By Maoist International Movement
First Edit by Leading Light Communist Organization
Second Edit by The Maoist Rebel
The Black Book of Communism, one of the largest most blatant distortions of history. The fraudulent death tolls contained in the book are the single most quoted anti-communist source in the world. The book not only bashes socialism and makes it out to be worse than fascism, it outright tries to portray fascism as a good thing.
The book is so biased and absolutely BS that in 2001 the Maoist International Movement informed Harvard University Press of its undeniable errors. As a result MIM actually got Harvard University Press’ Mark Kramer to admit that the book contained remedial math errors.
In the book it superficially tells of how all these people supposedly died in famines caused by the evil communists. Very telling, is how they leave out any comparison to famine deaths in capitalist countries so that we may compare. By doing this they claim that famines are a problem only in socialism.
The book also makes this big deal about premature deaths in communist countries, with no statistical comparisons of these deaths in capitalism. The reason why is of course that both the Soviet union and Revolutionary China doubled the life expectancies of their people.
The fact is, the deaths caused by communism are substantially less than the massive death tolls caused by capitalism.
The main weapon these bourgeois writers use is a complete lack of scientific thinking. Poverty under capitalism (a system of private property) kills by lack of food, a decent environment and adequate health care. Never does anyone every put capitalism up to its own analysis and judge it how it judges others. While it claims communism killed 100 million people, capitalism kills 100 million people every 8 to 12 years.
The one sided nature of the accusations are revealed in this quote on page 15: “our purpose here is not to devise some kind of macabre comparative system for crunching numbers.” Well no of course not, that would be giving context to an argument by comparing it to similar events.
Courtois (one of the writers) claims that Stalin became a fascist when he signed a pact with Hitler in 1939. He calls it a crime and then forgets to mention all the capitalist countries that signed agreements with Hitler. Poland, France and England all signed deals with Hitler, Stalin was actually the last one to do it.
When criticizing the Soviet Union they never mention the pro-Nazi uprisings, instead it is claimed that Soviet Union suppressed people for no reason. Then they turn and say people flocked to the pro-Nazi groups because of repression, but neglect to mention the pro-Nazi groups that existed in the capitalist countries. The capitalist countries must have been more repressive because the Nazi fifth columns overthrew entire countries nearly without effort. Those people must have really hated those oppressive capitalist regimes.
Well, the Soviet Union was not other thrown by pro-Nazi forces, in fact communist guerrillas in many countries gave the best resistance.
– In 1940 former Norwegian “Defence Minister” helped the Nazis overthrow the government of Norway.
– In 1940 Henri Philippe Petain, a former Command-in-chief lead the Nazi Vichy.
– Leopold III gave the Belgian to the Nazis without a fight.
– Sweden profited from Nazi gold taken from Jews killed in the Holocaust.
– Future US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles aided the Swedish government.
– Finland joined the Nazi side in 1941.
– Hungary and Bulgaria joined the Nazis with no contest.
The arrogance of Courtois is astounding. He points out how there were Nazi collaborators in the Soviet union, but fails to mention how entire capitalist counties outright supported the Nazis. This is another example of deliberately slanting history in favour of the fascists.
In the section on the Ukrainian famine claimed that Soviet grain requisitions must of caused mass starvation. Of course at no time did he mention the right of people living in cities not to starve to death.
Even though the property system was no longer the capitalist style, he continued to refer to the grain as the “fruit of their[peasants’] labor”that they were entitled to keep–omitting that some people work on much better land than others if there is no socialist cooperation to even out disparities in the means of production.
From 1923 to 1928 there was a free market in grain production. In 1928 the amount of grain that was sent to the cities to feed people dropped to 4.8 million tons from 6.8 million the previous year. This inability of the free market to meet human need is what compelled Stalin to collectivize agriculture. The market had already failed to deliver, a fact constantly over looked by many historians and the ignorance of anti-communism. The failure of capitalism is ignored, only the socialist reaction to a capitalist disaster is mentioned. Integrity is not something anti-communists have.
All along some of the fiercest resistance to doing the right thing centred in the Ukraine and Werth says the Ukrainian famine was the largest death toll Stalin was responsible for. The Ukraine is the equivalent of the U.S. “breadbasket”–states like Iowa or Kansas. Werth admitted as much in a concluding throw-away sentence:
“The richest and most dynamic agricultural regions, which had the most to offer the state and the most to lose in the extortionate system of enforced collectivization, were precisely the regions worst affected by the great famine of 1932-33.”
The fact that these areas were the equivalent of Iowa should have been a clue that having the peasants just keep their food was not an option that should have been suggested lightly.
In 1929, more than 3,200 Soviet civil servants suffered terrorist attacks. 1,300 riots spread through the countryside in the years 1928-9. That is one indication of the class war going on. They had a history behind them of a movement called the “Greens” that also resisted requisition of food to the city.
In the midst of this sort of political resistance, many Ukrainians resisted delivering grain to the state. Werth says that in response, Stalin starved 4 million of them to death in 1932-3 for a total of 6 million when other regions of the Soviet Union are counted for being in a similar situation.
In fact other bourgeois media like “Village Voice” of January 12, 1988 has already debunked the idea that there was this massive Ukrainian famine. It was tremendously exaggerated and was mostly created by Ukrainian fascists. The paper caught them in the act of fraud in propaganda creation.
Robert Conquest who did this grea work in the supposed Ukrainian famine collected all his “information” from Nazi collaborators and fiction books. The Nazis are hardly a reliable source of information. The sources and invented numbers were so fraudulent that the Village Voice referred to the famine as a “hoax.”
Where Werth and Courtois agree is that the political choice of some peasants to resist delivering grain to the state is not an act of violence in itself against the city-dwellers; even though realistically, food has to come from farmland, especially the Ukraine and other lands in question. They speak of the land as if it were only the property of peasants who live on it. When peasants cut back their work only to grow their own grain and contrary to law, Werth and Courtois defend them. Indeed, Werth comes out openly in saying his approach depends on not recognizing Soviet law. He said that “‘destruction of Soviet property’” and other items including “‘speculation’” should not be counted as crimes.(p. 206) In contrast, we socialists are happy to deport such Ukrainian people as they were deported by Stalin and replace them with people who will do something with the fertile land–because people’s lives are at stake and we see political games played by Ukrainians on breadbasket land as violence against city-dwellers.
The case of the Ukrainian breadbasket land is also important in reminding us why we have to oppose “local control” perfected under Tito’s “market socialism” in Yugoslavia and also adopted by anarchists in Spain. After a revolution implementing “local control,” people who happen to live on gold mines will become rich. People who live on the best land will have an easier time farming, and so on. “Local control” cannot be thought of as socialism, just a switch of owners. The central government has to play some role or the means of production are not truly socialist. Only when that day comes when people cooperate economically across large distances without coercion or reward will it be possible to take an easy-going approach to dividing up resources at the local level, because no one would think of hurting people in the rest of the country or the world based on their fortunate local position.
Stalin did not gain from starving Ukrainian peasants, unlike the way capitalist speculators who hoard food gain when peasants starve. To say that Stalin did gain is a simple projection of life under capitalism to life under socialism where often the politicians also personally gain from development, weapons or other deals they broker politically.
In contrast the most bourgeois peasants in the USSR known as kulaks did gain monetarily and personally from speculation in grain by letting the cities starve. Stalin did not himself benefit from the New Economic Policy (NEP) that allowed the free market in grain. It was the peasants in the countryside actually trying to increase their own power for personal gain, so our critic has the accusation against Stalin completely upside-down.
Admissions Regarding the Soviet Union
1. Citing the work of an A. Blum, Werth no longer believes Stalin masterminded the Kirov assassination in 1934. It was the killing of Kirov that resulted in a swing in Soviet public opinion toward a crackdown on “dissent” as World War II was progressing, notably the Japanese invasion of China in 1931 and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
2. Werth correctly believes Robert Conquest’s work on the “Great Terror” to be exaggerated, MIM would say fictional.
3. According to Werth, the 85% of executions after the Civil War in the Soviet Union and while Stalin was still alive (1922 to 1953), occurred in the “Great Terror,” also sometimes referred to as the “Purges” of 1936-1938. However, Werth says the number of executions has been vastly exaggerated. The number was 681,692.
While everyone agrees that the majority of executions occurred in the 1936-1938 period–while the Soviet Union and Germany were already fighting each other in Spain– the numbers range wildly. Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko said that the “Great Terror” was responsible for 19 million deaths from 1935 to 1941, while Werth says the figure is 720,000. This is just an indication of how wildly the bourgeoisie speculates against Stalin.
4. Purges in the Red Army prior to World War II were previously exaggerated and affected 30,000 out of 178,000 relevant cadres.
5. Documented cases occurred where all Mensheviks said to be shot were not shot but imprisoned.
6. The famous Ukrainian anarchist Makhno organized bloody programs against the Jews in 1919, just as Lenin charged. A picture continues to emerge of only Bolsheviks in the Ukraine as not anti-Semitic.(p. 96)(11)
7. Also contrary to some anarchists today who paint the anarchists as blameless, Werth points out that rebellion and class war against the Bolsheviks did continue into 1921. The Kronstadt rebellion did not occur in a context of social peace.
8. According to Courtois and a co-author, in 1937, Trotsky went to the French police to get French communist Jacques Duclos in trouble, despite having no evidence against him for a murder Trotsky wanted avenged. Trotsky relied on the French police to find the evidence and conduct the investigation.
China: More Botched Numbers
To their credit, the authors admitted that their criticisms of Asian communists and therefore most of their criticism of communism is speculative.(p. 459) The reason is that they would like the governments there to fall so that they can see the archives before they pass judgement.
In total the entire Black Book details 100 million deaths by communism, most of that supposedly caused by the Great Leap Forward. its claim is that 43 million people were killed. This supposed number comes from the highest possible estimate by Roderick MacFarquhar’s book.
Contrary to MacFarquhar who details all the actions the Communist Party took and how Mao made public self-criticism, Margolin says Mao refused to admit a problem during the Great Leap.(p. 464) He then goes on to list wartime atrocities in World War II by the communists.
In what is the most glaring piece of lying (which Harvard University Press claims is an error) MacFarquhar who misplaced a decimal in his writing to claim that Mao killed 10 times more people. We can only hope it was the editors or translators who introduced the errors, but there were numerous basic mathematical errors in his chapter and no matter how one slices it, the chapter does not reflect well on the authors and editors.
“This last province [Anhui], in north-central China, was the worst affected of all. In 1960 the death rate soared to 68 percent from its normal level at around 15 percent, while the birth rate fell to 11 percent from its previous average of 30 percent. As a result the population fell by around 2 million people (6 percent of the total) in a single year.”(p. 492)
The above is such a bungle that it is difficult to sort out all the errors and curiously enough, it refers to Margolin’s biggest accusation at the provincial level. The first number is actually 68.58 per thousand. 68 percent is 68 per hundred. Once again, we have an error overestimating by a factor of 10. What is worse is the stupidity in saying that the mortality rate was 68 percent but only 6 percent died! In this way Margolin exceeds the stupidity of MacFarquhar’s mistake. Of course, the birth rates are similarly exaggerated by a factor of 10.
In more obvious moralistic “have your cake and eat it too,” Margolin denounces the regime in China for creating a situation where “the birth rate fell to almost zero as women were unable to conceive because of malnutrition.”(p. 494) He does not realize that if that is true, his death toll must be very low, much less than the 20 million lower end estimate he uses. It’s clear that he has never sat down to think through questions like what goes into creating a life expectancy figure.
Further exceeding MacFarquhar by covering more years with his ignorance, Margolin says “For the entire country, the death rate rose from 11 percent in 1957 to 15 percent in 1959 and 1961, peaking at 29 percent in 1960. Birth rates fell from 33 percent in 1957 to 18 percent in 1961.”(p. 495)
He even contradicts himself when he makes the claim that peasants were too weak to harvest grain (p. 493). Because he turns around an claims that once capitalist-style organization was re introduced, the peasants quickly ended the famine. (p. 496) Which was it Margolin? Were the peasants too weak as the Great Leap went on to harvest or just needing capitalist incentives? Nor does Margolin seem to flinch at saying the worst year was actually 1961,(p. 491) after the Great Leap had ended and wide scale private farming and systems tantamount to it had come into play.
These are basic mistakes that anyone doing proper research would notice right away. But unfortunately this book was designed to bash people and movements, not properly detail people and movements like a academically honest work would do.
With regard to the charge of 100 million dead from communism, 85 million are from the Soviet Union and China, 20 million from the Soviet Union and 65 million from China.(p. 4) As we have just shown the crucial lynchpins to that argument concern a famine reported by Nazi collaborators in the Ukraine and a Great Leap toll where repeated and obvious arithmetic errors were published in the book. Together these two items account for 49 million dead out of 100 million alleged victims.
The book goes on to treat other countries as well, but those countries are all said to stem from the Leninist “genetic code.” Many of these other regimes that Courtois attack are not communist and as usual they omit significant facts such as the landslide Sandinista victory’s portion of the population (not just the voters) won in a bourgeois style election (p. 670) or the fact that their notion of “responsible” for deaths in the case of the Sendero Luminoso refers mostly to indiscriminate killings carried out by the government but which the Sendero Luminoso is “responsible” for because they started a civil war.(p. 680)
The Black Book sold 70,000 copies in four weeks in France. Of course, the Wall Street Journal endorsed it as well as most of the rest of the bourgeois press. Many of the book reviews can be seen by visiting MIM’s bookstore under reviewed books and going to the Amazon bookstore link for the Black Book. The positive reviews can be taken as an indication of the lack of historical knowledge of some, the weak quantitative skills of others and the overall conscious distortion of the bourgeoisie. In the end, MIM agrees that Courtois has recognized the truth about the media: it will buy anything anti-communist.
Despite his correct recognition of the nature of the monopoly capitalist media, Courtois will fail in his goal, because the truth regarding the overall situation is already widely available and cannot be excised from history by selective compilations of statistics or gruesome detail of death on one side of the capitalism versus communism conflict. Despite the whining of Khruschevs and other intellectuals and former party members, nothing will eradicate the fact that the average person lived longer under socialism than under capitalism.
Sources and Notes:
A nice list of these uninformed reviews can be found
at: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/lelivrenoir.htm . Short style
reviews can be found at: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/reviews/COUBLA_R.html
Malcolm Gillis, Dwight H. Perkins, Michael Roemer & Donald R.
Snodgrass, Economics of Development, 3rd ed., (NY: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1992), pp. 497-98.
John K. Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer & Albert M. Craig, East
Asia: Tradition & Transformation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 1978), p. 822.
Jon Halliday, “The Political Background” Korea North and South:
The Deepening Crisis, Gavin McCormack and Mark Selden, eds., (NY:
Monthly Review Press, 1978), p. 49.
Ibid., p. 51. 5. Ibid., p. 56. 6.
http://x25.deja.com/getdoc.xp?AN=533524259&search=thread &CONTEXT=949783412.290127893&HIT _CONTEXT=942257934.934412361&HIT_NUM=1&hitnum=9
I thank HC88 for the following reference: William Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 296, 526, 563f.
See our article on this at http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/faq/stalindeaths.html
For some examples of the half-assed anarchists who continue to support Makhno against Lenin, unfortunately we have to refer to some of the better anarchists including the Rage Against the Machine, the International Workers of the World http://iww.org/~jah/russia-rev-anar.html, the web site http://www.spunk.org and burn.ucsd.edu.
Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural
Revolution: The Coming of the Cataclysm 1961-1966, vol.
3, pb., (NY: Columbia University Press, 1997), pp. 7-8.
We suggest readers follow the following links: http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/wim/mythsofmao.html
27 thoughts on “The Black Book of Communism Debunked”
I am new to communism, and I hear about Marxism, Stalinism, Maoism, Leninism, etc. but I never hear about a ‘Minhism’. Did Ho Chi Minh not contribute a lot to Marxist theory?
Actually there is no Minhism for two reasons. 1. Ho Chi Minh was a national liberation communist, so most of his stuff is about national liberation. 2. Ho Chi Minh said that he didn’t need ot contribute anything because Mao had already wrote everything. This will help you, its a collection of his best written works: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/ho-chi-minh/index.htm
In this period dictator Joseph Stalin.was tightening his grip on Soviet society and economy and the internal.passport system was introduced requiring people to obtain permission before.migrating to different regions. While this.diaspora migration has accounted for a large portion of the migration.at both the national and sub-national levels it has certainly not accounted.for all movements in the post-Soviet period..New Incentives Fewer Obstacles..Soviet planners had pursued the goal of keeping people in the Soviet Union and.of strictly controlling their population movements often by coercion. The possibly devastating impact of AIDS has not yet.accounted for a large share of the burden of disease since the epidemic came.late to Russia but with an estimated million or more people infected its.impact on population growth could be enormous by the end of the decade.
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Whoever wrote this article is a complete moron. You sir should be shot like half the people in Russia under Stalin’s regime.
Making threats on line hua? Your name is Sam Meyer you go to Lutheran High School Association of St. Louis
info is 18.104.22.168, 208-188-233-4.ded.swbell.net
Right on, Maoist rebel! This is a brilliant blog. I’m so glad that I chanced upon it.
What is this Jackassery? Kyle, he provided sources, I checked them, THEY CHECK OUT!! I used to be like you, uninformed teenager that spouted out hate at every opportunity. Then, I got out of the Pro Govt. loop. Maybe you should do the same, and get informed about the lies.
Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.
I am not a Maoist but it is thoughtful and original intellectual work such as this that brings revolutionaries together. To defend the good in Soviet and Chinese history is a responsibility that goes with proclaiming yourself a Marxist. Unfortunately at this time in history we are still a bit in the political defensive and we have to spend much time debunking not just the attacks of the bourgeoisie but also of the anti-communist left. Well done, comrade!
Why do you accept that the USSR and China were/are socialist or communist when by any definition of communism or socialism this is clearly not true?
Your comment made no sense.
The Spark is your typical trotsko, always sectarian and disruptive. Like their guiding saint, their definitions are the only definitions. Theory and analysis are everything; everyday sweaty, stinking and stubborn reality is too much for them to handle. For close to a century this sect has proven incapable of contributing a damn thing to the workers’ struggles. How could they? They’re too busy being disruptive and sectarian.
Did the Polish soldiers murdered in the Katyn forest shoot themselves as part of a fascist conspiracy?
Was the Berlin Wall a great example of a socialist paradise?
How many people have been shot fleeing capitalist countries?
Was Mao’s endless screwing of young women an outstanding example of socialism?
Was Beria’s endless raping the same?
There are two kinds of ignorance.
Vincible ignorance and invincible ignorance. You’re at the far extreme of the latter.
Have a GLIMMER of sense
As usual right wing comments are full of baseless assertions and sarcastic questions. No, Polish soldiers did not shoot themselves, they were shot will German bullets. Here is a documentary with a Nazi soldier admitting they did it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP-JUBAQMPI You’ve probably never seen that as the right wing are too busy defending the Nazis.
The Berlin Wall was an example of a reaction to the military forces of the West stationing forces in order to attack the Eastern Block. Please keep in mind there was this thing called the Cold War between two powerful sides. Be sure to ignore the hypocrisy of building a wall against Mexico.
How many people have been shot fleeing capitalist countries? Ask those tens of thousands killed every year in Africa. Be sure to say Africa doesn’t count even though it is capitalist. Be sure to ignore Libya which had the highest living standards in all of Africa. (Well used to have.) Next time provide a source for the claim people were shot trying to leave the country.
A baseless claim of how many women Mao may or may not have had sex with is completely irrelevant. I can’t for the life of me think why that would even matter. Even so, in Revolutionary China women finally had the right to have sex with whoever they wanted, as opposed to the arranged marriages that existed in capitalist Chinese cities before hand and arranged marriages in the feudal countryside. Also ignore the same behaviour that goes on in capitalist countries. As if that even meant anything. Unless you hate women having the freedom to chose who they want to have sex with.
Beria’s so-called rapes were just that. Proof is needed. As if that even has anything to do with communism. Rape rates in general are higher in capitalist countries. Your argument, aside from irrelevant, is stupid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#UN_Rape_Statistics This called data, the right winger’s nightmare.
Your childish name calling at the end I nothing than further proof of your childish ignorance. Its too bad you can’t yell on the internet, I’m sure it would have made you feel as though your hateful arguments were stronger. You are living proof of the ignorant mindless hatred that comprises the right wing.
Capitalism kills 100 million every 8 to 12 years? Please quote your source.
According to UNAIDS, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2.8 million (between 2.4 and 3.3 million) lives in 2005 of which more than half a million (570,000) were children.
2.8 x 10 years = 28 million (aids is treatable but it depends on ability to afford it)
Every year 15 million children die of hunger
15 million x 10 = 150 million people
Millions and millions more
Do some research, stop living in First World fantasy land that capitlaism provides for everyone.
I was rather taken aback by your comment “Do some research, stop living in First World fantasy land…” All I did was ask you to quote your source for a statistic that you posted in your blog. Any reputable blogger who posts statistics should be ready for that challenge, and have the professionalism to refrain from making side comments.
Now back on topic: I asked you quote a source for “100 million killed every 10 years due to capitalism. You replied with the death toll due to aids and hunger. I will start with the aids epidemic. You must be attributing this to capitalism. So, let me ask you: if it weren’t for capitalism, there would be no aids epidemic? I fail to see a connection between the two. Please lay out your case linking the two, and explain, in detail, how the aids epidemic was started by capitalism.
Also, I fail to see a connection between hunger and capitalism. I checked your link at thinkquest.com and it sites statistics from all over the world – some of them from capitalist countries, some not. I will ask you to make a more detailed case linking 10 million people per year (100 million / 10 years = 10 million per year) dying of hunger directly to capitalism.
People have been dying of various epidemics and of hunger LONG before capitalism came around. And allow me to respond to a portion of your side comment “…capitalism provides for everyone”. You are absolutely correct in that statement. Capitalism does not provide for everyone. It only provides for those who want to help themselves.
So essentially the lack of resources going towards dealing this problem being due to the market means nothing right? Stop crying about professionalism, you’re throwing a temper tantrum.
Cuba was the first nation to control the AIDS epidemic in their country, while the US under Reagan did not acknowledge the devastation the epidemic was causing worldwide. The administration let this shameful attitude go on until after the people by the thousands went into the streets and protested the silence of the ruling circles and then, much later, the administration timidly acknowledged the fact that indeed there was a problem.
You (Paul) fail to see the connection between hunger and capitalism? Like the Maoist said, “You must be living in FirstWorldFantasyLand.
People go hungry in every society in the world. Every country must deal with it; capitalist, communist, dictatorships, etc. I do indeed fail to see a direct link between capitalism and hunger. I asked the Maoist to explain it to me, and thus far he has not. Perhaps you (Jesus) can?
Since you are an apologist for capitalism you have a need to deny the real history of said socio-economic system. (Now you will further deny that you are an apologist and a denier and will keep going in this way until you close the circle of stupidity you have created and call it a victory, yet learn absolutely nothing.) The English industrial revolution of the late 1800’s created more poverty in one decade than the world had ever seen in all its history. You can see the irony, can you not? Workers in factories were farmers dispossessed of their land and dragged into the urban areas to produce many useful things and all of it belonged to the owners of capital. The workers get a wage that allows them to live, no health insurance, hardly any leisure. When the economic cycle closes in on the capitalist and must close his factory what happens to the worker? Hunger is relative. There are those who are forced by their new circumstances to go and beg; get further into debt; others will reach the point of homelessness. As socialists we say there is hunger in the world because capitalism creates it. Capitalism is the dominant system and it works well for an elite minority. Colonialists/imperialist/capitalists go out to the third world and exploit the natural wealth and leave behind environmental devastation, poverty, homelessness and hunger. These are basic historical facts.
Paul : The dominant paradigm in the world today is global capitalism. I wonder if you even know what capitalism consists of. This means, Paul, that capitalist economic relations define production and distribution for about 99% of the world’s people, regardless of what labels their country has for itself. Do you get this? I doubt it. At the same time, in this world, enough food is produced to feed the entire planet every day with 150% of its nutritional needs. At this exact same time, about 800 million people live either in or on the edge of starvation. So what is the problem here? Is it production? Well, not really. Enough is produced. Is it distribution then? Well, yes, since about 15% of the world’s population does not get enough to eat every day, and about 20k die every day from either starvation or hunger or poverty induced causes. Now, how is it decided how to distribute the plentiful food that is produced? It is not decided. It is *defined* by CAPITALIST SOCIAL RELATIONS. If you don’t understand the basics, go back to them.
Another book needs debunking : “The War of the World” by Niall Ferguson. Anyone who has even the most remote sense of scientific socialism or marxism should be appalled by this book; it is not so much that it contains the standard bourgeois historian narrative themes of the 20th Century, but that it is written with such convincing verve that the otherwise uninformed will come away feeling as though they have it on good authority that capitalism saved the world from itself. There are errors and failures of context on virtually every page, but these would only be evident to someone with a critical mind who has studied history for many years and, to boot, has a basic moral principle that all human lives are of equal value – which Ferguson does not have.
Among the most glaring and insidious themes is the failure to connect the appeasement of the Nazis with capitalist interests. Appeasement was, not according to Ferguson, a manifestation of a larger phenomenon which I call “Bulwarkism” – meaning that the bourgeois ruling classes of western and central Europe viewed the rise of Nazi Germany as on balance a good thing *primarily because a militarily strong Germany would serve as a bulwark against the ‘menace’ of communism. It was the leading capitalist country Britain which gave Hitler and the Nazis the green light to ignore the Versailles treaty by signing the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, which ‘limited’ the German navy to having no more than 35% of the naval tonnage that Britain had. Problem was, 35% at the time was far more than the Germans had, or could even build by 1942, and was far in excess of what was allowed by the Versailles treaty of 1919. This was the signal to Hitler that Versailles was legally dead, and naturally every few months thereafter the Nazi government made ever more expansive demands. The fact that it was in that same year it became fashionable for the stylish and rich of Britain to wear gem-encrusted jewelry in the shape of the swastika isn’t happenstance.
Again and again for the next 4 years there were opportunities to stop the Nazis. The Soviet Union offered France, Britain and the Czechs a treaty specifically aimed at heading off Germany, only the resistance of the British ruling class stopped the deal. This class made all kinds of agreements and deals with the Tsarist Regime of the past, but couldn’t imagine making any deal with communists.
Most reading this probably know the rest of the history of the appeasement period. But they should also read the comments made by British investors and financial houses to the Conservative government. They again and again encouraged appeasement policies *so that profits from bond trading would be as high as possible*. Naturally these opinions were taken more seriously than those of the British people, who by 1938 had begun to turn against appeasement policies. Right up to the very end, the ruling classes sought to profit from the rise of the Nazi regime.
Bulwarkism describes the classic bourgeois interests of the pre-war period : 1) encourage a ‘strong Germany’ as a bulwark against communism; 2) allow German military and economic growth so that bond and investment profits are maximized. In killing these two birds with one stone, the ruling classes of western Europe condemned 60 million to death.
Jason your paragraph on Yugoslavia is dealt with such superficiality that makes me wonder how deep have you reasearched the subject:
It was called “self-management”, not “local control”, and it was not “perfected” in Yugoslavia, rather experimented there for the 1st time in history. In any case, farmers in Yugoslavia suffered heavy expropriations as well, and had a very restricted plot size they could own. On the other hand, allowing private farmers to own the means of production did not cause any disruption in the food supply, unlike in the SSSR.
Again, the Yugoslavian model had nothing to do with owning the means of production (capitalism), but rather with managing them by the workers themselves, of course with heavy state regulation (an original model of socialism, surely not my favourite, but still a valuable one). Your assumption/allusion that the workers and farmers in Yugoslavia could have enriched themselves is totally incorrect.
Actually the Cubans are heading towards a model similar to the one adopted in Yugoslavia, that is allowing private property on the non-concentrated means of production (allowing small businesses): aren’t they socialists any more? The variations in the socialist camp have been quite many, but who has the authority to say which one is the perfect one and which ones are not socialists? Each state has its own historical particularities and its own context. Every socialist state has done mistakes, but attacking Yugoslavia because of its choices in political economy is unbalanced and non-dialectical. Who knows, without the excomunication by the Cominform/PCUS, would have they maybe sticked to a more orthodox ML political economy?
In any case, the central government actually did play an important role even during the “market socialist” years. It fixed the maximum and minimum wage to prevent inequalities, and limited the power of the worker’s factory committees. The latter could not just pocket the profit of their company of course :), not even sell the company to private or foreign actors: the companies were public goods and property, but managed by the workers. Not such a bad idea in principle, the problem is to implement it decently, and the Yugoslavians should have surely done better than they did.
The truth is that the workers could have decided to reinvest the profit or pay themselves some small bonuses, without breaching the maximum wage allowed (which was no more than 3-4 times greater than the minimum, still too much but nothing compared to capitalism). Nevertheless, most of the times the profits were donated (under the Party’s direction) to those companies that operated with a loss, in order to keep them alive.
This paragraph was by the way the only in my opinion problematic; the rest of the text and the general idea are valuable weapon in the class struggle. Thanks for that.
Andrea Degobbis (Socialist Workers’ Party of Croatia)
It was supposed to be superficial because it wasn’t the main point. Its worker own capitalism. It’s not socialism.
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