Communism and Mass Starvation

31 posts / 0 new
Last post
Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 10 2018 20:02
Communism and Mass Starvation

Are there any good libertarian-communist perspectives on mass starvation that occurred under so-called "communist" regimes?

I'm interested in why they happened and what could have been done differently to prevent a bunch of people starving to death.

Thanks!

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
Oct 10 2018 22:17

well, those regimes where basically capitalism with the state as the sole business, and they were the successor regimes to regimes that had a history of similar mass starvation, as did other capitalist regimes eg, the British empire.
the mass starvations in all these cases happened as a result of state policies, eg preventing grain stockpiles, refusing famine relief or ensuring any relief was inadequate and only functioned contain the population and imo can be seen as using natural events to wipe out internal enemy populations and or force modernisation ie converting peasant farmers to landless workers

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 10 2018 23:13

Did the peasants in the USSR oppose collectivization because of the brutal demands that were put on them like having to give up all their grain, being displaced or were there other reasons as well? Also how poor were peasants in comparison to people living in the cities?

I've read that collectivization in Anarchist Spain happened in a voluntary way and it didn't lead to mass starvation. Could have this been possible in places like the USSR?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 11 2018 09:40
Ugg wrote:
I've read that collectivization in Anarchist Spain happened in a voluntary way and it didn't lead to mass starvation. Could have this been possible in places like the USSR?

Marx very late in his life learned Russian, did a lot of research into the Russian Mir, and decided that the Mir/Obschina could provide the basis of communism if it was possible to also introduce mechanisation in the context of a revolution - with no transition to capitalism necessary. He says this in a few places, but https://libcom.org/library/marx-russian-mir-misconceptions-marxists is one of the clearer ones.

So the idea that capitalism had to be introduced into Russia or that the peasants were 'backward' was not direct from Marx, but rather an superimposition of his ideas about Western Europe onto Russia without taking into account the different context - but this is one that was popular while Marx was still alive, and continued to be promoted up until 1917 and long afterwards.

Whether something else could have happened is a hard question to answer and not really the point, but there were clearly people around who thought so at the time.

There's a paper on peasant attitudes to land reform in 1917 here, only skimmed it but maybe useful.

http://web.mit.edu/russia1917/papers/0901-PeasantViewsonLandReforms&Governance.pdf

Also worth mentioning there were strikes in Petrograd in 1918 and 1919, so it wasn't only peasants who were resisting. https://libcom.org/library/the-bolsheviks-and-workers-control-solidarity-group is good summary of ground-up self-organisation by workers and the way the Bolshevik government undermined it.

Also Trotsky in his own words discussing compulsory labour both in industry and agriculture in 1920: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/ch08.htm

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 12 2018 02:43

Thanks for the reading suggestions! I'm making my way through them.

I've always been concerned with this quote I've read on Wikipedia:

"The small shares of most of the peasants resulted in food shortages in the cities. Although grain had nearly returned to pre-war production levels, the large estates which had produced it for urban markets had been divided up.[4] Not interested in acquiring money to purchase overpriced manufactured goods, the peasants chose to consume their produce rather than sell it. As a result, city dwellers only saw half the grain that had been available before the war.[4] Before the revolution, peasants controlled only 2,100,000 km² divided into 16 million holdings, producing 50% of the food grown in Russia and consuming 60% of total food production. After the revolution, the peasants controlled 3,140,000 km² divided into 25 million holdings, producing 85% of the food, but consuming 80% of what they grew (meaning that they ate 68% of the total).[5]"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivization_in_the_Soviet_Union

Is there a way the USSR could have increased food supply without harming the peasants?

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 12 2018 05:10

Bakunin actually had a clearer sense of the dangers of the ‘transitional state’ and the dictatorship of the proletariat (the proletariat seizing state power) than did Marx – as is borne out by the events in Russia after 1917. Marx’s ‘fantasy’ of a ‘Russian Path’ (the mir system making capitalism redundant as a precursor to communism) was confusion and prevarication on his part.

He wrote the letter mentioned above in 1877.

But he wrote this in 1873-4:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/04/bakunin-notes.htm

In his critique of Bakunin’s Statehood and Anarchy 1873 – linked to above - Marx took Bakunin to task for his belief that “radical revolution,” or communism, was possible in systems other than the capitalist one, which in Marxism, as we have (correctly) inherited it, is the only system that provides the necessary economic prerequisites for communism.

Marx went on to further disparage Bakunin’s suggestion (in the linked text) that in the Marxian revolution the formation of a workers’ State would entail the continued or intensified subjugation of agricultural labour. Marx referred to this as “schoolboy drivel.”

The ‘problem of the peasantry’ is described by Marx here:

Quote:
Where the peasant exists in the mass as private proprietor, where he even forms a more or less considerable majority, as in all states of the west European continent, where he has not disappeared and been replaced by the agricultural wage-labourer, as in England, the following cases apply: either he hinders each workers' revolution, makes a wreck of it, as he has formerly done in France, or the proletariat (for the peasant proprietor does not belong to the proletariat, and even where his condition is proletarian, he believes himself not to) must as government take measures through which the peasant finds his condition immediately improved, so as to win him for the revolution; measures which will at least provide the possibility of easing the transition from private ownership of land to collective ownership, so that the peasant arrives at this of his own accord, from economic reasons. It must not hit the peasant over the head, as it would e.g. by proclaiming the abolition of the right of inheritance or the abolition of his property.

Not hitting the peasant over the head – a nice idea but a little idealistic - turned out not to be the practical reality – and it was Bakunin that kept on about this blind spot in Marx’s adherence to the idea of the State (not that Bakunin would have not faced the exact same problem that the French Revolution did, and the Bolsheviks did, if he had led a revolution, but at least he demonstrated a realistic prescience here).

As we know, the problem of the peasantry - unsolved in France in the 1790s - was solved in the 1920s and 1930s by the forced collectivization of rural Soviet Russia beginning in 1928.

This problem is still a concern for modern theorists of communism such as Théorie Communiste who write: “The essential question which we will have to solve is to understand how we extend communism […] how we integrate agriculture so as not to have to exchange with farmers” (Théorie Communiste in 'Communisation and its Discontents,' B. Noys, 2011).

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 12 2018 12:56
uggg wrote:
Is there a way the USSR could have increased food supply without harming the peasants?

Not sure about the USSR, but this was the problem that pre-occupied Kropotkin, and he talks about it a bit in either Conquest of Bread or Fields, Factories, and Workshops or both (long time since I've read either of them). He was very interested in high-intensity urban gardening (based on the Parisian market gardens) as one way of reducing the town/countryside division.

Would also recommend reading this from AWW which tries to think through some of these issues in the UK: https://libcom.org/blog/insurrection-production-29082016

There's also Cuban urban gardening: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/28/organic-or-starve-can-cubas-new-farming-model-provide-food-security

And Co-operation Jackson's 'Freedom farms': https://cooperationjackson.org/blog/2017/12/27/food-desert-engaging-in-jacksons-food-system

It's not a panacea but it's probably also a requirement for there to be a lot more of this sort of thing - shorter nitrogen cycles, some percentage of calories available within walking distance etc.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 12 2018 13:05
Tom Henry wrote:

The ‘problem of the peasantry’ is described by Marx here:

Quote:
Where the peasant exists in the mass as private proprietor, where he even forms a more or less considerable majority, as in all states of the west European continent, where he has not disappeared and been replaced by the agricultural wage-labourer, as in England, the following cases apply: either he hinders each workers' revolution, makes a wreck of it, as he has formerly done in France,

So that's "where the peasant exists in the mass as private proprietor", it does not therefore extend to the Russian Mir where there was some form of communal land ownership, or to Africa for example.

He's talking about France, Spain, the Netherlands etc. You can completely disagree with the assessment of France/Spain et al but it's silly to repeat the error that Leninists made and apply this to the entire world, when it's a factional argument between Marx and Bakunin about the countries they had organisational contacts in.

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 12 2018 20:52

Do you really think Lenin and the Leninists made a mistake ('error')? Bless their little cotton socks.

My point, if you had read closer, was that Bakunin was on the money about what would happen and he was proved right by Collectivisation (as well as the opposition to the Bolsheviks in the cities). The mir was, in reality and unavoidably, seen as nothing else than, at best, a collective form of private ownership - so therefore it was necessary to pursue the educative program of de-kulakization.

And Africa?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 12 2018 22:00
Tom Henry wrote:
Do you really think Lenin and the Leninists made a mistake ('error')? Bless their little cotton socks.

An error simply means 'wrong', it does not mean 'mistaken'. I do think if you repeat Lenin's mis-representation of Marx then you're repeating that error (whether mistakenly or on purpose), 'bless your little cotton socks'.

Tom Henry wrote:
And Africa?

Africa in the 19th century wasn't feudal. There were multiple different social systems co-existing both across the continent, and also in close proximity to each other, everything from communal agrarianism to pastoralism, with some areas beginning to approach feudalism. Therefore talking about peasants as small proprietors doesn't map onto the systems there at the time. In other words you think the 1873 comments are incompatible with the later ones, whereas they're not incompatible at all given he's restricting his comments in 1873 to Western Europe.

The British in Kenya (and other places, but Kenya's the area I've been reading up on) embarked on a massive programme of forced proletarianisation from about 1918-1960, i.e. a similar timescale to what happened in Russia.

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 13 2018 00:41
Mike Harman wrote:
Tom Henry wrote:
Do you really think Lenin and the Leninists made a mistake ('error')? Bless their little cotton socks.

An error simply means 'wrong', it does not mean 'mistaken'. I do think if you repeat Lenin's mis-representation of Marx then you're repeating that error (whether mistakenly or on purpose), 'bless your little cotton socks'.

Your original sentence is quite badly written then:

Mike Harman wrote:

Quote:
You can completely disagree with the assessment of France/Spain et al but it's silly to repeat the error that Leninists made and apply this to the entire world,

In your sentence it is most likely that one would infer that the Leninists made a ‘mistake’ in interpreting Marx. But now you are saying that they did not make a mistake in interpreting Marx, but were simply ‘wrong.’ (in what sense were they 'wrong'?)

Mike Harman writes:

Quote:
In other words you think the 1873 comments are incompatible with the later ones, whereas they're not incompatible at all given he's restricting his comments in 1873 to Western Europe.

What I am saying is that Bakunin understood the problem on a deeper level than Marx and, also, that it was therefore predictable (to some, eg Bakunin) that collectivisation and labor discipline would be enacted by a revolutionary government that followed Marx.

My ‘And Africa?’ question was simply to indicate that Africa is a continent with diverse histories.

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 13 2018 16:22

Tom Henry how do you think an anarchist Russia would have handled the same issues differently?

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 13 2018 21:41
Ugg wrote:
Tom Henry how do you think an anarchist Russia would have handled the same issues differently?

The answer to this hinges on two questions.

The first is whether communism/socialism can be produced in ‘one country.’ The closest the world has come to a ‘world revolution’ was in the later stages and direct aftermath of WW1, but this was only in Europe. The first world war was a great calamity that opened up possibilities. The second world war did not produce the same instability in the ruling classes. Whether the fast-approaching ecological Armageddon will provide similar global ruling class instability to that witnessed in WW1 and, therefore, similar opportunities, is anyone’s guess.

The second question revolves around the problem of the ‘transitional state.’ The anarchists have always argued against the transitional state: the educative and productive period that is claimed by Marxists as necessary not only to secure the dictatorship of the proletariat and to escalate production and infrastructure to a level suitable for communist living, but also to ensure that the whole population has developed a communist consciousness.

They have argued against it because they equate the notion of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ with the dictatorship of party leaders and experts. And their historical precedent for this prior to 1917 were the events of the French Revolution of 1879 (Jacobinism/Leninism). The Paris Commune of 1871 indicated famously for Marx the possibility that the dictatorship of the proletariat could be something different to that which occurred in 1879, but the Commune did not have enough time to play itself out for any real proof to be provided. More recently, the Badiouan Maoists and the Communizers have decided that the transitional state is an idea or aim that does not belong in modern revolutionary praxis, but they provide nothing real to back this up.

But can the transitional state be avoided, even for the anarchists, in the unlikely event of a ‘successful’ revolution? This is something worth thinking about. And one needs to factor in how one thinks the majority of people’s consciousnesses can be raised sufficiently prior to a revolutionary event, in order for it to happen, and after a revolutionary event, to ensure it is maintained. History tells us that the two key features needed to maintain the impetus towards communism proper, after the revolution, are labor discipline and Red Terror.

Cooked's picture
Cooked
Offline
Joined: 6-04-10
Oct 13 2018 22:43
Tom Henry wrote:
And one needs to factor in how one thinks the majority of people’s consciousnesses can be raised sufficiently prior to a revolutionary event, in order for it to happen, and after a revolutionary event, to ensure it is maintained.

[my bold]
Always be trolling right?!

pi
Offline
Joined: 9-04-17
Oct 15 2018 15:54

I'd be very interested to read something about how an anarchist revolution might play out.

Does the Spanish revolution show a way? I understand it was preceded by years of widespread anarchist activity that provided the workers with a good understanding of anarchist ideas. Is this what Tom Henry means by people's consciousness? Perhaps Cooked you (or someone) might explain your (seeming) dismissal of this.

Any links/comments which, as simply as possible, explain how an anarchist revolution might be achieved would be much appreciated. Ta.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 15 2018 16:02

The idea that you have to persuade a majority of people of revolutionary consciousness prior to an event is what's being dismissed. A good piece by Glaberman on consciousness is here https://libcom.org/library/working-class-social-change-martin-glaberman. A very short version is that action and consciousness are inter-related, and people act in very contradictory ways.

For a long term view of what 'anarchist revolution' might look like an suggested strategy to get there, I would look at https://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-struggle-solidarity-federation and also https://libcom.org/blog/insurrection-production-29082016

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 17 2018 06:23
radicalgraffiti wrote:
well, those regimes where basically capitalism with the state as the sole business, and they were the successor regimes to regimes that had a history of similar mass starvation, as did other capitalist regimes eg, the British empire.
the mass starvations in all these cases happened as a result of state policies, eg preventing grain stockpiles, refusing famine relief or ensuring any relief was inadequate and only functioned contain the population and imo can be seen as using natural events to wipe out internal enemy populations and or force modernisation ie converting peasant farmers to landless workers

Your position has always made the most sense to me but some of the stuff I've read makes it seem like it was more complicated than this.

I know Rosa Luxemburg wasn't really a libertarian-communist but is there any truth to what she says about wealthy peasants in her essay on the Russian Revolution?

"The French small peasant become the boldest defender of the Great French Revolution which had given him land confiscated from the émigrés. As Napoleonic soldier, he carried the banner of France to victory, crossed all Europe and smashed feudalism to pieces in one land after another. Lenin and his friends might have expected a similar result from their agrarian slogan. However, now that the Russian peasant has seized the land with his own fist, he does not even dream of defending Russia and the revolution to which he owes the land. He has dug obstinately into his new possessions and abandoned the revolution to its enemies, the state to decay, the urban population to famine." - https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch02.html

I can't tell at all if peasants were an impoverished, oppressed population that was having completely unreasonable demands placed upon them or if they were more like upper-middle class people in the United States who get mad that their taxes are going to help poor people.

If it's the former preventing famines like this could be prevented by just making sure society operates according to libertarian-communist principles as much as possible. I don't think socialism in one country is truly possible but I don't think that this means that a revolution that fails to spread worldwide means that the countries in which revolution did occur must inevitably become brutal authoritarian regimes.

However if the latter was the case it seems like even in a libertarian-communist society poor peasants and workers would arguably be justified in asking for wealthy peasants to provide more surplus in order to alleviate the poverty and malnutrition of those less well-off. I think that peasants should have been fairly compensated and included in the decision-making for this though.

But this is a problem if wealthy peasants were so opposed to giving up their privileged position that they then further decreased the food supply by destroying crops, livestock, deliberately not producing enough or resorting to violence.

How could people in a libertarian-communist society have encouraged wealthy peasants to give up some of their surplus or to reasonably reorganize their farms into a more efficient manner?

I've read that one of the supposed goals of collectivization was to get enough grain to pay for agricultural mechanization like tractors which were supposed to make the lives of peasants easier. But it seems like even this wasn't enough to convince peasants to try to help the poor peasants and workers. I might be wrong but I think I also read that they tried to use incentives to get people to join collective farms but this was also ineffective.

Taking property away from just moderately wealthy masses of peasants seems way more dangerous than taking it away from rich capitalists.

I don't think you can say that the collectivization process was done to help poor peasants considering they were probably the biggest victims of the famines. I don't think the government did enough to make sure that everyone had enough to eat during the famines. Nonetheless it seems like even in a libertarian-communist society the underlying conditions that led to food scarcity would still be there, and I'm not sure once a famine starts they are easy to cope with.

I also know that Stalin tried to demonize the peasants as being counter-revolutionaries as he was starving them to death. So I don't know if there is any truth to the idea that peasants were wealthy people basically keeping all the arable land to themselves while refusing to produce for others is just stalinist propaganda. But I also don't want to just believe that peasants were an oppressed minority because it's convenient for me to believe that all the problems surrounding the famines were caused simply because there was an authoritarian state-capitalist regime.

I'm currently reading Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow and in the introduction he says that dekulakization as well as collectivization could have been done basically non-violently/without starvation but he doesn't say how.

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 15 2018 19:25
Tom Henry wrote:
The first is whether communism/socialism can be produced in ‘one country.’ The closest the world has come to a ‘world revolution’ was in the later stages and direct aftermath of WW1, but this was only in Europe. The first world war was a great calamity that opened up possibilities. The second world war did not produce the same instability in the ruling classes. Whether the fast-approaching ecological Armageddon will provide similar global ruling class instability to that witnessed in WW1 and, therefore, similar opportunities, is anyone’s guess.

I don't think socialism in one country is possible either but does it necessarily entail that any failed revolution should become authoritarian regimes? I understand that international market competition, trying to provide for everyone as well as political/military threats to a country are really difficult obstacles, especially in poor (and often unstable) countries where revolutions typically occur.

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Oct 15 2018 23:39
Ugg wrote:
Are there any good libertarian-communist perspectives on mass starvation that occurred under so-called "communist" regimes?

I'm interested in why they happened and what could have been done differently to prevent a bunch of people starving to death.

Thanks!

mass starvation in communist china was generally brought on by communist intellectuals deciding they could run farming better than farmers.

They had a series of mad policies aboutagriculture which you can read about on wikipedia herehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine these were mostly based on weird pseudo-science, crazy ideas about optimism and tragets and maoist theories about ''mass'' everything being best

the most utterly loopy bit of maoism was obviously this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjRZIW_hRlM

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 16 2018 06:21

This is another thing. Why were "communist intellectuals" convinced they could run farms better than anyone else? I also remember reading an article (I can't remember where) that said no one in Stalin's government had any expertise on agriculture.

ZJW
Offline
Joined: 24-08-16
Oct 17 2018 05:33

TH: Who are some of the Badiouist Maoists who hold that 'the transitional state is an idea or aim that does not belong in modern revolutionary praxis'. Can you provide a link? (Preferably not to the sometimes unreadable Badiou himself.) Thanks.

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 17 2018 09:48

ZJW.

I do not have lists of Badiouan Maoists who follow his prescriptions, because I have better things to do, but what Badiou himself writes is very interesting. There is a good amount of Badiou on this in his writing and it dovetails nicely with what Endnotes argue. And also Hardt and Negri in their acclaim for the Cultural Revolution.

See:
My comment on this piece:
https://libcom.org/library/communism-attack-communism-withdrawal-marcel

then:
https://libcom.org/forums/north-america/maoism-american-left-22102016#comment-586525
and particularly
https://libcom.org/forums/north-america/maoism-american-left-22102016#comment-586577

Also check out the ‘post-Party’ organization Badiou works with:
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_politique

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 17 2018 09:49
Ugg wrote:
Tom Henry wrote:
The first is whether communism/socialism can be produced in ‘one country.’ The closest the world has come to a ‘world revolution’ was in the later stages and direct aftermath of WW1, but this was only in Europe. The first world war was a great calamity that opened up possibilities. The second world war did not produce the same instability in the ruling classes. Whether the fast-approaching ecological Armageddon will provide similar global ruling class instability to that witnessed in WW1 and, therefore, similar opportunities, is anyone’s guess.

I don't think socialism in one country is possible either but does it necessarily entail that any failed revolution should become authoritarian regimes? I understand that international market competition, trying to provide for everyone as well as political/military threats to a country are really difficult obstacles, especially in poor (and often unstable) countries where revolutions typically occur.

There is too much not said in your question to answer. So forgive me for breaking down the ‘problems’ I perceive in your paragraph above:

Firstly, if, as you say, socialism in one country is not possible, then how could it not entail that the ‘failed’ socialism would become authoritarian?
Secondly, when did the Russian Revolution fail? 1918? 1921? 1924? 1928? 1940? 1989?
Thirdly, how does a revolutionary society cooperate with international market competition?
Fourthly, how does a revolutionary society maintain a constant war with outside forces?
Fifthly, how does a revolutionary initiative maintain the revolution when a large percentage of the population do not immediately have the right theoretical tools and attitudes to ensure that capitalism does not creep, or flood, back in?

Tom Henry
Offline
Joined: 26-09-16
Oct 18 2018 05:01
Mike Harman wrote:
The idea that you have to persuade a majority of people of revolutionary consciousness prior to an event is what's being dismissed. A good piece by Glaberman on consciousness is here https://libcom.org/library/working-class-social-change-martin-glaberman. A very short version is that action and consciousness are inter-related, and people act in very contradictory ways.

For a long term view of what 'anarchist revolution' might look like an suggested strategy to get there, I would look at https://libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-class-struggle-solidarity-federation and also https://libcom.org/blog/insurrection-production-29082016

The first sentence above is incorrect, I am in no way arguing now, or ever previously, that “you have to persuade a majority of people of revolutionary consciousness prior to an event.”

Such an argument has no relation to events in history, but it might be what the SPGB argue (?).

Your ‘short version’ of the text: “that action and consciousness are inter-related, and people act in very contradictory ways,” does not do justice at all to his text, in which it is written, for example:

“An important distinction between teachers or social workers [and ‘college professors’] and manual workers is that workers manipulate things and teachers and social workers manipulate people. And although they are exploited and underpaid and should unionize and strike, they perform certain functions of control in this society which cannot be ignored by simply defining them as working class.”

And:

“Working class reality is a totality that goes far beyond the ordinary intellectual view of consciousness. The usual way to view consciousness is in terms of formal statement of belief. Unfortunately, or fortunately, in terms of the working class and its living reality, that simply does not work.”

But the disconnect between Glaberman’s insightful definition of an ‘organic,’ visceral, resisting, consciousness, formed by the ‘working class’ position of someone in society (very different to the consciousness of a ‘college professor’ who feels underpaid, undervalued, and overworked) and ‘revolutionary consciousness’ is to be found every time in the actual revolutionary event – when it does indeed come down to a question of ‘belief,’ and when the ‘college professors’ or intellectuals take charge because they know best.

It is at this time, then, that the leaders and experts of the revolution (the college professors, teachers, social workers, union bosses, and a whole host of other managers) complain that the consciousness of ‘the masses’ – essentially everyone who is not in ‘the party’ and saying the right things – is inadequate, and forceful educative and disciplinarian measures need to be taken to prevent everything being lost.

In the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks were alarmed that people kept bunking off work and going to discussions (see the interview with Lenin by Zetkin, for example) and that they weren’t pulling their worker weight. They worried that the momentum would be lost and capitalism would creep or flood back in. This is still a problem for revolutionaries today who discuss how people will be fed and who will take out the garbage etc in the revolutionary society. There is usually simply the hope that everyone will do the right thing and pull their weight because they will know what is best for them…

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Oct 27 2018 09:51
Quote:
Firstly, if, as you say, socialism in one country is not possible, then how could it not entail that the ‘failed’ socialism would become authoritarian?

1. Well for example even in a capitalist country it's possible for a business to be a co-operative or it could be run solely by a capitalist without even union representation. This doesn't mean that co-operatives don't find the choices they get to make restricted by the necessity to remain profitable. There can even be a difference in how authoritarian and violent a regime is between different so-called capitalist countries. For example I think it's arguable that 1930-40 Nazi Germany was at least a little more violent and authoritarian compared to the 1930s-40s United States.

I think that the profit motive, competition, conflict, etc. definitely encourages authoritarianism. But I'm not sure having a profit motive makes extreme levels of authoritarianism entirely unavoidable. For example from what I've read in Anarchist Spain they made some attempts to even make the military be run democratically.

I think trying to maintain profits in a country that was trying to operate under libertarian-communist principles would still lead to workers voting to accept poor working conditions, production plans they don't want and to maximize production with as little compensation for themselves as possible. They might also feel obliged to vote in favour of things that don't provide for their material needs like building a massive military because of outside threats. This is primarily what I mean about socialism in one country not being possible. We'd still be basically forced to do a lot of the things that we're forced to under capitalism.

There's also a danger that a society like this would want to vote for restrictions on access to goods and services or even punishments for people who aren't working or producing as much. There could also be a problem of dictatorship of the majority where for example the majority try to get a specific industry to adopt a production plan that people in those industries don't want. I'm also worried that dictatorships in the workplace and in society are capable of being more profitable in market competition and therefore there is an incentive for them to arise.

Quote:
Secondly, when did the Russian Revolution fail? 1918? 1921? 1924? 1928? 1940? 1989?

2. I would say that the Russian Revolution always had the problem that "socialism in one country" had. There never was an overnight worldwide switch to communism and so the issues that prevent socialism in one country existed all along for Russia.

Quote:
Thirdly, how does a revolutionary society cooperate with international market competition?

3.I don't know. I think it's possible to for example try to distribute resources more equally while still dealing with the negative affect of competition and crisises on the world market.

Quote:
Fourthly, how does a revolutionary society maintain a constant war with outside forces?

4.I don't know this either lol.

Quote:
Fifthly, how does a revolutionary initiative maintain the revolution when a large percentage of the population do not immediately have the right theoretical tools and attitudes to ensure that capitalism does not creep, or flood, back in?

5.I'm not sure about this either. But there are at least some organizations today that try to operate under libertarian-communist principles despite many people perhaps not sharing these views. I don't think that because these organizations aren't in power or have majority support means that they should then become authoritarian organizations.

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Nov 3 2018 03:27

Sorry for double posting but I'm re-reading parts of a book called "Was Stalin really necessary?" written by the historian Alec Nove. In the introduction he makes this argument:

Quote:
The case against the Bukharin line was of several different kinds. Firstly, free trade with the peasants could only provide adequate surpluses if the better-off peasants (i.e. those known as kulaks) were allowed to expand, since they were the most efficient producers and provided a large part of the marketable produce.

Yet all the Bolshevik leaders (including, despite momentary aberrations, Bukharin himself) found this ideologically and politically unacceptable. A strong group of independent, rich peasants was Stolypin's dream as a basis for Tsardom. It was the Bolsheviks' nightmare, as totally inconsistent in the long run with their rule or with a socialist transformation of 'petty-bourgeois' Russia. But this made the Bukharin approach of doubtful internal consistency. This was understood at the time by intelligent non-party men.

Thus the famous economist Kondratiev, later to perish in the purges, declared in 1927: 'If you want a higher rate of accumulation. . . then the stronger elements of the village must be allowed to exploit (the weaker)', in other words that the 'kulaks' must expand their holdings and employ landless labourers, The 'peasant nag' could not pull the cart; or it, and the peasant, would pull in the wrong direction.

I don't see how this would help at all. My understanding is that most poor peasants were resisting having to work harder and give up more of their food. In addition it also seems like maybe they wanted to run their lives and their farms the way they wanted and not in the way that made them maximally efficient for commodity production.

I don't see how introducing competition so that poorer farmers would have received even less compensation and would be forced to work harder would have helped at all. I almost feel like this is actually an extremely offensive explanation that is arguing the collectivization famines that occurred were basically the fault of the poorest peasants for being treated too well.

Does this makes sense to any of you? At the same time these anti-communist positions scare me as someone who wants to decrease inequality and get rid of market competition.

The only difference is I guess in this case Stalin wouldn't have brutally seized essentailly all of the peasants food supply and selling it on the world market (does anyone know how much was put on the world market, how much was brought into the cities?). Unless I'm mistaken many of the bolsheviks that supported collectivization thought the targets Stalin was aiming for were way too high.

Quote:
The Five Year Plans were initiated with no political preparations; the targets set for industry and agriculture alike were pitched at a ludicrously high level; far from aiming to reduce income differentials, such a policy was derided as a bourgeois prejudice. The result was that Russia was plunged into near-civil war, and huge quantities of crops and millions of animals were destroyed in reprisals against the Soviet government, events from which the Soviet economy has never fully recovered even to this day.

-From the Publisher's Introduction to "From NEP to Socialism" by E.A. Preobrazhensky
https://www.marxists.org/archive/preobrazhensky/1921/fromnep/pub-intro.html

meerov21
Online
Joined: 14-08-13
Dec 8 2018 03:57


Ugg
Did the peasants in the USSR oppose collectivization because of the brutal demands that were put on them like having to give up all their grain, being displaced or were there other reasons as well? Also how poor were peasants in comparison to people living in the cities?
I've read that collectivization in Anarchist Spain happened in a voluntary way and it didn't lead to mass starvation. Could have this been possible in places like the USSR?

In the USSR and Spain, the word "collectivization" was used in absolutely different ways. In Spain, this meant self-capture by the peasants of the land and property of the rich and the transformation of the village into a self-governing commune.

In the USSR of 1930-1934, the word "collectivization" meant the destruction of the rural collective (the community - "obshina"), the deprivation of all peasants of property, land and products of labor in favor of the state enterprise. This enterprise was called a "collective farm" ("kolkhoz"). But in fact, it was a state enterprise led by appointed superiors which forced the peasants to work for USSR state and took away their harvest.

An important addition. Collectivization 1930-1934 was not the only cause of hunger. The main reason for the famine was that the state took away the harvest from the peasants. This led to three Bolsheviks famines: in 1921 (5-10 million dead), 1932-1933 (5-8 million dead) and 1946-1947 (1-2 million dead). At the same time, the 30-40s in the USSR were the universe of famine: tens of millions of people were starving.

In addition, we do not know how many Russians died from the combination of hunger and overwork in 1941-1945 in the rear of the USSR during the war with Hitler. Some historians believe that millions, but this is still not clear.

Bolsheviks had no special purpose to kill the peasants. They wanted to create a super-centralized system of economic management and resource allocation, managed by the state bureaucracy. In addition, a significant part of the harvest was taken for a huge army, which could not produce anything for the peasants.

So this hunger is the result of the inefficiency of the central planning system of the economy. We see the same thing in China in 1959-1960, when, thanks to the economic activity of Mao Zedong, famine killed 35 millions.

But fundamentally, although there was no goal to kill the peasants, these famines killed many more people than the Holocaust.

P.S. By the way, I do not consider the Bolshevik system to be capitalist or state capitalist. I think It was a non-capitalist exploitative system. May be it was close to the "Asian mode of production". But this is another story. Most importantly, I gave the facts you asked about.

meerov21
Online
Joined: 14-08-13
Dec 8 2018 04:00

Economic criticism against Bolshevism and USSR

The System of the USSR was based on exploitation. The state apparatus owned factories and land, appropriated the results of the work of employees. Socialism is a libaration from exploitation. And the Soviet system was based on exploitation. That is, it was not socialism.

But how effective was the Bolshevik economic modernization of the country at the time of Lenin and Stalin? I invite everyone to pay attention to the latest scientific research.

I leave aside the question of whether capitalist modernization is good at all (personally, I tend to think of capitalist modernization as an unpleasant and dangerous process that should be replaced by a communitarian-councilist integral development of society). I want to draw attention to another issue: industrial growth and productivity growth.

According to modern studies of economists, prepared by a group of one of the leading Russian and European economists Sergei Guriev, the economic system of the USSR did not exceed the tsarist system. The Tsar's trend gave about the same results as Stalin's. On the other hand, the Bolshevik system has much more victims.

Guriev and his colleagues note that the tsarist system of economic modernization was ineffective in comparison with the development of the leading countries. Tsar Nicholai II severely restricted the establishment of joint-stock Companies, as he feared the increasing influence of foreigners, as well as Russian Jews, Germans and Poles on the domestic market. In addition, antitrust laws did not work in tsarist Russia.

However, according to modern scientific research, Stalin's industrial modernization did not exceed the ineffective Royal trend. Neither Lenin nor Stalin were effective managers in terms of economic development. In any case, they were no better than tsarist officials. But they were superior to the Royal bureaucracy in terms of the ability to retain control over society. You can read about it here:

https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/golosov/files/cggt_revision.pdf

meerov21
Online
Joined: 14-08-13
Dec 9 2018 18:42

Ugg i think it can be intrtesting for you

"The famine of 1936, the mass defeatism and anti-war sentiment in the USSR"
https://libcom.org/forums/history/famine-1936-mass-defeatism-anti-war-sentiment-ussr-10092016

Ugg's picture
Ugg
Offline
Joined: 17-08-17
Dec 10 2018 15:41

Meerov, Do you think that these problems would occur if instead of a centralized system they had a federated system trying to coordinate the economy and distribute according to need?

meerov21
Online
Joined: 14-08-13
Dec 10 2018 21:17

No. There was no famine in the Spanish Aragon and Barcelona, in 1936-1937, when experiments in the field of self-government were conducted there. I'll tell you more. Even in the areas of the white armies during the civil war in Russia there were no deaths from hunger of millions of people.