And I have no idea what the answer is, or even if an answer exists. But I belong to the opportunist group to which you called above, the only problem being my opportunism is either 60 years too late or 60 years too early. Go figure.
Here's my reply:
DAVE: Alright, I am a little tired while writing this so take agrammatical and spelling mistakes with a grain of salt. I'll try to stick to my usualy brevity.
I'll save some of that salt for you. Take a fistful for my answers. That and a shot of tequila.
: When Marx was espousing communism and revolution (when wasn't he?!) he predicted that revolution would be more likely to occur in highly industrialised, civilized nations. It is for this reason that he thought that Britain would be the first to throw off the shackles of the bourgeoisie and start a dictatorship of the proletariat. The complete opposite of this has occurred, however. Russia, which was a semi-feudal quasi-asiatic/quasi-european mass that was tended almost entirely by subsistence farming peasents revolted. The same occurred in Korea, Vietnam, China, Cuba, et al. Many of these countries were not industrialised and had a lot of internal strife.
I'm not a big Marxologist, but from what I've read of him I don't think he would have been a Marxist determinist as I've heard many people being (Okay,these 'people' are professors--you got me.) That is, it's a common academic refrain that "Marx never meant communism to come to Russia!"
Well, my Penguin Classic version of the Communist Manifesto has Marx's preface to the Russian translation as asking this very same question, and his his answer is somewhat diffident. With apologies to those who don't like long passages, I will quote it now:
"The Communist Manifesto," Marx wrote, "had as its object the proclamation of the inevitably impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face to face with the rapidly developing capitalist swindle and bourgeois landed property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian "obshchina," though greatly undermined, yet a form of theprimeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?"
"The only answer to that possible today is this," Marx and Engels concluded, "If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development."
I'm no expert, but this is pretty much in line with Lenin's program as I understand it.He was hoping there'd be revolutions in the major industrial countries--a revolution which, as we all know, never happened.
DAVE WROTE: This brings me to a comment that I head from my [socialist] uncle, which as basically that revolutions are made by the middle class. If the middle class is happy, revolution will inevitably fail unless it is a military coup. However, as soon as middle class children start starving and families get sick and die from curable diseases, the atmosphere is charged with sentiments of revolution.
: As Stoller as stated many times, socialism is predicated upon the wealth and industrialization of capitalism, so that it can create enough abundance for all of society. This would explain why all the aforementioned countries quickly slipped into dictatorships as the promised abundance never came to fruition.
: So, essentially what I am asking is how you would explain the following trend? Why don't people try to institute communism/socialism in times of abundance and affluency (remember that the height of the Communist movement in the U.S. was during the Great Depression) instead opting for times of little abundance and general depression? Is this just a case of people acting irresponsibally or is it psychological? What do you guys think of all this?
This is very close to what I ask myself, and my answer is two-fold: A) I have no fucking idea; and B) times of abundance buy off a significant segment of the population thereby pushing revolutionary activity off the radar screen.
I have a friend (liberal on some issues, but he ain't no sociaist!) who owns a restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, which is one of the most beautiful and most touristy places on earth. Two years ago, I had a conversation with him that I still remember.
Let me just tell you that I like this guy, I enjoy his company, but he's no great social philosopher. But we go mountain-biking together. Our kids are the same age. He smokes grass. This is about all I need in a friend, okay?
So, hell, I like him. But there are certain things which I can't talk to him about, and politics is one of them. Still, sometimes he has flashes of brilliance despite. One time we were sitting out looking over the red canyons smoking a doobie and he told me, "You know, in Sedona, there are three types of people: the workers, the rich and the merchants. The workers are fine. They'll never give you any trouble. The rich people are fine, too, as long as you don't step on their property. But the merchants! Man, the merchants will fuck you up the ass before you know what hit you. They're the ones you have to watch out for . . .Is that joint all done?"
I's laughing like steam train on double time, because what he said was so damn true.
I think the general pattern in America is the MASSIVE anti-communist propaganda that one sees EVERYWHERE, from the news to the entertainment to the schools and the family. Then, there's the additional narcissism which the entire culture encourages, and this narcissism comprises consumerism but goes beyond it. Of course, there's the vulgar versions of Buy the right shoes, Buy the right car, Buy the right house, Buy the right wife, but that's so easy to lampoon I won't even start.
Added to this consumerism is the fetishized, ahistorical, asocietal notions of "self."
I'm talking here of the Personal Growth Industry: "I'm a shit husband because my father was a shit alcoholic and I hate that bastard for never telling me he loved me!"; "My husband is a shit and it's all because of my father who my mother left but then she fucked around in bars so that's why I do it,too"; "I'm a fuck-up because my mother never loved me and I'm the fourth in a family of five and that's always the number of the receptacle of the family's pain" . . .
Need I go on?
So, in general, I think there are two themes in the popular media which prop up capitalism. The first is capitalist triumphalism , the second is narcissism.
The result of the first is the notion of "Well, capitalism sucks, but what could be better?" The result of the second is the notion of, "If there are things wrong in my life, I have to look to MY OWN past to find out where I went wrong. Or, easier done, who WRONGED ME?
Triumphalism and Narcissism, the two prongs of psychological warfare against revolution.