Author Topic: Why doesn't communism work?  (Read 147336 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #450 on: September 25, 2011, 12:59:26 PM »
Speaking of mortality, perhaps not many here have noticed, but the truly great, groundbreaking generation of Western Slavists -- American or European-born historians primarily of Russian and Soviet history and literature -- are dying off right now. The following eminent scholars in these fields have passed away recently, they all held professorships at American universities, although many were born in the Russian Emigration after the Russian Revolutions of 1917:

Simon Karlinsky  died 2009
Richard Stites  died 2010
Leopold Haimson died 2010
Moshe Lewin died 2010
Nicholas Riasonovsky died 2011

Most of us know Riasonovsky from his textbook of Russian history from ancient times to the present, which is still standard fare in most American universities. But all of these scholars were pioneers in some way, and most of them were also historians and not only fought the great "revisionist" battle of the Cold War in Soviet Studies, but in effect set the very parameters in which that struggle took place.

« Last Edit: September 25, 2011, 01:01:36 PM by Elisabeth »
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Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #451 on: September 25, 2011, 05:58:40 PM »
Tim - I don't think I explained it well.  If we believe in "life after death" we don't call that reincarnation.  It is a religious term and seems to mean a relief of all earthly toil and grief and moving toward a peaceful here after.

Those who believe in reincarnation don't think they have reached "nirvana" only moved from a past life of grief and toil to a present one.

But if there is a place where the "soul" resides in waiting for a body to born in just as it resides in a body waiting to die and move on to that place of peace, then what my son was asking is why can't we remember that "life before life"? 

That "life before life" would not just another worldly move on the wheel of Karma as reincarnation would be defined.  But a place of rest and peace from whence we come and to where we return.


Offline TimM

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #452 on: September 25, 2011, 07:13:12 PM »
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Tim - I don't think I explained it well.  If we believe in "life after death" we don't call that reincarnation.  It is a religious term and seems to mean a relief of all earthly toil and grief and moving toward a peaceful here after.

Oh, I know what you meant, Alixz, it's okay.


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But if there is a place where the "soul" resides in waiting for a body to born in just as it resides in a body waiting to die and move on to that place of peace, then what my son was asking is why can't we remember that "life before life"

It could be that the soul of each of us is created along with them, and "switches on" when we first become self-aware.  Just a theory, of course, but it does address what your son was asking.
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Offline Petr

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #453 on: September 26, 2011, 11:15:56 AM »
As Tim said earlier the boat has sailed but I must say it's an interesting voyage.

A question to all you Russophiles and knowledgeable people-- Putin's announcement (cf., NY Times today) that he is running for President in 2010 (which if he wins two terms as is expected he will serve longer than Joseph Stalin), is that simply the recreation of the communist state in sheep's clothing? Robert  had previously stated that communism was a dead letter in Russia. But if we characterize the communist state as heavy handed state control by a small group of self-perpetuating apparatchiks do you not have a nascent communist state in Russia (and with Putin at the helm is there a risk that this will in fact become ever more the state of things).  On the other hand, is there still an opportunity for an evolution into a more recognizable western style open political system or is this in fact a hopeless retrograde development? Note that Medvedev who ostensibly stood for the rule of law, opened the Magnitsky investigation and encouraged foreign investment and modernizing the economy is stepping down.

As an aside, if there is reincarnation I would like to come back as a sea gull because I love the ocean, I love how gulls glide on air currents, as far as I know no one or nothing eats them and since they are omnivorous and eat garbage the likelihood of starvation is remote.

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Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #454 on: September 26, 2011, 12:40:36 PM »
I like everything except the garbage part.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #455 on: September 26, 2011, 05:56:49 PM »
A question to all you Russophiles and knowledgeable people-- Putin's announcement (cf., NY Times today) that he is running for President in 2010 (which if he wins two terms as is expected he will serve longer than Joseph Stalin), is that simply the recreation of the communist state in sheep's clothing? Robert  had previously stated that communism was a dead letter in Russia. But if we characterize the communist state as heavy handed state control by a small group of self-perpetuating apparatchiks do you not have a nascent communist state in Russia (and with Putin at the helm is there a risk that this will in fact become ever more the state of things).  On the other hand, is there still an opportunity for an evolution into a more recognizable western style open political system or is this in fact a hopeless retrograde development? Note that Medvedev who ostensibly stood for the rule of law, opened the Magnitsky investigation and encouraged foreign investment and modernizing the economy is stepping down.

No, Petr, it's not a recreation of the communist state -- not by half, not by a third, not by a quarter, and not by any infinitesimal fraction, -- Putin more than anyone else, more even than Yeltsin went out of his way to destroy the Communist Party permanently in Russia. There has been nothing, absolutely nothing, in any of his actions, legal and aboveboard or otherwise, to suggest otherwise. He's a capitalistic oligarch through and through. Seriously, do you think Putin believes in any of the old Communist ideology and/or rhetoric? Don't make me laugh. He hobnobs with Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi. He just had plastic surgery that gives him decidedly Asian eyes. He loves Western luxury and the good life. At the same time he has a healthy respect for the newly burgeoning middle and upper classes. He would be the very last person to bring back Communism to the Russian Federation.
 
As an aside, if there is reincarnation I would like to come back as a sea gull because I love the ocean, I love how gulls glide on air currents, as far as I know no one or nothing eats them and since they are omnivorous and eat garbage the likelihood of starvation is remote.

Petr

I hope there isn't any reincarnation because it's an untenable idea, intellectually. What is Hitler now, a lobster being boiled alive? Stalin, a cockroach being stamped under one's boot? What difference would or could it possibly make to these evil geniuses, since even or especially in such incarnations, they would not have the cerebral or sensory wherewithal to know what tortures were being perpetrated on them -- or for what possible reason -- ? In short, it's absurd.

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Offline TimM

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #456 on: September 27, 2011, 12:05:12 PM »
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What is Hitler now, a lobster being boiled alive? Stalin, a cockroach being stamped under one's boot? What difference would or could it possibly make to these evil geniuses, since even or especially in such incarnations, they would not have the cerebral or sensory wherewithal to know what tortures were being perpetrated on them -- or for what possible reason -- ? In short, it's absurd.

I like to think of both of them in Hell, being punished for their crimes.


Quote
Putin more than anyone else, more even than Yeltsin went out of his way to destroy the Communist Party permanently in Russia. There has been nothing, absolutely nothing, in any of his actions, legal and aboveboard or otherwise, to suggest otherwise. He's a capitalistic oligarch through and through. Seriously, do you think Putin believes in any of the old Communist ideology and/or rhetoric? Don't make me laugh. He hobnobs with Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi. He just had plastic surgery that gives him decidedly Asian eyes. He loves Western luxury and the good life. At the same time he has a healthy respect for the newly burgeoning middle and upper classes. He would be the very last person to bring back Communism to the Russian Federation.

Putin put Russia back on the world stage.  The Russian people respect him.    Granted democracy is still a work in progress over there, but they'll get there eventually.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #457 on: September 28, 2011, 03:34:04 PM »
Putin put Russia back on the world stage.  The Russian people respect him.    Granted democracy is still a work in progress over there, but they'll get there eventually.

They'll probably get there eventually, yes (and let's all, even those of us who are agnostics and atheists out there, pray for it), but probably also not any time soon. Putin has a lot of blood on his hands, not least in Chechnia, but pragmatically speaking he was perhaps the lesser of the many evils confronting Russia at the turn of the millennium. Given Russia's unfortunate past, and its penchant for repeating bad mistakes over and over again in the form of tyrannical leaders, it's somewhat of a surprise that some kind of charismatic fascist or communist leader hasn't seized power in that country yet...

But I think, as those new revisionist Russian history textbooks are so fond of saying of Stalin, that Putin, for all his faults, has in fact turned out to be a "good manager." Very soon after he came to the leadership he somehow "managed" to bring together the warring oligarchs and make a deal that left everybody with their own turf, which in turn left society (after all those drive-by shootings and assassinations of the 1990s) feeling relatively safe and stable, and himself and the central government free to be... quite weak, for all of their would-be authoritarianism, but surviving so far, in no small measure because of their ability to keep the peace. And it's true that until quite recently Putin was very popular, and even though his original teflon public persona has now worn off with most Russians, he will probably still win the next election, because despite everything he remains even now the lesser of many evils...

 I think most politically minded Russians are now expecting another "period of stagnation," like that under Brezhnev, only this in terms of capitalism of course as opposed to communism, with lots of empty political gestures and posturing but no real changes in the way of further democratization taking place. How long such a period can last could very well depend on high petroleum and natural gas prices on the world market, since Russia still depends on those extracted natural resources rather than homegrown industry to balance its budget and make up most of its GNP.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 03:40:48 PM by Elisabeth »
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Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #458 on: September 28, 2011, 03:49:46 PM »
Speaking of Stalin - I just watched a program on the Siege of Stalingrad where is was noted that some of what happened to look like good strategy on Stalin's part was accidental and bumbling that worked out in his favor.

According to much of what was said, Stalin depended on Khrushchev during that period as one of his military leaders and scapegoats.  Khrushchev's son says that his father kept expecting to be arrested or sent to Siberia for the failures that happened during the siege.  Only a lot of other bad decisions by both the Germans and the Russians allowed the city to withstand the siege.


Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #459 on: September 28, 2011, 04:10:01 PM »
Speaking of Stalin - I just watched a program on the Siege of Stalingrad where is was noted that some of what happened to look like good strategy on Stalin's part was accidental and bumbling that worked out in his favor.

Stalin was an infamous bumbler when it came to war strategy (as indeed was Hitler after the initial brilliance of his Blitzkreig across most of Western Europe -- but keep in mind that Stalin never demonstrated any brilliance whatsoever, quite the opposite). Overall the Soviet military leadership during World War II makes for depressing reading. Its outstanding general, Zhukov, never flinched from throwing tens of thousands of troops into the Nazi meat grinder, unlike some (albeit not all) Western generals -- the eccentric Montgomery, for example, who always tried to spare his soldiers' lives, even on the front lines, if it were at all possible.

According to much of what was said, Stalin depended on Khrushchev during that period as one of his military leaders and scapegoats.  Khrushchev's son says that his father kept expecting to be arrested or sent to Siberia for the failures that happened during the siege.  Only a lot of other bad decisions by both the Germans and the Russians allowed the city to withstand the siege.

Khrushchev's memoirs, as entertaining as they are (and they are highly entertaining, I encourage everyone here to read the latest, unexpurgated versions), have to be taken with a huge grain of salt, because he was a great storyteller, a great raconteur (or anecdotalist, in English), so like all great storytellers (in my opinion) he embellished most of his reminiscences a little bit or a helluva lot, depending on his audience. The most famous instance of this is his sometimes (melo)dramatic, but more often quite humorous, account of Stalin's deathbed, attended by all of those like himself (most notably Beria) who were living in terror of losing their lives in the next purge and consequently couldn't wait for the grand old man to leave the planet permanently. In Khrushchev's account, the KGB chief Beria alternates between kissing the dying Boss's hand (when Stalin shows signs of reviving) and cursing him (when it appears that Stalin is about to kick the bucket).
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 04:12:14 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Petr

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #460 on: September 29, 2011, 08:55:32 AM »
I think most politically minded Russians are now expecting another "period of stagnation," like that under Brezhnev, only this in terms of capitalism of course as opposed to communism, with lots of empty political gestures and posturing but no real changes in the way of further democratization taking place. How long such a period can last could very well depend on high petroleum and natural gas prices on the world market, since Russia still depends on those extracted natural resources rather than homegrown industry to balance its budget and make up most of its GNP.
Basically I agree. My prior point, however, was directed more to the question of the degree of difference between a highly authoritarian state with control of the media, ruthless repression of any political opposition (including the willingness to use illegal means) and a heavy state involvement in the economy (whether directly through state ownership of the principle revenue generating segment of the economy, viz. the oil and gas sector) or indirectly through intimidation and defacto control over the oligarchs (viz., the fallout from the Khodorkovsky prosecution) and a weakened communist state which pays only lip service to its ideological underpinnings yet exercises all the means of repression and which is governed by a self-perpetuating political elite. Of course, I would have to agree that there has been progress since the bad old days (on the other hand one can argue that the repression is just as effective only it has become more sophisticated and not as Stalinist in nature) but the question remains, in what direction is the society headed. I recently read an article which indicated that young educated and professional Russians are increasingly leaving Russia to search for better opportunities in Europe and elsewhere (shades of East Germany). If this trend continues, I suspect the government will begin to clamp down on travel adding one more nail to the coffin of progressive hope.  The sad fact is that over Russia's long history, repeated invasions, occupations and political turmoil have created an inbred longing for stability in the Russian heart which prompts the willingness to accept the devil's bargain-- authoritarian rule for a guarantee of safety and stability. Hence Stalin's rehabilitation in certain segments of society.

By the way, as an ironical historical aside on Stalin's abilities as a military leader.  My Grandfather defeated Voroshilov and Stalin in the battle of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad and now Volgograd) during the Civil War. A fact that does not appear in their official biographies.

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #461 on: September 30, 2011, 04:41:36 PM »
My prior point, however, was directed more to the question of the degree of difference between a highly authoritarian state with control of the media, ruthless repression of any political opposition (including the willingness to use illegal means) and a heavy state involvement in the economy (whether directly through state ownership of the principle revenue generating segment of the economy, viz. the oil and gas sector) or indirectly through intimidation and defacto control over the oligarchs (viz., the fallout from the Khodorkovsky prosecution) and a weakened communist state which pays only lip service to its ideological underpinnings yet exercises all the means of repression and which is governed by a self-perpetuating political elite.

Well, this is the nub of the problem, I guess. Was the Soviet Union after the early 1950s, i.e., the death of Stalin (March 1953) still a totalitarian state or was it "merely" authoritarian? My own opinion is that it was some hybrid, existing between those two states, perhaps a bit or maybe even a lot like China in the early 21st century. While it's true that the government of Putin and Medvedev does control the mass media and more or less indirectly a lot of the valuable natural resources like oil and natural gas, at the same time, they do not, as the Soviet government even under Brezhnev did, restrict travel abroad to trusted party members, or seek to control what its citizens read or believe, even in public, nor is the right of assembly restricted much in any way, as far as I know.

Khodorkovskii was apparently prosecuted by the Russian state for tax evasion and other crimes because he broke the pact with Putin that the oligarchs could keep their corporate kingdoms intact from government interference as long as they stayed out of government itself. Khodorkovskii violated this unwritten (but no less binding agreement) when he decided to enter politics. Putin was afraid of him because Khodorkovskii had (and has) a lot of charisma, and might very well have met with a lot of success as the leader of a new and powerful political party, one to rival or even defeat Putin's own. It's the same old, indeed age-old problem of authoritarian governments everywhere -- whether monarchies in the Middle Ages or 17th-century France or modern 21st-century states like Russia and China -- "overmighty subjects" who seem to threaten not only their rulers, but potentially the stability of the entire realm.

Of course, I would have to agree that there has been progress since the bad old days (on the other hand one can argue that the repression is just as effective only it has become more sophisticated and not as Stalinist in nature) but the question remains, in what direction is the society headed. I recently read an article which indicated that young educated and professional Russians are increasingly leaving Russia to search for better opportunities in Europe and elsewhere (shades of East Germany). If this trend continues, I suspect the government will begin to clamp down on travel adding one more nail to the coffin of progressive hope.  The sad fact is that over Russia's long history, repeated invasions, occupations and political turmoil have created an inbred longing for stability in the Russian heart which prompts the willingness to accept the devil's bargain-- authoritarian rule for a guarantee of safety and stability. Hence Stalin's rehabilitation in certain segments of society.

But Stalin was a totalitarian ruler, and that's the main difference with Putin. Putin's government doesn't attempt to control every aspect of citizens' public, much less private lives, as Stalin's regime most certainly did -- right down to valorizing children who supposedly denounced their parents to the state for being class enemies (Pavlik Morozov). There's a lot of hemming and hawing about totalitarianism these days but apparently after a period of being unfashionable totalitarianism is back as a general concept for describing the Hitler and Stalin regimes, which despite their numerous differences nevertheless held certain key points in common -- such as overall social intrusiveness and overriding political violence to get their way.

I quite realize that you yourself are not arguing that Putin is like Stalin but I nevertheless want to make the differences abundantly clear, in case some of us aren't reading these posts very carefully.

It's true that Russians -- not only upper class but also ordinary middle class -- are buying property abroad, mainly in Europe, in case the Putin/Medvedev regime fails, or there's another major economic and financial catastrophe -- whatever comes first. The prospects aren't bright for Russia right now, and educated Russians know that. But I seriously doubt that the current Russian government or its immediate successors if they are of the same party will restrict travel or even immigration abroad.

By the way, as an ironical historical aside on Stalin's abilities as a military leader.  My Grandfather defeated Voroshilov and Stalin in the battle of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad and now Volgograd) during the Civil War. A fact that does not appear in their official biographies.   Petr

As always, I wish I knew more about the Russian Civil War so that I'd have at least a fair shot at guessing your grandfather's identity!
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 04:48:46 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline TimM

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #462 on: October 01, 2011, 11:32:37 PM »
Another big difference, and it relates to this board, is that in Stalin's time, even mentioning the name "Romanov" could either get you shot or a long stint in a gulag.  Of course, that is not the case in Russia today.  People are not only allowed to talk about them, they can honour them.

There is no way Stalin would have allowed them to be canonized as Saints.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #463 on: October 16, 2011, 11:48:50 AM »
Another big difference, and it relates to this board, is that in Stalin's time, even mentioning the name "Romanov" could either get you shot or a long stint in a gulag.

Actually the surname "Romanov" is extremely common in Russia, always has been. It basically means "offspring of Roman," and "Roman" has always been a common Russian first name for boys. The surname "Romanov" is and was almost as ubiquitous in Russia, today and yesterday, for centuries, as the surname "Ivanov" (which is basically the equivalent of "Johnson" in the English-speaking world, or "Jones"). So uttering the surname "Romanov" in Stalin's time would have been a completely innocent and ordinary, everyday occurrence.

Of course, that is not the case in Russia today.  People are not only allowed to talk about them, they can honour them. There is no way Stalin would have allowed them to be canonized as Saints.

Well, obviously no canonizations at all were carried out under Stalin, because even though on some level the Great Leader resurrected the Russian Orthodox Church for the purpose of mobilizing the masses during World War II (arousing patriotic, even nationalistic fervor was one way of driving back the Nazi hordes), he didn't countenance the creation of new saints. Stalin was at heart an incorrigible and often strident atheist, at least in his inner circle, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that he had attended a seminary during his youth in Georgia.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2011, 11:55:14 AM by Elisabeth »
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Alixz

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Re: Why doesn't communism work?
« Reply #464 on: October 16, 2011, 01:01:46 PM »
The name Romanov is very common in Manhattan as well.  When one used to be able to pick up a phone book and look, the listings were endless.