have to collapse due to economic crisis: witness North Korea. Or indeed, witness the Soviet Union itself in the thirties under Stalin, or for that matter, China during the Great Leap Forward, and again during the Cultural Revolution.

No, the implosion of the Empire, especially here in the Warshaw Pact countries that got free 1989-90, was more of a political nature. I think above all, it can be connected to Gorbachev personally. Without Soviet military support, the puppet regimes crumbled under much weaker attacks (with the exception of Romania) than say in 1956 here in Hungary.

However, I even encountered a neocon supporter who was not only aware of this, but pointed out that neocons even claim Gorbachev as their own success! They claim Reagan frightened the Politburo into choosing a reformist. Which is ridiculous - the wish for stability after the death of three gerontocrats in fast succession had much more to do with his accession, and besides, he was already considered before (I read of this recently).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 06:35:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reagan specifically put into place a strategy aimed at raising the stakes financially, thinking the empire would crumble.  He did, and they did.  he also took a much more confrontational stand on the issues with the leaders of the USSR.  In his own style of humor, he put the Cold War strategy as, "how about we win, they lose".

Now of course it's possible that this fall would have happened anyway.  And though I don't know the %'s, it is true that CIA estimates significantly overstated the economic power of the USSR.

I imagine history books will give Reagan credit, for at least hastening the fall.  But I doubt this is an argument that will be resolved in our lifetimes, though it certainly has been, and will be, argued strongly.

by wchurchill on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 01:17:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great post. I should have kept my Grandfathers books, about Russia and the Revolution, something he seemed to have been fascinated by, and of course read them. Seems there are quite a few things I do not know about Russias history. Thank you for the enlightening post. I can not flame you as I have not the knowledge necessary to do it. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 05:34:19 AM EST
"The Last Struggle of Andreas Hessmann" based in part from G. Büchner's Dantons Tod:
GUNTHER:  Enough!  I've heard enough!  We must remember our manifesto; we must remain loyal and true to our ideals.  We have external enemies all over the globe and now it seems that we may have internal enemies in the movement as well.  Our external enemies would see us destroyed by our own and see us sink to the level of common criminals in the eyes of the masses.  Our internal enemies would have us negotiate, capitulate and disarm to the powers that be.  No, let me be very clear: I say to every one of you, we will not negotiate and we will not capitulate or disarm.  Politics is the weapon of the weak.  That is not our weapon.  THE WEAPON OF THE MOVEMENT IS TERROR, THE STRENGTH OF THE MOVEMENT IS VIRTUE.  VIRTUE: FOR WITHOUT IT, TERROR IS CORRUPTIBLE; TERROR: FOR WITHOUT IT, VIRTUE IS POWERLESS.  TERROR IS AN OUTGROWTH OF VIRTUE; IT IS NOTHING MORE THAN SWIFT, RIGOROUS, AND INFLEXIBLE JUSTICE.  SOME SAY TERROR IS THE WEAPON OF A DESPOTIC GOVERNMENT, THEREFORE OURS RESEMBLES DESPOTISM.  TRUE, BUT IN THE WAY A SWORD IN THE HAND OF A HERO OF SOCIALISM AND ANTI-GLOBALIZATION RESEMBLES A SABER IN THE HAND OF A TYRANT'S MINION.  IF A TYRANT RULES HIS BRUTISH SUBJECTS THROUGH TERROR, THAT IS HIS RIGHT AS A DESPOT; IF YOU DESTROY THROUGH TERROR THE ENEMIES OF SOCIALISM, YOU, THE MEMBERS OF THE MOVEMENT ARE NO LESS RIGHT.  THE MOVEMENT IS THE DESPOTISM OF SOCIALISM AGAINST GLOBAL TYRANNY.  The Greens are worthless, the Social Democrats won't do it, and this so-called New Left won't either.  We will do it.  Some may be losing their resolve, may be hesitant to make hard choices of life and death.  They may utter mercy but we will not give it.  It's a false sentimentality.  TO PUNISH THE OPPRESSORS OF MANKIND IS CHARITY, TO PARDON THEM IS BARBARITY.  There will always be collateral damage but it must not sway us.  Not only are these same voices calling for us to capitulate and disarm, but also they are already wallowing in the sickness and filth of bourgeois pleasures.  They've grown soft, they drink, they carouse with prostitutes, they grow lazy and fat.  They lose their desire for revolution and therefore they are failing mankind.  Vice softens and corrupts these voices, these internal enemies of the movement.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 08:12:39 AM EST
(Some of you won't like it. If I was bold enough, most of you won't :-) You can flame me.)

No flames here.  I think this is an excellent post.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 11:08:06 AM EST
I found this to be really a good read, and enjoyed it.  It's long, so I'll comment on a couple of the sections in different posts.

The idea of somehow looking back fondly, romanticizing, upon a period of history that resulted in so much death and destruction seems somewhat strange to me.  Perhaps it's just a process of acceptance, as after all, it's done and can't be changed.  Your post summarizes some of the tragedy fairly well, though, IMHO perhaps skipping a little too lightly over the death of millions and the poverty the system created.
*    First was the abandonment of the ideals of communism and the revolution.

What came after could be termed state capitalism - with the Party members, being the effective owners, acting as capitalists. What came after could be termed state capitalism - with the Party members, being the effective owners, acting as capitalists.
It seems a tragedy in and of itself to abondon the ideals of the Manifesto, and morph quickly into a brutal dictatorship.
*    Second, don't you treat the gulags and mass murderers, the terrorizing KGB, a little too lightly?
the first gulags (in which the inmates' deaths were planned in) were created along the White Sea Canal under Lenin,,,,,
Aren't the death of millions, the gulags, the repression of free speech, the torture worth a few comments?
*    Third, and what of the lack of personal freedoms?  The inability of people of the lower and middle classes to better themselves economically?
*    And all of this led to the current situation of being a very poor, less developed country, as you point out.
The decrepit wooden houses in those villages reached by no paved road have electricity and flowing water. Pension is not much, public transport crappy, but neither existed 100 years ago.

*    Compared to Western Europe, wasn't this just a total disaster.  Obviously it wasn't smooth sailing in Western Europe, but they made different choices that have led to more freedoms for individuals and higher standards of living.  "What were the alternatives?"--well it seems there were perhaps better ones not taken.

Overall it just doesn't seem to properly treat an incredibly dark period of history, that I think in your view (if I interpret you correctly) and others, was just an incredible human tragedy.

by wchurchill on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 11:22:05 AM EST
Not my interpretation.  My interpretation of this post, which admittedly lends itself to a lot of it, is that: 1)history is never over and it does not take place in a vacuum, that we are still feeling the repercussions of the October Revolution, etc.; and 2)we can learn a lot from the past only if we cease looking at it through a black/white narrative and recognize the mistakes, and in this case, downright evils, as well as the accomplishments in both the West and the Soviet Union.  Good v. Evil is a great frame for politicians, but all of reality won't fit nicely into it.  And if we are to learn from the past, we need to look at all of it.

I will let the author respond point my point to your comment, but I hardly found this post to be an apologia for the atrocities committed in the Soviet Union.  Not at all.  Just a challenge to the narrow views that 1)The Communists were the only bad guys, (or) 2)Lenin was a great lefty and it was Stalin who really fucked things up, 3)If there had been no Revolution there would have been no atrocities and everything would have been fine, 4) Absolutely nothing good came about as a result of the Revolution, 5)and that absolutely nothing bad has resulted from the end of that regime.

It does seem to me, an American, that Europe is now sincerely searching for an "alternative" in which the socialization of services and a reasonably fair distribution of wealth and opportunity is balanced with a free market economy and the protection of civil rights.  

The US is still firmly trapped in the false dichotomy of Cold War propaganda.  So I found this post especially refreshing.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 12:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hardly found this post to be an apologia for the atrocities committed in the Soviet Union
 I didn't find it to be a defense either, but this one line
Lenin wasn't the purity whose legacy got corrupted by Stalin - the first gulags (in which the inmates' deaths were planned in)
seems to represent all of the death, torture, etc, and didn't seem an appropriate balance to me, just my opinion.  I don't see it black and white either, good vs. evil.    Western Europe was clearly far from perfect, as I think I said--but it's pretty clear to me who ended up better by the close of the last century.
by wchurchill on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 01:28:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not a politician or BBC commenter to 'balance' everything on a pharmacy scale. I thought ET readers are educated enough to know the broad history of the 20th century well enough, so that I don't need to deviate from my message to a general history lesson. (And I certainly didn't just mention the gulags anyway.)

You must excuse me, I will answer your post in more detail when I have more time (I don't have much this week, preparing for a French exam - I even wrote this post in advance, and right now I comment at the expense of sleeping time...), but I will say that poemless got those five points dead right.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 07:08:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the above rant was intended to be a more provocative version...
I found your diary interesting and provocative, and in fact commented in three posts--this one, one supporting Migeru's point, and one on the last 3 subtitles.  so you caught my interest.
by wchurchill on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 02:17:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Some of you won't like it. If I was bold enough, most of you won't :-)
You see, now I want to know what you really think about this stuff. How about a bold, no-holds-barred UPDATE?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 01:01:08 PM EST
:-)

To be honest, what I really think would be just adding a lot more detail and nuance, which means a ten times longer post - and less edge; the above rant was intended to be a more provocative version...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 07:20:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
anyway you want, but with all respect, I don't find this credible:
Western social reforms happened with the backdrop of the Soviet Union. The connection is rather clear in the case of the US New Deal2 (where indeed the New Deal, the FBI and the bad news from Russia combined to root out social movements), and fascisms (which often defined themselves in contrast to Bolshevism). The waves of reforms after both World Wars, especially after the second, when the welfare state was implemented Europe-wide by either Social Democrats or Christian Democrats, happened with comparatively little resistance from the elites - at any rate, much less than before the wars. (After all the violent death of expansive fascism3 made that a less attractive alternative.)
The result of these reforms was a society no more fitting classic Marxist theory: the new majority became the middle class.
I think most historians would put the New Deal more in the context of a reaction to the Great Depression.  There was a serious economic need for these programs, particularly with the movement of farm labor to an industrial setting.  The development of a middle class was a natual evolvement of industrialization and growth--the need for middle management, the growth of many auxillary parts of American industry to support industry growth (stock markets, banking, legal firms), and thus the natural growth of a middle class.

Restarting the class war, I don't think this fits with Western society as it has evolved--certainly not in the States.  This is the language and the thinking of the Cold War.  

I don't follow the logic of the following comment

undoing hundred years of social progress.  Thus was national health care defeated, the Greenspan bubble economy set off
You say that hundreds of years of social progress were undone, and your first example is the defeat of national health care?  I'm sure you know we have never had national healthcare, so it wasn't undone.  This was defeated in a period of a Democratic president, a democratic House, and I'm not sure of the Senate, but I think it was also Democratic.  The Democrats lost the House in the election following that healthcare debacle, and other than Clinton's victory for his second term, have lost ground in every national election since--for the House, Senate, and Presidency.  While I think there are some good ideas to be built into the American system from European nationalized health care, IMHO, Americans will not buy what has come with those systems--waiting lists for surgical procedures, use of "gate keepers" to determine if you really need to see a specialist, etc.  

And how does "the Greenspan bubble economy set off" relate to undoing of social programs?  I didn't like the bubble either, but it was proceeded by the longest period of growth in the country's history--10 years--followed by, in historical terms, a relatively mild recession, and then the beginning of the economic growth engine again.

While there is room for discussion of economic measurements, calling them "flunky statistics" is a little over the top.  We're going to have a hard time talking to anyone outside of our ET group if we aren't willing to dialogue about GDP, GDP growth, unemployment rates, etc.  In fact according to some of the articles we are reading about the French troubles, they are saying that underperformance in these areas may be the cause of the problems--not I say some, not all, articles.  

"Even if the coming collapse of the credit-based US economy is worse than generally expected".  You describe this as guaranteed to happen, and the only issue is how bad?  But I don't find that generally expected among the economists that I read--I know there is a large "no growth" crowd at ET, but I think it would be only fair to wait for it to happen, before using it as an agrument.  As you perhaps saw, 3rd quarter growth numbers were higher than expected, and many expect that to continue.

(Some of you won't like it. If I was bold enough, most of you won't :-) You can flame me.)
Actually I loved your diary, because I found it very interesting, and vey challenging to my thinking.  I don't agree with a lot of it, maybe most.  And I hope I didn't "flame you".  My intent is to respectfully disagree.
by wchurchill on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 02:10:14 AM EST
by wchurchill:

... While I think there are some good ideas to be built into the American system from European nationalized health care, IMHO, Americans will not buy what has come with those systems--waiting lists for surgical procedures, use of "gate keepers" to determine if you really need to see a specialist, etc.  

snip

There are no waiting lists and no gate keepers to determine anything.

I'm insured with the most common health insurance company in Germany and can chose to go to whatever gp, specialist, dentist, hospital, clinic I like.

Please don't compare the underfunded UK system with ours.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 07:57:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for correcting him promptly.
The myth of "waiting lists" is dear to the US elite.  Of course, here in the US there are no waiting lists - just 50 million people who would love to be on a waiting list of any kind...
by cambridgemac on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 10:55:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm...

Ok.

First, comparing the period encompassing the first (bourgeois) and second (bolshevik) revolutions in Russia to the period under Stalin after 1927 is ridiculous - comparing the Red Army requisition of food and materiel during a massive civil war and simultaneous invasion of Russia by armies representing at least 14 nations, including the major imperial powers...to the forced starvation and famines that occurred in the 30's is simply not very realistic or useful. Comparing the prison camps set up during and immediately after the civil war to the Gulags set up in the 30's is ridiculous.

HOWEVER, that said, I find a lot to like about this post, and would sum it up as follows:

Having marshalled global support and laid out an extremely compelling case in favor of some form of "liberal" democracy, and backed that argument up with commitments in the form of diplomatic, civil, social and military might over the course of >75 years...the Liberal Capitalist Ruling Classes have, after winning the Cold War, set about (through neoliberal economic policies) bringing about the very same conditions that sparked many of the bolshevik/communist/marxist revolutionaries movements in the first place.

Those revolutions/movements, regardless of their successes or failures on the economic, social, civil, or human fronts all came from somewhere, and came from that somewhere for some reason...

And those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

by RedDan (reddan@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 04:40:36 AM EST
I said this to a neighbor in 1995.  Now that the elites don't fear the USSR, they'll try to take back everything.

And they are, in spectacular fashion, viz. the budget bill before the US House of Representatives, which contains $50 billion in cuts to health care and social services ("Because we can't afford it") and $70 billion in tax cuts for millionaires.  

Hey! Look over there!  Terrists!

by cambridgemac on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 10:57:50 PM EST


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