The Failur of the USSR

  • #1
russ_watters
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Main Question or Discussion Point

The Failure of the USSR

Varous discussions of Marxism/Socialism/Communism/Whatever always start with one person (often me) saying "Marxism doesn't work" followed immediately by someone responding with "Marxism has never been tried". The resulting discussion then goes to how the USSR (for example) did or did not adhere to Marx's vision, rather than actually discussing the failings of Marxism. So in this thread, I'm going to flip it over:

This is a thread about the failure of the USSR, not the failings of communism/socialism/Marxism themselves. Naturally, I am going to draw parallels, but I don't want to hear "Marxism has never been tried" - true or not, it isn't relevant. This is a thread about what, specifically, has been tried and what has failed (heck - even what has worked).

So for starters, we need to agree on the premise of this discussion. Here it is:

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Soviet system of government was therefore, de facto, a failure.

The purpose of this thread, then, is to discuss why. I have two very closely related reasons which I will put simply for now, then expand on later:

1. The USSR failed because its political/economic system did not adequately reward personal achievement. Ie, doctors, engineers, CEOs, etc. were not adequately rewarded for their skills, education, intelligence, - even luck - and the result was a culture of mediocrity which resulted in people performing to their level of reward instead of being rewarded for their level of performance. The result of that was a stagnant economy.

2. Coupled with that was the idea of forced equality of outcome. Besides not being adequately rewarded for achievment, doctors, engineers, businessmen, ect. saw those who did not achieve being given what they did not earn. Forcing equality where none exists results in tension, dissent, and defiance - which the USSR actively suppressed with secret police and passively suppressed with propaganda. The final straw on the camel's back was actually the failure of the propaganda to control the people.

Opinions?
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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#2 is roughly correct but i don't think it had a whole lot to do with why the soviet people would want/let their country break up. it's true that american propaganda is much more slick & furthermore it is much more efficient because people in the US truly believe that they are getting all the facts. soviet propaganda is/was very crude in comparison.

here's an excerpt from a review of the autobiography of Georgi Arbatov, head of the Moscow-based Institute for the Study of the U.S.A. and Canada:
"Arbatov understood all too well the failings of Soviet totalitarianism in comparison to the economy and politics of the West. It is clear from this candid and nuanced memoir that the movement for change had been developing steadily inside the highest corridors of power ever since the death of Stalin. Arbatov not only provides considerable evidence for the controversial notion that this change would have come about without foreign pressure, he insists that the U.S. military buildup during the Reagan years actually impeded this development."
bill blum, who is much better informed than 99.99% of americans, quoted the international herald tribune:
George F. Kennan agrees. The former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, and father of the theory of "containment" of the same country, asserts that "the suggestion that any United States administration had the power to influence decisively the course of a tremendous domestic political upheaval in another great country on another side of the globe is simply childish." He contends that the extreme militarization of American policy strengthened hard-liners in the Soviet Union. "Thus the general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union."
gorbachev:
It played no role. None. I can tell you that with the fullest responsibility. Gorbachev and I were ready for changes in our policy regardless of whether the American president was Reagan, or Kennedy, or someone even more liberal. It was clear that our military spending was enormous and we had to reduce it.
bill blum cont'd
Understandably, some Russians might be reluctant to admit that they were forced to make revolutionary changes by their arch enemy, to admit that they lost the Cold War. However, on this question we don't have to rely on the opinion of any individual, Russian or American. We merely have to look at the historical facts.
From the late 1940s to around the mid-1960s, it was an American policy objective to instigate the downfall of the Soviet government as well as several Eastern European regimes. Many hundreds of Russian exiles were organized, trained and equipped by the CIA, then sneaked back into their homeland to set up espionage rings, to stir up armed political struggle, and to carry out acts of assassination and sabotage, such as derailing trains, wrecking bridges, damaging arms factories and power plants, and so on. The Soviet government, which captured many of these men, was of course fully aware of who was behind all this.
Compared to this policy, that of the Reagan administration could be categorized as one of virtual capitulation. Yet what were the fruits of this ultra-tough anti-communist policy? Repeated serious confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union in Berlin, Cuba and elsewhere, the Soviet interventions into Hungary and Czechoslovakia, creation of the Warsaw Pact (in direct reaction to NATO), no glasnost, no perestroika, only pervasive suspicion, cynicism and hostility on both sides. It turned out that the Russians were human after all -- they responded to toughness with toughness. And the corollary: there was for many years a close correlation between the amicability of US-Soviet relations and the number of Jews allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union. (28) Softness produced softness.
If there's anyone to attribute the changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to, both the beneficial ones and those questionable, it is of course Mikhail Gorbachev and the activists he inspired. It should be remembered that Reagan was in office for over four years before Gorbachev came to power, and Thatcher for six years, but in that period of time nothing of any significance in the way of Soviet reform took place despite Reagan's and Thatcher's unremitting malice toward the communist state.
yet more bill blum
Post-Cold War, New-World-Order time, it looks good for the military-Industrial- Intelligence Complex and their global partners in crime, the World Bank and the IMF. They've got their NAFTA, and soon their World Trade Organization. They're dictating economic, political and social development all over the Third World and Eastern Europe. Moscow's reaction to events anywhere is no longer a restraining consideration. The UN's Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations, 15 years in the making, is dead. Everything in sight is being deregulated and privatized. Capital prowls the globe with a ravenous freedom it hasn't enjoyed since before World War I, operating free of friction, free of gravity. The world has been made safe for the transnational corporation.
Will this mean any better life for the multitudes than the Cold War brought? Any more regard for the common folk than there's been since they fell off the cosmic agenda centuries ago? "By all means," says Capital, offering another warmed-up version of the "trickle down" theory, the principle that the poor, who must subsist on table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich bigger meals.
The boys of Capital, they also chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope that no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century -- without exception -- has either been crushed, overthrown, or invaded, or corrupted, perverted, subverted, or destabilized, or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one socialist government or movement -- from the Russian Revolution to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, from Communist China to the FMLN in Salvador -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home.
It's as if the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Man shall never fly.
 
  • #3
selfAdjoint
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russ_watters said:
Varous discussions of Marxism/Socialism/Communism/Whatever always start with one person (often me) saying "Marxism doesn't work" followed immediately by someone responding with "Marxism has never been tried". The resulting discussion then goes to how the USSR (for example) did or did not adhere to Marx's vision, rather than actually discussing the failings of Marxism. So in this thread, I'm going to flip it over:

This is a thread about the failure of the USSR, not the failings of communism/socialism/Marxism themselves. Naturally, I am going to draw parallels, but I don't want to hear "Marxism has never been tried" - true or not, it isn't relevant. This is a thread about what, specifically, has been tried and what has failed (heck - even what has worked).

So for starters, we need to agree on the premise of this discussion. Here it is:

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Soviet system of government was therefore, de facto, a failure.

The purpose of this thread, then, is to discuss why. I have two very closely related reasons which I will put simply for now, then expand on later:

1. The USSR failed because its political/economic system did not adequately reward personal achievement. Ie, doctors, engineers, CEOs, etc. were not adequately rewarded for their skills, education, intelligence, - even luck - and the result was a culture of mediocrity which resulted in people performing to their level of reward instead of being rewarded for their level of performance. The result of that was a stagnant economy.

2. Coupled with that was the idea of forced equality of outcome. Besides not being adequately rewarded for achievment, doctors, engineers, businessmen, ect. saw those who did not achieve being given what they did not earn. Forcing equality where none exists results in tension, dissent, and defiance - which the USSR actively suppressed with secret police and passively suppressed with propaganda. The final straw on the camel's back was actually the failure of the propaganda to control the people.

Opinions?
In my opinion the USSR failed not for any of these "bourgeois" (as they would have said) reasons but because they failed to solve the allocation problem. This is the problem of finding the optimum allocation of society's resources to the different categories of effort. In western countries this is done by the market, and it is one of the greatest good points about the market.

Nearly every country has experimented, perhaps in wartime like the US, with other means of allocation, such as by human analysis. This does work when the options are limited, as in wartime, but it fails utterly in the complex situations that arise at other times.

And this is the reason the USSR used five year plans based on "overtaking and surpassing" the west. They had to model their effort on the west's allocations because they had no adequate internal method of allocation themselves. And when the west's technological spurt started, the USSR me-too methodology came completely unhinged. The whole thing just gradually collapsed.
 
  • #4
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I think that the most important thing that lead to the failure of the USSR is the authoritarian nature of its government. Like any authoritarian form of government, the leaders are not selected based on merit, and those in power have no responsibility to the people, so they abuse their power at the expense of the people. The majority of the country was enslaved by the government to meet their unrealistic production quotas. The money and capital that the government gained from this slave labor often went to spruce up their big urban centers so they'd have good propaganda images to use, or to fund things like the Cosmonaut program, which was totally wasteful in light of how much the majority of the people in the country were suffering.

Russ, do you honestly think disgruntled doctors and lawyers were more important to the downfall of the USSR than was the fact that the government was responsible for the deaths of about 30 million of it's own citizens?
 
  • #5
Art
Why do countries that espouse capitalism and democracy care if another country wants to experiment with a different system? Personally I live (quite happily) in a capitalist system but it does not bother me in the least that Albania for example has chosen communism. Why not just leave them to get on with it? If it doesn't work they'll eventually abandon it and if it does work good luck to them.
Perhaps some of the proponents of capitalism and democracy on here would explain why they feel it necessary to force their ideals and principles on other sovereign states? In fact it seems strange that the USA should forcibly export this system to other regions around the world whilst their own presidential elections are based on an electoral college system whereby the guy with the most votes can lose as happened to Al Gore, which hardly seems democratic.
 
  • #6
Pengwuino
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Art said:
In fact it seems strange that the USA should forcibly export this system to other regions around the world whilst their own presidential elections are based on an electoral college system whereby the guy with the most votes can lose as happened to Al Gore, which hardly seems democratic.
The system was put in place so that politicians would not make hte federal government work entirely for the big cities. This allows smaller, rural counties to have the government also work for them. Imagine how little attention farming communities would get when it comes to subsidies if there vote didnt matter. In our system, however, they get better representation because of how the system is setup which means farmers and people in small cities dont get forget and left behind in Washington.
 
  • #7
Hurkyl
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Perhaps some of the proponents of capitalism and democracy on here would explain why they feel it necessary to force their ideals and principles on other sovereign states?
Would you rather countries install governments expected to fail after ousting an existing government?
 
  • #8
Art
Hurkyl said:
Would you rather countries install governments expected to fail after ousting an existing government?
And if they do, so what? Providing they are not threatening anybody else then it's entirely their own business. If they are a military threat then that is a completely different discussion which has nothing to do with their system of government. This idea that forcing democracy on countries prevents belligerence is nonsense. The biggest threat to the most countries both in word and deed since the second world war has been the USA and they are a democracy.
This attitude of we will reform you or kill you for your own good is reminiscent of the european inquisition during the middle ages.
 
  • #9
GENIERE
Is anyone going to respond to:

"On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Soviet system of government was therefore, de facto, a failure...The purpose of this thread, then, is to discuss why. I have two very closely related reasons which I will put simply for now, then expand on later:"

or quote liberals quoting communists or communists quoting liberals or both bashing the US or Bush or each other?

:rolleyes:

Edit - Some have while I stepped away :redface:

...
 
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  • #10
740
13
Art said:
Why do countries that espouse capitalism and democracy care if another country wants to experiment with a different system? Personally I live (quite happily) in a capitalist system but it does not bother me in the least that Albania for example has chosen communism. Why not just leave them to get on with it? If it doesn't work they'll eventually abandon it and if it does work good luck to them.
Perhaps some of the proponents of capitalism and democracy on here would explain why they feel it necessary to force their ideals and principles on other sovereign states? In fact it seems strange that the USA should forcibly export this system to other regions around the world whilst their own presidential elections are based on an electoral college system whereby the guy with the most votes can lose as happened to Al Gore, which hardly seems democratic.
it was all about US domination. look at what has happened in latin america in the last 6-8 years; there are socialist governments all over now, and the US is losing their influence. all throughout the cold war the US didn't allow any of those countries to take an independent path and now that people are seeing what castro has done in cuba & chavez has done in venezuela they want their own governments to do similar things. the US has hated castro so much because he provided the threat of a good example for other countries in the region. look at the last quote by bill blum.

"our fear that communism will take over the world blinds us to the fact that anti-communism already has." -- michael parenti
 
  • #11
We didn't go after Russia solely for their political ideology. The russians were spying on us even during WWII while we were allies. Hitler was against communism and trumpeted it as one of the evils of the world right along with the jews. Countries formerly under Russia even fought against Russia on the side of the Nazis due to their hate for communism. Perhaps had Russia not been working against us even while we called them allies we would have left them alone to do their thing.
Though we did probably go too far in campaigning against communism with the whole McCarthy Era.
 
  • #12
Hurkyl
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And if they do, so what? Providing they are not threatening anybody else then it's entirely their own business.
You misunderstood. I was saying:

Country X ousts the government of country Y. Country X then installs a government. Why should X install a government that is expected to fail, rather than one expected to work?

But you seem to be suggesting precisely that. -- Country X leaves country Y in anarchy, and that's not generally viewed as a viable "government".
 
  • #13
Art
Hurkyl said:
You misunderstood. I was saying:

Country X ousts the government of country Y. Country X then installs a government. Why should X install a government that is expected to fail, rather than one expected to work?

But you seem to be suggesting precisely that. -- Country X leaves country Y in anarchy, and that's not generally viewed as a viable "government".
I think you misunderstand me. I'm saying that country X should leave country Y alone in the first place.
The last time countries X established governments in countries Y they called the outcomes the USSR and the British Empire.
 
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  • #14
502
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Art said:
The biggest threat to the most countries both in word and deed since the second world war has been the USA and they are a democracy.
This attitude of we will reform you or kill you for your own good is reminiscent of the european inquisition during the middle ages.
I advise you to look at the cynical and biased nature of your post which has been provided without ANY justification.

Odds are, without the USA, you might have been slaving under Communism. Hate me for saying it but it's true.
 
  • #15
Art
sid_galt said:
I advise you to look at the cynical and biased nature of your post which has been provided without ANY justification.

Odds are, without the USA, you might have been slaving under Communism. Hate me for saying it but it's true.
I've replied on a new thread as we have wandered away from the subject of this thread.
 
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  • #16
alexandra
russ_watters said:
This is a thread about the failure of the USSR, not the failings of communism/socialism/Marxism themselves. Naturally, I am going to draw parallels, but I don't want to hear "Marxism has never been tried" - true or not, it isn't relevant. This is a thread about what, specifically, has been tried and what has failed (heck - even what has worked).

So for starters, we need to agree on the premise of this discussion. Here it is:

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Soviet system of government was therefore, de facto, a failure.
Agreed - ok, let's discuss this: the 'failure' of the USSR. But it's going to be a long, protracted, complex discussion if we aim to seriously discuss this issue in full: to properly understand a situation, we have to explore its history and all the important variables that contributed to significant developments.

russ_watters said:
The purpose of this thread, then, is to discuss why. I have two very closely related reasons which I will put simply for now, then expand on later:

1. The USSR failed because its political/economic system did not adequately reward personal achievement. Ie, doctors, engineers, CEOs, etc. were not adequately rewarded for their skills, education, intelligence, - even luck - and the result was a culture of mediocrity which resulted in people performing to their level of reward instead of being rewarded for their level of performance. The result of that was a stagnant economy.

2. Coupled with that was the idea of forced equality of outcome. Besides not being adequately rewarded for achievment, doctors, engineers, businessmen, ect. saw those who did not achieve being given what they did not earn. Forcing equality where none exists results in tension, dissent, and defiance - which the USSR actively suppressed with secret police and passively suppressed with propaganda. The final straw on the camel's back was actually the failure of the propaganda to control the people.

Opinions?
In my opinion, there were many reasons for the 'failure' of the USSR. I'm assuming that by 'failure' we mean its transformation from the deformed workers' state that it was to the 'free market economy' model of 'democratic freedom' that it is now? I disagree with your above analysis of 'why' on the grounds that it is too simplistic, and I would also argue that your first point (the 'culture of mediocrity' argument) is false.

In other threads I have pointed out that the USSR 'produced' a number of very talented intellectuals in many different areas (the sciences as well as the arts). Even under one of the worst dictators the world has seen (Stalin), even under the most deformed form of 'state socialism', the Russian people benefited immensely both materially and in the educational opportunities they achieved:

Stalin's industrial policies largely improved living standards for the majority of the population, although the debated mortality levels resulting from Stalinist policies taints the Soviet record.
Employment, for instance, rose greatly; 3.9 million per year was expected by 1923, but the number was actually an astounding 6.4 million. By 1937, the number rose yet again, to about 7.9 million, and in 1940 it was 8.3 million. Between 1926 and 1930, the urban population increased by 30 million.

Because the industrial workers needed to be educated, the number of schools increased. In 1927, 7.9 million students attended 118,558 schools. This number rose to 9.7 million students and 166,275 schools by 1933. In addition, 900 specialist departments and 566 institutions were built and functioning by 1933.3
The Soviet people also benefited from a degree of social liberalization. Females were given an adequate, equal education and women had equal rights in employment, precipitating improving lives for women and families. Stalinist development also contributed to advances in health care, which vastly increased the lifespan for the typical Soviet citizen and the quality of life. Stalin's policies granted the Soviet people universal access to health care and education, allowing this generation to be the first not to fear typhus, cholera, and malaria. The occurrences of these diseases dropped to record-low numbers, increasing life spans by decades.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1927-1953)#The_Great_Purges
I will post some material on the historical reasons for the USSR's demise separately.
 
  • #17
alexandra
russ_watters said:
On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Soviet system of government was therefore, de facto, a failure.

The purpose of this thread, then, is to discuss why. Opinions?
I'd like to draw your attention to some important general points fourier jr has made already in this thread because they provide the historical background we need to take into account if we really want to understand what happened and why it happened: quoting bill blum, fourier posted
From the late 1940s to around the mid-1960s, it was an American policy objective to instigate the downfall of the Soviet government as well as several Eastern European regimes. Many hundreds of Russian exiles were organized, trained and equipped by the CIA, then sneaked back into their homeland to set up espionage rings, to stir up armed political struggle, and to carry out acts of assassination and sabotage, such as derailing trains, wrecking bridges, damaging arms factories and power plants, and so on. The Soviet government, which captured many of these men, was of course fully aware of who was behind all this. -…every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century -- without exception -- has either been crushed, overthrown, or invaded, or corrupted, perverted, subverted, or destabilized, or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one socialist government or movement -- from the Russian Revolution to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, from Communist China to the FMLN in Salvador -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home.
It's as if the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Man shall never fly.
I also located more historical information on the role the USSR's enemies and historical events played in weakening the Soviet Union, right from the very inception of the Soviet state:
…supporters of the Tsarist regime broke out in revolt, resulting in years of all-out civil war, which lasted until 1922. Known as the "whites," these forces were aided by Western intervention. Allied armies led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, seeking to prevent the spread of Communism or Russia's exit from the war effort, attempted to invade the Soviet Union and support forces hostile to the Bolsheviks with the intention of overthrowing the Soviet regime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union#The_Russian_Revolution
By the way, Lenin's "Socialism and War" (full text available at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/s+w/index.htm) explains why Russia exited from the first world war.
And...
World War II resulted in enormous destruction of infrastructure and populations throughout Eurasia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, with almost no country left unscathed. The Soviet Union was especially scathed due to the mass destruction of the industrial base that it had built up in the 1930s. The only major industrial power in the world to emerge intact, and even greatly strengthened from an economic perspective, was the United States.

Lasting Russian mistrust stemmed from the landing of U.S. troops in Soviet Russia in 1918, which became becoming involved, directly and indirectly, in assisting the anti-Bolshevik Whites in the civil war.
In addition, the Soviets never forgot their requests that the United States and Britain open a second front on the European continent; but the Allied invasion did not occur until June 1944, more than two years after the Soviets had demanded it. In the meantime, the Russians suffered horrendous casualties, as high as twenty million dead, and the Soviets were forced to withstand the brunt of German strength. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1927-1953)#The_Great_Purges
Russ, do you acknowledge that the Soviet Union was not 'left to its own devices', and that the 'western powers' actively tried to destabilise it and make sure it could not succeed?
 
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  • #18
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The rule of Stalin was the most brutal the world has ever seen. 30 million of his citizens were killed by his government. Another 35 million were killed 'fighting' the nazis. He sent peasants armed with pitchforks against the nazi machine guns. That makes 65 million in total dead due to the soviet regieme. The current population in russia is now 140 million. How can this not have an effect?
 
  • #19
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yeah & after WWI russia was crippled like few other countries have ever been. & yet they were supposed to have the capacity to take over the world? doesn't make sense...

plus said:
The rule of Stalin was the most brutal the world has ever seen. 30 million of his citizens were killed by his government. Another 35 million were killed 'fighting' the nazis. He sent peasants armed with pitchforks against the nazi machine guns. That makes 65 million in total dead due to the soviet regieme. The current population in russia is now 140 million. How can this not have an effect?
there were 8.5 million killed in the military & ~16 million civilians. i've never heard stalin killing 30 million of his own people; the highest believable estimate is about 10 million. (not that it makes it ok) i've also never heard that stalin sent peasants armed with pitchforks to fight the nazis with their machineguns. what i have heard before is that the soviet union made the biggest sacrifice by far to defeat germany. the fighting on the western front wasn't much compared with what the soviets had to deal with.
 
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  • #20
selfAdjoint
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Alexandra, the western nations, led by the US, certainly did everything they could to weaken the USSR, but the question is, how much did that actualy amount to? By the time of Kissinger, the US was trading with them, and when Senator "Scoop" Jackson introduced an amendment to the trading bill to make it contind=gent on the USSR allowing free emigration to its citizens, that was vigorously resisted in the US goverment. So this scenario of nefarious enemies bringing down the Soviet Union is largely a fantasy. Likewise your employment figures are moot because they have no denominators, of course emplyment increased as the population increased after WWII. Total employment is one of the features of state capitalism: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."
 
  • #21
alexandra
plus said:
The rule of Stalin was the most brutal the world has ever seen. 30 million of his citizens were killed by his government. Another 35 million were killed 'fighting' the nazis. He sent peasants armed with pitchforks against the nazi machine guns. That makes 65 million in total dead due to the soviet regieme. The current population in russia is now 140 million. How can this not have an effect?
Agreed, plus. Stalin's rule was devastating and definitely contributed significantly not only to the later collapse of the Soviet Union, but also to many misconceptions people hold about what socialism really is. Right from the very beginning, there was a very strong internal opposition (called the 'Left Opposition') to Stalin's rule. The most significant leader of this opposition was Leon Trotsky, who Stalin first exiled (Trotsky was too popular in Russia for Stalin to imprison or kill) then got his KGB henchmen to assassinate while Trotsky lived in exile in Chile.

To really understand the demise of the Soviet Union (and that the Left Opposition to Stalin understood how dangerous he was from the start), anyone interested should read Trotsky's works on this issue. The most important work by Trotsky on this issue is "The Revolution Betrayed", and the full text of this work may be accessed online at http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1936-rev/index.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #22
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right around the time when corporations got going was the russian revolution, and people on the left criticised them both for the same reasons. people like emma goldman said that the instutions would become less about the people who participate in them (shareholders in corporations, citizens in the USSR) and more about the leadership, or the upper class at the top. right away they knew that it would happen, and that's exactly what did happen. i bet some trade unions work the same way.
 
  • #23
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One reason for their fall not mentioned (as far as I could tell) is the failure of their agricultural system to provide adequate cereal crop to support their population. They bought wheat for many years. This cannot continue for any length of time without a major impact. Failure of agriculture is a contributing factor in the fall of many great civilizations including Rome and possibly the Mayans.
 
  • #24
alexandra
selfAdjoint said:
Alexandra, the western nations, led by the US, certainly did everything they could to weaken the USSR, but the question is, how much did that actualy amount to?
The fact that the USSR had to invest so much into arming itself to defend itself in the 'Cold War' detracted from its ability to build a more people-oriented society. Investment in armaments (not only in the USSR - also in our 'advanced' capitalist societies today) must always (logically) diminish resources that could otherwise be used for social/human development. Well, it seems logical to me...

selfAdjoint said:
By the time of Kissinger, the US was trading with them, and when Senator "Scoop" Jackson introduced an amendment to the trading bill to make it contind=gent on the USSR allowing free emigration to its citizens, that was vigorously resisted in the US goverment. So this scenario of nefarious enemies bringing down the Soviet Union is largely a fantasy.
'Nefarious enemies' was not the sole factor I listed - but my understanding is that enemies were a significant contributing factor.

Social life is complex - no one factor is sufficient to explain events. I am arguing that if we are really, seriously investigating this issue then we will have to pay attention to all the significant variables involved. Much as it would be nice to simplify history and say things like 'the First World War happened because Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated', or 'the Second World War happened because the madman Hitler wanted to kill all Jews', historical events are complex and we can only understand them if we are prepared to investigate them properly and in depth.

Likewise your employment figures are moot because they have no denominators, of course emplyment increased as the population increased after WWII. Total employment is one of the features of state capitalism: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."
Well, my figures are pre-WWII. Also, one needs to take into account Russia's immediate pre-history to the period concerned:
During World War I, Tsarist Russia experienced famine and economic collapse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union#The_Russian_Revolution
In other words, what the Russian people achieved straight after the revolution was significant. It's not as if they had a huge industrial base to begin with, and the war had taken its toll on the industries that existed. War is expensive both materially in that it drains societies of vital resources and, of course, socially in the senseless death and destruction it wreaks.
 
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  • #25
Informal Logic
The right-wing in the US currently consists of three major groups. The religious right, neocons, and "free market" special interests.

Personally, I believe that in a true free market the world would be run by one large monopoly (I'll just use the name "Wal-Mart" for the parent company, and for a little humor). I see no difference between living at a subsistence level in a state-run economy versus being a wage slave for a private entity like Wal-Mart. As such, I am not in favor of this philosophy, and the resulting increase in desire for open borders, free trade agreements, removal of regulations/taxes on business, etc. I am critical of the negative effects this has on the labor force, because I believe in time this would destroy the middle class and ultimately democracy.

However, just because I (or other members) criticize this current right-wing trend, or may even point to some legitimate conclusions made by Marx does not mean I am pro-communist. Right-wing people tend to see everything in an either-or way, always pointing to the evil USSR to defend their perspective (or should I say indoctrination).

To see current schools of thought you can to to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_trade, which indicates topics for more constructive discussion.
 
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