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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 21st, 2011

One Country Socialism

There’s a debate in the communist community.  About the socialist revolution.  Can it happen in just one country?  Or does it need to be a permanent international revolution?  Lenin said you couldn’t have socialism in only one country.  Stalin agreed.  Until he changed his mind.  Then he was content to have socialism in only one country.  As long as he ruled that one country.  Which he ultimately did in the Soviet Union

But what exactly is the socialist revolution?  What is it revolting against?  Capitalism.  And Lenin saw capitalism export its oppression of the working class into less developed countries.  Capitalist imperialism.  Where advanced capitalist countries exploited the resources and workers of their capitalist colonies.  The capitalists got rich; the workers did not.  And that’s the way it always works.  So it has to stop.  But this is easier said than done.  For this is the ‘danger’ of capital.  It can go anywhere.  That’s why Lenin believed in permanent revolution.  To halt international capital flows.  Which was absolutely necessary for the triumph of socialism over capitalism.  Because if you halt capital inflows in one country, that capital will just seek out another.  And as long as you allow capital to seek out these ’emerging markets’ it will.  Just like that Whac-A-Mole game.  Where you hit the mole down in one location only to see it pop up in another.  And so it is with capitalism.

But there is another problem with ‘one country’ socialism.  If you ignore these international flows of capital things happen.  Sometimes nice things.  A lot of these ‘exploited’ nations got wealthier.  The standard of living improved for some.  And for those who it didn’t they could see what it did for others.  And it looked good.  The ‘have nots’ just saw how much more there was to have.  And they wanted to have it, too.  Interesting fact.  As bad as the working conditions were in some of these ‘exploited’ countries, some of the best jobs were in the imperial economy.  Working in sweatshops for dollars a day sure beat working in the fields for subsistence.  The imperialists helped modernize these poorer countries.  Even made them into better countries.  As much as people liked to hate the British Empire, look at the countries they ‘exploited’ today.  The United States.  Canada.  India.  South Africa.  Australia.  New Zealand.  These aren’t third-world countries.  They’re actually pretty nice places to live.  And immigration patterns prove this.

The Free Rider Problem

This is one of the biggest problems of ‘one country’ socialism.  Because if you compare a socialist country with a capitalist country, the capitalist one always looks better.  Again, based on the direction of immigration.  That’s why it’s hard to maintain a socialist revolution in one country while a neighboring capitalist country is richer and enjoys a higher standard of living.  Because people can simply leave the socialist country and move to the capitalist country.  Let’s look at a simple analogy.  Let’s say you get to study abroad.  You have a choice of two universities.  The Murmansk State Technical University north of the Arctic Circle in Russia.  And the International University of Monaco on the French Rivera.  Which are you going to choose?  Nothing against the Murmansk State Technical University, but I’m betting you choose the warm one by the beach.  Because the weather is nicer.  There’s lots of stuff to do in that nice weather.  And there are a lot of beautiful young people who enjoy sunning themselves with little on in that nice weather.  Because if it’s our choice, we’re going to choose what’s best.  And though Murmansk Tech may be very good, fun in the sun is always better.  So when students choose between the two, Murmansk just isn’t going to win that contest.

In theory socialism is a utopia.  Everyone lives together in one big, happy family.  Everyone works hard.  For the family.  There’s no I, me or mine.  Everything is we, us and ours.  Your labors aren’t yours.  They belong to everyone.  Whether you work a lot.  Or a little.  And the product of all that labor belongs to everyone, too.  Whether you work a lot.  Or a little.  And this is where the utopia breaks down.  Where reality starts setting in.  Because of the free rider problem.  You could be busting your ass for the family while a bunch of worthless wastes of space aren’t.  And yet everyone shares equally in the proceeds of all your labor.  Ergo you work less.  As does everyone else.  Eventually until everyone is doing the bare minimum to get buy.  Or to avoid punishment.

Over time the socialist utopia is not much of a utopia anymore.  If it was ever one.  It’s more of a gray, bleak life.  Where you’re hungry more times than not.  And are always in need of something.  Wanting for the things we take for granted in our capitalist lives.  Toilet paper.  Soap.  A pair of blue jeans.  Things we just go to a store when we need them.  And we do.  We don’t wait for hours in a line at a store with empty shelves in hopes of getting something we need.  Now imagine this store across the street from a store in a rich Capitalist city of plenty.  Which way do you think the people would go?  From the rich city of plenty to the bleak city of empty shelves?  Or the other way around.  Turns out, it was the other way around.

Unhappy in East Berlin

If you’re old like me you know what city I’m talking about.  Berlin.  Which was divided between East Berlin and West Berlin after World War II.  Why?  Because the allies had agreed to occupy the German capital.  Which happened to be deep inside East Germany.  Where the Soviet Red Army still had a presence.  Keeping it in the Soviet sphere.  And in that sphere there was nothing but socialism.  Soviet style.  Stalinism.  The East European countries in the Soviet sphere were for all intents and purposes a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  So whether they liked it or not they now lived in that socialist utopia.  All except a lucky few, that is.

Soviet socialism sucked.  Those in it wanted out of it.  And those in East Berlin could do that by simply walking across the street.  As could anyone that made it to East Germany and into East Berlin.  Caused a bit of a problem.  The best and the brightest in and around East Berlin were walking to their freedom by walking across the street to West Berlin.  Because life was so much better in West Berlin than in East Berlin.  And if you made it to West Berlin you could even leave East Germany.  Go anywhere in Europe.  The UK.  The USA.  Anywhere.

The Soviets learned how it was not possible to have socialism on one side of a street and capitalism on the other.  Because side by side it was clear.  Capitalism was better.  And the people said so with their feet.  Until the Soviets put a stop to it.  You see, for socialism to work, especially in an area where there’s a better life nearby, you just can’t allow people to escape your socialist utopia.  Which is what the Soviets did.  Eventually building a wall between East and West Berlin.  And a kill-zone on the eastern side of that wall.  To dissuade anyone from climbing over that wall.  By killing them before they got there.

The Key to Socialism is Universal Misery

Countries that embrace a more extreme brand of socialism (Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, etc.) typically share a common theme.  They have very secure borders.  Not to keep people out.  But to keep people in.  Because their people want to escape to a better life.  And the government in that socialist utopia wants to prevent them from getting to that better life.  And does.  Often with extreme force.  Such as the kill-zone in the former East Berlin.

On the other side of the border, though, there is no such police state.  You can come and go as you please.  That is, anywhere but into an extreme socialist state.  Not that anyone would want to.  Because few people choose to live where they go wanting for food and the basic necessities of life.  Or in a police state where your neighbors sometime disappear after talking a little too much about that better life on the other side of the border.

Socialism can work.  It can be that utopia.  As long as people have no choice.  Everyone is equally miserable.  And a better life doesn’t exist anywhere.  It’s hard to lose your freedom.  Many who do try to get it back.  But it’s a different story if you never had it in the first place.  And if it’s the same on the other side of that border.  Because you’ll then be content in your misery.  Blissfully ignorant of anything better.  Obedient.  And that’s how socialism can work.  If there’s universal misery.  And the people are subservient.

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LESSONS LEARNED #2 “The international community prefers liberals over conservatives because it’s easier to fool a naïve idealist than a wise realist.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2010

EVERY GENERATION HAS had naïve idealists.  Even the founding generation.  Thomas Jefferson was an intellectual.  Kind of quiet and shy, he found solace in his books.  He knew more than most of the Founding Fathers.  But he was an idealist.  He saw the world more as how it should be than how it was.

Jefferson would become the leader of the opposition party…while serving as Washington’s Secretary of State.  The main split was between Jefferson and the Secretary of the Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton was smart like Jefferson but wasn’t quiet or shy.  And, unlike Jefferson, he understood commerce and capital markets.

They had two different views of America.  Hamilton saw a rich manufacturing base while Jefferson saw farmers.  Jefferson thought Hamilton’s views were too British and called him a monarchist.  He didn’t trust him or his financial schemes and opposed them at every opportunity.

Hamilton admired the British Empire.  He wanted an American Empire, using the British as the model.  Jefferson hated all things British.  He also owed a fortune to British creditors, another reason to hate both Great Britain and things financial.

When trouble brewed between the British and the French, Hamilton wanted to side with the British.  Jefferson with the French.  Washington wanted to stay neutral.  And did.  But when that neutrality clearly favored the British, Jefferson was furious. 

America’s interests, though, clearly aligned with Great Britain.  America’s trade had always been with Great Britain.  As a British colony, she was there to provide raw materials to the mother country.  During the Revolutionary War, there was limited trade with France, but she didn’t throw open her markets to American goods.  Then there was the British Fleet.  It ruled the seas.  An infant nation just couldn’t take on the British Empire and restore her economy.

Jefferson was a great philosopher.  But he wasn’t a great executive.  Idealists rarely are.  He was both governor of Virginia and president of the United States.  He put neither of these accomplishments on his tomb stone.  Even he knew.  He was a thinker of great thoughts.  He wasn’t a doer of great things.  The British leaning neutrality provided peace and prosperity while much of Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic wars.  He was wrong on this one.

IN GERMANY THERE was National Socialism.  In the Soviet Union there was communism.  In Italy there was fascism.  And in the United States there was the New Deal.  They all shifted control of business to the government.  They all rejected capitalism.  They all favored state planning.  They all favored putting the collective good above individual self-interest.  And they all had charismatic leaders.

These charismatic leaders, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Roosevelt (FDR), were elitists.  They shared a condescending contempt for those who clung onto the old, unenlightened ways.  It was an era of progressive state power.  And through their will and charisma they were building a new world order.

War would make fascism and National Socialism enemies of the United States.  But FDR still had ‘Uncle Joe’.  He had a hot and cold love affair with Stalin.  It was hot until 1939.  It turned cold when Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact and invaded, conquered and partitioned Poland.  It turned hot again when Hitler turned on Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union.

Roosevelt refused to hear criticisms of Stalin.  He knew Stalin.  He could work with him.  He could charm him.  Just who was charming who, though, was a matter of debate.  Soviet spies where everywhere in Roosevelt’s administration.  And, when they met to discuss post war policy, against advice, Roosevelt foolishly lodged at the Soviet embassy which was bugged (he wanted to show Stalin that he trusted him).  The Soviets listened in on all private discussions of the American delegation.  Stalin played him like a piano. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Roosevelt gave away Eastern Europe and condemned them to the misery that was life behind the Iron Curtain.  And that was just the start of the Cold War.  Communism, as an ideology, would be responsible for more deaths than any other despot or empire the world has ever known.  And Stalin was the architect of most of that.  If not personally, his style of harsh communism known as Stalinism.  And FDR, in his naïve idealism, was there in the beginning to help him on his way.

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