- Capitalism and Alternatives -

In defense of the U.S.S.R.

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 29, 19100 at 22:31:24:

No criticism of the U.S.S.R. ever failed to mention that the history of the Soviet state was characterized by the restriction of individual freedom, imperialism, mass violence / terror, and slave labor. Who am I am to deny all this? It's all true.

I would nevertheless like to remind critics of the Soviet Union that the 'beacon of world democracy,' America, has in its history nothing less shameful. America's history is characterized by slave labor (Africans), ethnic genocide (Native American), rampant imperialism, and the restriction of individual freedom (indentured servitude, lack of political representation for women, etc., etc.).

History unequivocallyanything but democratic means. That has been the nature of all social revolutions.

'But America's crimes are all in the distant past!' cry defenders of America (and capitalism). What else could they invoke as justification?

But WHY did the 'distant past' produce the atrocities that we find so repellent today? Some people say it was the 'values of the times.' But what does that mean? Where did those values come from?

I strongly suggest that those values came from the technical immaturity of social production. I strongly suggest that those values came from the material fact that early capitalism in America could only exist by directly subjugating and slaughtering other races / classes. I strongly suggest that those values came from the economic underdevelopment of industrialization.

And in time, the social forces of production increased, permitting abundance to flourish. This, in turn, permitted more abundance to go around. The widespread material comfort, in turn, produced political revisions which allowed less repressions and exploitatations.

In short: the higher the level of production the higher the level of political (and cultural) freedom.

Note how long it took America to get from feudalism (1776) to where it is today.

Note also how quickly it took the U.S.S.R. to get from from feudalism (1917) to where it was (prior) to the capitalist counterevolution (1989).

By capital's standards, it took centuries to get from slave labor, ethnic genocide, and political repression to universal suffrage. By all accounts, the Soviet Union got there within a few decades.

Yes, things were terrible in the Soviet Union (especially between 1923 and 1955). If you were a black man in America (around 1850), however, you might say the Soviet Union was one hell of an improvement!

What I'm trying to draw attention to is the historical fact that ALL economic forms are characterized INITIALLY by the worst human rights violations conceivable. Who is to say that the Soviet Union would not have experienced the SAME sort of liberalism as America did after a long, bloody beginning? Why did we always compare the progess of the U.S.S.R. after only 70 years with the U.S. in the 20th century? It would have only been fair to compare the progress of the U.S.S.R. after 70 years with the U.S. at the time of 1846 (a time of slavery and ethnic cleansing)!

Now, here's the punch line.

A lot of quasi-socialist quacks in this debate room would rather defend a good (i.e. technologically abundant) capitalism against a bad communism (i.e. peasant underdevelopment). In my opinion, they miss the possibility that the very sort of communism they impugn would have flourished in time (especially if the capitalists weren't trying so hard to bankrupt them*).

But what these quasi-socialist quacks REALLY prefer is a 'socialism' that is nothing more than an esoteric construct. Is Lark's 'socialism' going to look like SDF's? Is NJ's 'socialism' going to look like Red Deathy's? No---they each have the LUXURY to dream up 'socialisms' that fit perfectly their PERSONAL desires. As Frenchy once observed, how can a procapitalist compete with an amorphous fantasy that changes each time its criticized?

To hell with that.

I'm going to say that, while I think most of communism's history in the 20th century was terrible, it was still better than capitalism at a comparable stage. While I'd like NOTHING BETTER than to see a peaceful revolution and a peaceful eradication of the private ownership of the means of production, I'm more than willing to see a few eggs broken if peace (for what class?) isn't possible in the interest of creating a society where the means of production belong to the workers and the capitalist expropriators are free to hit the road. The necessity of change is worth the upheaval: all revolutions have adhered to this central tenet.

Anyone who disagrees will be happy to know there's yet another chance to vote for some crook again this November. But remember this as well: OVER HALF the country is no longer buying the illusion. What's in the (long-term) future is anyone's guess.

Workers of the World Unite! Down with the Capitalist Enemy!


* As much as 30% of the Soviet Union's GNP was devoted to military expenditures in order to keep up with NATO's threat. Source: Gorbachev, On my Country and the World, Columbia University Press 2000, p. 172).

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