Author Topic: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?  (Read 108255 times)

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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #60 on: September 11, 2006, 02:46:20 PM »
Quote
What does history say of any regime once it has faded?  This is an interesting question and so often it leads to a dumbing down of the regime and its processes.

Exactly right.

I am painting my house, and climbing back down as things strike me about this discussion. Does anyone else think that any ideological state is bound to founder eventually, or at least be lead in the direction of the excesses which we have condemned on this thread? All of the "--isms" of the past century seem to share cruelty in the name of "necessary means".



Okay, back up the ladder I go.
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Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #61 on: September 11, 2006, 03:12:41 PM »
...I have said elsewhere in the AP that I think too many in Russia wish to put the past behind them but it is now part of their inheritamce.  James Blair Lovell tells us that Anna Anderson said to him "You are my heir, to you alone I leave these truths, how you tell the world about them will be for you to decide, but you will do so in my name."

Thank you Richard for that remark as that was the point I was trying to make in my last post.  The past is not the study of events that happened a long time ago, it is only by understanding the past that we can answer the present question, "Who am I?" by understanding where we came from. 

...I suppose Lenin, Stalin and their successors, their policies, strategies and tactics could be regarded as a 'mistake' but it wasn't a mistake for them or their supporters at the time.  It was a concious decision and one which had tremendous consequences for Russia and the rest of the world.  It is only by the application of the magnificent science of hindsight that we can say something was a mistake because at the time I am sure they were convinced it was the right decision.

...So a mistake in hindsight yes but it was advoidable had the Romanovs been able to scan the political environment and responded to it.  And even once revolution had broken out and the Tsar abdicated it was in the gift of Kerensky and others, if they had the ability to do it to achieve another future for Russia.  I am sure someone will tell me that Russia post 1917 was a social experiment just like the colelctive farms.

What a wonderful historic perspective.  You know the strange thing that comes to mind as I ponder that point is how the Young Empress, in urging her husband through her 600+ letters during the war to move faster and employ more authority, albiet in the wrong direction, telling him that Russia only responded to the "whip" or the "knot" has alwasys created the uncanny impression to me that she was almost unconsciously calling for a Lenin or a Stalin.  I am sure we all realize that I am not sharing this impression to cast down any aspersion on the late Empress as I am a great defender of hers, but non-the-less it is uncanny. 

I know that the skills that I was taught, early on, as to how to defend myself in a drawing room have proved to have a disasterous effect in the democratic processes of a free discussion.  Having said that, I must add that I am not trying to add anything to the discussion here, I am just pondering the impact of Richards heart-felt assessment.   

Offline Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #62 on: September 11, 2006, 04:23:50 PM »
Richard, those are two very odd comments for an historian to make.  Anna Anderson's comment ranks along side George Constanza's comment, "it's not a lie if people believe it," as two of the most self-serving, rationalizing excuses of all time.  As to whether the Russian revolution was 'avoidable" it is impossible to say, it was a convergence of events, not any one event that pushed Russia into the abyss.  I don't understand where you're going with this line of argument.  Could you explain it, please?

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #63 on: September 11, 2006, 05:27:28 PM »
Quote
What does history say of any regime once it has faded?  This is an interesting question and so often it leads to a dumbing down of the regime and its processes.

Exactly right.

I am painting my house, and climbing back down as things strike me about this discussion. Does anyone else think that any ideological state is bound to founder eventually, or at least be lead in the direction of the excesses which we have condemned on this thread? All of the "--isms" of the past century seem to share cruelty in the name of "necessary means".



Okay, back up the ladder I go.

Be safe. I suppose it depends on the definition of "ideological state". I recall a country founded on the revolutionary ideology of separation of church and state, along with all men having the right of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Over the years, there are those who have had their issues with that country, and some have accused it of certain excessess, but in no way does the United States of America resemble the former USSR - at least IMHO.

Offline Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #64 on: September 11, 2006, 08:10:35 PM »
I've always wondered if the Russian people were not in such a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, that any government seemed preferable to chaos.

One difference between American revolutionaries and Russian revolutionaries, is that Americans understood that government has to adapt to the people, where the Russians thought the people should adapt to the government.

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #65 on: September 11, 2006, 11:45:53 PM »
You know I spend a lot of time apologizing to everyone, which I do need to do a great deal of the time and one of the gifts of self-immolation is that it give one a quiet time to re-think things.  I have searched and searched through my sources to try and get at what kind of a mistake I feel was made by the Soviets and I must say that it was not limited to the Soviets but is something we are all facing today. 

The idea that State can successfully replace family as the guide and guardian of it's children is one of the basic mistakes of the Soviets.  Reform Educator Frank Gatto feels that America has made the same kind of mistake.  He says in his essay:

"The Cathedral of Rheims is the best symbol I know of what a community can do and why we lose a lot when we don't know the difference between these human miracles and the social machinery we call networks. Rheims was built without power tools by people working day and night for 100 years. Everybody worked willingly, nobody was slave labor. No school taught cathedral building as a subject.
 
What possessed people to work together for a hundred years? Whatever it was looks like something worth educating ourselves about. We know the workers were profoundly united as families of friends, and as friends they knew what they really wanted in the way of a church. Popes and archbishops had nothing to do with it; Gothic architecture itself was invented out of sheer aspiration, the Gothic cathedral stands like a lighthouse illuminating what is possible in the way of uncoerced human union. It provides a benchmark against which our own lives can be measured.
 
At Rheims, the serfs and farmers and peasants filled gigantic spaces with the most incredible stained glass windows in the world but they never bothered to sign even one of them. Neither Harvard nor anybody else knows who designed them or made them because our modern form of institutional boasting did not yet exist as a corruption of communitarian feeling. After all these centuries they still announce what being human really means.
 
Communities are collections of families and friends who find major meaning in extending the family association to a band of honorary brothers and sisters, they are complex relationships of mutual job and obligation which generalize to others beyond the perimeter of the homestead.
 
When the integration of life that comes from being part of a family in a community is unattainable, the only alternative, apart from accepting a life in isolation, is to search for an artificial integration into one of the many expressions of network currently available. It's a bad trade and we should begin thinking about school reform by stopping these places from functioning like cysts, impenetrable, insular bodies that take our money, our children, and our time and give nothing back.
 
Artificial integration that controls human associations - think of those college dorms or fraternities - appears strong but is actually quite weak; seems close-knit but in reality its bonds are loose; suggests durability but is usually transient. And it is most often badly adjusted to what people need although it masquerades as being exactly what they need."

That is the nature of the beast to me.  Russia under Soviet rule was just an extreme example.  By 1926 Bertram Russell observed the same artifical experiment going on in America.     

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #66 on: September 11, 2006, 11:56:18 PM »
Gatto continues:  "Mass-education cannot work to produce a fair society because its daily practice is practice in rigged competition, suppression and intimidation. The schools we've allowed to happen can't work to teach non-material values, the values which give meaning to everyone's life, rich or poor, because the structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Those things have no connection with education - working for official favor, grades, or other trinkets of subordination, that is - they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not freedom.
 
Mass-schooling damages children."   Again Gatto is taking the American education system but it is interesting that he started his reform efforts just as the Wall was going down.  I love his quote from DOROTHY LAW NOLTE about children:

CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE..
 
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH CRITICISM,
HE LEARNS TO CONDEMN.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH HOSTILITY,
HE LEARNS TO FIGHT.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH RIDICULE,
HE LEARNS TO BE SHY.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH SHAME,
HE LEARNS TO FEEL GUILTY.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH TOLERANCE,
HE LEARNS TO BE PATIENT.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH ENCOURAGEMENT,
HE LEARNS CONFIDENCE.
I F A CHILD LIVES WITH PRAISE,
HE LEARNS TO APPRECIATE.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH FAIRNESS,
HE LEARNS JUSTICE.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH SECURITY,
HE LEARNS TO HAVE FAITH.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH APPROVAL,
HE LEARNS TO LIKE HIMSELF.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH ACCEPTANCE AND FRIENDSHIP,
HE LEARNS TO FIND LOVE IN THE WORLD.



Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #67 on: September 12, 2006, 12:44:27 AM »
I found the other quote from Gatto about Russell's observations.  When I read it all I can see is scenes out of Max Reinhardt's "Metropolis."  What I am attempting to do is to broaden the mistakes that the Soviets made by showing the same kind of mistakes in other countries.

"Sixty-five years ago Bertrand Russell, the greatest mathematician of this century (20th), its greatest philosopher, and a close relation of the King of England to boot, saw that mass- schooling in the United States had a radically anti-democratic intent, that it was a scheme to artificially deliver national unity by eliminating human variation, and by eliminating the forge that produces variation: the Family. According to Lord Russell, mass-schooling produced a recognizably American student: anti-intellectual, superstitious, lacking self confidence; with less of what Russell called "inner freedom" than in the citizens of any other nation he knew of, past or present. These schooled children become citizens, he said, with a thin "mass character", holding excellence and aesthetics equally in contempt, inadequate to the personal crises of their lives. He wrote that in 1926."

Gatto is a very strong critic of American schooling but he touches on much bigger issues that give me a vocabulary to address what I believe to be the basic flaw of the Soviet rule, a flaw that is not just confined to the Soviet rule.  I don't think that the thread is "bashing" a fallen government, so much as it pointing out the dangers of such social and political assumptions. 

Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #68 on: September 12, 2006, 12:54:46 AM »
Bev,

I should have added a paragraph - I think the Anna Anderson quote says a lot (although in her case not the truth) but the Russian people are the heirs of what happened in 1917 and to the end of the Communist regime. We now know thw truths of what happened and it is for them to tell the world about them.  For me it means you have to accept what has gone before and acknowledge it acordingly, the spin you put on it is up to the storyteller.

Richard
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumberís chain hath bound me,
Sad memíry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline Belochka

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #69 on: September 12, 2006, 02:39:16 AM »
Bev,

I should have added a paragraph - I think the Anna Anderson quote says a lot (although in her case not the truth) but the Russian people are the heirs of what happened in 1917 and to the end of the Communist regime. We now know thw truths of what happened and it is for them to tell the world about them.  For me it means you have to accept what has gone before and acknowledge it acordingly, the spin you put on it is up to the storyteller.

Richard

I would tender that the soviet system was a deleterious mutation rather than a horizontal inheritance. Heirs assume the characteristics of their predecessor.

Margarita
« Last Edit: September 12, 2006, 02:51:24 AM by Belochka »


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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #70 on: September 12, 2006, 09:46:25 AM »
Surely if that were always true, Nicholas II would have been a more successful Tsar?
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Offline Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #71 on: September 12, 2006, 11:19:45 AM »
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by a "deleterious mutation" - are you saying that bolshevism was a mutation of autocracy?  That is an interesting concept.  Are all governments mutations of their ancestors?

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #72 on: September 12, 2006, 11:30:31 AM »
Surely if that were always true, Nicholas II would have been a more successful Tsar?

K. P. Pobyedonostseff's "Reflections of a Russian Stateman," was published in 1898.  His book gives us a clear sense of what Nicholas faced when he broke with the autocratic rule of his father and established a Duma and civil liberties for his people in 1905, as I have said, making Russia the youngest constitutional government to fight in WWI.

Pobyedonostseff wrote "Reflections of a Russian Stateman" just just 8 years before 1905.  1997 isn't that far away from 2006, Just so, "Reflections" still formed the basis of the right's oppostion to Nicholas's move in 1905.  

Pobyedonostseff states:

"...It is evident, then, that unanimity of opinion has little influence, and that the pretended solicitude for the public welfare serves as the concealment of motives and instincts in no way related to it.  This is the ideal of parliamentary government!  It is a gross delusion to regard it as a guarantee of freedom.  The absolute power of the sovereign is replaced by the absolute power of Parliament, with this difference only, that the person of the sovereign may embody a rational will, while in Parliament all depends upon accident, as the decisions of Parliament are brought about by the majority.  But as, by the side of the majority consitituted under the influence of party gambling, a powerful minority exists, the will of the majority is in no way the will of the Parliament.  Still less can it be regarded as the will of the people, the healthy mass of which abstains from participation in the comedy of parties, and turns away from it with abhorrence.  On the other hand, the corrupt part of the population mingles willingly in politics, and thereby is driven to a worse corruption, for the chief motive of this comedy is appetitie for power and plunder.  Political freedom becomes a fiction maintained on paper by paragraphs and phrases of the constitution; the principles of monarchial power disappear; the Liberal Democracy triumphs, bringing society disorder and violence with the principles of infidelity and materialism, and proclaiming Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--where there is place neither Liberty nor for Equality.  Such conditions inevitalby lead to anarchy, from which society can be saved alone by dictatorship--that is, by the rehabilitation of autocracy in the government of the world."

The heirs of Nicholas II would have continued the constitutional momentum instead of destroying it.  Therefore I tend to agree with Margarita "I would tender that the soviet system was a deleterious mutation rather than a horizontal inheritance. Heirs assume the characteristics of their predecessor."



        

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #73 on: September 12, 2006, 11:36:03 AM »
Or on reflection, perhaps the Soviet rule was the final triumph of K. P. Pobyedonostseff, that is with the exception of his God.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #74 on: September 12, 2006, 02:03:14 PM »

Pobyedonostseff states:

"...It is evident, then, that unanimity of opinion has little influence, and that the pretended solicitude for the public welfare serves as the concealment of motives and instincts in no way related to it.  This is the ideal of parliamentary government!  It is a gross delusion to regard it as a guarantee of freedom.  The absolute power of the sovereign is replaced by the absolute power of Parliament, with this difference only, that the person of the sovereign may embody a rational will, while in Parliament all depends upon accident, as the decisions of Parliament are brought about by the majority.  But as, by the side of the majority consitituted under the influence of party gambling, a powerful minority exists, the will of the majority is in no way the will of the Parliament.  Still less can it be regarded as the will of the people, the healthy mass of which abstains from participation in the comedy of parties, and turns away from it with abhorrence.  On the other hand, the corrupt part of the population mingles willingly in politics, and thereby is driven to a worse corruption, for the chief motive of this comedy is appetitie for power and plunder.  Political freedom becomes a fiction maintained on paper by paragraphs and phrases of the constitution; the principles of monarchial power disappear; the Liberal Democracy triumphs, bringing society disorder and violence with the principles of infidelity and materialism, and proclaiming Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--where there is place neither Liberty nor for Equality.  Such conditions inevitalby lead to anarchy, from which society can be saved alone by dictatorship--that is, by the rehabilitation of autocracy in the government of the world."


First, griffh, thanks for your earlier apology, and please don't worry about it.  My style of argumentation and writing sometimes makes me seem more exercised than I am.  Since I enjoy sparring (just ask Elisabeth), I have to be ready to take punches as well.

The Pobyedonostseff quote sheds quite a disturbing light on the mind of a man who so influenced Nicholas' (and his father's) thinking.  First, it ignores the fact that constitutional systems (either republics or constitutional monarchies) in the 19th century were wracking up considerable successes.  England was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and engaged in serious soul-searching about rectifying the horrors into which early industrialization had plunged its burgeoning working classes.  The U.S. system had recently produced a civil war fuelled in part by a determination to tackle the issue of slavery.  And more recently the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was proof that representative systems were capable of tackling monopolies and the excesses of capitalism.

Pobyedonostseff tags representative government as particularly prone to corruption.  This ignores the fact that one of the reasons given for England's early emergence as a strong commercial and martime power was the fact that her constitutional system produced a series of laws and a cadre of civil servants that were remarkably resistant to corruption and provided the legal stability and sense of fair play that encouraged people to commit capital to new enterprises.  And it ignores the fact that the Russian civil service was riddled with corruption to the point that the tsar himself could seldom be sure his will was being carried out at the local level.  This lack of effective central control resulted in things such as the government's inability to reign in local police during the pogroms that were to embarrass Russia diplomatically in 1905/06 and in the breakdown of supply lines to the troops and the cities that was the final catalyst that triggered the March revolution.

Finally, his claim that constitutional government is really just a philosophical ruse by the few to grab power and plunder is actually a very good description of the history of autocracy.  Had he taken a recent count of the number of palaces the Romanovs had at their disposal or a look at the distribution of wealth in Imperial Russia?  It was by far the most extreme case of concentration in the hands of the few that existed among the major nations.