NPF: WHO WILL TELL THE CHILDREN?

I don't feel particularly old. I may have hit 30 recently, but I act a good decade younger. I feel old only twice annually: when I receive my class rosters and see the birthdates of my students. The late 1980s dates were bad enough, but now they are mostly 1990. These people are adults. They can vote. They can join the Army. They can buy porn. One of the challenges inherent in teaching about politics or history is that one must convey to students meaningful context for events that happened before they were born. In my line of work the biggest problem – and one that will only get worse with time, of course – is realizing that these kids have absolutely no concept of the Cold War or the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall fell two or three years before they were born. It is troubling enough that they do not understand Communism, but this generation has lost touch with the concept of the Commie.

I'm talking about the good old fashioned Hollywood Commie and the Red Herring Commie referenced in political campaigns. They were featured so prominently in our culture for so long and now they are, for all intents and purposes, gone. When was the last time the kids these days (If you ever want to feel old, use the phrase "the kids these days") saw a good movie about fighting Commies? When was the last time we had a (serious, non-Teabagging) conversation about how the hardened Soviets live? It is all foreign to today's college student. They know Yakov Smirnoff isn't funny, but they don't really understand why he's not funny.

Today's movies and television are missing something. They are missing the vodka- and borscht-swilling, square jawed, tough-as-nails caricature Commie with hilariously overdone accent, a comical lack of familiarity with Western culture, and a single-minded obsession with destroying imperialist capitalist aggressors. Our discomfort with all things race related makes terrorists a poor substitute. And besides, what's funny about terrorism? Nothing. But even when our political and social elites were telling us that the Commies were hellbent on killing every last one of us there was something funny about them. They were like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the football; we felt a little sympathy because we knew he was only there to miss it. And rhetoric aside, you just knew that Ivan was too backward (or drunk) to succeed in his Commie goals of world domination. He was the villain, the comic relief, and the sympathetic character rolled into one.

That is why the Commie is disappearing. In the final verdict the Soviet Union turned out to be hapless, verging on pathetic. They lacked the bone-chilling kind of evil that would have made them suitable Villains in Perpetuity, a la the Nazis. I think we are worse for it as a society. Batman needed the Joker like we needed the Commies. Sure, Batman fought many other villains…but it just wasn't the same.

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25 Responses to “NPF: WHO WILL TELL THE CHILDREN?”

  1. VALIS Says:

    Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that's much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I'm coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine… Good… Well, it's good that you're fine and… and I'm fine… I agree with you, it's great to be fine

  2. Nick Says:

    Sounds like you need to make Red Dawn required viewing. Or possibly Rambo III (which is "Dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan).

  3. Mayya Says:

    Better yet – more Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  4. Johnnyboy Says:

    Having been raised in a home where the dinner table conversation, er, lecture from my father was usually about the "commies" and how my teachers were probably pinkos (are you old enough to remember that moniker?) it is a little disheartening to see them wholly westernized to the point of worrying about their weight. However, we also lived under the constant and broadcast threat of nuclear annihilation, air raid drills and graphic visuals of what nuke fallout could do to you in a few weeks.

    Today's youth probably worry about something totally different (global warming, total economic collapse, not enough memory on their Ipod, overages on phone bills from texting) but at least they aren't totally consumed by the thought of a slow death from radiation sent from guys with dinner-plate-sized military hats and bad teeth. Perhaps it's better for them this way. Anyway, now we have terrorists in burkhas. One evil replaces another.

  5. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    The Soviet Union was far from "pathetic". Even in the throes of two decades of revisionism it was still the second largest industrial economy. The thing is that they never recovered from the effects of the Great Patriotic War in terms of political and cultural issues. Their cultural backwardness plus the adoption of Khruschev's revisionist line quickly turned back what progress they made from 1924-53, and of course the latter was severely hampered directly by the war.

  6. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    That being said, the right's choice of enemies speaks volumes about how profoundly fearful these people are. They talk tough and love miltiary imagery, but they are really nothing but pussies. That's why they were the ones buying duct tape and plastic after 9-11, and now they have become so desperate to fine something to fear, they are now talking about ACORN as though it is some kind of organized crime syndicate, or worse- the new SA.

  7. Brandon Says:

    "The thing is that they never recovered from the effects of the Great Patriotic War in terms of political and cultural issues."

    Funny how pretty much all of Western Europe and Japan seemed to be able to get over World War II and build better lives for their citizens. Damn Khruschev for spoiling all the wonderful progress made under Stalin!

    Naturally, I join Ed and others in laughing at the idiocy of right wingers' propagandistic fear-mongering and creation of existential enemies and bogeymen. My question for Mr. Maskhadov, are you equally willing to criticize and take ironic amusement in the equally ludicrous propaganda employed by the Soviet government to bolster its legitimacy? For that matter, present day Russia takes second-place to no one in trying to foster a siege mentality among its population by conjuring fear of the formidable Georgian menace and other deadly threats to Russian society.

  8. Daniel Says:

    Apparently you have no idea that they are remaking Red Dawn.

  9. Daniel Says:

    Hundreds dance in the streets for this news.

  10. Desargues Says:

    …They can buy porn… Now that shows how old you are. 'Kids these days' don't buy porn — old timers do (I used to see them sneaking out to the old smut store outside Baltimore every time I'd take the MARC train to Wash DC: it was mostly white men in pick-up trucks). Kids get theirs free, my man. They have this thing called 'the internet.'

    …tough-as-nails caricature Commie with hilariously overdone accent… That was indeed the shizznit. Even this former Commie found it irresistibly hilarious:

    Det. Sgt. Art Ridzik [looking incredulous]: 'Are you shittin' me?'
    Capt. Ivan Danko [stares back expressionless]: 'I am not shitting on you.'

    But speaking of old bugaboos, maybe you should write a post about the whole needlessless of Ray-Gun's expensive provocations. One thing I still can't wrap my mind around here is how so many people accept unquestioningly that it was Ronnie's outspending the Commies on weaponry that did them it. (Never mind that, had Gorbatchev not seen a flicker of reason, he could have let the empire's corpse convulse for another twenty years or so.) The Commies were already ruined starting in the 1970s — after that, it was all just the gradual throes of death (the slow bleeding in Afghanistan hastened it, I believe, but it was not the cause.) I was behind the Curtain in those years, and I could see how shit was just coming apart — economically, morally, socially, technologically, ideologically: on all fronts, that world was on the path to terminal decline. There was really no need for Reagan to nearly bankrupt the Treasury in order to make himself look tough. If you want to look for a Western piece of hardware that defeated the Soviets, it's the Xerox machine and the computer. All you guys needed was IBM, not ICBM.

    Notice how little talk there is on the right about the ambiguous 'victory' over the Soviets in Afghanistan. Their blind hatred of all things Soviet makes them think it was an unadulterated good. But for people like me — no lover of the Commies, mind you — the choice between Brezhnevian forced industrialization and thuggish rule by bearded camel-fuckers is a no-brainer.

  11. Brandon Says:

    "One thing I still can’t wrap my mind around here is how so many people accept unquestioningly that it was Ronnie’s outspending the Commies on weaponry that did them it."

    Yeah, don't get me started…it's much easier for the historically illiterate and incurious to say "Reagan did it." The ironic thing is, the ones making this argument are typically the pro-free market critics of communism. Here is a perfect example of a communist system imploding under the weight of its own internal contradictions (not to mention the nationalities issue), but attributing it all to Reagan's defense spending undercuts that argument.

  12. John Says:

    It's sort of funny, because a lot of people caught up in the rhetoric these days just don't understand how much history has left the Republican party in the dust. It's bizzare and surreal, sometimes, exposing myself to the material they put out there — it's like looking fifty years back into the past.

    Of course, it begins with the modern anti-Democrat rhetoric that simply labels them Socialists and outright assumes that such a label is all that is necessary to show an opponent's evil. It is, in every sense of the word, McCarthyism 2.0. IIRC, Michelle Bachman even broke out a line very, very similar to "I have a list of communists". The similarities are striking, and nobody says a word about it… have we really forgotten what he put this country through?

    And then there's the Republicans' extremely odd habit of insisting that we continue pouring money into defense projects to build bigger and better weapons to counter… what, exactly? They seem to have forgotten that the Cold War ended. Remember all the brouhaha over the F-22 spending? When was the last time the US even engaged in a serious air battle, Vietnam? Our military equipment already grossly outclasses everything else on the planet that is put to use in practical numbers by organized governments, almost to the point of comedy — the ground war in Iraq that was actual combat, as opposed to patrolling streets and looking for bombs, was over in a matter of weeks. They insist we continue to spend money on Star Wars-type projects to counter missile threats that simply do not exist. They raise a furious ruckus over North Korea's weapons program and the threat it poses to the US, when they can barely get a single missile past Japan.

    But it all goes along with this new enemy they've cooked up — Terrorism itself. An infinite arms race against an infinite and simultaneously invisible enemy. An endless war against an idea. And they've convinced the rest of the nation to run with it.

  13. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Germany and Japan recovered after WWII mainly because the US was dumping tons of money into them, since they needed to be showpieces against the Communist bloc. Brandon, I suggest you crack open a book some time and find out just how much damage the war did to the Soviet Union in terms of population and destruction of agriculture, industry, etc. The total casulties for the war run as high as 30 million. The "global loss", that is deaths that would have been avoided had the war just never happened, runs as high as 49 million. Add to all that fact that after the war, there were over 11 million men under arms in the Soviet Army. A good deal of them had witnessed atrocities, had been the victim of atrocities, and may have also participated in them. They had to be demobilized and returned to civilian life in a ravaged country that could not afford to provide them the kind of benefits that the US could provide for its own(though it did make a very large effort to do so).

    I am not suggesting that you were asserting some cultural supremacy of Germans or Japanese over the Russians- but had you done so I would actually agree to some extent. The principle problem was Russian backwardness, which Stalin famously highlighted(but unfortunately he saw this mainly as an issue of industrialization as opposed to cultural). There had been many attempts since the revolution to advance Russian culture, but the war simply shattered all of that. And to drive that point home, it is important for people to understand that the war on the Eastern Front is not the war our American or English grandfathers fought. It was the biggest land invasion in history, it was the bloodiest(the Germans lost 70-80% of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front), and it was the most cruel, as the Germans were carrying out a vernichtungkrieg- a war of extermination.

    Coupled with the problem of dealing with a barbaric war, in which the otherwise civilized Germans debased themselves due to irrational fears stoked by Hitler(sound familiar?), there was the resurgence of Russian nationalism, which was allowed to go too far. Much worse still, was the cultivation of friendly relationships with that millstone around the Russian neck, the Orthodox "suffering is good for you" Church.

  14. Brandon Says:

    Did you really just give me the "crack open a book sometime" response? And are you honestly lecturing me on the horrors of the Nazi occupation in Soviet territories? Thanks for the history lesson. I am well aware of human toll of WWII in Western Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states. And obviously one would expect the destruction of the war to have some negative impact on the ability of the Soviet Union to recover. I don't disagree with that.

    What I disagree with is your attempt to explain the failure of the Soviet Union entirely by reference to WWII, Khrshchev's revisionist policies, and cultural factors. You conveniently ignore the system flaws built into the Soviet command economy. You talk about the achievements of 1924-53, not mentioning the fact that that rapid industrialization was built on the backs of tens of millions of collectivization victims in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere. Most specialists on command economies concede that such systems are well-geared towards short-term bursts of spectacular industrial growth, but that they are incapable of sustaining longer-term growth or producing high-quality consumer goods. But let's just forget about the Soviet Union: what, in your opinion, explains the collapse of every communist regime in Eastern Europe? WWII again?

    And finally, your attempt to explain the divergent outcomes in Western Europe/Japan and the Soviet Union ENTIRELY as a result of American policy is absurd. The Marshall Plan and reconstruction in Japan obviously had a huge impact on reigniting economic growth in those countries. But that was 50+ years ago. Somehow those countries were able to sustain economic growth for several decades after the Americans left. Your argument oddly makes America look remarkable omniscient; if American willpower and money is all it takes to build a sustainable liberal democracy, then one wonders how we failed so spectacularly in Iraq.

    As far as your discussion of reintegration of Soviet soldiers into society, I assume you are omitting the ones who were not immediately sent to the gulag, accused of collaborating or simply for having been in the West.

  15. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Yes, I am telling you to crack open a book, and no, I am not attributing the failure of the USSR solely to WWII. It was a major factor.

    However, you are speaking of command economies when in fact Khruschev put the USSR on a road to capitalism with his reforms in the late 50s. From that time, and continuing under Kosygin and Brezhnev, the USSR began to adopt more and more capitalist-like reforms, and the GOSPLAN bureau was more or less powerless. Usually it couldn't even finish a plan before the intended period was already over, and individual enterprises were not bound by the plan. Such can hardly be called a planned economy. Many of the People's Democracies, save for Albania, never managed to construct a working socialist system, and a number of them got into crippling debt(e.g. Romania). In fact the USSR actually encouraged some of the satellite states to take loans from the West, with disasterous results.

    Again, on the issue of reconstruction in Germany and Japan, I did not entirely attribute their success to American aid. You seem to see things only in black and white, because on both points of contention you seem to think I am taking an extreme position, attributing complicated results to sole causes. You are also making the mistake of comparing the US of the last decade, to the US of the post war era which had a booming economy.

    As for your last point, I am omitting them because if you had done your homework you would find that those you speak of were a small minority of the 6 million+ soldiers that had to be demobilized.

  16. Brandon Says:

    You have a very peculiar interpretation of the reforms introduced by Khrushchev. I'm not sure I've ever heard anybody refer to them as remotely "capitalist-like." From what little I know, these reforms basically consisted of some attempts to decentralize planning and shift the emphasis from heavy to light industry. It didn't alter the fundamental reliance of the Soviet economy on government planning or radically alter the incentives faced by enterprises. And what further reforms did Brezhnev make? And to extent that some minor decentralizing reforms WERE made, it was only because it became increasingly complex for a single central planning agency to coordinate an increasingly large and complex modern economy.

    If it seems I'm accusing you of attributing complex results to simplistic causes, it's because that's how I'm reading your posts. From what I gather, you seem to be arguing that the Soviet Union was on the right path under Stalin, but that the war and Khrushchev's "revisionism" led to irreversible setbacks. While you might acknowledge other factors, those are the primary two, right?

  17. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Firstly you seemed to believe that I attributed the collapse of the USSR solely to the effects of WWII, which I didn't, and the success of Germany and Japan solely to the aid of the US, which I also did not do. So perhaps you need to read those posts more closely.

    On the subject of the capitalist reforms, I am sorry you have never heard of this; I have, however. When Khruschev introduced his first attempt at decentralization, it basically made GOSPLAN irrelevant, leaving everything in the hands of the 105 Sovnarkhozy. Problem was of course, that these enterprises had very poor means of communication, and a new class of NEP-style men arose who knew how to get things for various enterprises. This was not entirely legal at the time- it was under Kosygin that this kind of trading was basically legalized.

    Other key reforms were:

    Selling of the machine tractor stations to the Kolkhozy.
    Giving managers more ability to fire workers at will. Enterprises started to make profits by selling off means of production, and firing workers. The result was that the means of production and labor power became commodities. Profit motive, labor power and means of production as commodities- these are key elements of capitalism. By the time of Brezhnev, state planning was meaningless. Enterprise heads printed up their own plans, and the central planning bureau was prevented from altering their plans or changing them in any way.

    I suggest you read Stalin's Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, then read The Restoration of Capitalism in the USSR by Martin Nicolaus, where these issues are dealt with step by step.

  18. Brandon Says:

    "On the subject of the capitalist reforms, I am sorry you have never heard of this; I have, however."

    Hahaha, that's great! Congratulations! Do you want a gold star or something? If you want to accuse me of misreading your posts, then don't misrepresent mine; I never said I had never heard of economic reforms enacted under Khrushchev. What I said was that I had never seen them labeled as capitalist; the reason for that is because no economist with any understanding of the concept would call the Soviet economy under Khrushchev and Brezhnev capitalist. The fact that some very minor decentralizing measures were made at the very margins of the Soviet economy doesn't alter the fact that it was still based on government planning and state ownership. But I realize that calling it "capitalist-like" and overstating the scale and significance of the reforms is a very convenient rhetorical strategy for you; it allows you to shift the debate from a critical analysis of the system of state planning when you can just say, "oh, but the Soviet economy was no longer communist when it started to disintegrate, so you can't blame communism." And let me ask: why did Khrushchev (and Brezhnev to a lesser extent) implement any reforms at all? If the Soviet economy had gained so much progress from 1924-53, why would Khrushchev want to interfere with such a successful system?

  19. Scott Says:

    Aslan – I'm not really sure what you're arguing for here. Are you saying that the hardships of World War II were qualitatively different for the Soviet soldier than for the other Allies and that's why the Soviet Union collapsed? If that's the case, my suggestion to you would be to prove it. From what I understand of Russian history, the Russian people willingly took on the sacrifices entailed. A major component of Russian culture seems to be gathering strength from sacrifice. If anything, I would argue that the condition the Soviet Union found itself in during and after the War unified the people and actually staved off disintegration under Stalin's oppressive regime. I mean, why else would all the former Soviet republics still celebrate Victory Day if the ordeal was too much to bear?

    As for all of Khrushchev's so-called "market reforms," you're the first person I've ever heard describe them as such. I have to agree with Brandon – simply referring to a few small reforms on the fringes does not negate the overall nature of the Soviet command economy. Take for instance, Khrushchev's Virgin Lands program in which he attempted to cover the Soviet Union in corn. If the Soviet Union was as decentralized as you say it was, the leadership in Siberia (or other places and climates where corn would not grow) would have put a stop to it. What actually happened was the corn crops failed all over the country and the Soviet Union had to import grain. Yes, there were reforms that resulted in minor decentralization, but the bulk of Khrushchev's policies reinforced the economic and political structures generated under Stalin.

    As for your 105 Sovnarkhozy, these were abolished after Khrushchev was removed from office. Brezhnev simply reinforced most of the economic institutions and ignored most of the problems: political, social and economic. Did people make money outside of the system? Yes, of course they did. Was there a black market? Yes? Does any of this mean that there was a capitalist system – possibly, but just an nascent one. All of these informal institutions arose because of the failures of the COMMAND economy.

    My final point is, if the Soviet Union was a capitalist state starting in the 1950s, why was there such animosity towards Gorbachev's perestroika reforms? I would think that allowing private businesses to hire their own workers and set their own prices would be a welcome addition to a capitalist economy, like the one present in the Soviet Union.

    I think you're the one that needs to crack a book, because you would be surprised to see how different the history of the actual Soviet Union is from your strange alternative capitalist Soviet Union. History is something that is generally agreed upon. Just because you say something is true, doesn't mean that you're right. Brandon and I appear to have decades of historical research on our sides, it appears like you have a couple of google searches on yours. Next you'll be saying that the moon landing was faked, because you heard from a guy you know.

  20. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    It's pretty funny seeing both of you trying to lecture me on Soviet history. Scott, don't even attempt to insult my intelligence by acting as though you know mroe about Soviet history than me. Half of my life has been dedicated to the study of Soviet history, so much so that I actually relocated to Moscow, so you can take your "Google" searches and jam them firmly up your ass. Just because you personally never heard of something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. It means you need to do more research. I can't believe people who haven't even read Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR are trying to lecture me on Soviet history. Oh wait, I do sometimes get my information from a "guy I know". He's a professor of Soviet history who visits here every year to do research in the Soviet archives. What the fuck would he know about Soviet history?

    First let's point out something very important- a country is not "Communist" or socialist simply because it claims to be so. China is run by the Chinese Communist party yet it is wholly capitalist. Whether a country is socialist or capitalist depends on the actual nature of its economy. Labor power as a commodity, profit motive, and the means of production as commodities are features of capitalism. So to be sure, one could call the Soviet system "market socialism", but history shows this always turns out to be more in favor of the market than socialism. You claim these features were due to the FAILURE of a command economy- but what failure are you referring to? It is generally agreed upon that the peak of the Soviet economy was around 1960-61, even after some of Khruschev's initial reforms. So what crisis of the command economy was Khruschev trying to fix?

    As for the abolishment of Sovnarkhozy, I am well aware of this but the point I was trying to make is that after they were abolished, the state planning bureau was still just as powerless as it was before, and individual enterprises still held most of the power.

    Now you ask about opposition to the Perestroika reforms, but from whom, and for what reasons? There is a big difference. For example, even from the very beginning of Khruschev's political reforms there was massive resistance- riots and strikes. In the case of perestroika, there were people that stood to gain and many people who stood to lose.

    Now for the coup de grace: "I’m not really sure what you’re arguing for here. Are you saying that the hardships of World War II were qualitatively different for the Soviet soldier than for the other Allies and that’s why the Soviet Union collapsed? If that’s the case, my suggestion to you would be to prove it. From what I understand of Russian history, the Russian people willingly took on the sacrifices entailed."

    First of all, this is not my argument, neither you nor Brandon has figured this out yet, so this casts doubt on any study either you may have done on Soviet history. After all, if you can't figure out the argument of a post on a comments section, you obviously can't handle long historical texts.

    First of all- you ask me to prove that the hardships of WWII were qualitatively different for Soviet soldiers? No problem. I cite as my source: virtually every book every written on the subject of the Eastern Front. But the effect on the individual soldier has nothing to do with why the Soviet Union collapsed. It is the overall effect of the war, economically, politically, socially, culturally, etc. Even STILL I must remind you two that I don't attribute the collapse of the Soviet Union solely to the war, though it did play a major role.

    If you think I am the only person to make this argument, I suggest you go out and get a copy of Chris Bellamy's Absolute War, where he advances the very idea that WWII was a mortal wound on the body of the USSR.

    In the mean time, before you lecture me about history, you are more than welcome to examine the source I provided(Restoration of capitalism in the USSR) and refute any information in them that is historically inaccurate.

  21. Brandon Says:

    So, you've given us two sources one supposedly must read in order to objectively understand the Soviet economy. One of them was written by Joseph Stalin. This Stalin, was he a renowned economist or something? The name sounds familiar. Now, I completely agree that any historian of the Soviet Union must read the works of Soviet leaders in understand to understand the policy motivations and internal party disputes surrounding certain policies. Certainly, one cannot understand Soviet nationalities policy without reading Stalin's article on nationalism. But to assert that these writings were objective, dispassionate analyses of how things actually worked is deceptive. An article written by Stalin on the economic problems of the Soviet Union is obviously going to be a vindication of the historically necessary policies taken by, lo and behold, Stalin.

    The other book you cite seems to be out of publication; I found a used copy on Amazon for $45, so I don't think I'll be purchasing it any time soon. But fortunately, I found copies online, on such websites as marxism.halkcephesi.net and marx2mao.com. It becomes pretty apparent from the outset that this text was written in the context of a now-arcane dispute that cleft the communist world in the wake of Khrushchev's secret speech. Following Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, luminaries such as Mao and Albanian leader Enver Hoxha denounced the new "revisionist policies." The author of this text, and you yourself, are obviously firmly situated in the hardline, anti-revisionist camp. But let's read on; here is his opinion of Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin:

    "Stalin, then three years in his grave, was suddenly heaped with epithets of the most astonishing kind. He was a "tyrant," he had committed "crimes more monstrous than the tsars," his "reign" was marked by "blood and terror," his leadership in the world war was tantamount to treason, he was a bumbler and so on. It was as if the congress of a 20th-century Marxist-Leninist party had been transformed suddenly into a medieval rite of exorcism." (quotation marks are the author's own)

    So it's perfectly clear from the outset that this guy is far from an objective, dispassionate analyst, but rather a Stalin apologist, perfectly willing to gloss over the crimes committed by Stalin in the name of party loyalty and the construction of socialism. I eagerly await more citations from you that will supposedly deny, minimize, or disperse blame for The Terror or the horrors of collectivization.

    This is perhaps my favorite quote illustrating how utterly clueless this guy is regarding the policymaking process in the Soviet Union:

    "While Khrushchev's opponents apparently never thought to take the issues to the masses of the Soviet people — this was certainly their fatal weakness — Khrushchev's backers, for their part, did everything possible to keep the Soviet people in the dark."

    I really don't know anything about this Martin Nicolaus. Passages such as this, though, indicate to me that he never actually lived in the Soviet Union, that he was an obscure academic at some American university talking out of his ass. He's criticizing Khrushchev for his undemocratic principles, for not letting the Soviet people vote on his policies in a plebiscite? I had no idea that policymaking under Stalin involved such a high degree of civic participation…

    Now that I see where you are getting your information from, your denunciation of post-Stalin reforms as "capitalist" becomes much more comprehensible. It basically follows the pattern of internal communist party denunciations. These reforms were capitalist in the same sense that Bukharin, Trotsky, and countless other opponents of Stalin and Mao were accused of being "rightists," "capitalists," "counter-revolutionaries," etc. before their executions, deportations, or imprisonment. Capitalism isn't measured by any objective correspondence to definitions (your attempt to compare Khrushchev era reforms to post-Mao reforms in China is laughable), but rather by deviation from stated party orthodoxy.

    But, hey, that's cool, you guys had a nice run, and I think that many of your principles are still relevant today.

  22. Scott Says:

    "Half of my life has been dedicated to the study of Soviet history, so much so that I actually relocated to Moscow."

    I'm surprised that you can get the History Channel in Moscow. Good for you and your "research." I'll let you get back to watching "Wings of the Luftwaffe" and "History's Mysteries."

    I should have known better than to poke an internet troll, but with someone as clueless and completely indoctrinated in Stalinist ideology as you seem to be, I couldn't resist. Lesson learned.

  23. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    So Scott has capitulated, with what basically amounts to a 'NO U!' argument, and Brandon reveals that it is his side the relies on Google searches and Wikipedia.

    It's always reductio ad absurdium(forgive any Latin spelling mistakes) with you, Brandon. Now you're claiming I attribute all this to two sources, when in fact there are more, for example, A Short History of Soviet Socialism, or Socialism Betrayed. Ironically your cited passage to show how "clueless" Nicolaus was, only shows how clueless you are about Soviet history, given the fact that the author was clearly referring to the fact that these debates were largely held in secret, whereas major issues in the past had been publicized(e.g. the discussions on the 1936 constitution). The point the author was trying to make was that since there had already been massive unrest due to the rumors about the secret speech, there was a good chance that popular opinion would win out if Khruschev's opponents publicized their current debate. Idle speculation perhaps, but a valid point.

    Of course you couldn't attack any actual argument he made, so the point still stands:

    1. Planning ceased to exist in any meaningful form.

    2. Profit motive was the determining factor for enterprises.

    3. Labor power and means of production were commodities.

    All of these factors point toward one system, capitalism. You cannot speak about the failure of command economy if a real command economy did not exist, and when someone deliberately demolishes something you cannot claim it was an inevitable failure.

  24. Amanda Says:

    I'm pretty clueless myself about Soviet history, but I like to consider myself something of a scholar and aside from shoving websites up all of your asses I think you all have opinions, but only two out of the three of you have recent, up to date, documented facts on your side. Isn't one of the rules of research that you use the most recent information available?

    Just because you live in Moscow doesn't make you an expert. I live in America and I am not an expert on its history or politics. Yet, despite my ignorance I know there are certain events in American history that can be viewed in different ways, but opinions and political leanings aside we can all agree that something happened.

    As a scholar I am reading these posts, and it seems that someone is holding on to the information they absorbed half a life ago and continued to read that same stuff for "half of their life." ("Half of my life has been dedicated to the study of Soviet history, so much so that I actually relocated to Moscow." -Aslan)

    Making the point again that I don't know anything about soviet history, I'll emphasize my knowlege of the research process and ask what recent sources could support all of your cases. These comment posts shouldn't be a place for research papers or reference pages, but at the same time when opinions about soviet history sound like they came out of the mouth of neo-Stalinists after his death (in the '50's?), I would ask for more recent interpretations, sources, and facts to help me view this issue in a less subjective and skewed light.

  25. Ed Says:

    I have to chime in and agree that asserting a relationship between living in Moscow and expertise on Soviet history does not carry much rhetorical weight.