Communism, Karl Marx, Marxism, Surplus Labor and the Labor theory of Value

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 20th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published December 13, 2011)

Some would call Putting Profits before People Heaven if they had Lived in the Caring Hell of Communism

No ideology killed more people than communism.  In total numbers.  Such as Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Or Mao Tse-tung in the People’s Republic of China.  Or as a percentage of population.  Where Pol Pot’s Cambodian genocide holds this honor alone.  These communist leaders killed their people directly for political purposes.  Or starved them to death because of agrarian reforms that produced famines.  All in the name of freeing their people from the horrors of capitalism.

Heaven and hell.  That’s how a defector who escaped communism and made it to capitalism would describe what it’s like to live under each system.  Capitalism would be heaven.  And communism would be hell.  The problem with communism was that it didn’t work.  Economically.  People lived in want of the basic staples of life.  And often went hungry.  When they didn’t starve to death by yet another famine.  And if they complained or spoke out against the system they risked torture.  Or they simply just disappeared.  Banished to a work camp.  A reeducation camp.  Or killed.  So it’s no surprise that people trapped in these countries tried to escape.  Which is why communist states were oppressive police states.  To prevent people from escaping their horrible lives.

And yet to this day some people still hold up communism as the ideal socioeconomic system.  The one that cares about the people.  The one that puts people before profits.  Unlike capitalism.  Which puts profits before people.  Of course some would call putting profits before people heaven.  Especially if they had lived in the caring hell of communism.

Communism as an Economic System is an Utter and Abject Failure

Those who champion communism don’t blame the ideology.  They say it’s the people.  The few who use the ideology for personal gain.  And by few they mean basically everyone.  But if everyone is doing it it’s not the people.  It’s the ideology.  And it goes back to its utter and abject failure as an economic system.

Communism goes back to Karl Marx.  The guy that coauthored the Communist Manifesto in 1848.  And from which we get the terms Marxism.  And Marxist.  To describe varying forms of communism.  And communists.  He’s the guy who said that capitalism exploited the working man.  Those with money (capital) who owned factories, the industrial bourgeoisie, charged more for their goods than they paid their workers to make those goods.  Because Marx believed the value of any good was the labor that made it (the labor theory of value), this excess value (profit) was a labor surplus.  And belonged to the worker.  So he encouraged class conflict.  For the proletariat (the working class) to rise up and take over the means of production from those who owned it.  These middle class capitalists.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  And establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  So the bourgeois capitalist pig-dogs couldn’t exploit the proletariat any more.  And everyone would then live happily ever after.

But no one ever did.  Like in capitalism.  Where happiness abounds.  Because, in capitalism, the market determines prices.  Not some bureaucrat counting up labor inputs through the manufacturing process.  From the mining of resources.  To the final assembly.  Which can make things very expensive.  And, worse, unwanted by the people.  Because when the market sets the price and assigns value, the market tells people what to make.  Normally when something is a hot seller it tells manufacturers to make more of it.  To cash in on those high prices.  So they do.  And people tend to buy this surge in products.  But when the market isn’t setting the price and assigning value, the market can’t tell people what to make.  So a bureaucrat must.  Which is what happens in communism.  Bureaucrats decide everything.  From what to make.  To the allocation of resources.  To the selling price.  And the things they decide to make are rarely what the people want.  Explaining why stores in communist countries were full of stuff no one wanted to buy.  And why people had to stand hours in line to get the things they did.  Or paid more on the black market.  Which is why communism as an economic system is an utter and abject failure.  And why people wanted to escape it.  Their only obstacle being that brutal and oppressive police state.  Which was necessary because if everyone left that wanted to the communist leaders wouldn’t have anyone to provide for them.

There are no Such Things as Market Failures under Capitalism

Communism was one of the worst man-made tragedies to ever befall man.  Karl Marx was wrong.  And his asinine theories killed tens of millions of people.  People enjoy life and prosper under capitalism.  Under communism they set records for genocide.  Why?  Because the communist economic model is an utter and abject failure.

The struggle between communism and capitalism was an economic one.  And pitted the market against bureaucrats who thought they were smarter than the market.  But it turned out they weren’t.  Not by a long shot.  And despite this history people are constantly talking about market failures and the evils of capitalism.  Much like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.  But for them it was never about the economics.  It was about the power.  Much like it is today.  Because there are no such things as market failures under capitalism.  It’s the bureaucrats who fail.  Not the markets.  At least, based on all recorded history.

Markets fail only when they aren’t free.  They fail when bureaucrats insert themselves into the economic process.  Via regulatory policy.  Or high taxes.  When they try to shape market forces to a political end.  And when they do it is capitalism no more.  It’s crony capitalism.  Or worse.

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Communism, Karl Marx, Marxism, Surplus Labor and the Labor theory of Value

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 13th, 2011

History 101

Some would call Putting Profits before People Heaven if they had Lived in the Caring Hell of Communism

No ideology killed more people than communism.  In total numbers.  Such as Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union.  Or Mao Tse-tung in the People’s Republic of China.  Or as a percentage of population.  Where Pol Pot’s Cambodian genocide holds this honor alone.  These communist leaders killed their people directly for political purposes.  Or starved them to death because of agrarian reforms that produced famines.  All in the name of freeing their people from the horrors of capitalism.

Heaven and hell.  That’s how a defector who escaped communism and made it to capitalism would describe what it’s like to live under each system.  Capitalism would be heaven.  And communism would be hell.  The problem with communism was that it didn’t work.  Economically.  People lived in want of the basic staples of life.  And often went hungry.  When they didn’t starve to death by yet another famine.  And if they complained or spoke out against the system they risked torture.  Or they simply just disappeared.  Banished to a work camp.  A reeducation camp.  Or killed.  So it’s no surprise that people trapped in these countries tried to escape.  Which is why communist states were oppressive police states.  To prevent people from escaping their horrible lives.

And yet to this day some people still hold up communism as the ideal socioeconomic system.  The one that cares about the people.  The one that puts people before profits.  Unlike capitalism.  Which puts profits before people.  Of course some would call putting profits before people heaven.  Especially if they had lived in the caring hell of communism.

Communism as an Economic System is an Utter and Abject Failure

Those who champion communism don’t blame the ideology.  They say it’s the people.  The few who use the ideology for personal gain.  And by few they mean basically everyone.  But if everyone is doing it it’s not the people.  It’s the ideology.  And it goes back to its utter and abject failure as an economic system.

Communism goes back to Karl Marx.  The guy that coauthored the Communist Manifesto in 1848.  And from which we get the terms Marxism.  And Marxist.  To describe varying forms of communism.  And communists.  He’s the guy who said that capitalism exploited the working man.  Those with money (capital) who owned factories, the industrial bourgeoisie, charged more for their goods than they paid their workers to make those goods.  Because Marx believed the value of any good was the labor that made it (the labor theory of value), this excess value (profit) was a labor surplus.  And belonged to the worker.  So he encouraged class conflict.  For the proletariat (the working class) to rise up and take over the means of production from those who owned it.  These middle class capitalists.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  And establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.  So the bourgeois capitalist pig-dogs couldn’t exploit the proletariat any more.  And everyone would then live happily ever after.

But no one ever did.  Like in capitalism.  Where happiness abounds.  Because, in capitalism, the market determines prices.  Not some bureaucrat counting up labor inputs through the manufacturing process.  From the mining of resources.  To the final assembly.  Which can make things very expensive.  And, worse, unwanted by the people.  Because when the market sets the price and assigns value, the market tells people what to make.  Normally when something is a hot seller it tells manufacturers to make more of it.  To cash in on those high prices.  So they do.  And people tend to buy this surge in products.  But when the market isn’t setting the price and assigning value, the market can’t tell people what to make.  So a bureaucrat must.  Which is what happens in communism.  Bureaucrats decide everything.  From what to make.  To the allocation of resources.  To the selling price.  And the things they decide to make are rarely what the people want.  Explaining why stores in communist countries were full of stuff no one wanted to buy.  And why people had to stand hours in line to get the things they did.  Or paid more on the black market.  Which is why communism as an economic system is an utter and abject failure.  And why people wanted to escape it.  Their only obstacle being that brutal and oppressive police state.  Which was necessary because if everyone left that wanted to the communist leaders wouldn’t have anyone to provide for them.

There are no Such Things as Market Failures under Capitalism

Communism was one of the worst man-made tragedies to ever befall man.  Karl Marx was wrong.  And his asinine theories killed tens of millions of people.  People enjoy life and prosper under capitalism.  Under communism they set records for genocide.  Why?  Because the communist economic model is an utter and abject failure.

The struggle between communism and capitalism was an economic one.  And pitted the market against bureaucrats who thought they were smarter than the market.  But it turned out they weren’t.  Not by a long shot.  And despite this history people are constantly talking about market failures and the evils of capitalism.  Much like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot.  But for them it was never about the economics.  It was about the power.  Much like it is today.  Because there are no such things as market failures under capitalism.  It’s the bureaucrats who fail.  Not the markets.  At least, based on all recorded history.

Markets fail only when they aren’t free.  They fail when bureaucrats insert themselves into the economic process.  Via regulatory policy.  Or high taxes.  When they try to shape market forces to a political end.  And when they do it is capitalism no more.  It’s crony capitalism.  Or worse.

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LESSONS LEARNED #71: “For socialism to be successful no one can be allowed to escape it.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2011

Socialism Oppresses and Kills tens of millions of People

It’s easy to point at Cuba as an example of socialism’s failure.  You don’t even have to go to the island.  You don’t have to study their institutions.  All you have to do is to look at the risks people will take to escape Cuba.  And they take some crazy risks to escape.  They will board some barely-seaworthy water crafts and paddle out into the ocean.  Away from Cuba.  And towards Florida.  Away from socialism.  And towards capitalism.  Away from a wretched life of despair and deprivation.  And towards a life of plenty and opportunity.  As they paddle their way to America, how many people do you think they pass who are paddling their way to Cuba?  How about zero?  Because when it comes to refugees, the direction is always towards America.  It’s never the other way.

And it’s easy to point to Mao in China.  His Great Leap Forward killed a lot of his own people.  And by ‘a lot’ I mean in the tens of millions.  Depending on the numbers you use.  It could have been anywhere between 15 and 50 million people.  The Chinese communists were not the record keepers the Nazis were.  Though the actual number may be in doubt the magnitude isn’t.  In the spirit of brotherly love that is the hallmark of socialism, millions were beaten, tortured and killed to ‘encourage’ acceptance of the forced collectivization of farming.  And the funny thing is (not ha ha funny but funny as in sad and ironic) that after beating, torturing and killing so many people to collectivize farming, the agriculture output plummeted.  Partly because of bad planning.  And partly due to nature.  But local party officials reported record harvests to avoid beatings, torture and killings by party superiors.  So China exported much of these record harvests.  Leaving nothing for the peasants to eat.  Resulting in famine.  Again, the record keeping is sparse.  As they often are when your policies end up killing your own people.  But deaths were in the tens of millions.  The Great Leap Forward was a big push to modernize China.  To industrialize it.  For there was little infrastructure in China.  Most of it was rural.  Dotted with peasant farms.  Stretching across vast lands.  With little ways to move around.  Where you probably died less than a day’s walk from where you were born.  Which made it difficult to escape the Great Leap Forward.  Or Mao’s ruthless communist rule.

And it’s easy to point to the former Soviet Union.  Where it all started.  CommunismJoseph Stalin gave Mao Tse-tung a run for his money in the greatest mass murderer of all time contest.  Again, the record keeping was a little sparse.  But the Soviets took socialism to a grand scale.  The government controlled the economy.  And your life.  If you grew up in the Soviet Union, you learned how much better it was there than in the decadent West.  Especially the USA.  Of course, when some Soviets were lucky enough to travel outside the country, they learned that their Soviet teachers were liars.  The West was awesome.  Never before did they see such a wonderful world of plenty.  And some Soviets defected to that better life.  Which was a crime.  And a huge embarrassment for the Soviet Union.  Even Joseph Stalin’s daughter (Svetlana Alliluyeva) defected.  Others included Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, Sergei Fedorov, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl and Nadia Comăneci, to name a few (both from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc).  Some got preferential treatment to keep them from defecting like Katarina Witt.  Or they held family members as ‘hostages’ when some traveled out of the country.  It was a real problem for the KGB.  Who had agents living undercover in the West.  And a lot of them didn’t want to come home.  Of course, there was no such problem with people defecting from the West into the Soviet Union.  There were a few.  Like Lee Harvey Oswald.  But he wasn’t playing with a full deck.  And he did return to the United States.  Because even he found it was better in America.  And he hated America.

It’s easy to point at the big socialist failures.  But just about every story of socialism is a story of failure.  And as different as some of the stories are, they all have much in common.  In particular, the exploitation of the people to serve the state.

In Socialism, Slavery is Freedom

In George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, we see a frightening look at totalitarian socialism.  Big Brother is the leader of an oppressive regime.  Where the government plays with language to control the people.  War is peace.  Ignorance is strength.  And freedom is slavery.  War unites a people against a common enemy.  Who then beg for the government to protect them from this enemy.  And they will suffer through any hardship required to defeat this enemy.  Which makes continued war a handy way to control the people.  And to keep the peace among an unhappy and suffering citizenry that might otherwise rise up and complain.  Or riot.  Or attempt to overthrow the government.

Ignorance is strength.  If you don’t know how rotten your existence is you have no reason to be unhappy.  If you don’t know about that better life on the other side of your border, you have no reason to cross that border.  You’ll stay where you are.  And be a good citizen.  You’ll toe the party line.  Work hard.  Sing party songs.  And be happy.  More importantly, you’ll be subdued.  Easier to control.  And easier to lie to.  There’s a reason revolutionaries rounded up intellectuals and people with glasses (people with glasses can read and may be intellectuals) for ‘reeducation’ during revolutions.  Thinkers are trouble makers.  So it behooves them to keep the people ignorant.  So they don’t get distracted from their patriotic duties.  So they can continue to sacrifice to build a stronger nation.

Slavery is Freedom.  Because slaves never have to make a decision.  Or provide for themselves.  What a joyous and simple life.  Someone provides everything you need.  Your job.  Your clothes.  Your food.  Your home.  Your health care.  And your funeral.  And all you have to do is give yourself to the state.  Give up all your freedoms.  Give up all hope.  All your dreams.  And all of your comforts.  You have no bills to pay.  Because you don’t have anything.  You get up, work, eat and sleep.  Simple.  Easy.  And carefree.  True freedom.  Lucky slaves.

Adolf Hitler was a Socialist

Of course, if you talk to some slaves you’ll probably hear a different story.  Real slaves.  Like 19th century American slaves.  Those working the plantations.  They didn’t all buy that ‘slavery is freedom’ line.  If any did.  Because a lot of them did try to escape.  Just like those who tried to escape from Soviet socialism.  Interestingly, there are similarities between the two.  Because if you take socialism to its logical end you do arrive at slavery.  Friedrich August von Hayek wrote a book about this.  The Road to Serfdom.  Even said that if socialism grew unchecked in a state some guy named Adolf Hitler may come along and create an oppressive state dictatorship.  He didn’t quite say it like that.  But a guy named Adolf Hitler did come along and created an oppressive state dictatorship called National Socialism.  Or Nazism.  Anyway, suffice it to say that Hayek was right.  As proven by people everywhere who have tried to escape their socialist utopias.

Despite popular belief, everyone was not equal in these socialist utopias.  The inner party people lived well.  And their apparatchik.  But little changed for the masses.  In fact, life often got worse for them.  They were hungry, living in crowded quarters, with poor sanitation, some without running water, living in fear of state punishment for breaking a rule or not making quota, days of endless labor, no say in your future, no liberty and little hope for a better tomorrow.  Very similar to a 19th century American slave.

The American plantation is a microcosm of socialism.  The few at the top did very well (the glorious leaders).  Those close to them that ran the plantation (the party apparatchik) did not do as well but did much better than most.  And then there were the slaves at the bottom.  Who were all equal.  Equally miserable.  And without any hope.  Living in fear of abuse for breaking a rule or not making quota.  And working days of endless labor.  This is socialism taken to its logical end.  Which is why people risked death to escape places like the Soviet Union.  East GermanyCzechoslovakiaRomania.  Cuba.  To escape servitude.  Because the state could do anything they wanted to you.  And often did.  Just like a plantation overseer.

Slaves of the Social Democracies Riot

Of course, the critics will say that this isn’t true socialism.  That these are just mad dictators who corrupted socialism in their quest for absolute power.  And I’ll say, well, of course.  You’re right.  But they all used socialism in their rise to power.  Not a one of them said anything about cutting taxes or reducing stifling government regulations in their climb to power.  Quite the contrary.  They used every facet of socialism (egalitarianism, redistribution of wealth, taxing the rich, nationalization of private companies, etc.) in their climb to power.  In fact, one could say that without these tenets of socialism to unwittingly rally the people behind them they could never have risen to power.  Which is why socialism is not just a Road to Serfdom.  It’s a blueprint as well.

Some will roll their eyes at this.  And say Europe is full if social democracies that treat their people pretty damn well.  Let’s call it socialism-light.  These socialist countries have large and generous social welfare programs for their people.  Generous unemployment benefits.  Generous vacations.  Generous health care benefits.  Generous pensions when they retire.  Some at the ripe old age of 50.  A large and generously paid public sector.  Clearly these people aren’t oppressed.  And I’ll agree.  The people receiving these benefits are not oppressed.  But it places an incredible tax burden on those who work.  Who must make continuous sacrifices as their taxes continuously rise.  Let’s call these people slaves-light.  Because they are not allowed to enjoy the full fruits of their labor.  So, yes, the people in these social democracies in general are free.  And happy.  When they’re not rioting, that is.  Like in Greece.  Again.  Where the nation is broke.  And had to borrow money to pay its bills.  Which they have.  But one of the conditions for getting these loans was to cut back on those generous benefits.  Which hasn’t gone over well with the people receiving those benefits.  So they rioted.

Of course they rioted because they had become slaves of the welfare state.  Politicians promised them everything they wanted for their vote.  And delivered.  Until they could deliver no more.  Having become so dependent on the state the thought of taking care of themselves frightened them so that they ran into the streets and started burning things in protest.  The state had no problem keeping these people from escaping their country.  Unable to take care of themselves they were afraid to leave.  But the people with the jobs, and those who created the jobs, that’s a different story.  They could leave.  And a lot did.  So the state made it as difficult as possible for their money to follow them.

You may be able to Escape the Socialist Welfare State, but your Money may Not

New York City is the financial capital of the world.  For now, at least.  It costs a lot to live in the city.  Cost of living is high.  And the taxes are higher.  Way higher.  Which was never a problem for rich people.  Or rich companies.  Rush Limbaugh did his radio program out of New York City for awhile.  But he left because of the excessive taxation.  Went to Florida.  Where there is no income tax.  But every time he traveled to New York City he was required to pay income tax on his earnings for those days in the city.  The New York tax authorities put him through incredible hurdles to prove when he was out of the city.  Showing in multiple ways that he was, in fact, living in Florida.   With receipts.  Phone bills.  Etc.  They put the onus on him.  Said he owed the tax unless he could prove otherwise.

Then came the subprime mortgage crisis that gave us the worst recession since the Great DepressionWall Street income fell.  As did New York City and New York state tax receipts.  People moved out of the city.  Out of the state.  Worked out of their homes.  Some did no work in the state but still kept a vacation home on Long Island.  Desperate for money and unable to keep these people from escaping the state, the taxing authority went after their income.  Said if they spent any time in the state they owed income taxes for the entire year.  Even if you only vacationed for two weeks on Long Island.  While paying the taxes in the state you actually live and work in.  This was worse than taxation without representation.  It was double taxation.  In addition to taxation without representation.

New York City is generous with their social benefits.  Call it socialism-light.  It’s not all out socialism.  But it still suffers from the same fatal flaw.  It doesn’t work well if the people can escape this socialist utopia.  Especially the ones paying the taxes.  As is happening in the social democracies in Europe.  And anywhere where there is high taxation without a secured border.  To prevent the taxpayers (i.e., best and brightest) from escaping.  Like the Soviets did to keep their best and brightest from escaping.  As did the East Germans.  The Czechoslovakians.  The Romanians.  And the Cubans.

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LESSONS LEARNED #68: ” Beware the demagogue, the champion of the poor, for he has dictatorial aspirations.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2011

Robespierre used the Sans-culottes

A telltale sign of royalty is a really nice pair of pants.  With a perfect, sharp crease.  But that’s today.  Back in the old days, it was a handsome pair of silk knee-breeches.  The wealthy in pre-revolutionary France all wore them.  I say ‘pre-revolutionary’ because it was not the thing to wear during the revolution.  In fact, a group of people who could not afford these fancy breeches took pride in their plain pants.  The poor working class in the cities.  Artisans and small shopkeepers.  The little guys.  Struggling to make a living.

These people did not wear the ‘culottes’ (French for ‘silk knee-breeches’) of the upper classes.  So they went ‘sans’ them (French for ‘without’).  Hence they were the Sans-culottes.  They were the people without silk knee-britches.  And the mob behind the French Revolution

They were Leftist radicals.  Anti-capitalists.  And the far-Left radical Jacques Roux used them for muscle.  Turned them against the bourgeouis (the middle class).  Caused a whole lot of unrest.  Some food riots.  And a massacre or two.  Roux was becoming too powerful so Maximilien Robespierre, a Jacobin, had him arrested.  Then he used the Sans-culottes to consolidate his power.  With the opportune assassination of Jean-Paul Marat (a Jacobin leader), Robespierre became the leader of the Jacobins and of the Revolution.  For awhile.  With the help of the Sans-culottes, he unleashed the Reign of Terror.  Marat’s assassin was a Girondin.  The Girondins were the political rivals of the Jacobins.  So Robespierre put Marat’s assassination to good use and cleaned house.  And by ‘clean house’ I mean killed as many of his political opposition as possible.  It was the time to kill.  If you didn’t like someone all you had to say was that he or she was a counter revolutionary.  And they got a date with the guillotine.  In all some 16,000 (or more) lost their heads during the Reign of Terror.  Including Robespierre himself.  Live by the guillotine.  Die by the guillotine.  And soon thereafter the Sans-culottes became less of a force as the government pulled back from the extreme Leftist radicalism of the Terror to a more conservative one.

Communist Leaders exploited the Proletariat

Marxism arose as a criticism of capitalism.  Which exploits the working class (according to Marxism).  The proletariat.  Who own nothing but their labor.  And are forced to sell it for day-wages to those who own the means of production.  The industrial bourgeoisie.  The proletariat wants to maximize their pay.  The bourgeoisie wants to maximize their profits.  Of course, one can only gain if the other loses.  Ergo, this is a class struggle.  Between the working majority.  And the capital owning minority.  Which is wrong according to Marxism.  And can only end in a proletarian revolution.  After which everyone will live a life of plenty in a classless, stateless, property-less society.  Because everyone will feel the love and work real hard to produce a lot.  Even though they won’t make an extra dime for all their extra work.  It will be a social utopia where society takes from those according to ability and gives to those according to need.  And they’ll sing workers’ songs as they eat and drink and scratch their fat bellies at the end of the work day.

As a social utopia, it’s a pretty nice one.  Especially to the working class who have worked some pretty hard lives.  So they are quick to show a lot of need.  And little ability.  Because those with the most ability have to work the hardest.  Whereas those with the greatest need get more stuff.  Even if they don’t work.  At all.  According to theory, at least.  The working class may be uneducated laborers, but they understood this.  Especially when a leader came along to lead a proletarian revolution.  I get more for working less?  I’m with you, brother.  There have been quite a few such revolutions.  Though there are some degrees of differences, we can call most of these communist revolutions.  Because communist leaders based their philosophy on some form of Marxism.

Many countries had communist revolutions.  Russia was the first.  It became the Soviet Union.  Then China.  It became the People’s Republic of ChinaNorth Korea.  And Cuba.  To name a few.  And how did the proletariat make out in those countries?  Well, suffice it to say it wasn’t quite the utopia they were expecting.  By fighting for the people, Joseph Stalin became one of the greatest mass murderers of all time.  Beating out Adolf Hitler by scores.  There was no utopia in the Soviet Union.  Unless you liked fear and oppression.  And going hungry and lacking the necessities of life.  Ditto in China.  Only their proletariat wasn’t urban workers.  They were rural farmers and peasants.  Forced into collectivized farms.  Where food production plummeted.  Resulting in one of the 20th century’s most horrific famines.  Between famine, fear and oppression, Mao Tse-tung gave Joseph Stalin a run for his money as the greatest mass murderer of all time.  Not sure who won as records are a little sketchy.  But they probably hold first and second place.  Don’t know much about North Korea because it’s such a closed society.  But they suffer some of the greatest famines of modern time.  And spend most of their nights in the dark as they have little energy (seen from space you can tell North Korea from South Korea by the lights).  And the Cubans have more than once tried to escape their social utopia by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in rickety boats and rafts to reach America. 

Life got worse for the working class in general under communism.  But it got pretty good if you were in the communist party.  It was that ‘from those according to ability to those according to need’ thing.  It didn’t work in practice.  Because it turns out people want to benefit from their labors.  Which is the basis of the proletarian revolution in the first place.  And making them work harder for less just wasn’t going to cut it.  Especially when life was better under capitalism.  For it was better when the capitalist bourgeoisie did the exploiting than the communist party.  And it wasn’t just because of the famine, fear and oppression that came with the communists.  Because the capitalists paid you according to the quality of your labor.  Not by the quantity of your need.  So the harder you worked, the more they paid you.  And that’s the kind of thing that’ll get people to work harder.  Incentive.

Peron exploited the Descamisados

Tim Rice is one of the greatest lyricists in musical theater.  Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s greatest works were those he did with Rice.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream CoatJesus Christ Superstar.  And Evita.  The story of Eva Perón.  Wife of Juan Perón.  And their rise to power in Argentina.  With the help of their descamisados.  The poor, shirtless workers.  Who loved Eva Perón.  As she loved them.

The musical Evita has a Che Guevara-like narrator named Che who tells the story.  And participates.  He sees the Peróns for who they are.  Sees how they exploit the descamisados for personal gain.  And bankrupts the nation.  Rice does a great job of turning this story into some great songs.  This story of a workers’ revolution is accessible.  And entertaining.  Here are some of the lyrics.  Starting with the workers’ demands.

Nationalization of the industries that the foreigners control
Participation in the profits that we make
Shorter hours
Higher wages
Votes for women
Larger dole
More public spending
A bigger slice of every cake

The hallmarks of any workers’ revolution.  Which of course the leader of the workers’ revolution promises in exchange for their vote.  Even though he would prefer not to have to deal with that pretense.

It’s annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause
The inconvenience–having to get a majority
If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority

Then the secret police echo these thoughts.

We have ways of making you vote for us,
or at least of making you abstain

Perón wins the election.  And gives his first speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada.

Argentinos! Argentinos! We are all shirtless now!
Fighting against our common enemies–
Poverty, social injustice, foreign domination of our industries!
Reaching for our common goals–
Our independence, our dignity, our pride!
Let the world know that our great nation is awakening
and that its heart beats in the humble bodies of Juan Peron
and his wife, the first lady of Argentina,
Eva Duarte de Peron!

Yes, he is just one of them.  Shirtless.  And poor.  Though he says this from the ‘pink’ house.  Which is more palace than house.  Che is in the crowd.  And is not amused.

As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon, one has to admire the stage management
There again–perhaps I’m more than a mere observer –
listen to my enthusiasm, gentleman! Peron! Peron! Peron!
Look, if I take off my shirt, will you-

At which point the security police beat him and take him away.  For they don’t like dissenters.  Typical revolutionary stuff.  But in a story told so well.  Thanks to the great lyrics of Rice.  And the music of Webber.  And after Perón gets his power, how does Argentina do?  Does Perón deliver that Promised utopia?  Che explains in a brief but passionate monolog.

What’s new Buenos Aires? Your nation, which a few years ago had the second largest gold reserves in the world, is bankrupt! A country which grew up and grew rich on beef is rationing it! La Prensa, one of the few newspapers which dares to oppose Peronism, has been silenced, and so have all other reasonable voices! I’ll tell you what’s new Buenos Aires!

It’s a story as old as time.  The revolutionary leaders get richer.  The workers get poorer.

(The original Broadway cast recording includes Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che.  Who’ve set the bar for these roles.  You can’t get better.  So buy this recording.  You won’t regret it.)

Famine, Fear and Oppression never take a Holiday

Sans-culottes, proletariats, descamisados or some other poor class of people a revolutionary leader champions, it always ends the same.  The leaders of the revolution always seem to do better.  And the poor class continues to suffer.  Often worse off than they were before.  Some leaders come and go.  But the suffering of the masses usually lingers.  For famine, fear and oppression never take a holiday.  But liberty does.  Sadly.

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LESSONS LEARNED #39: “Socialism is easier said than done.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2010

The Bolshevik Revolution Gave Russian Peasants Freedom.  And Famine.

Russia was one of the most backward nations at the turn of the 20th century.  Feudalism was still the economic model.  The only European nation still using it.  There were two Russias.  Hungry and impoverished peasants.  And a rich and well-fed ruling elite.  Then World War I came.  Russia bled on the Eastern Front.  There was a lot of discontent.  Germany took advantage of this by returning the exiled Vladimir Lenin to Russia via Germany.  And it worked.  Marxist revolutionary fervor forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate.  Russia pulled out of the war.  Lenin led the Marxist Bolshevik Revolution against capitalism.  White and Red Russia plunged into civil war.  And a few assassination attempts later, Joseph Stalin launched the Red Terror to kill all enemies of the Soviet state.  Including the Romanov family.  When Lenin died, Stalin consolidated his power.  Through terror.  And he would rule by terror.

With capitalism suppressed, Stalin was ready to build the new socialist/communist state.  He industrialized the state (with foreign engineering and machinery).  He collectivized farms to increase output.  Soviet industry made a great leap forward.  But the cost was devastating.  Famine.  Forced deportations.  Terror.  Millions died.  And the quality of life for the common Russian peasant went into the toilet.  Anyone who complained was an enemy of the state.  There were chronic grain shortages.  Which were blamed on farmers hiding grain to force prices higher.  The solution?  Stalin deported or executed these farmers as enemies of the state.  But they never found any ‘hidden’ grain.

Dictators rise to power through terror and violence.  And they hold power by even more terror and violence.  To silence their enemies.  These enemies of the state.  You see, if you disagree with the dictator, you disagree with the state.  For they are one and the same.  So they get a little testy when their policies fail.  They blame others.  Attack those who are clinging to capitalism and liberty.  Who don’t submit themselves completely to the state.  And herein lies their fatal flaw.  Slaves don’t willingly work for the greater good.  They only do the bare minimum to minimize their pain and suffering.  Either the work or the state will kill them.  They know that.  So they work hard enough to keep the state from killing them.  But not too hard that the work does.  It’s a bleak world.  But that is the life of the slave.

China’s Great Leap Forward Resulted in Even Greater Famines

The communist/socialist movement spilled over into China from Russia.  Mao Tse-tung rose to power much like Stalin.  Ruthlessly.  He industrialized China.  And collectivized their farms into giant collective communes.  He forced peasant farmers into these communes.  Which lowered the quality of life for millions.  The result?  China’s industrial output did increase.  But, like in Russia, the cost was devastating.

The Great Leap Forward was their second five-year plan.  The plan was to increase grain harvests by using the power of the state to collectivize and direct giant farming communes.  Party members (i.e., career politicians who kissed communist ass) ran these communes.  They reported to Mao.  None of them were farmers, though.  But they acted like they were.  Trying some screwy new ideas that only reduced the harvest.  But, being good party men, they lied.  They reported record harvests.  As the lying went up the party chain of bureaucracy, party leaders made decisions based on the lie.  They took so much of the harvest for party members, cities and for export that the peasant farmers working on the communes starved in history’s greatest famines.  Note that ‘famines’ is plural.  Yeah, it was that bad.  Tens of millions starved to death.  All in the name of helping the poor and oppressed.

Everyone lives in fear in a totalitarian state.  Even members in the ruling elite.  The communes were supposed to increase the harvest.  So those responsible for that increase lied.  To minimize their own pain and suffering.  For they knew if they failed the greater common good, the state would come after them.  So they protected themselves.  At the expense of the peasant.  The life of the peasant/proletariat only got worse.  The Bolshevik Revolution was supposed to free them from the oppression of the bourgeois capitalists.  It only oppressed them more.

Using Capitalism to Attack Capitalism

The socialists/communists learned some valuable lessons.  Although they may be good at terror and violence, they didn’t have any real talent or ability.  And though they hate capitalism (because they lack any real talent or ability), they understood that they needed capitalists to be their bitch.  They couldn’t kill them.  Because if they did, nothing would get done.  No wealth created.  And they needed these people to create wealth.  Because they can’t take wealth if the wealth creators don’t create it.  With no wealth to take, they have nothing to give the masses.  To keep them dependent.  And subdued.  So this was the next phase in the socialist/communist revolution.  To exploit the wealth creators for state gain.

The social democracies followed the same general plan.  Attack capitalism.  Oppress the poor by making them dependent on the state.  But instead of using physical fear and intimidation, they used psychological fear and intimidation.  At election time.  They, the compassionate state, wanted to give them stuff.  The mean, cold-hearted capitalists wanted to take away their Social Security.  Eat their children.  And other nasty things.  It worked.  It got votes.

The problem they ran into was that populations grow.  And costs go up.  That meant the social democracies had to give more and more people these ‘benefits’.  While at the same time the costs of these ‘benefits’ kept going up.  And herein lies their fatal flaw.  To keep the people dependent (and docile) you have to keep raising taxes.  But if you raise taxes too much, you kill the golden goose.  Because you can push the wealth producers only so far.  If the state makes them work harder for less so others can enjoy the fruit of their labors, the state is for all intents and purposes enslaving these wealth producers.  And what do we know about slaves?  They don’t willingly work for the greater good.  They do the bare minimum to minimize their pain and suffering. 

Communist China Concerned About the United States’ Anti-Capitalistic Behavior

There are all sorts of ways they can do this.  If the cost of hiring employees is too great, businesses will hire fewer employees.  If taxes are too high, people will cut back on their spending and businesses will lay off workers because of the weaker demand.  If the investment climate is too unfavorable (say, because of a high capital gains tax), investors will invest their money where the climate is more favorable (and not create jobs).  If taxes get too high, the economy will go underground where people pay no taxes.  As more of this happens, the government collects less and less in taxes.  They get to a point where they simply can’t raise them anymore.  So they borrow.  And when they borrow to excess and cannot borrow any more, they have to do the unthinkable.  Cut the benefits that have so successfully enslaved so many people to the government.  And when governments try, the enslaved fight back.

Following the financial crisis of 2008, some debt-ridden nations tried to do just that.  Cut benefits to avoid bankruptcy.  Greece tried.  France, too.  Both had riots.  Other nations are at the tipping point.  Great Britain is making draconian cuts that the people aren’t too happy with.  Ireland is staring down bankruptcy and may need a Greece-like bailout.  (Interestingly, Ireland’s problems don’t stem from a fat social welfare state.  Their troubles resulted from a real estate bubble fueled by the European Central Bank keeping interest rates low.  They, like the U.S., saw no downside in cheap, risky mortgages.)  And, of course, Communist China is lecturing the United States about the evils of currency devaluation as a solution to our problems.  Which we’re doing.  In a last-ditch attempt to stimulate our economy.  A weaker dollar would help.  It would make our exports cheaper.  And make our massive debt cheaper to pay off.  Which really concerns the Chinese as they’re holding the majority of that debt.  So they are not going to sit idly by while we slash the value of their U.S. holdings.  They’ll fight back.   And do whatever it takes (capital controls, tariffs, etc.) to protect their investment.

Whether by physical fear and intimidation or by bribery and deceit, socialism ends the same.  In failure.  For it to work people have to work hard so others can live better.  And people just don’t willingly submit to slavery.  When they’re forced into it, they do the bare minimum to minimize their pain and suffering.  And when people do, the economy will never reach its full potential.  Which is why the United States won the Cold War.  Capitalism encourages people to do their best.  Socialism encourages them to do the least they can get away with.  And you just don’t achieve greatness with mediocrity.

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LESSONS LEARNED #31: “Islam and guns are a lot alike. And yet when something bad happens, we try to ban one and forgive the other.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2010

PEACE IN OUR TIME

What do you know about the Goths?  The Visigoths?  The Ostrogoths?  The Vandals?  The Franks.  Do you even know who these people are?  The Romans did.  And they were a pain in their ass.

The Great Migration of Huns from Asia into Europe displaced these European Germanic tribes.  Which brought them into contact with the Roman Empire.  The Romans then brought some into the empire.  First into the legions that were protecting the frontier against these displaced Germanic tribes.  Then some Germans commanded these legions.  Then the Romans built entire legions from these Germanic people.  Germans faced Germans on the frontier.  Loyalties tugged between empire and blood.  When the empire began to crumble, blood often won out.  And when the Western Roman Empire fell, these Germanic tribes stepped into the void.  Picked up the Roman banner and became the Holy Roman Empire.  Some of the Germanic tribes founded nations.  Spain, France and England.  But not Germany.  Not yet.

 It took the Franco-Prussian War (1870) to unite the German people into a nation.  And into the dominate Central European power at that.  That dominance ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.  Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine (which they took during the Franco-Prussian War).  She lost territory that became a reconstituted Poland (which separated her from East Prussia).  She had to take sole responsibility for causing World War I (which was unfair to say the least).  And pay reparations to the victors that would take forever and a day to pay.  The German people were not happy.  As was a decorated army corporal.  Adolf Hitler.

Hitler made it clear that he was going to restore the German empire.  The third in the line of empires.  A Third Reich.  Successor to the Holy Roman Empire.  And it would last a thousand years.  He established the official Nazi ideology (racial purity and the Master Race).  He renounced portions of the Versailles Treaty.  Began to rearm.  These actions worried the Allies.  But Hitler assuaged their worries in a speech given 5/21/1935.  He said Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  The Allies breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Then he remilitarized the Rhineland.  Annexed Austria.  Then came Munich.  Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, met with Hitler, concerned.  Hitler assured Chamberlain that this was his last territorial grab.  After all, Germany wanted peace.  And only peace.  So those at Munich gave the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland to Germany.  (Incidentally, the Czechs weren’t at Munich).  Chamberlain returned to England announcing they had attained “peace for our time.”  Soon thereafter, Germany took the rest of Czechoslovakia.  And one non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union to partition Poland later, Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II.  So, no, they did not have peace in for their time.

FROM STETTIN IN THE BALTIC TO TRIESTE IN THE ADRIATIC AN IRON CURTAIN HAS DESCENDED ACROSS THE CONTINENT

Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Joseph Stalin.  He liked what he was doing in the Soviet Union.  Now there was some Big Government doing big things.  Just like he was doing.  Only on a grander scale.  Then that non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany just broke his heart.  But the gods were smiling down on FDR.  Hitler turned on Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union.  Killed some 20 million Soviets.  FDR was elated.  He could embrace Uncle Joe again.

FDR said he could talk to Stalin.  Turn on the old FDR charm.  So he tried.  At the Yalta Conference where the Big Three (FDR, Churchill and Stalin) discussed the post-war world.  His plan was bold.  Give Stalin everything.  Ask for nothing.  And then Uncle Joe will work with him in establishing world peace and democracy.  He had a hunch it would work.  I mean, once he turned on that FDR charm, well, FDR got what FDR wanted.

But his administration was full of Soviet spies.  He stayed in the Soviet embassy (to show his trust of Stalin).  They bugged it.  The Soviets knew everything.  Not a strong negotiating position.  For FDR and Churchill, that is.  It was a very strong position for Stalin.  He could whisper whatever sweet nothings FDR wanted to hear.  Lie through his teeth.  In the end, he got Eastern Europe.  Instead of a Nazi occupation, it would now be a Soviet occupation.  Some saw Stalin for who he was.  Winston Churchill, for one.  Later, in 1946, he tried to warn us about Stalin.  He came to America and spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.  He said:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

The old warhorse was right.  Stalin had no visions of democracy.  He wanted to conquer.  To spread communism.  And he did.  In Eastern Europe.  Wherever the Red Army was at the end of World War II the Red Army stayed.  Where they weren’t he tried to use the local communist parties (i.e., the Fifth Columns) in their stead.  To stir up trouble.  Eat away the nations from within.  To gradually convert them to communism.  Sometimes he used blunt force.  As in the coup d’état in Czechoslovakia.   American aid helped Western Europe, Greece and Turkey to rebuff Stalin’s advances there.  West Berlin, inside of East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, was a thorn in his side.  So he tried to blockade it.  Which we relieved with the Berlin Airlift.  Our guy in China (Chiang Kai-shek) lost to Mao Tse-tung in the Chinese Civil War making most of Asia communist.  This was the Cold War.  East vs. West.  Communism vs. Democracy.  The Soviet Union vs. the United States.  The Cold War at times got hot.  As the two superpowers fought each other by proxy.  In Korea.  Cuba (the Bay of Pigs was the hot part.  The more dangerous part was the cold part, playing nuclear chicken).  Vietnam.  The Iran-Iraq War.  Nicaragua.  And in a place called Afghanistan.

MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

The Soviet Union supplied a lot of military hardware that killed a lot of Americans in the Vietnam War.  We returned the favor in Afghanistan.  And helped liberate the Afghanis from the Soviet Occupation.  The Soviet mechanized army and their Hind attack helicopters fought an impoverished and ill-equipped force.  The Mujahedeen.  Who soon got international support.  And U.S. antiaircraft Stinger missiles.  And the Soviet Union had their Vietnam.

Ronald Reagan grew weary of the Cold War.  He wanted to end it.  He understood collectivism.  And he knew history.  Capitalism worked.  Collectivism didn’t.  So he would turn up the pressure.  While the Soviets bled money in Afghanistan, he modernized our nuclear forces.  Proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative.  Spent money on defense.  And gave America an unprecedented decade of prosperity.  The Soviets tried to keep pace.  But couldn’t.  They couldn’t even feed their own people.  On June 12, 1987, in front of the Berlin Wall, at the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan said:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

In time he did.  Or, rather, stopped trying to prevent it from happening.  And Reagan consigned the Evil Empire to the “ash heap of history.”  Which left the Mujahedeen well armed, well financed and without a fight.

TO THE VICTORS GO THE SPOILS

The Western Roman Empire fell to the Germanic tribes but the Eastern Empire held on for a few more centuries.  It wouldn’t be the Germans causing her ultimate demise.  No.  The Eastern Empire fall to the Arabs.  Islam spread west from the Arabian desert into Egypt and across North Africa and up into Spain.  Saladin (revered Islamic hero) wrested the Holy Land from the Christians and then fought off the Christian Crusades when they tried to take it back.  Islam advanced across the Bosporus and into the Balkans before the European Christians finally stopped them.  A good chunk of the Christian Roman Empire was now Muslim.  And remained so for centuries.  Until World War I.  When Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of the Great War.

After the war, Great Britain occupied some of the former Muslim lands.  Protected the Suez Canal for her shipping lanes to India and the Far East.  And to her oil interests.  Also, the League of Nations designated that Great Britain should administer the territory comprised of Palestine and Transjordan.  This British Mandate also included a provision for a future Jewish homeland in the Palestine territory.  Long story short, that happened in 1947 when the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition these territories into Jewish and Arab states.  The following year, May 14, the day before the British Mandate expired, the state of Israel came into existence. 

The Arabs didn’t agree to that deal.  Of course, the Jews didn’t like the Roman occupation.  And the Christians didn’t like the Muslim occupation of the Holy Land.  But to the victors go the spoils.  Not enjoying being on the loser’s side, they wanted Palestine back.  In fact, they want all of the land that used to be Muslim back.  Lands they gained by military conquest but later lost to military conquest.  They want to re-conquer lost land.  And conquer new.  One man in particular.  A Saudi who joined the Mujahedeen.  Osama bin Laden.  Who would lead his unemployed freedom fighters into a new line of work.  In a new organization.  Al Qaeda.

WORLD CONQUEST ISN’T NEW

The Romans conquered the known world.  Hitler had ambitious plans to do the same.  Ditto for Stalin.  (Even Mussolini wanted to restore the Roman Empire.)  And on 9/11/2001, that’s what Osama bin Laden was trying to do.  His devastating attack on the U.S. was to cause a spontaneous uprising by Muslims throughout the world.  There was none.  He failed.  He would be no Saladin.  He would rule little more than a network of caves on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.  And be remembered as just another terrorist.  But his dream is shared by others.  And they’ve no doubt learned a lot from the Nazis.  And the Communists. 

There are elements within Islam, the so-called few who pervert this great religion of peace, that want to see bin Laden’s vision realized.  They’re using force.  Lying.  Trying to convert from within.  And turn to our constitution whenever anyone confronts them.  But these ambassadors of peace won’t condemn terrorist organizations or recognize the state of Israel.  They demand that everyone accommodate Islam while Islam accommodates only Islam.  They say that the U.S. was responsible for 9/11.  Even that the U.S. orchestrated 9/11 and blamed it on the Muslim world.  There is cause for concern.

A FEW IS ENOUGH

Not all Germans were Nazis but we still fought Nazi ideology.  We fought the communist ideology because it called for the conquest of western capitalism.  Ideology counts.  Not all Muslims are ‘the few who pervert’ but we should, at least, be on our guard against Islam.  Because how do we know who is lying?  If we err on the side of caution, all Americans (including Muslim Americans) are safe.  If we don’t, Americans can die.  Including Muslim Americans.

History has shown that the descendents of empire want to restore empire.  That people who lost land want to get that land back.  And ideological purity kills people.  That tells me we should be wary of a highly ideological people who once had an empire and desperately covets land.  And if we can’t know who those few are, it would be irresponsible not to be on our guard against anyone who might be one of those few. 

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