Author Topic: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?  (Read 124580 times)

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Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #90 on: September 17, 2006, 09:50:39 PM »
Hi Bev.  I am sure that Richard was not being personal. 

By-the-by I was just re-reading my two posts.  I believe my first post was almost incoherent, so other than promoting Rasputin's trial, I don't believe it is worthy of discussion. 

I think I did a better job with my second post, and I must admitt that my point of view is flawed by the fact that Nicholas did not actively promote the reforms he agreed to.  I believe that even Stolypin's rise to power set the Duma back.  And apparently Nicholas did use the Fundamental law 87 to restore the old legislative machinery which had existed under the autocratic regime during those periods when the Duma was not in session.  Even though the Duma, once in session, did have the right to abrogate any of those temporary laws passed by the Emperor, if they were not submitted to the Duma for approval, apparently practically speaking it became an almost impossible task.  And it is clear that the third and fourth Dumas, because of the introduction of a "Chambre Introuvable," did not represent the interests of the entire country, but only those of the landowning classes. 

Then there is Tsarfan's remark about how defensive Nicholas II was in 1911 when someone mentioned his constitutional government. 

Having said that, I question the motivation of men like Rodzianko.  What was that man really up to?  When Rodzianko was given a taste of real power by being involved the Special Councils that Nicholas established in the summer of 1915 as an emergency measure to meet the demands that arose from the retreat of his armies, what effect did that have on Rodzianko?  And why does Gronsky date the discontent of the Progressive bloc with both the government and the Special councls from the summer of 1915 even before the late Emperor took over command of the army? 

It seems to me that the Progressive Bloc started plotting the revolution the minute that the reverses in the summer of 1915 occurred.  This is what I am curious about.  By then the Duma had found a way to work with their reluctant Emperor.  They knew his strengths and they knew his weakness.  The fact that they started plotting during the war is something I find abhorrent.  Their betrayal started even before Nicholas assumed Command of his Army. 

 

Richard_Cullen

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #91 on: September 18, 2006, 07:54:31 AM »
Griff

I think the plotters had been working long before 1915 not that this in itself justifies their actions.  I suppose if you consider over the years the imprisonement and deaths of those considered to be revolutionaries and anarchist you start to build up a pot of collaborators who work for the daownfall of the regime.

The concept of terrorism seems in those relatively early days to have been well established in russia with many exiled from teh country plotting from afar.  Lenin leaves me cold, let someone else do the risky workk and then come in and take over.

Millions of Russians were uprooted from their daily life to fight in a war, a war different from anyhting experienced before and one for which the Russian Army was not prepared or equipped to fight.

I recall reaading some papers that sugegsted that after Jpanaese/Russian war an estimation was given that Russia would require until at least 1920 to have effective armed forces.  World War I came far too early.

Lots of dead, lots of suffering, away from home the peasants who formed the bulk of the Army lost their belief the divine power of the autocracy and thus dissent and eventually revolution.

Richard

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #92 on: September 18, 2006, 12:59:05 PM »
I am right with you Richard that the revolution's orgins dating far before 1915 as Radzinsky points out in his new book on Alexander II, which actually should have been called, "Alexander II/A Brief History of Nihilism," as there was at least as much information about the Revolutionist and their transformation from libreals to terrorists in the 1870s as there was on Alexander II life.  Perhaps the two are so closely inter-connected that the biography of one becomes the biography of the other.

And I am right with you about the reforms in the Russian Army not being completed by 1914.  As a matter of fact I have read that this is one of the reasons Germany went to war in 1914 as they knew if they waited even four more years the Russian Army would have been too strong for them to fight a war on two fronts. 

But I am less interested in the International Socialists and the exiled Russian terrorists who by their own admission had given up their hope of seeing a Revolution in Russia.  I am interested in the men that comprised the Progressive Bloc in the Duma.  It was the agenda of these men liberals in the summer of 1915, working within the apparatus of this very young dualistic constitutional government, that I am focused on and who I believe betrayed Nicholas.  These were the men that had worked with him from 1907 on and who started to take the government apart from within at the worst possible time.  Their judgement and timing made them terrible blunderers.  Nicholas' Special Councils had solved the problems that faced Russian arms as Winston Churchill states.   

I am not trying to discredit the Progressive movement or its strong desire to continue the war or their frustration with the slow and haulting steps of Nicholas' government.  Clearly we can see their liberal intent in the wonderful advances that they made for Russians in the increased civil liberties that they granted once the Provisional Government was in power.  Again, I think they are responsible for a very serious lack of judgement and I believe that they seek to hide their weakness and failure to hold the government from the terrorists by tearing down the late Emperor.  Everyone knew that Nicholas took one big step forward and ten small steps backward, but everyone who worked with Nicholas also knew that he wanted the progress and prosperity of his people just as much as the progressive bloc. 

I believe that Nicholas was weighing the liberties he granted with the chaos they might create.  I do see the connection with the hopelessly fuedal state that the Emperor inherited and it is clear that Alexander III shortly before his death realized that he was leaving his son a "pressure cooker" about to explode (I wish I could find the quote) but the generalizations about the late Emperor's intentions or his character are things I can not find any proof for when you read his words.

But had they remained loyal to the Emperor there is every indication that those liberties would have been granted in time.  When push came to shove even the Young Empress was encouraging her husband to grant a popular government and increase civil liberties in Feb. 1917 (old style). 

I agree that the Emperor Nicholas is not the kind of man that one can use as a model for a Leader and that he did not have that animal courage the inspires followers.  But the Emperor somehow was the glue that kept the nation together as Winston Churchill pointed out.  When he dissappeared the entire national life of Russia dissappeared with him.  The crisis was not leadership or a lack of leadership, to me the crisis was the destruction of the Emperor's stamina.   

If you read, as I know you have, the letters of the Emperor a man with independent ideas appears, ideas that often run counter to his wife and mother and even his ministers.  I see this very young man with an independent mind, clearly a gentleman, just reaching maturity, when he is surgically removed at the worst possible time for his nation.  Well anyway I will try to start a thread so we can continue to weigh this question of the Emperor's rule.     




     
     
« Last Edit: September 18, 2006, 01:02:42 PM by griffh »

Richard_Cullen

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #93 on: September 18, 2006, 02:02:32 PM »
Griff

I don't know your heritage but it is obviously very closely connected with Russia and the Romanovs.  If you get the time e-mail your details I think it is fascinating.  We may not agree on a whole range of issues but debate is important as none of us were there when it all happened. I don't think Nicholas could change, it was agreta pity and much of this inflexibility I put down to his wife.  Even if she was a duaghter of Queen Victoria she was through her father of a minor Royal dynasty and I believe that was the problem.

Great to debate issues and there is never a right or wrong, unless there is forensic evidence to prove or disprove an issue that is.  Griff I wish I had time to be a historian, I don't.

Richard

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #94 on: September 18, 2006, 04:49:38 PM »
Wow Richard, wonderful insights about some of the complexity of the Young Empress.  That tension between the German/English heritage is very thought provoking.  I am hoping to start a thread on the Empress too and I look forward to your comments. 

But the most important consideration of all, to me, is your impending Rasputin trial.  I am praying that it doesn't get torn apart before it even begins. 

As for your remarks about not being an historian.  You are one!!!!  Plus you remind me so much of the well bred nature of the late Emperor, and because of that it is a joy to discuss opposing points of view with you. 

You know I took a test with my mother when I was 16 that was supposed to determine one's age.  My mother turned out to be 20 years younger than her actual age and I turned out to be 90 years older!  My mother never let me forget that and always used to say my tomb stone would read the same.   

As to my connection with the IF, as Bob and Rob can tell you I am simply one of the up-stairs maids holding my feather duster in Czarskoe Selo and listening in anguish to the tears of the Young Empress. 

I can't wait to see what your trial on Rasputin reveals.  I am hoping that it will uncover what on earth caused the motivation of the far right, in the person of Purishkevich, to attack the throne through the murder of Rasputin. 

That enigmatic Purishkevich, wearing a carnation in his fly when the Duma was in session, not to mention his anti-semetic frenzy that even extended to the cinema, was such a strange accomplice!  What in heavens name motivated the Far Right to join with the Progressive bloc to tear down the prestige of the throne?

Richard you know I feel very guilty.  I asked Bev to withhold this discussion until I started a thread on Nicholas, and here I broke my word to her and have discussed it with you.  Plus I do so much want Elizabeth to continue her thread.  I so wish I had hidden reserves of special information on Nicholas II to offer you in an email, but alas it is your wonderful insights that force me back into my books to find something worthy.  I wish with all my heart that I was like your friend that emails you with all that wonderful information on Rasputin.  Regardless, I am so looking forward to the trial.   


 
« Last Edit: September 18, 2006, 04:51:28 PM by griffh »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #95 on: September 19, 2006, 10:19:50 AM »

What in heavens name motivated the Far Right to join with the Progressive bloc to tear down the prestige of the throne?


I think this is one of the most revealing questions about the demise of the monarchy.  As I have said on other threads, I do not think Nicholas fell by the actions of revolutionaries, but rather by the tacit withdrawal of support by the classes on which the monarchy had historically relied.  It was only in this vacuum of support for the throne that the revolutionaries began to gain the upper hand.  (Even up until early 1917 Lenin himself felt that revolution was still a distant dream in Russia.)

Just think what was going on in Russia in the twilight months of the monarchy.  A Romanov and a man married to a Romanov killed Rasputin, in full knowledge that he enjoyed the protection of the emperor and empress.  Grandduchess Ella, who supported Dimitry's action against Rasputin, later wrote that she did not try to visit Nicholas and Alexandra during their Tsarskoye Selo imprisonment because she was so bitter in the view that they had brought their fates upon themselves and Russia.  Diplomatic and aristocratic memoires from the years immediately preceding WWI are rife with reports of conversations in the salons of St. Petersburg that indicated despair with Nicholas' competence to rule.  These memoires also mention a fatalistic malaise that seemed to settle over the upper classes, many of whom sensed that some sort of reckoning was coming.  There are even some indications that the Romanovs themselves were planning to force Alexandra into withdrawal from the scene, including forcing Nicholas to step down if his defense of Alexandra was insurmountable.  No matter what they thought of Alexandra themselves (and there was some softening of their views in some quarters), they knew full well the damage her presence was doing to the dynasty's reputation.

And, of course, the final step into the abyss was precipitated not when revolutionaries stormed the bastions of government, but when Nicholas' own generals and ministers simply felt the government had lost its latitude to act and Nicholas had to go.  Remember that the demand for Nicholas to abdicate was not initially a demand that the monarchy be dismantled, but that a regency be established until the heir came of age.

Why, then, did Nicholas find himself so bereft of support in the very quarters where his actions should have been best known and understood?  I can only conclude that the people standing at close quarters to Nicholas' decision-making were seeing things only dimly-remembered today (if known at all) that caused them to lose confidence in his ability to make sound decisions.  These were not people whose views were occluded by mystical visions of the power God vested in His annointed.  These were people who knew that power, no matter how it is packaged and marketed to the masses, is really in the hands of ordinary mortals whose missteps could lead to disastrous consequences.

Remember that the upper echelons of Russian society were not unmindful of their own history.  They had a collective remembrance that the Romanovs were first raised to power by the boyars, not by the hand of God.  And my guess is that many of the aristocracy knew that the true Romanov bloodline may well have ended with Empress Elizabeth.  So, while it was in their interest to pretend to share the popular belief that Nicholas had some mystical ability to rule effectively and some mystical right to rule without challenge, my guess is that the senior aristocracy and officials knew full well their fates were in the hands of a mortal . . . and a very ordinary one at that.

Highly-placed Russians had lost confidence in their leaders before and taken matters into their own hands.  Anna, Peter III, and Paul are only some of the examples.  The only problem was that the 20th century, almost a century of revolutionary ferment (going back to the Decembrists), and the depredations of WWI created a different stage on which the deposition of a monarch would play out this time around.

Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #96 on: September 19, 2006, 09:17:55 PM »
TsarFan, these are very interesting comments about the Romanov family.  I'm paraphrasing, but Victoria Melita wrote in a letter that she and her husband "were leading the revolution" which I believe is indicative of how foolish and deluded the Romanov family really was.  They remind me of Keat's poem -
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,
  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
  The blood dimm'd tide is loosed, and everywhere,
  The ceremony of innocence in drowned;
  The best lack all conviction, while the worst
  Are full of passionate intensity."
especially the last line...

Offline griffh

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #97 on: September 20, 2006, 04:02:01 PM »
Oh my gosh what beautiful insights, Tsarfan....honestly they touch on the heart of the whole matter...  What did those men on the far right see that caused them to abandon the throne?

That is truly the question that has been hidden by the short duration of the Provisional Government and it's violent overthrow by the Bolshis. 

Bev you never cease to amaze me.  You have this wonderful forth-right engery that will not be defeated; and then all of the sudden you share this deeply moving poem that indicates such a tenderness. 

Hey Bev the only reason I am adding this last post to Elizabeth's thread is to try and balance my broken promise to you.     

And Bev, what a provoctive quote from G.D. Victoria!!!  You know the G.D. Cyril's were so progressive that it makes one wonder if they had not been prompted in their ambitions by certain secret elements of foriegn dipolmacy.     

Just to say I will not start my thread on the Emperor Nicholas until after Rasputin's trial, or my thread on the Young Empress.  I have signed up with Margarita.  Hey Bev and Tsarfan jump on board....

Again Elizabeth forgive my intrusion on this fascinating thread.

Griff

Elisabeth

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #98 on: September 23, 2006, 12:33:30 PM »
Sorry for the long absence, folks, I've been terribly busy. Bev, the poem you quoted is actually by Yeats, not Keats, although everybody I know including myself always makes the same darned mistake, so please forgive me for the correction.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the real problem in March 1917 was not with the Duma or the generals, whatever they were plotting amongst themselves (although here I must ask: why wouldn't they be trying to envision a provisional government, with themselves in power, since the tsarist one was clearly lurching towards disaster and they were in fact the only people in authority capable of taking command of the country and the army? indeed, wouldn't that be the responsible thing to do, if you were a true patriot? As there's no question but that people like Prince Lvov and General Alexeev were). No, the real problem was that the generals knew that most of their troops were on the brink of mutiny.

There had been an unprecedented number of desertions from the largely peasant army during the fall and winter of 1916-17 - something like a million men. An unprecedented number also let themselves be captured by enemy forces during the Russian retreat rather than face going home and being forced to take up arms again. According to Figes, there had already been a mutiny in one of the northern garrisons even before the mutinies started happening in the Petrograd garrison (under the direction, often, of junior officers like Sgt. Linde). After the March Revolution broke out, General Alexeev actually called back General Ivanov's expeditionary force to Petrograd for fear that once the troops reached the capital city, they would be carried away by the mutinous spirit of the soldiers already stationed there. I put it to you, griffh and everybody, that the tsar could simply no longer command the loyalty of his own army, from the generals on down, and that this is what made the crucial difference between the Revolution of 1905 and the March Revolution of 1917.

Of course, as it turned out, the provisional government couldn't command that sort of loyalty either, and the consequences were equally dire. Only Lenin had the bright idea that maybe World War I wasn't worth fighting, since the Russian people were so determinedly against it. I mean, think about it, 4 million casualties... what kind of effect did that have on everyday existence in the Russian villages?
« Last Edit: September 23, 2006, 12:46:43 PM by Elisabeth »

Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #99 on: September 24, 2006, 08:48:54 AM »
Oh excuse me, thanks for pointing that out.

Offline AGRBear

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #100 on: September 24, 2006, 04:35:20 PM »
I remember somewhere  around this forum we talked about Nicholas II and his generals who often times ended up blaming the Tsar for their loses and claimed the Tsar hadn't prepared Russia for war.  This was not true,  if I remember correctly,  Nicholas II loved "new toys" and this included weapons.  He had build up his guns, cannon etc. to that which equaled Germany  at the opening of WWI [Great War].  BUT when he tried to get his generals and the admirals to change their methods of attack  they shook their heads and didn't use what was given  or suggested.  Instead,  they sent waves of  cavalry toward  machines guns, tanks  and "Big Berthas"  [huge Krupp cannons].  This more than frustated Nicholas II who had always been excellent in tactics of war.

When he took the reins of his uncle' N. s divisons it was because the Germans had pushed the Russian lines into retreat....

Nicholas II was caught between a rock and a hard spot.

I have no idea how many  Russians deserted when comparing them to the Germans and the French.

Not to long ago I remember reading a  book (which becmae a movie; can't recall the name of either) where a man was said to have deserted the French army trenches.  It was about that time the French and the Germans stopped firing at each other.  This alarmed the French generals.  So the French arrested some men, convicted them of desertion and their  penalty was to be pushed up out of the trenches and toward the German lines with the knowledge if they would be fired upon after given some time so tey could  move toward the German trenches.  This caused  the war to restart since French bullets w fired toward these  so-called desesrts which of course ws toward the  Germans  and what seemed like French headed toward the Germans.

WW I / Great War was an ugly brutal  war for all sides.

Another problem was the revolutionaries who on purpose stopped the train cars filled with supplies for the troops on the front  with the intent of causing more horror so more Russians would think their Tsar and Generals had deserted them and turn toward the revolutionaries who were  claiming the war was stupid and that they'd end the war and give every  Russian land, bread and a job.

AGRBear
« Last Edit: September 24, 2006, 04:47:46 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #101 on: September 25, 2006, 10:50:40 AM »

I remember somewhere  around this forum we talked about Nicholas II and his generals who often times ended up blaming the Tsar for their loses and claimed the Tsar hadn't prepared Russia for war.  This was not true,  if I remember correctly,  Nicholas II loved "new toys" and this included weapons.  He had build up his guns, cannon etc. to that which equaled Germany  at the opening of WWI [Great War].


At the outset of the war, individual Russian soldiers were armed on a par with their German counterparts, both in terms of number and quality of weapons, and Russian field artillery (some of which was used in WWII and remained in reserve stores until the 1980's) was viewed as a match to Germany's.  However, this was only the thin veneer of military preparedness.  Russia had neither the transport system (in terms of hardware or management efficiency) to keep the front consistently supplied nor the manufacturing capacity to replace arms once losses began to mount.

As astute military observers had known since the American Civil War, the underlying industrial and economic infrastructures of the warring nations were likely to be the ultimate determinants of who would win future wars.  This is why many in 1914 thought Russia was still some years away from being able to prevail in a prolonged military conflict . . . and why some cynics in Germany wanted to goad Russia into war over the Serbian crisis rather than giving her the time for her inexorable industrial expansion to begin to solidify her war capabilities.

If Nicholas really thought that arming his first wave of soldiers on a par with Germany -- without the capacity to keep the following waves similarly supplied -- was what modern war was about, then his military strategy was as flawed as that of his more traditional generals.

The greatest strategic error of Russian foreign policy in the latter 19th-century had been pan-Slavism, which moved Russia onto a course that drew her into the well-known morass of Balkan conflicts and put her on a collision course with Austria and Germany.  By pursing this policy, Nicholas wed himself to a powder keg to which others held the fuse.  While many might say we only perceive all this today with the benefit of hindsight, it was patently clear to many of the era's foreign offices . . . and was tacitly recognized by both him and his father in realigning Russia with Britain and France in the late 19th centry against Russia's traditional allies in the eastern monarchies.

True, Nicholas was fascinated by cars, planes, ships, advanced weaponry, movie projectors, and the like.  But what was notably absent was the underlying economic system to enable Russia to take a dominant position as producer of any of these things.  There are some indicators that time was on Russia's side in curing this problem.  But, unfortunately, time was the very thing that Nicholas gave away by allying himself with Slavs in the Balkans.

Offline AGRBear

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #102 on: September 25, 2006, 11:36:22 AM »
Do you have any idea of how many miles of train tracks were laid under the reign of Nicholas II?

Yes, the main tracks from Moscow to the east had been started by Alex. III, however, this wasn't the only tracks laid.

For example,  there were tracks laid from Moscow southward and northward....

All this was done with a great deal of effort and resistence of those around Nicholas II.

And,  it was not the fact that there weren't any tracks headed to the Russian eastern front that stopped the flow of supplies,  it was the revolutionaries and their strikes.....  They even stopped the trains filled with the wounded from reaching the hospitals in the cities.

It was Nicholas II who established medical tents close to the front lines to care for the wounded which had never been accomplished until WWI.

And,  yes,  Germany pushed the war when they did knowing full well what would occur in Russia as the war drew into years of battles....  And,  they helped it along by supplying the revolutionaries with funds to do what they did to disrupt supplies, etc. within Russia.  They sent Lenin back to Russia with a train load of gold....

But this thead isn't about Nicholas II,  I believe it's about the mistake of Russia having fallen under the leadership of the Bolshesviks/ communists.

AGRBear
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #103 on: September 25, 2006, 12:55:59 PM »
I don't know exactly how much trackage was laid during Nicholas' reign, but here are the figures for Europe in 1900 (in kilometers):

Austria-Hungary - 36,330
France - 38,109
Germany - 51,678
Great Britain - 30, 079
Russia - 53,234

Russia's trackage was expanding faster than any other European country in the years immediately prior to WWI.  However, it tended to work off a hub system with tracks radiating from St. Petersburg and Moscow rather than the German system (which had been developed privately), which was less Berlin-centric and created a network of direct links between numerous German cities and manufacturing centers.  Also, much Russian track headed westward with terminuses that made sense only for a future military purpose . . . which was one of the reasons Germany became so anxious to deliver Russia a knock-out blow before she could fill those tracks with Russian military production.

Now . . . back to the topic of this thread:

As Simon said earlier, much of soviet foreign policy was a carry-over from the tsarist era.  I would add a twist to that.  I think much of soviet economic policy was an attempt – especially during the Stalin era – to correct what were seen as the shortcomings of tsarist economic policy in its inability to support Russian military objectives.  (This goes back to an earlier debate on this board about whether Stalin was actually a Russian ultra-nationalist rather than a Marxist internationalist.)

The tsarist answer to hasten the economic strengthening of Russia was to experiment with different sets of central policies which, under Stolypin, were showing some successes with industrialization, if less so with land reform.  The soviet answer was to centralize control even further . . . and to push it to hideously extreme means.  In this sense, soviet economic policy – despite its Marxist marketing veneer – was really almost a parody of a tsarist approach that goes back at least to Peter the Great.

The paradox of the perceived Marxist / capitalist dichotomy is that Marxism and capitalism actually shared a common tenet.  Marx felt that individual self-determination would, through a convoluted process which he rather tediously expounded, result in an equitable distribution of wealth.  Capitalism works off a similar notion of self-determination, although in the case of capitalism the predicted result is more wealth, but not necessarily equitably-distributed wealth.  (Most capitalists grudgingly concede that government must rein in the excess of wealth concentration in order to keep capitalism “healthy”.)

I find it ironic that Lenin and the “Marxist” regime he spawned were so utterly hostile to even the Marxist version of self-determination.  In my view, soviet economic policy was neither Marxist nor the often-said “state capitalism”.  I think it was, instead, an obscene version of tsarist central control placed in the hands of men who had no framework but ideological zealotry for metering their own actions.

So, what kind of “mistake” was soviet Russia?  I think it was the mistake of thinking that the whips of the tsars had been too light on the backs of Russians, not too harsh . . . and that Russia’s true path to greatness lay in more lashings.

Bev

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Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
« Reply #104 on: September 25, 2006, 07:41:47 PM »
I can't agree with the claim that the soviet economic policy of the Lenin/Stalin era was a reactionary policy.  If that were true, the Soviets would have made every attempt at building an army, rather than following a deliberate policy of underfunding it.  I believe that the Soviets saw the military as a threat, and a very effective one at that, considering the fact that they utliized the very same one.  Stalin spent a great deal of his time as leader, sorting out various plots, coups and mutinies in the army.  (And in his fear imagining more than a few.)  Yes, it became reactionary after WW II, but it was reactionary to the superpower status of the United States.  In my opinion, the arms race kept the Soviet Union alive longer than it would have lived, had it not been for the rivalry.

Your assessment that the mistake was in the ability to recognize human nature, is spot on.  Countries with a history of absolutist or totalitarian governments tend to use fear as the great human motivator and whether this was under tsarism or bolshevism, this seems to be very true of Russia.  Democracies tend to be meritocracies (at least in theory) and reward is the great human motivator in these societies.