- Capitalism and Alternatives -

My own understanding ...

Posted by: Dr. Cruel on October 20, 1999 at 20:28:08:

In Reply to: Just did old chap... posted by Frenchy on October 20, 1999 at 17:50:20:

. Before I comment, two salient points should be made. For one, people do not risk their lives for causes that hold no merit in their eyes. The Nazis believed themselves in the right, just as much as the Bolsheviks did; both had a case to be made, and there is something to be said for the titanic conflicts of the 20th century having been pretty much responsible for resolving these disputes, at least in part. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was a well thought out affair - fear of European imperialism and racism, a feudalistic mindset, strongly held misconceptions about the nature of U.S. culture and the American psyche, all played a part (indeed; the Japanese miscalculated terribly vis a vis the Americans, but were right on the money in regards to Great Britain - their strikes against Singapore destroyed British naval power, and an India solely dependent on the support of the Commonwealth would have soon enough fallen into internal anarchy, as had China). The point is that the massive commitment of resources and manpower that war entails de facto presumes an issue that is very concrete and real to the parties involved. This is as applicable to Cuban revolutionaries as it is to Serbian (or Croatian, or Kosovarian) ethnic cleansers.

. The second is that communism does not a state make, nor does capitalism. These economic systems only regulate the nature in which commerce is conducted; the fact is that power in a state still needs to be wielded, the stark fact of the matter being that the methods in which this is conducted truly haven’t changed much in the last two or three millennium. Basically, some sort of leadership elite will inevitably coalesce from those that command the organs of power in society. Usually, that involves the professional military, whatever paramilitary forces might be active, the managers of whatever productive functions are conducted in the society, and then finally some elements that can command the imagination of large groups of people for one reason or another (celebrities, priests, etc.). Whoever commands the first usually forms the paradigm of government that gets codified into law (the paramilitaries having some influence, based on their combat capabilities; the production managers will have some say, in proportion to how much influence they might buy). This is the way that states are formed. Thus, the sorts of economic systems adopted by such states is virtually incidental, in that the practical system of economic activity ends up being feudal (especially in the brutal dictatorships common in Third World countries, where the productive parts of society are frequently highly concentrated in the urban areas).

. The three examples that come to my mind, Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua, seem to have followed the same model. First, there is an exceptionally productive, elitist and autocratic regime. Intelligent and ambitious individuals are frustrated in obtaining high status in such societies, and thus seek power by alternative means. Thus, someone like Nguyen Ai Quoc, a kitchen hand, ends up leading a revolution against the government. So also, someone like Mahatma Gandhi can be motivated by frustrated ambition and a personal and repressed hatred toward the English to lead a movement against the rulers of India (and, for similar reasons, express his support for Hitler in 1940, for similar reasons to why Castro adopted such a pro-Marxist philosophy in response to ample Russian military and economic aid). If there are enough disgruntled intellectuals, and if the regime is incompetent enough, it will fall.

. The next step, presuming that the governmental change occurs, is of an amateurish attempt by the new, inexperienced elite to put forth various hare-brained ideological theories into practice. The Articles of Confederation, the Bolshevik soviets and the SR, people like Che Guevara and Danton, all have their time in this short and chaotic period. Inevitably, the incompetent (and frequently criminal) programs and leadership during this period necessitates a second change of authority, which is made upof the most brutal and pragmatic of the new usurpers.

. Finally, the situation settles down to pre-war levels, as the new elites entrench themselves. This usually entails the reinstitution of the policies that caused the war in the first place (for similar reasons to why the old elite did so), although the new elite, being far less tradition-minded, can use those elements of their understanding of the current situation to improve the means by which such policies are executed and enforced. Thus, the success of Bolshevism does not lead to freedom from wage-slavery, but a more efficient means of extracting labor from a recalcitrant peasantry; the success of Castro necessitates the ouster of Guevara, leading to a more centralized and efficient means of brutalizing and domesticating the local Cuban workforce; the NVA, once assuming control of the South, built up their forces for an invasion of Cambodia, with the result being not a liberation of Indochina but a more orderly feudalization of it (with, in this case, order and obedience being apparently more important than productivity).

. The new elites will deny this to high heaven. To admit it is to de-legitimize their claims for authority and power. But the empirical evidence of such movements supports this verdict. When the locals have some say in how they are ‘managed’, they invariably choose to oust the managers in favor of as decentralized a government as the local situations will allow. This is what occurred in Nicaragua, where elections were allowed (not so much by the ‘benevolent’ Sandanistas, but via fear of the military might of the U.S. A similar technique has been use to bring some semblance of democracy to the states of the former Yugoslavia, a process of governance that the ex-communists in the region have shown an otherwise keen lack of support for). This is why the FMLN mined election sites in El Salvador. When such a choice is not allowed, due to a strong and vibrant military that supports the status quo, one arrives at something more similar to the situation in Vietnam, or Cuba.

. If one wishes to help people in the various dictatorships around the globe, a better plan of action ought to be arranged than that which is presently advocated by the Left. Supporting the varoius initiatives of the U.S. State Department is a good start; this organization has had a significantly better track record than the various and sundry pundits of liberal and socialist persuasions (Germany, Italy, Japan, etc. come to mind, also South Korea, and most recently the new states of the Balkans). In any case, ‘revolutionary action’ is very obviously a bad idea. An inductive approach in regards to this issue would presumably suffice to prove that point, unless one really believes that the Warsaw Pact had a better standard of living than Western Europe, or that the communists responsible for the situation there weren’t really serious about their stated Marxist views. And so on.

"Doc" Cruel

Follow Ups:


The Debating Room Post a Followup