Author Topic: Why doesn't communism work?  (Read 139509 times)

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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #210 on: August 06, 2010, 07:20:13 AM »
Same here, Elisabeth. You have been away for a while?
  I forget the details of my defence of Hitler, but it was  political, as I recall and had nothing to do with his personal attributes as a vegetarian or animal rights advocate. At the time [1967 or so] there was not much positive available about the man, so I used his speeches.  Even then, they were tiring and almost undecipherable.  A few years later, I was given a similar task on Stalin! [why did I always  get the bad guys?] That is why I started visiting the Soviet Embassy in  Wash. D.C. Of course they were of not much help, as this was long after Stalin was gone and he was "out of favour" but still, I made some nice friends And this, whilst at Catholic University... That project was a paper, though, not a debate. I had good marks nonetheless.
 That chore over, I expected Genghis Khan next, but never happened.
 I imagine the challenge of defending the assassins of AII would be difficult as well.  As, they  did not really represent a communist or even Bolshevik party ideal.  Just part of the anarchist  movement of the era. Not really looked into it that much, but what a waste. On the doorstep of radical change, a huge step backwards into autocracy.
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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #211 on: August 07, 2010, 06:39:56 AM »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #212 on: August 07, 2010, 09:50:30 AM »
Robert, my dear, I'm surprised you weren't assigned Genghis Khan or worse still, Heinrich Himmler. Now the latter would pose a real challenge for any defense attorney! Your account of your adventures at university is very interesting, I wish you would expand on it. Maybe here is not the place though, unless you start a new thread. Memoirs somewhere in the offing, perhaps? The sixties were an incredibly challenging and intriguing decade.

Constantinople, I believe Massandra, the palace you cite by link, originally belonged to one of the grand dukes, but I can't remember which one. These palaces are spread all over the Crimea and Black Sea region in general, some of them were built under the tsars, others of course under the new tsars of the communist era. I wish I had handy my copy of Simon Sebag Montefiore's "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar." Unfortunately because of its incredible bulk and unwieldiness I left it behind when we returned to the States this summer. Have you read "The Court of the Red Tsar"? I found it illuminating, at least in terms of Stalin's psychology. He wrote endless love letters and notes to his wife Nadezhda, for example, as well as joking fatherly notes to his daughter Svetlana. This is why I find the whole label of "sociopath" unconvincing in Stalin's case, as in Hitler's. They were truly complicated individuals who transcend our pathetic so-called scientific categories.

Getting back OT, however, I agree that Massandra and what it represented in terms of party privilege (special rest homes, special stores, special trips abroad, special everything) is one of the reasons why communism fell in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The problem with communist-run societies has always been the tremendous gap between reality and ideology. The ideology says, we are successfully building socialism, a new heaven on earth. The reality says that, on the contrary, we are failing to build socialism, instead we are building a new hell on earth, complete with extreme social inequality, injustice, and (probably most important of all) a severe shortage of consumer goods, even of the most basic necessities - e.g., the poor miners under Gorbachev who went on strike because nothing, literally nothing, was available in their state-operated stores, not even soap to wash off the grime of the mines. We should remember those miners because, in retrospect, their strikes in the early years of Gorbachev's rule represented the death knell not only of communism in the Soviet Union, but also of the Soviet Union itself.
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Offline Silja

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #213 on: August 07, 2010, 12:42:20 PM »
Quote
Stalin is another matter altogether. Not a few Russians [mainly older, from the WW2  generation]  see him as the saviour of Russia

Yeah, but this generation is dying off. 

And a new one is growing up! In fact Stalin is  being increasingly more respected again among young Russians as a "great man" who had to be cruel to defeat the nazis and to make Russia great. These attitudes owe a lot to the new Russian history books which have become very popular with some teachers. The historian responsible for the book said the aim of the textbook was to make pupils love their country. So a lot of Russian students will be internalising again that the end justifies the means.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #214 on: August 07, 2010, 01:30:51 PM »
This is true, Silja. I have witnessed it myself and it is  scarey.   Intolerance is disturbing.  In ANY form.
  Elisabeth, thank you, but no  memoirs are in store, I think. Himmler would indeed have been a challenge. That man was downright nasty.
 BTW, I think Masandra  belonged to the Voronstovs, but am not positive.
 Yes, party privilege did have it's perks. All political leaders have them. The USSR was a huge country so there would be a dacha or palace in every state.
 However, from what I have been told, the "empty shelves" story is largely a product of Western propaganda.   By the same token,  I have seen empty shelves at Sainnbury's &  Safeway.
 
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Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline TimM

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #215 on: August 07, 2010, 03:16:02 PM »
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These attitudes owe a lot to the new Russian history books which have become very popular with some teachers. The historian responsible for the book said the aim of the textbook was to make pupils love their country

Yikes, make pupils love your country by glorifying one of the worst mass murderers to walk the Earth.  What's next, German historians making pupils love their country by glorifying Hitler?  Cambodian historians making pupils love their country by glorifying Pol Pot?

These so-called historians need a reality check.  Stalin was NOT a great man, he was NOT a hero.  He was a blood thirsty tyrant who was responsible for millions of deaths!  Anyone trying to glorify him are just as bad as neo-Nazis who glorify Hitler.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 08:39:38 AM by Alixz »
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Constantinople

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #216 on: August 07, 2010, 04:13:39 PM »
Elizabeth
            It is difficult to get books here but the book sounds interesting.  As for communist leaders appropriating mansions for their personal use, theft and hypocrisy are highly detestable human failings, especially if you are implementing an ideology of equality and killing people who had more.

Constantinople

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #217 on: August 07, 2010, 04:16:27 PM »
Well Tim, a lot of Europeans consider what happened to native Americans and Canadians was a serious case of genocide, especially events like handing out smallpox infected blankets.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #218 on: August 07, 2010, 04:54:29 PM »
As well as the appropriation of German, Italian and Japanese properties.
  Stalin wass no prize, but he was not nearly as bad as  his detractors claim. IMO.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #219 on: August 07, 2010, 04:59:28 PM »

 However, from what I have been told, the "empty shelves" story is largely a product of Western propaganda.   By the same token,  I have seen empty shelves at Sainnbury's &  Safeway.
 

Actually, Robert, I was in the Soviet Union - specifically Moscow and Leningrad, which were the show cities, and got more supplies than anywhere else under the old regime - for six weeks in 1991, when the Soviet Union and Gorbachev were still around, although there were rumors everywhere of an approaching coup by the military and right-wing hardliners (it came after I left, in August). Understand, this was the height of perestroika and glasnost and I can personally testify that 99 percent of the state stores I visited had literally empty shelves (save for a few jars of jam, and lots of flies). Even in Petersburg, the one store we went to that had actual meat for sale, the clerk got into a vicious argument with the poor woman trying to get her order - the rudeness was unbelievable, and the basic message was, you take what you're given, or else we give you nothing.

The only state stores that offered food in abundance were the bakeries. Here there were no lines and lots of bread, albeit of the simplest kind. The only places where you could get a real selection of food, for very inflated prices (cheap by Western standards, but too expensive for the vast majority of Russians) were the new farmers' markets, where fresh produce and other comestibles were sold. This is where my husband and I ended up shopping. But I honestly don't understand how ordinary Russians survived at all in these conditions. It's no wonder to me that communism collapsed that summer, I'm only amazed it didn't collapse sooner, but then the masses everywhere are always too patient in the face of total inequity and injustice.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #220 on: August 07, 2010, 05:08:48 PM »
Quote
Stalin is another matter altogether. Not a few Russians [mainly older, from the WW2  generation]  see him as the saviour of Russia

Yeah, but this generation is dying off. 

And a new one is growing up! In fact Stalin is  being increasingly more respected again among young Russians as a "great man" who had to be cruel to defeat the nazis and to make Russia great. These attitudes owe a lot to the new Russian history books which have become very popular with some teachers. The historian responsible for the book said the aim of the textbook was to make pupils love their country. So a lot of Russian students will be internalising again that the end justifies the means.

As a matter of fact Putin has recently initiated an anti-Stalin campaign. This is indicated by the new policy of the Russian government that excerpts from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago will now be mandatory reading for all high school students. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and "Matryona's Home" are also commonly taught in Russian secondary schools these days.

I sometimes wonder if Putin is not an incredibly canny politician, who realized very early on that an anti-Stalin program in Russia would be premature at the turn of the century, when he first came to power, given the Russian taste for nostalgia (not only for Stalin, by the way, but also for Alexander III and Nicholas I!). But such a program has certainly started now. And it's my impression that it's really only people over the age of fifty who hold Stalin in any high regard - i.e., a generation rapidly dying off, given Russians' short life expectancy.
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Offline TimM

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #221 on: August 07, 2010, 05:41:16 PM »
Hitler and Stalin were cut from the same mold.  When you strip away all the dogma, you got two evil men who had no qualms about slaughtering countless millions and anyone who got in their way.  The world is not a poorer place without men like this around.

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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #222 on: August 07, 2010, 05:45:45 PM »
 I agree, Elisabeth, Putin is a very astute politician.
 And what I found interesting in St. P., was the "upper class" stores were indeed well stocked and costly. What was even more interesting was that they  stayed in business after the 1917 revolution.  All through the wars and  changes.  Someone was able to afford them ! [I think the butcher was offering less than prime meat at times, though] I was told the zoo was empty during the siege....but that happens everywhere.
 Stalin was no friend of St. P.  but was convinced to restore the palaces, as museums. His purges had nothing to do with Communism,  just his paranoia. [Nixon had  his "hiit list" as well.] His economic policies, were, for the most part, failures. Way too large scale for effect rather than usefulness. Expensive showplaces.
 Speaking of which, the Exposition Park in Moscow  was impressive, if verging on derelict  at the time of my visit. But it was a showplace of the USSR.  Now,  those SSRs are independent countries struggling with  their own petty dictators.  Those are the people who miss the stability and relative prosperity of the Soviet Union.
 And, TimM,  even I cannot defend Pol Pot. I would not even try.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #223 on: August 07, 2010, 05:53:54 PM »
Hitler and Stalin were cut from the same mold.  When you strip away all the dogma, you got two evil men who had no qualms about slaughtering countless millions and anyone who got in their way.  The world is not a poorer place without men like this around.



I must say I agree with you, Tim. I think some people simply choose to be evil, and actually enjoy being evil. Hitler and Stalin were both like that. They could have gone the opposite way, they were both extremely talented men and political geniuses, but they chose not to. There must have been something inherently appealing to them about taking the path to evil. Total power, perhaps? You think?
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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #224 on: August 07, 2010, 06:01:59 PM »
I disagree, TimM, Hitler & Stalin were definitely not  "cut from the same  mold" Stalin was a committed revolutionary, Hitler an extreme reactionary.   Both were, however paranoid dictators. [and, to boot, hated each other] That is about all they had in common.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.