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The Failur of the USSR

  1. Jun 2, 2005 #1


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    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.

    Last edited: Jun 3, 2005
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  3. Jun 2, 2005 #2
    #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:
    bill blum, who is much better informed than 99.99% of americans, quoted the international herald tribune:
    bill blum cont'd
    yet more bill blum
  4. Jun 2, 2005 #3


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    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.
  5. Jun 2, 2005 #4
    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?
  6. Jun 2, 2005 #5


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    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.
  7. Jun 2, 2005 #6


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    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.
  8. Jun 2, 2005 #7


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    Would you rather countries install governments expected to fail after ousting an existing government?
  9. Jun 2, 2005 #8


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    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.
  10. Jun 2, 2005 #9


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    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?


    Edit - Some have while I stepped away :redface:

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2005
  11. Jun 2, 2005 #10
    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
  12. Jun 3, 2005 #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.
  13. Jun 3, 2005 #12


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    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".
  14. Jun 3, 2005 #13


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    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.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2005
  15. Jun 3, 2005 #14
    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.
  16. Jun 3, 2005 #15


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    I've replied on a new thread as we have wandered away from the subject of this thread.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2005
  17. Jun 3, 2005 #16
    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.

    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:

    I will post some material on the historical reasons for the USSR's demise separately.
  18. Jun 3, 2005 #17
    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
    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:
    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.
    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?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2005
  19. Jun 3, 2005 #18
    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?
  20. Jun 3, 2005 #19
    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...

    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.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2005
  21. Jun 3, 2005 #20


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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."
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