"It never really got a chance..."

Thoughts on socialism and leftism generally

"It never really got a chance..."

Postby Elliott » 12 Aug 2011, 01:25

Today I had a rather alarming experience at work and it's inspired me to start this thread.

To cut a long story short, I work in a second-hand bookshop. A book had been donated called Differently Literate, regarding "new" ways to teach language to schoolchildren. I was leafing through this book, each page seeming to be another insult to common sense. As I prepared to put the book down, I had the following conversation with an older colleague (German lady in her 50s)...

ME: Communists...
SHE: What about Communists?
ME: Well I think they're nuts...
SHE: How many have you met?
ME: I've met one or two... It's more what they write that I think is nuts...
SHE: Well. Maybe you should keep an open mind.
ME: Why... you're not a Communist are you?
Long silence. At this point I hoped I was getting the wrong end of the stick, and said, laughing...
ME: I never had you down as a Communist!
Long silence. I was mortified.
ME: Oh.
Still silence.
ME: Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you.
SHE: Honestly. You'd think being a Communist was like being a murderer.

I had behaved rashly, but in my defence this is only the second or third time I've met someone who self-identified as a Communist. They are extremely rare. Plus, I've been working with this lady for about six months now, and even though she's a bit "odd", a bit of a misfit, and lacking in common sense and understanding of people, it had never occurred to me that she would be so "far out" as to be a Communist.

The above conversation ended (incredibly awkwardly), and for an hour I was desperate to apologise to her. She's a fragile woman and I was concerned. Anyway I eventually caught up with her and broached the subject. Here's what she said:

Communism never got a chance. And Stalin gave it a bad name, of course... But nobody ever dares say a word against Lenin, because they could dig deep and they'd never find anything bad. But it never really got a chance to work out. Big capitalist countries with their trade embargoes stopped Communist countries from working. They couldn't let it succeed.


Her delusions about Lenin aside, I wonder: did Communism really get a fair trial? Is a few decades long enough for a system which Marx himself said would take 1000 years to succeed?

And also, has anyone else had experiences like mine today, where somebody you thought was fairly normal turned out to be a Communist? (I can tell you this. It's a strange feeling!)
Elliott
 
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Damo » 12 Aug 2011, 12:28

Elliott, the problem with communism is that it looks and sounds great on paper but in practise, it never works.

Look at all the communist countries including Eastern European ones and see how much they have failed.

People might point out China but China's success (so far) is based on western style capitalism. As well as that, the Chinese are implementing capitalism with more success than Western nations.

Finally, you said you may have offended the lady. That wasn't your intention, so the best thing would be to just leave it unless she brings it up again.
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Mike » 12 Aug 2011, 12:44

Damo wrote:People might point out China but China's success (so far) is based on western style capitalism. As well as that the Chinese are implementing capitalism with more success than Western nations.


What constantly fills me with awe about the Chinese character is that, despite the variety of 20th century horrors they endured - reaching the nadir in the Cultural Revolution - the Confucian values of hard work and devotion to family were ingrained in them so deeply that even the worst excesses of Mao's regime couldn't completely destroy them. And now China is reaching a position of global supremacy on the back of them.

I notice that TD never has much to say about China...would be interesting to gauge his opinion on its recent growth. In my opinion (having been there a few times), they have some tough social upheavals ahead, as the populace start to catch their collective breath and realise how many ridiculous lies their government is telling them (all geared towards maintaining the fiction that theirs is a socialist state), but I think they will be able to ride it out.
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby George » 12 Aug 2011, 14:37

If you're interested in China you might like http://www.chinasmack.com/ .

It takes popular blog posts from the PRC and translates them along with some of the more interesting comments that people have left. It's surprising how disenchanted they are with their government.

This one is particularly interesting: “If The United States Attacked China, I Would Surrender”
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Rachel » 12 Aug 2011, 15:42

Communism never got a chance. And Stalin gave it a bad name, of course... But nobody ever dares say a word against Lenin, because they could dig deep and they'd never find anything bad. But it never really got a chance to work out. Big capitalist countries with their trade embargoes stopped Communist countries from working. They couldn't let it succeed.

[/quote]

How about North Korea?
Has that had a chance?

Curiously, Lenin near the end of his rein realised that bolshevik control of the economy was not working so he took steps to dismantle the controls, except that he died and was replaced by Stalin before serious reform took place in the Soviet Union. Lenin called his plan for partial de-bolshevikation of the economy the "New Economic Plan".
So the lady is wrong.
Rachel
 
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby John » 13 Aug 2011, 22:19

Big capitalist countries with their trade embargoes stopped Communist countries from working. They couldn't let it succeed.


This really is the most absurd excuse. Communism predicts that capitalist countries are bound to attempt to attack 'socialist' countries. Marxist theory predicts this must happen. If communism cannot succeed in the face of such attacks then by definition it cannot succeed.

Of course if communism really were a better economic system it would be able to overcome such attacks, perhaps by having a counter-embargo for example. It isn't of course so people have to keep coming up with excuses to explain why it never works.
John
 
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Elliott » 13 Aug 2011, 23:13

Something interesting has just occurred to me. (Interesting for me at least.)

We are all, as fans of TD, probably aware of Communism as a religion, that has to supplant all other belief systems so that it can possess the whole of a person.

Well, as I said I work in a second-hand bookshop with this lady. She has always shown total disdain for religious books. Books in general are clearly precious to her; she hates that our surplus stock goes to get pulped (as do I). Yet she shows no mercy to religious books or even books by religious authors, a list of whom she appears to have memorised. She even told me that she enjoys sending these books to be pulped.

Coincidence?
Elliott
 
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Michael » 14 Aug 2011, 00:07

No coincidence at all. If you make of politics an all-encompassing project, one designed to not just manage and adjust human life but transform it utterly, you have to contend with traditional religions which (at least Christianity) held that there was a sphere of human life separate from the concerns of the State.

The English historian (and conservative) Michael Burleigh wrote a brilliant series of books about just this subject from the French Revolution down to the Islamic fundamentalist terrorism of the present era. He supplemented the first two with a third volume about 20th century terrorism.

1) Earthly Powers: The Conflict between Religion & Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War

2) Sacred Causes: Religion And Politics From The European Dictators To Al Qaeda: Pt. II

3) Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism

I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to understand the history of our current era. The terrorism volume, however, I found tough going; Burleigh is relentless is depicting the sheer idiocy of terrorists and all who believe that killing civilians "whose only common feature is their desire not to have their lives ended by some radical loser" and it becomes fairly depressing. Perhaps I found it to be so because the crimes documented in the first two books are farther removed in time from me.
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Jonathan » 21 Aug 2011, 07:54

Elliott - give her a copy of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. He spends much of volume II (if I recall correctly) showing that all the excesses of Stalin's time were firmly based on Lenin's writings.
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Rachel » 08 Dec 2012, 05:35

I found this article that reminded me of this topic.

The author, Steve Plaut, is an Ivy League graduate and professor of Business Studies.
He reviews a book on Trotsky's life and write about what was wrong with Bolshevism and why in theory it could not work.

http://frontpagemag.com/2012/steven-pla ... olshevism/

I never knew there was a civil war around the time of the Russian Revolution with the "whites" against the "reds" until I read this article. The civil war does not get talked about much.
Rachel
 
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Re: "It never really got a chance..."

Postby Elliott » 08 Dec 2012, 08:34

That's a good essay, Rachel.
Elliott
 
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