Another lie about Communism?

This is long, but it might be interesting to some. I have removed some of the less interesting commentaries from the original posting. My own contributions are under the name of Abiezer Coppe, as well as Jacob Bauthumley. I am more critical of Communism’s record than Lindsay, especially on the lack of civil liberty and the arbitrariness of the justice systems, and I was a card carrying Communist in the 1970s, but nonetheless he offers a valuable corrective to liberal hatred of everything it represented. Communism’s record on environmental matters was and is atrocious (Cuba is the exception).

From a discussion on Robert Lindsay: full discussion here:

http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/another-lie-about-communism-bites-the-dust/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxsrx9jBj_M

The ‘good old days’ of East Germany: youtube video

Robert Lindsay.

Even I believed this one for a long time. Everyone knows that the Communism failed because no one wants to wear Bulgarian shoes, right?

The lie, best stated, is that Communist products are all crap.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of truth to this – look at the East German car the Trabant. But in the case of this fair in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), apparently it’s not so. People are flocking here to sample products from the old GDR. Food, toys, clothing, furniture, it was all made better in East Germany than the mass produced, planned obsolescent, consumerist crap on sale in Germany today.

This complaint is commonly heard in former East, not just in this video. Other former East Germans also say that the stuff on sale now is more expensive, and it’s a poorer product. If anyone could make good products under Communism, it would have to be the Germans. They generally make good stuff.

Abiezer Coppe told me that he had a radio from the old USSR. I assumed it was a piece of garbage, but he said it was the best radio he ever had, lasted for many years and ran perfectly. Let’s get real here. Under capitalism, the profit motive often gets in the way of making a decent product. You make the product as cheaply as possible and as crappy as you can get away with, because that way you make more money.

We used to make some pretty good products here in the US, back in the 1970s and before. Firms were often family-owned, and there was often a, “We take pride in the fact that our American firm makes a quality product.” Toaster ovens and microwaves from this period were excellent. Nowadays you have to spend some money to get a comparable one. The standard models are complete crap. I can’t get over how poor your average coffee maker is. In general, if you want a good toaster oven, microwave or coffee maker, buy one made in Europe. Everything else is garbage.

The “We take pride in the fact that our American firm makes a quality product” era is gone. America hardly makes anything anymore anyway, and firms have all merged and are all on Wall Street, with stockholders clamoring for an ever-increasing bottom line. The result is what you see today – I call it World O’ Crap.

Customer service is gone too, especially on the Internet. Everything’s been replaced by endless voicemail mazes where  you talk to idiot machines that don’t understand you. When you finally get a human, they’re at a call center in India or Philippines and they can’t even help you. Worse, you can’t even understand them. Even customer service is just another lousy product in World O’ Crap anymore.

The modern model of capitalism is really shit in so many ways.

jacobbauthumley

August 13, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Russian cameras were topnotch too. I owned a Leica. There’s a very funny book – also full of astute political observations – by two British comedians who are also socialists called Is it just me or is everything shit? It’s a grumpy old man’s guide on everything from call centres in Bangalore to mobile phones and mp3 players. I look back on the 1970s as the last decent decade of capitalism. In the 1980s the music turned to shit, unemployment went up to over 10% of the workforce, and we had a petit bourgeois harridan with a face like a hawk and a horrible voice at no. 10 reminding us all of small town values. Then we went to war over a windy scrap of Empire in  the South Atlantic with a thousand British people on it and more than ten thousand sheep. As unemployment hit an all time high, riots broke out in the major cities, Liverpool, London and Manchester. The new underclass was born – beggars started appearing in number on the streets, and they have never gone away. Yes, it was the start of a great decade. Gang of Four were about the last decent British post punk band. Then Bob Marley died, in May ’81. I saw him live in Paris in the spring of 1980, and danced with a girl from New York State.

LaFleur

August 13, 2010 at 3:07 PM

It’s impossible to communicate to young people the drastic decline in the quality of products and services in the US since 1980. The elites try to sell us on the variety of things we’re offered today, but the quality is shit.

I used to receive a great catalog called Sovietski. They sold a lot of Soviet-era products, like border guard binoculars and those cool looking metal windup toys. I think they went out of business. Maybe they ran out of surplus stuff to sell.

I wish I could have gone to Hungary during the goulash communism days. Here’s a Hungarian woman reminiscing about growing up in Hungary in the 70s and 80s:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1221064/Oppressive-grey-No-growing-communism-happiest-time-life.html

When people ask me what it was like growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Hungary in the Seventies and Eighties, most expect to hear tales of secret police, bread queues and other nasty manifestations of life in a one-party state.

They are invariably disappointed when I explain that the reality was quite different, and communist Hungary, far from being hell on earth, was in fact, rather a fun place to live.

The communists provided everyone with guaranteed employment, good education and free healthcare. Violent crime was virtually non-existent.

But perhaps the best thing of all was the overriding sense of camaraderie, a spirit lacking in my adopted Britain and, indeed, whenever I go back to Hungary today. People trusted one another, and what we had we shared.

She was from a working class family, and thanks to communism had a quality of life she wouldn’t otherwise have been able to enjoy:

When communism in Hungary ended in 1989, I was not only surprised, but saddened, as were many others. Yes, there were people marching against the government, but the majority of ordinary people – me and my family included – did not take part in the protests.

Our voice – the voice of those whose lives were improved by communism – is seldom heard when it comes to discussions of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain.

Instead, the accounts we hear in the West are nearly always from the perspectives of wealthy emigrés or anti-communist dissidents with an axe to grind.

I spoke to a Polish guy on another forum who missed the higher quality of education and community life during 70s and 80s Poland.

\

jacobbauthumley

August 13, 2010 at 3:15 PM

If there was a problem in the GDR it was that the surveillance of the population was so intense that if you farted too loudly a government seismograph would pick up the vibration. The German film “The Lives of Others”, which is about the GDR, catches this aspect of life quite well, and it’s a great film. One of the reasons Communist bloc jokes are so brilliant is they operated as a safety valve for expressing all sorts of politically incorrect frustrations.

Q: Could ticks have a revolution of their own?
A: Basically, yes, because the blood of the working class runs through them.

A favourite joke of Stalin’s:

Stalin has a visit from a Georgian farmer’s delegation: They are introduced, they talk to Stalin, and then they go, heading off down the Kremlin’s corridors. Stalin starts looking for his pipe. He can’t find it. He calls in Beria, the diabolical head of his secret police.
“Go after the delegation, and find out which one took my pipe,” he says. Beria scuttles off down the corridor with 20 KGB thugs in tow. Five minutes later Stalin finds his pipe under a pile of papers. He calls Beria—”Look, I’ve found my pipe.” “It’s too late,” Beria says, “half the delegation admitted they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning.”

accidentaldissent

August 14, 2010 at 10:35 PM

What a riot you commies are. It’s true that you and the nazis are as two peas in a pod: Both terminally dissatisfied with life as it is and positively certain that only you know how to put things right; both willing to destroy — imprison, exterminate — all who stand in your way; and both utterly, hopelessly blind to how repulsive people find you and the half-truths you so passionately broadcast. (“My Leica camera, sigh, not another in the world like it!” Of course. It was made by commies. It’s just got to be good.)

Lindsay, Eastern European commies weren’t exactly world famous for their customer service; quite the contrary — hard as that may be to believe. “Absolute shit” are the words I would use. Somehow, it seems (and who could possibly understand why), the knowledge that they’re living in a workers’ paradise with constitutionally mandated equality and justice for all failed to translate to an inspired work ethic — again, quite the contrary. And if you’re going to complain about unintelligble goolly-boolly-boolly-accented maccacas on the phone, sure it’s the crapitalists who resort to them, but it’s the levelling one-world cultural claptrap that the commies have infused us all with that allows them to get away with it. So, please, feller, a long overdue look in the mirror is in order.

LaFleur

August 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Both terminally dissatisfied with life

Pot, meet kettle.

…the modern commie — whose savage hatred matches the Nazi’s

Savage hatred? You’re the miserable cunt obsessed with darkies in one of the whitest countries on earth.

Silver is a bourgeois White man from Australia who has so much spare cash that he spends a good part of his time out of the country living in exotic locales. I’m told that he has a very high paying job in the corporate sector.

That’s fine. His stupidity is its own punishment.

Eat a bowl of Nubian dick, you pigfucker.

Abiezer Coppe

August 14, 2010 at 11:38 PM

Well it was a good camera. However you throw the baby out with the bathwater accidental dissent. Having been to Communist Eastern Europe I have never been remotely nostalgic about Communism. I supported the Left Opposition in Poland – Michnik and Co – throughout the 80s. I supported a Soviet Leninist, Pyotr Grigorenko, in the 1970s (he went to the US and must have gone senile, because he thought the US was the communism he’d been looking for all along…). Practically no-one in Eastern Europe wanted Communism in the form it was imposed on them, the One Party police state.

The jokes tell their own story – Hammer And Tickle: A History Of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes by Ben Lewis, and novels like The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, by Milos Kundera, or The Captive Mind (my personal favourite – an individualist’s critique from within of communism, written in the 1950s), by Czeslaw Milosz. It was not a happy experience. Nostalgia for communism is part based on selective memory…this is from a review of The Lost World of Communism: An Oral History of Daily life Behind the Iron Curtain: “Many look back and find those years much more normal than the dizzying whirlwinds of incomprehensible changes that arrived after those regimes ended. The selective amnesia leads then to many voting back into power former ‘known faces’ simply because they remind the people of some superficial stability that was there before the inflation, the economic insecurity, the employment and housing problems. This selective amnesia makes many people suppress many memories of the total lack of freedom of speech & thought that they endured during those years…” Oral history gets close to the texture of people’s lives. I got a lot of shit from fellow Communists for pointing out that the model of actually existing communism was defective, and probably wouldn’t last, but I was right!

In one party communism the ruling elite tells even more lies, and gets away with it, than in a democratic capitalist state! That can’t be good…

There was only one country where there was a considerable parliamentary presence for socialism, and that was Czechoslovakia, which experienced a Stalinist coup in 1948.

The whole experience of Communism in Eastern Europe was, truth be told, miserable from many points of view, and that was why for most people 1989 – which was also an occasion of national liberation – was a liberatory moment for the peoples. The Communist Parties melted away in 1990 because they had no democratic legitimacy in the first place, or they formed parts of the new elites.

It’s interesting however that some of the countries with the lowest Gini coefficients (which measures social inequality – the lower it is the less wealth inequality there is in a country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality) in the world today, namely the Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia Herzogovina, Croatia, Slovenia, the Ukraine are the ex Communist states. None of these states, even after 20 years of capitalism, have opted for the private affluence and public squalor of neoliberal capitalism along the lines of the US or Brazil.

Truth is, the unhappy East Europeans first had communism imposed on them, and then in the 1990s they had neoliberal crash course in capitalism imposed on them. Michael Parenti tells the story very well. We all know where that led to, and many ex Communist countries are rejecting it. Hungary, where I went last summer, consistently has Left majorities ruling the country, at least according to Hungarians I spoke to.

We’re in new era accidental dissent. Those are old battles. Old style communism was rotten to the core in many ways, but so is capitalism, which staggers on from one ghastly crisis and one ghastly war, to the next. Go and see South of the Border, the new documentary by Oliver Stone, and open your mind a bit. 21st century socialism doesn’t have to be Cuban style; it’s being reinvented in Latin America, and thus time Uncle Sam can’t stop it, because Uncle Sam’s already indebted to the hilt in some grisly, ugly wars elsewhere, and can’t afford another Nicaragua-style slaughter.

accidentaldissent

August 15, 2010 at 1:03 AM

Abby,

It’s interesting however that some of the countries with the lowest Gini coefficients (which measures social inequality – the lower it is the less wealth inequality there is in a country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality) in the world today, namely the Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia Herzogovina, Croatia, Slovenia, the Ukraine are the ex Communist states. None of these states, even after 20 years of capitalism, have opted for the private affluence and public squalor of neoliberal capitalism along the lines of the US or Brazil.

Yes, I was aware of those impressive Ginis and have often held them up as examples of…brace yourself…equitable market outcomes!

Of course, troubling (I’m guessing) for you is that those outcomes are as much the result of heredity as they are policy. The data is in and genes clearly matter. Face it: The Ginis look better because those countries relatively much smaller proportions of the uneducable and intemperate. Import millions Africans to the tune of their becoming 10, 20, 30% of the population, however, and then watch those Ginis skyrocket. And if you want to put a cultural spin on it, it’s much easier to get people to embrace “socialist” policies when those whom they benefit are regarded as much the same thing as oneself; “sacrificing” for people one sees as weird, foreign, offensive etc is a much harder sell.

We’re in new era accidental dissent. Those are old battles. Old style communism was rotten to the core in many ways, but so is capitalism, which staggers on from one ghastly crisis and one ghastly war, to the next. Go and see South of the Border, the new documentary by Oliver Stone, and open your mind a bit. 21st century socialism doesn’t have to be Cuban style; it’s being reinvented in Latin America, and thus time Uncle Sam can’t stop it, because Uncle Sam’s already indebted to the hilt in some grisly, ugly wars elsewhere, and can’t afford another Nicaragua.

My mind’s already open. I don’t have a problem with…let’s call it “socialist-mindedness.” In another era, I may well have been lining behind the commies myself. In fact, I still look with admiration at what they were able to accomplish in the teeth of such ferocious resistance. But I deny the modern commie — whose savage hatred matches the nazi’s — the right to appropriate social gains earned by those who would have nothing to do with him. Wealth isn’t necessarily evil; profit isn’t necessarily dirty; incentives to work aren’t necessarily exploitative; if your ilk can accept this, may be a new era really is dawning. Pardon me if I reserve judgment.

Reply

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.    Robert Lindsay

.    August 15, 2010 at 3:09 AM

.    Um, silver? The unregulated market does not create equitable market outcomes. Only a very heavily state regulated market can do that. State-regulated market economics is a form of socialism. You know, the thing you hate, socialism?

.    Silver’s tirades against Commies stem from his class values. Silver is a bourgeois White man from Australia who has so much spare cash that he spends a good part of his time out of the country living in exotic locales. I’m told that he has a very high paying job in the corporate sector.

.    He also has standard bourgeois values. He decides how worthy of a human being you are based on how much money you have, at least if you are a man. If you are a man, and you do not make a lot of money, according to Silver, you’re a loser. In Silver’s world, it’s all about the cash pile. Of course, these are the typical values of the US middle class+, but they aren’t exactly human values.

.    Perhaps silver can explain to us how, considering that only 20% of us can become the upper middle class winners we much be and 80% of us must become less than upper middle class losers, how it is that everyone can possibly be a winner in Silver’s world.

Economics is like a race, Silver. If you have 100 runners, only 20 get to win the top 20 places and become upper middle class. 80% of runners will get the bottom 80% of places and automatically become losers. Since winners and losers are mandated by capitalist economics and there is no way for everyone to become a winner, how can you possibly demand that everyone be a winner in SilverWorld?

Robert Lindsay

August 15, 2010 at 4:55 AM

Why should we on the Left support this horribly abusive “socialism” in China. It kills 600,000 Chinese every single year through overwork alone. In the multinational firms that the entire West swoons about, workers experience nightmarish and horrific abuse. What kind of socialist state subjects its workers to horrifying abuse similar to the worst of capitalist countries?

Millions of Chinese are dying from lack of health care, since health care is for pay only anymore. Most people can’t afford health care, so if you get sick and can’t afford health care or meds, you may simply die.

Since 1980, many 1000′s of schools have been shut down, primary schools, middle schools and high schools. The suggestion is that there are many places where there are simply no schools available for children. Many of these schools were built during the “evil” Cultural Revolution.

China’s Gini Coefficient is worse than neoliberal America’s! It’s much worse than the UK or even the horrible Third World Indonesia. What kind of socialism is that? It’s way more unequal than the capitalist West.

This move towards capitalism has gone too far. Time to pull back somewhat.

Abiezer Coppe

August 15, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Sorry about the gibe accidental dissent…I misunderstood the intent behind your booklist.

I’m not an anti-semite, by the way. I completely misunderstood the intent behind your booklist.

“Yes, I was aware of those impressive Ginis and have often held them up as examples of…brace yourself…equitable market outcomes!”

Yes, regulated market capitalism is a whole lot better than either neoliberal capitalism or old style communism. It’s just unstable longterm, and unsustainable, because it needs 3% compound growth to carry on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0 (great animation, 11 minutes) and here on BBC Hardtalk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtyZY9sKv2w (3 parts). And there aren’t enough planets for that to happen on.

Neoliberalism in China is going to crash, because the environmental disasters are piling up (see http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/when-a-billion-chinese-jump-by-jonathan-watts-2044370.html & http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/mirsky_07_10.html). If we allow capitalism to continue, we’re fucked (Minqi Li: The Rise of China and the Demise of the World Capitalist System).

So I’d like to see market socialism in its place, with a place for small and medium enterprises, a place for profit and innovation, and democratic planning with maybe 80% of the economy in the state sector, but also much more decentralisation than we’ve seen anywhere in the world. Not a strong state, but a small localised state. We don’t want the puritanical attitude of the Communist countries back either, their anti Gay politics, for example.

Some industries do better under public ownership. Railways, for example. The French railway system is the envy of the UK, and it’s publicly owned.

“Of course, troubling (I’m guessing) for you is that those outcomes are as much the result of heredity as they are policy. The data is in and genes clearly matter. Face it: The Ginis look better because those countries relatively much smaller proportions of the uneducable and intemperate.”

It’s possible. It doesn’t really trouble me. I live in a (still) overwhelmingly white country, and race relations are pretty good, and that’s probably why.
I’m learning about race. It’s never impacted my life in any way.

The fact that you’ve closed your blog down and are back here – after being banned on this blog for race hate – disputing with Robert the race realist and Communist, shows that you are evolving, I guess.

Modern communists are not about hatred. Where did you get that idea? From the old Communists, no doubt, who did a lot of hateful things. Modern communists are survivalists. We’re in favour of human survival. The bourgeois are quite happy to continue raping the planet for a long as they can, providing they reap the short term benefits of luxury condos and big yachts and extended stays in foreign countries.

Capitalism isn’t doing it, it isn’t pro-survival: see here: http://monthlyreview.org/080721li.php by Utah economist Minqi Li. Capitalism isn’t pro human survival. It’s ecocidal.

Are you a survivalist too accidental dissent? Or just another guy who’s doing well out of the system and will defend his position to the uttermost? D’you think we’ll get through this period of aggravating crises with no end in sight? It ain’t lookin’ good…

•            80/20 seems to be working well for Belarus.

•            In addition, with the 80/20 public/private mix there needs to be very tight regulation on the size of enterprises – once they go over a certain number of employees, they have to pass into

•         Abiezer Coppe

•            August 15, 2010 at 7:18 AM

•            fpy3p…this is for you. When neoliberals invoke Adam Smith these days they generally have no idea what they are talking about…far from being in agreement with Hayek and Friedman, he was actually a mixed economy man…and the book review below is about the Chinese economy. I hope Mr Lindsay is teaching you to view the German economy under the Nazis in a more critical light than hitherto. That’s the purpose of a good blogger, to educate and inform.

•            Review of Arrighi’s book, Adam Smith in Beijing. Lineages of the Twenty-First Century, London, Verso, 2007, 418 pp.

•            Giovanni Arrighi, a Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, has contributed significantly to our understanding of the geohistorical evolution and spatial configuration of the world-system. His current research focuses on the causes and consequences of inequalities in the wealth, status and power of nations. His work certainly deserves greater attention from geographers.

•            Arrighi’s latest book is complex and highly enlightening as it offers historically and theoretically grounded insights into the current reconfiguration of the world-system. Where is the world going to? Arrighi argues that we shall concretely witness a world-system with a restored balance between east and west in the near future, as foreseen by Adam Smith more than two centuries ago – a new convergence after the nineteenth century’s great divergence.

•            After decades of study on world-system, capitalist nature, capitalist cycles, and Chinese development, Arrighi explains that nowadays China claims to be an alternative development path to western capitalism with the potential to contribute towards a more balanced and peaceful world. The theory is most likely too optimistic, but it is well founded and free of uninformed prejudices against China.

•            The book is structurally divided into four parts that often merge theoretical and empirical elements, though the former prevail in the first part. The book’s theoretical purpose is to rescue Adam Smith’s thought from neoliberalist and laissez-faire ideology. Arrighi deems that ‘far from theorizing a self-regulating market that would work best with a minimalist state or with no state at all … [Smith] presupposed the existence of a strong state that would create and reproduce the conditions for the existence of the market; that would use the market as an effective instrument of government; that would regulate its operation …” (pp. 42-43). He demonstrates this by adopting a critical and original reading of Adam Smith’s thought and by looking into his market-based development conceptions, comparing the said points with Marx and Schumpeter’s analyses. In this book the author offers an analysis of Smith’s idea on socio-economic development, emphasising the difference between ‘natural’ development path considered as non-capitalist market-based (from agriculture to foreign trade), and ‘unnatural’ development path reconceptualised as a capitalist one (from foreign trade to agriculture) (Chapter 2). The former is deemed to have been historically revealed in geopolitically peaceful China, whilst the latter characterised European (and North-American) capitalist expansion branded by wars issuing from the synergic interaction between capitalism, industrialism and militarism, besides the financial framework’s dominant role over production conditions.

•            An empirical analysis of the book deeply backs such a difference (see also Arrighi, 1994). Specifically, the author focuses on global turbulence during the dual-phased US hegemony – the crisis in the ‘70s and ‘80s that lacked a concrete alternative, and the recent US strategies focused on ‘domination without hegemony’ (Chapter 7). The latter is characterised by US weaknesses (eg the war against Iraq), and by China’s strong points expressed in its new regional and global power. A key thesis is that by funding US wars, China is the true winner in the US war on ‘global terrorism’ – that is, in practice, a war designed to save US hegemony, which is undergoing a crisis, by countering China’s economic growth and subsequent newfound power. As occurred during the two world wars, when the USA fed European battles during its growth, China’s growth is likewise bringing about the US decline.

•            In the final part, Arrighi reviews China’s ascent, considering both its historical and recent characteristics. At this point we can find a more substantial convergence between the Chinese development path and Smith’s related developmental theory, though ‘the close fit between the ongoing transformation of the Chinese political economy and Smith’s conception … does not mean that Deng’s reforms were in any way inspired by Smith’s text … those practises originated … in a pragmatic approach, inspired by Chinese traditions, to problems of governance in mid-Qing China’ (p. 368).

•            Opening-up to European, American and Japanese capital, which envisaged various restrictions, has failed to yield immediate remarkable results for China. However, the country has persevered in its growth, making the most of its domestic planning skills and the role played by Chinese residing overseas. In 1990 capital flowing in from Taiwan and Hong Kong comprised 75% of China’s FDI, while Western capital only increased some years later (pp. 352, 353). The book makes many well documented examples to ensure the reader’s extensive understanding of Chinese market policies and their peculiarities.

•            Arrighi invites us to keep our distance from interpretations proposed by David Harvey (‘Neoliberalism “with Chinese characteristics” ’) and others, who are inclined to associate China with neoliberalism (pp. 353-354). It is dutiful to reject the idea – Arrighi deems – that development guided by Beijing can be associated with the adoption of typical neoliberal principles. Chinese transformations have been based on highly effective agricultural reforms. They have been led by a relatively egalitarian distribution of land, which, for instance, replaces the forms of accumulation by dispossession (Harvey, 2005, 2006) with decentralised agricultural and industrial developments – that are forms ofaccumulation without dispossession (Arrighi, p. 361-367). The land was redistributed, thus enabling farmers not to lose control of their means of production and to be involved in other non-agricultural rural activities. Further, recent Chinese developments were not guided by foreign capital, which only intervened at a subsequent stage, but rather by the happy convergence of the internal market’s expansion and the productive mobilisation of quality work force (in terms of health, education and self-management skills).

•            This is also confirmed by the current financial crisis and the various structural conditions implemented in the geo-economic and geopolitical space. In this case we can easily notice that, despite the degree of interdependence, western countries are more vulnerable to the current crisis than China, which has maintained a state-controlled banking system, strong monetary policies and a very low level of speculative activities. Quite the opposite, or quasi, of IMF ‘suggestions’, The Economist’s analysis, western economic policies and so on.

•            Fabio Massimo Parenti is a professor of The Global Political Economy at the International Private School for Foreign Students ‘Lorenzo de’ Medici’, Rome, and Academic Advisor in Political Geography at the University of Molise, Isernia.

Abiezer Coppe

August 15, 2010 at 8:42 AM

Belarus is a good example, but Robert’s public ownership figure is far too low. It’s 80%, not 50%.

80% of the Belorussian economy remains in state hands…see here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Belarus

– and that’s my figure for a successful “mixed” economy – 80% in public ownership, but democratically controlled, and no more than 20% in private hands. And the Belorussian economy is doing extremely well, while most of Europe, and Russia, as well as the USA, is in serious and longterm economic trouble, with absolutely no end in sight.

•            I doubt democratic control of the means of production exists in Belarus, as that hasn’t happened anywhere yet apart from in Cuba, where there are worker co-operatives, and on a small scale so far in Venezuela, which is not yet 80/20 public/private, but more like 20% publicly owned and 80% privately owned, so very much a capitalist country still (correct me if I’m wrong, I’m winging it here like Robert without checking the figure, but a US government source puts Venezuelan public sector employment at 20% of the labour force). The capitalist class still have a lot of power in Venezuela, and they still own the press and the media. Chavez has just nationalised the third largest Venezuelan bank, so it’s going in the right direction, but the capitalist class has not been dispossessed, and therein lies the real danger for the Chavistas. The Venezuelan Gini coefficient is 41, but coming down, and they’ve a long way to go compared with Belarus at 27.9 (CIA figures for both countries).public ownership – so capitalists will have to think very differently to now, or they’ll just get expropriated by the workers’ state.

•            Capital tends to push down barriers to its own expansion – that’s the story of economic imperialism around the world – so it needs to be tightly controlled or it gets out of hand, and you end up with a barbaric situation like modern Brazil, shooting the poor and homeless children on the streets, and trading their body parts on the international black market for organs.

•            Barbarism. Unregulated capitalism goes in the direction of barbarism. That’s what accidental dissent is pushing, apparently. That’s what we have in most of the world, 2 billion people out of 7 billion living on less than $2 a day.

•            Yeah, sure, capitalism works – with riches for the few and economic genocide on a global scale ( = ACTUAL GENOCIDE, check this for the US – http://www.hermes-press.com/capitalist_genocide.htm and http://www.revleft.com/vb/black-book-capitalism-t131237/index.html) for the many, though it’s never talked about except by American Maoists.  The MIM did some good stuff on capitalism and genocide; check out Gideon Polya as well: I’m not sure about his methodology though.

•            At least 100 million dead every ten years by starvation and preventable diseases. That’s under capitalism.

•            What a shining future!

•            And all we hear is how many Communism killed…gimme a break!

•            Gimme some truth! as John Lennon sang.

Abiezer Coppe

August 21, 2010 at 12:28 AM

One for accidental dissent:

Comparison of ex-Communist Poland, which has taken the capitalist path, and ex-Communist Belarus, which has taken the socialist path, clinches the argument about which economic system provides better for its people. I don’t meet Belorussians over here in the UK, but we now have 2 million Poles and rising, while Poland’s population is FALLING:

Belarus and Poland

‘The example of Belarus is instructive. Since the mid-1990s it has taken a different course from the other East European countries. The country rejected the instructions of the IMF to privatise its extractive and manufacturing industries. The authors of the CIA World Factbook are clearly unhappy with the direction the country has taken:

“[President] Lukashenko reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state’s right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. During 2005, the government re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subject to pressure by central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of “disruptive” businessmen and factory owners. A wide range of redistributive policies has helped those at the bottom of the ladder; the Gini coefficient [a measure of inequality in income] is among the lowest in the world. Because of these restrictive economic policies, Belarus has had trouble attracting foreign investment, which remains low. Growth has been strong in recent years…”

All members of society have gained from this strong industrial growth (an increase of 10% in GDP in 2005-2006) – real incomes have been rising at an average of 15% annually and the unemployment rate is only 1.6%. Belarus has also vastly increased its spending on education and health.

Poland, the Western neighbour of Belarus, has privatised and liberalised its economy, exactly as the IMF, the European Union and the British Government have told it to do. It has had the benefit of very substantial foreign investment, to the extent that the ‘commanding heights’ of its economy are now mainly Western-owned. Unemployment in Poland is at an average of 17%; for people under 25 it is 34%. Due to high emigration and a declining birth rate, Poland’s population is falling rapidly.

Poland is regarded in the West as the most successful of all the post-socialist economies.’

from: http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/economic_migration_is_not_a_single_issue_01185.html

. Abiezer Coppe:

. June 8, 2010 at 12:59 AM

.

Socialism includes democracy, and at a very much higher level than in the capitalist West or in the former Soviet bloc. By that criterion alone the Communist countries were not socialist, and they certainly weren’t Communist (communism being a stage after socialism, with a high level of self-management and a minimal, or no state structure).

. The problem with all your articles on Communism is the very low analytic level (this also applies to the CPUSA, which seems not to have recognised that China is in a prolonged transition to capitalism). What is needed is a class analysis of what the Soviet Union was and what Russia is becoming now. You will find this here… http://libcom.org/history/towards-political-economy-stalinism (book review) and here… http://libcom.org/history/political-economy-disintegrating-stalinism-hillel-ticktin – A Political Economy of Putin’s Russia.

. Hillel Ticktin was possibly the only marxist theorist to predict the fall of the Soviet Union. That is because he had a clear marxist analysis of its internal contradictions. Clearly international Capital also wanted to break the Soviet Union, and Afghanistan, where the the Soviet Union had 300,000 troops committed, was the tool. But even without the pressure of international Capital, the Soviet Union was heading for a fall. Clearly capitalist modernisation is failing in Russia, just as (for the moment) it is succeeding in China and failing in India and Pakistan. Actually existing Communism was not sustainable, it was not democratic (it didn’t even allow independent trade unions for God’s sake!), and it was very destructive of the environment, perhaps more so than a capitalist social democracy where at least there is a measure of social control. There were constant supply and demand problems, and the quality of goods was generally poor.

. Have you ever tried to drive an East German Trabbie, as they were affectionately known? When the wall came down in Berlin many of these cars broke down in West Berlin! The Soviet Union had its ecological disasters – the Aral sea, Chernobyl. The trouble is I am not the person to remedy the low analytic level of your articles on Communism. I used to be more interested in these things. The good things about actually existing Communism were the income differentials (no billionaires or millionaires, and no destitute), a very high level of literacy and public education (much higher than in the United States now), a high level of social security and low levels of homelessness and unemployment (lower than in the United States now). That alone explains the nostalgia for Communism in the Eastern bloc.

. On the other hand due to the lack of democracy there was political repression (including of workers’ strikes), and rampant corruption throughout the state apparatus, which separated itself from the needs of the masses. We saw this only too clearly when post-1991 members of the ex Nomenclatura of Communist hierarchy bought up public utilities under Yeltsin at bargain prices and became the new plutocrats. The good things about actually existing capitalism (in Western Europe and North America only) are a degree of formal democracy, independent trade unions, and cheap high quality goods from capitalist countries (slave empires like China, with 14 hour days and child labour) that have neither!

. The bad things include the destruction of nature, the never ending cycle of boom and bust, the laying waste of entire continents (Africa, and now China) so that a few (a very few globally) can prosper, the constant of carbon based economic growth based on the accumulation of capital, that is now driving global warming, and the existence of chronic deprivation in even the richest capitalist countries. 39 million people live in poverty in today’s US (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States- a number that rises sharply when capitalism has one of its cyclical crises, as now. 58% of Americans spend at least one year in poverty between the ages of 25 and 75.

. Beyond Communism and Capitalism is ecosocialism. Try the website Climate and Capitalism for more on this http://www.climateandcapitalism.com, and Evo Morales’ speech to the G77 + China at the United Nations http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=2438.

. The watchword for socialists is no longer Workers of the World Unite (though it certainly includes that), but Ecosocialism or Barbarism! See Hervé Kempf’s 100 page pamphlet “How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth, and Ecosocialism or Barbarism, by Michael Lowy.

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5 Responses to Another lie about Communism?

  1. Erranter says:

    I guess my fear of being watched and told what to do override what the benefits of communism are. I’m still on the side of freedom in freedom vs. security. I don’t think communism was all terrible, but I dislike giving the state too much power. And yes, I think much of communism was terrible. You could say the same thing about capitalism, of course, but it’s spread out into more hands generally, which limits how much oppression any large entity can cause—until you start to get multinationals and the like, which end up taking charge of governments and screwing people over. I also think the bourgeois take way more flack than they should. They’ve done a lot of good for the world and somebody has to say it. Before that we had incompetent nobles who ran everything. The bourgeois are pretty practical and forward thinking; their success is in their skillfulness—they helped to form meritocracies. They are most often the do-gooders of the world, as well. They’re not “raping the world”—if anything, they’re the most apt to hop onto the environmental bandwagon, even if they currently produce more CO2. But that was the dark side of industrial development. And communism seemed to be oddly obsessed with industry and economic production, which I can’t understand, and to a certain extent just seemed to stunt the free-wheeling, innovative, clever, creative side of man. Whatever the security, it doesn’t seem worth it. Art, thought and literature thrived in pre-Soviet Russia, however bad that society was and afterward they went into steep decline. The things we read from that era are usually anti-Soviet, anti-statist, pro-democratic works. Anyway, that’s my two cents. Fire your cannons if you like.

  2. No, I don’t want to fire any cannons in your direction, erranter,
    though we differ (just a little!) politically. I like you, I see you as one
    good Californian geezer (‘scuse the British slang!), and now that you are
    in Europe, I would like to meet you. Come over to the UK any time: there’s a
    very comfortable futon you can sleep on here. Then we can crack open a litre
    of good red wine and talk about the Romantic poets, and other enthusiasms, OK?

  3. I agree with maybe 80% of what you say, anyway…it’s the
    other 20% I would dispute with you. The 1920s in the
    Soviet Union were an extraordinarily creative time for all
    the arts, music, poetry, the novel, architecture, and so on.
    Under Stalin things got a lot worse for artists, I grant you.

    I, too, prefer my British social democracy, with the bourgeoisie in charge,
    to any paranoid Communist security state, like the GDR. Hungary or Yugoslavia
    under Communism would not have been too bad, I suppose, ‘though
    I can’t say that I would have been enthusiastic even to live under either
    of those regimes…so how much really divides us, politically? Even in the so-called
    “liberal” Communist regimes keeping your job meant keeping your head down
    politically: that’s not freedom! You think I’m still a Commie, don’t you? And Communism scares you. Rightly so, in its Stalinist incarnation…here I differ quite
    a lot from Robert Lindsay, whom I believe takes a more pragmatic approach.

  4. Reality Check says:

    I’m curious to know which Eastern European countries you visited and when.

  5. Poland, 1980. Poland just confirmed that East European Communism was no more a viable economic model than Western European capitalism, and that Western European social democracy was more livable than East European Communism. I met several student dissidents in Krakow and had discussions with them, and supporter the Polish non-Communist Left, people like Michnik, and, when it happened only months after I left, Solidarnosc, the Solidarity trade union. Hungary, 2009. That’s about it. Which ones have you visited, Reality Check, and what conclusions, if any, did you draw?

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