Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the Soviet Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2014

History 101

Marx called for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat where the Workers controlled the Means of Production

Karl Marx did not like capitalism.  Or middle class people that used money to make money.  The bourgeoisie.  Who exploit the working man.  The proletariat.  The bourgeoisie used their capital to exploit the labor of the working man (i.e., taking a risk and investing in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.) to make money.  While the working man slaved away at slave wages creating all the great things we have in the world.  Of course, the proletariat could not do any of this unless others took risks and invested in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.

This was just not fair to Karl Marx.  Because the industrial bourgeoisie had all the power.  And their exploitation of the proletariat was nothing more than a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  So Marx created a socio-economic philosophy to address this dictatorship.  Marxism.  And called for a social transformation.  For working men everywhere to unite.  And break the chains that bound them in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  Calling for a dictatorship of the proletariat.  For the workers to control the means of production.  In a new system that replaced capitalism.  Socialism.  Until they could usher in the true ideal.  Communism.

In capitalism the bourgeoisie get rich creating neat things people discover and want to buy.  In communism there would be no bourgeoisie using the means of production to make a buck.  Instead, wise and selfless people would determine what was best for the people.  Instead of free markets allocating scarce resources economic planners would.  And they’d do it better.  Because they are selfless.  Creating large surpluses that would go not into some rich capitalist’s bank account.  But they would fairly distribute this surplus among the working class.  So society as a whole would be better off.  Sounds great.  But if the market didn’t make the decisions of what to produce who did?  As it turned out for Marxism that was a very difficult question to answer.

Leon Trotsky was a Like-Minded Marxist and the number two Communist behind Lenin

The Russian people were growing tired of World War I.  And Tsar Nicholas.  In fact they had it with the Russian Empire.  Even before World War I.  Although serfdom was abolished in 1861 the lives of peasants didn’t improve much.  There was still famine.  And the serfs had to pay a lot to their former landlords for their freedom.  So there was revolutionary fervor in the air.  And a few peasant uprisings.  As well as a few revolutionaries.  Such as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Who was a Marxist.  His anti-Tsarist political activity got him arrested and exiled a few times.  In fact, during World War I he was living in exile in Switzerland.  Hoping that the Germans would weaken Tsarist Russia enough to kick off a socialist revolution in Russia.

When revolution did break out Lenin was anxious to return to Russia.  But being in Switzerland posed a problem.  It was surrounded by warring countries.  Lucky for him, though, the Germans were anxious to close the eastern front of the war.  And a little revolution in Russia could do just that.  So they transported Lenin through Germany and helped him return to Russia.  They travelled north.  Took a ferry to Sweden.  Then by train to Petrograd.  Formally Saint Petersburg (Peter the Great’s new capital on the Baltic Sea).  Which was later renamed Leningrad.  And then later renamed Saint Petersburg.  Where he would lead the Bolshevik Party.  And the world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism.

Leon Trotsky was a like-minded Marxist.  And an anti-militarist.  He had a falling out with Lenin but eventually reunited.  With Trotsky becoming the number two communist behind Lenin.  Trotsky addressed a problem with Marxism for Russia.  Socialism was to be the final step AFTER capitalism.  Once there was a strong industrial proletariat.  Russia didn’t have that.  For it was one of the least advanced countries in the world.  An agrarian nation barely out of the Middle Ages.  So Russia had to industrialize WHILE the proletariat took over the means of production.  Which brought up a big problem.  How could a backward nation industrialize while having a revolution?  How could they do this without other advanced capitalistic countries coming to the aid of the bourgeoisie?  Which Trotsky answered with his Permanent Revolution.  For the Russian socialist revolution to be successful there had to be socialist revolutions in other countries, too.  Thinking more in terms of a worldwide revolution of industrialized states.  And not just in Russia.  Something another Marxist disagreed with.  Joseph Stalin

Communist States have Guards on their Borders to prevent People from Escaping their Socialist Utopia

During these revolutionary times workers’ councils were appearing throughout the country.  Soviets.  Which helped stir up the revolutionary fervor.  In 1917 the imperial government fell.  The Bolsheviks killed the Tsar and his family.  And Russia fell into civil war.  Which the Bolsheviks won in 1922.  And formed the Soviet Union.  Or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  That stretched from Eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean.  Under the rule of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.  Until he died in 1924.  Then Joseph Stalin took over after a brutal power struggle.  Even exiled Leon Trotsky.  And established totalitarian rule.  Stalin created a planned economy.  Rapid industrialization.  And collectivization.  As well as famines, forced labor, deportation and great purges of his political enemies.  To strengthen his one-party rule.  To protect the socialist revolution from a return of capitalism.

The Russian Revolution was the only successful socialist revolution in Europe.  The dictatorship of the proletariat did not happen as Lenin and Trotsky had envisioned.  So Stalin abandoned the idea of Permanent Revolution.  And adopted Socialism in One Country instead.  To strengthen the Soviet Union.  And not support a world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism.  In direct opposition of Trotsky.  To aid in the USSR’s industrialization Stalin made a pact with the devil.  Adolf Hitler.  And entered an economic agreement that would allow Hitler to build and test his war machine on Soviet soil that he would use in World War II.  Then came the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  And the secret protocol.  Where Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to conquer and divvy up the countries located between them.

Trotsky did not like what the Soviet Union became under Stalin.  An oppressive dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.  Not the dictatorship of the proletariat envisioned by Karl Marx.  And he didn’t like that pact with a militarist Nazi Germany.  He predicted that Stalin’s USSR would not last.  Either suffering a political revolution like Tsar Nicholas suffered.  Or it would collapse into a capitalist state.  Stalin disagreed.  And killed him and his family.  Getting rid of the last of the old Bolsheviks.  Leaving him to rule uncontested until his death in 1953.  Exporting communism wherever he could.  Where it killed more people than any other ideology.  Until the great and brutal socialism experiment collapsed in 1991.  For Trotsky was right.  It could not survive when a better life was just across a border.  Which is why all of the communist states have guards on their borders.  To keep their people from escaping their socialist utopia.

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Moving from Capitalism towards Socialism in America and Life in the Former Soviet Union

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2012

Week in Review

Clearly President Obama is trying to move the country away from laissez faire capitalism.  And towards something where the government has a much larger role in our lives.  Such as Obamacare.  More government into our lives.  The question is where does it end?  For it is a slippery slope.  In Europe there was capitalism before there was social democracy.  A transition from capitalism towards socialism without a revolution.   Does a social democracy end in socialism?  Which is a real concern as America is moving ever closer to the European social democracy.  For someone who lived in a full-blown socialist state, this trend isn’t a good one (see If You Had Actually Grown Up In A Soviet Country, This Is What You Would Have Experienced by Rob Wile posted 10/22/2012 on Business Insider).

“I grew up in a socialist country. And I have seen what that does to people. There is no hope, no freedom. No pride in achievement.

“And that’s what I see happening here.”

So begins an ad that’s been airing in the run-up to November elections, narrated and paid for by Thomas Peterffy, in support of Republican candidates.

Peterrfy, the CEO of Interactive Brokers, came to America in 1965 to escape Communist Hungary.

He fears a world where, if we’re not careful, “people will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs. I think this is a very slippery slope.

“It seems like people don’t learn from the past…”

We turned to “Steeltown, USSR,” a book-length work of reportage from current Princeton University History Professor Stephen Kotkin, to see what life under socialism is really like.

Published in 1991, the book is Kotkin’s account of his trips to the Russian city of Magnitogorsk in the late-80s, on the eve of the fall of Communism, and his interviews with the city’s residents.

If you follow the above link you can see what it was like to live in a socialist country.  In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Here are some excerpts:

“This apartment, I waited 18 years for it. During that time, we lived four in one room. No one remembered what color the walls were. You couldn’t see them, they were so covered with our belongings stacked up to the ceiling. I worked and struggled and endured all manner of humiliation for eighteen years for this pathetic, unexceptional new apartment. It makes me sad and angry to think about it. How much evil has accumulated! I have so much on my soul!”

“If you work hard, they demand from you. You have to get up in front of everyone and make speeches; they give you medals with pompous names. So it’s best to stay quiet, not attract attention to yourself. Once in a while, you work like a bull; the remainder of the time, you rest.”

“No one makes a move until we see where the power lies. As soon as it is clear, we all quickly take that side. We’re completely dependent on them. Food, clothes, apartments, furniture, day care, summer camp, vacations — everything is allocated by them according to their lists, with which they rule over our lives. Everyone has something to lose. It might seem you have nothing, but they take something away, and you have even less.”

“A handful of Magnitogorsk youth were fortunate enough to gain acceptance to university in Sverdlovsk, the ‘capital’ of the Urals, or even to Moscow University. Yet even this select group often found itself back in Magnitogorsk upon graduation, unable (in some cases unwilling) to secure the necessary official permission to remain in the larger city.”

“For every 100 Magnitogorsk families, there were 96 radio receivers, 99 TV sets, 39 tape recorders, 34 photo cameras, 92 refrigerators, 70 washing machines and five cars.”

Sugar, meat, butter and sausages had to be rationed — they could only be purchased using coupons distributed at residences in accord with the number of people in the household.

Fewer than 50 percent of Magnitogorsk residents enjoyed their own self-contained apartments without living with the rest of their relatives. You had to qualify for new housing by having less than 9 square meters per person. And you couldn’t move.

“There were approximately 30,000 cars for the city’s 438,000 residents (135,000 households). Only 22,000 were privately owned… the wait to purchase a car was more than 10 years.”

“There was only ‘children’s’ shoes, ‘women’s’ boots or ‘men’s’ coats…Discounts or markdowns were not permitted, even if goods were not selling. There were no seasonal sales.”

“An individual established himself or herself in the community not by purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood but by landing a job in a favored shop. ‘The shop or work unit is an entire social milieu,’ one official explained. ‘It’s not a job, but a life.’ In short, the steel plant was not relaly a ‘business’; rather, it was an industrial welfare agency.”

“At home we get together with friends, sit around the talbe. All we do is talk about our problems, and insufficienceis, endlessly, until someone bangs the table and shouts, ‘Enough. No more about that.’ But what else can we discuss?”

This is where you end up when you move away from capitalism and towards socialism.  A grey and dreary life.  Long waiting lists for apartments and cars.  Where hard work is only rewarded with more hard work.  So workers strive to do the minimum.  You live in fear of the authorities because everything you have in life is dependent on how they felt towards you.  If you were quiet and suffered your privations quietly you experienced no new privations.  If you complained you suffered more privations.  The state allowed few to go to college.  And those that did rarely saw an improvement in their lives.  They rationed your food.  And forced you to live with your relatives in tiny apartments.  Everyone wore the same shoes, boots and coats.  And few found any enjoyment in life.

So should Americans be worried about sliding towards socialism?  Well, soon our health care will be dependent on some bureaucrat’s whim under Obamacare.  Student loans are now provided by the government.  More people are dependent on the government for their food than ever before.  And their housing.  The government is subsidizing green companies that can’t compete in the market place.  To provide ‘high-paying’ jobs in companies that often go bankrupt.  So a lot of what is happening typically doesn’t happen in laissez faire capitalism.  These are things that are closer to socialism than capitalism.

These expansions in the welfare state come courtesy of class warfare.  The government’s relentless attacks on those who don’t need government benefits.  Accusing them for not paying their fair share in taxes.  Creating anger in lower-income people.  And agitation.  To support further transfers of wealth.  All the elements of a worker revolution.  But without the actual revolution.  Because they’re doing it at the ballot box.

Life is better under capitalism.  Which is why athletes from behind the Iron Curtain left their socialist paradise whenever they could.  Ballet stars.  Even military jet pilots who flew their planes to freedom.  Unless Americans want a country like the country these people fled we probably should do something about our slide on that slippery slope.

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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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