Sunday, April 03, 2005

Hail The Reds--by Stephen Gowans

[It struck me that all this numbskull Human Rights agitation for an even-more thorough militarization of global crises as a way to Stop the Fucking Genocide, is a fungoid outgrowth of the old sectarian anti-communism. All these NGOs and Stink Tanks that refer to the NED or USAID or the International Crisis Group and The Open Society Foundation for historico/political data support are all the unwholesome spawn of virulent anti-commies (which is just a polite word for Fascists) like Geo Soros, Karl Popper, and Leo Strauss. Since the fall of the Wall, that these forces for the return of feudalism have been one enemy short of a real ideological war is kind of an rank understatement. [I mean, is there anyone out there who's in favor of Terrorism? Or AIDS? Or Genocide?]

After all the red flags came down, they had to go after those few places that hadn't been completely quadraparalyzed by the IMF, World Bank, and the DoD: places like Iraq, Rwanda (en route to Congo), Yugoslavia, Russia and now the big push in Sudan. That these New Military Humanitarianoids are confused (but in a good way!) is best exemplified by Maitre Dickson's favorite Gaffe-de-la-semaine:

from Harvard's Institute of Politics' John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum

Panel Debates Sudan Genocide
Published in The Harvard Crimson on Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Omar Ismail, director of Darfur Peace and Development, a multi-national non-profit organization that advocates for peace in Darfur, opined,

"We need to put our guns where are our mouth is!"

The whole gang of HR ('fat shitHouse Rats') experts on Rwanda was there: Homeo Dallaire and Sammy Power.

And though they couldn't find any way to explain how their murderous disdain for the popular government (the Habyarimana [Hutu] government) of Rwanda led them, duplicitously pretending neutrality, to support the Rwandan Patriotic Front's unconscionable slaughter of 100s of 1000s in that small country, from the October 1990 invasion from Uganda to the assassination of the two Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, using missiles UN General Dallaire helped Paul Kagame's forces smuggle into Kigali in truckloads of firewood, maybe, again with Dallaire's help (as he's had experiece trying to top himself off), they could be instructed in that Ultimate Jenny Craig, the highly efficacious (one meal'll do it!) high-lead diet that cousin Omar suggests.

But more on how these vermin crawled out from the rubble of the Berlin Wall plus tard. For now, dig brother Gowan's great survey of the real results of the 'defeat of Communism'. -- mc]

What's Left
October 19, 2004

Hail the Reds

By Stephen Gowans

Over the seven decades of its existence, and despite having to spend so much
time preparing, fighting, and recovering from wars, the Soviet Union managed
to create one of the great achievements of human history: a great industrial
society that eliminated most of the inequalities of wealth, income,
education and opportunity that plagued what preceded it, what came after it,
and what competed with it; a society in which health care and education
through university were free (and university students received living
stipends); where rent, utilities and public transportation were subsidized,
along with books, periodicals and cultural events; where inflation was
eliminated, pensions were generous, and child care was subsidized. By 1933,
with the capitalist world deeply mired in a devastating economic crisis,
unemployment was declared abolished, and remained so for the next five and a
half decades, until socialism, itself, was abolished. The Communists
produced social security more robust than provided even by
Scandinavian-style social democracy, but achieved with fewer resources and a
lower level of development and in spite of the unflagging efforts of the
capitalist world to see to it that socialism failed. Soviet socialism was,
and remains, a model for humanity -- of what can be achieved outside the
confines and contradictions of capitalism. But by the end of the '80s,
counterrevolution was sweeping Eastern Europe and Mikhail Gorbachev was
dismantling the pillars of Soviet socialism. Naively, blindly, stupidly,
some expected Gorbachev's demolition project to lead the way to a prosperous
consumer society, in which Soviet citizens, their bank accounts bulging with
incomes earned from new jobs landed in a robust market economy, would file
into colorful, luxurious shopping malls, to pick clean store shelves
bursting with consumer goods. Others imagined a new era of a flowering
multiparty democracy and expanded civil liberties, coexisting with public
ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, a model that seemed to
owe more to utopian blueprints than hardheaded reality.

Of course, none of the great promises of the counterrevolution were kept.
While at the time the demise of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe was proclaimed, not least by leftist intellectuals in the US, as a
great victory for humanity, more than a decade later there's little to
celebrate. The dismantling of socialism has, in a word, been a catastrophe,
a great swindle that has not only delivered none of what it promised, but
has wreaked irreparable harm, not only in the former socialist countries,
but throughout the Western world, as well. Countless millions have been
plunged deep into poverty, imperialism has been given a free hand, and wages
and benefits in the West have bowed under the pressure of intensified
competition for jobs and industry unleashed by a flood of jobless from the
former socialist countries, where joblessness once, rightly, was considered
an obscenity. Numberless voices in Russia, Romania, East Germany and
elsewhere lament what has been stolen from them -- and from humanity as a
whole: "We lived better under communism. We had jobs. We had security." And
with the threat of jobs migrating to low-wage, high unemployment countries
of Eastern Europe, workers in Western Europe have been forced to accept a
longer working day, lower pay, and degraded benefits. Today, they fight a
desperate rearguard action, where the victories are few, the defeats many.
They too lived better -- once.

But that's only part of the story. For others, for investors and
corporations, who've found new markets and opportunities for profitable
investment, and can reap the benefits of the lower labor costs that attend
intensified competition for jobs, the overthrow of socialism has, indeed,
been something to celebrate. Equally, it has been welcomed by the feudal and
industrial elite of the pre-socialist regimes whose estates and industrial
concerns have been recovered. But they're a minority. Why should the rest of
us celebrate our own mugging?

Prior to the dismantling of socialism, most people in the world were
protected from the vicissitudes of the global capitalist market by central
planning and high tariff barriers. But once socialism fell in Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union, and with China marching resolutely down the capitalist
road, the pool of unprotected labor available to transnational corporations
expanded many times over. Today, a world labor force many times larger than
the domestic pool of US workers -- and willing to work dirt cheap -- awaits
the world's corporations. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure
out what the implications are for American workers and their counterparts in
Germany, Britain and other Western countries: an intense competition of all
against all for jobs and industry. Inevitably, incomes fall, benefits are
eroded, and working hours extended. Predictably, with labor costs heading
south, profits grow fat.

Already, growing competition for jobs and industry is forcing workers in
Western Europe to accept less. Workers at Daimler Chrysler, Thomas Cook, and
other firms are working longer hours, and in some cases, for less pay and
without increases in benefits, to keep jobs from moving to the Czech
Republic, Slovakia and other former socialist countries -- which, under the
rule of the Reds, used to provide jobs to all. More work for less money is a
pleasing outcome for the corporate class, and turns out to be exactly the
outcome the fascists of Germany and Italy engineered for their countries'
capitalists in the '30s. The methods, to be sure, were different, but the
anti-communism of Mussolini's and Hitler's followers, in other hands, has
proved just as useful in securing the same retrograde ends. Nobody who has
to subject themselves to the vagaries of the labor market - including
workers in the United States -- should be glad communism was abolished.

Maybe some us don't know we've been mugged. And maybe some of us haven't
been. Take the radical American historian Howard Zinn, for example, who,
along with most other prominent Left intellectuals, greeted the overthrow of
communism with glee [1]. I, no less than others, have admired Zinn's books,
articles and activism, though I've come to expect his ardent anti-communism
as typical of left US intellectuals. To be sure, in a milieu so hostile to
communism, it should come as no surprise that conspicuous displays of
anti-communism become a survival strategy for those seeking to establish a
rapport, and safeguard their reputations, with a larger (and vehemently
anti-communist) audience.

But there may be another reason for the anti-communism of those whose
political views leave them open to charges of being soft on communism, and
therefore of having horns. As dissidents in their own society, there was
always a natural tendency for them to identify with dissidents elsewhere -
and the pro-capitalist, anti-socialist propaganda of the West quite
naturally elevated dissidents in socialist countries to the status of
heroes, especially those who were jailed, muzzled and otherwise repressed by
the State. For these people, the abridgement of civil liberties anywhere
looms large, for the abridgement of their own civil liberties would be an
event of great personal significance. By comparison, the Red's achievements
in providing a comfortable frugality and economic security to all, while
recognized intellectually as an achievement of some note, is less apt to
stir the imagination of one who has an income, the respect of his peers, and
plenty of people to read his books and attend his lectures. He doesn't have
to scavenge discarded coal in garbage dumps to eke out a bare, bleak, and
unrewarding existence. Some do.

Karol, 14, and his sister Alina, 12, everyday trudge to a dump, where mixed
industrial waste is deposited, just outside Swietochlowice, in formerly
socialist Poland. There, along with their father, they look for scrap metal
and second grade coal, anything to fetch a few dollars to buy a meager
supply of groceries. "There was better life in communism," says Karol's
father, 49, repeating a refrain heard over and over again, not only in
Poland, but also throughout the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union. "I was working 25 years for the same company
and now I cannot find a job - any job. They only want young and skilled
workers." [2] According to Gustav Molnar, a political analyst with the
Laszlo Teleki Institute, "the reality is that when foreign firms come here,
they're only interested in hiring people under 30. It means half the
population is out of the game." [3] That may suit the bottom lines of
foreign corporations - and the overthrow of socialism may be a pleasing
intellectual outcome for well-fed, comfortable intellectuals from Boston -
but it hardly suits that part of the Polish population that must scramble
over mountains of industrial waste - or perish. Under socialism "there was
always work for everybody." [4] And always a place to live, free schools to
go to, and doctors to see, without charge. So why is Howard Zinn glad
communism collapsed?

That the overthrow of socialism has failed to deliver anything of benefit to
the majority is plain to see. More than a decade after counterrevolution
swept through Eastern Europe, 17 former socialist countries are immeasurably
poorer. In Russia, poverty has tripled. One child in 10 - three million
Russian children - live like animals, ill-fed, dressed in rags, and living,
if they're lucky, in dirty, squalid flats. In Moscow alone, 30,000 to 50,000
children sleep in the streets. Life expectancy, education, adult-literacy
and income are in decline. A report by the European Children's Trust,
written in 2000, revealed that 40 percent of the population of the former
socialist countries -- 160 million people - lives in poverty. Infant
mortality and tuberculosis are on the rise, approaching Third World levels.
The situation, according to the UN, is catastrophic. And everywhere the
story is the same. [5, 6, 7, 8]

In Russia, the Kremlin passed a new labor code in 2001 that critics
denounced as Dickensian - for good reason. Aimed at creating a climate
conducive to profit-making, Soviet-era union guarantees were abolished,
maternity leaves shortened, the minimum wage slashed, and the working day
lengthened to a "voluntary" 12 hours. [9] "Life was better under the
Communists," concludes Aleksandr. "The stores are full of things, but
they're very expensive." Victor pines for the "stability of an earlier era
of affordable health care, free higher education and housing, and the
promise of a comfortable retirement - things now beyond his reach." [10]
That Aleksandr and Victor are now free to denounce the new government in the
strongest terms, if they wish, hardly seems to be a consolation.

Ion Vancea, a Romanian who struggles to get by on a picayune $40 per month
pension says, "It's true there was not much to buy back then, but now prices
are so high we can't afford to buy food as well as pay for electricity."
Echoing the words of many in Romania, Vancea adds, "Life was 10 times better
under (Romanian Communist Party leader) Ceausescu." [11]

Next door, in Bulgaria, 80 percent are worse off now that the country has
transitioned to a market economy. Only five percent say their standard of
living has improved. [12] Mimi Vitkova, briefly Bulgaria's health minister
for two years in the mid-90s, sums up the decade following the overthrow of
socialism: "We were never a rich country, but when we had socialism our
children were healthy and well-fed. They all got immunized. Retired people
and the disabled were provided for and got free medicine. Our hospitals were
free." But things have changed, she says. "Today, if a person has no money,
they have no right to be cured. And most people have no money. Our economy
was ruined." [13]

In East Germany a new phenomenon has arisen: Ostalgie, a nostalgia based on
the old regime's full employment, free health care, free education through
university (with living expenses covered by the State), cheap rents,
subsidized books and periodicals and dirt cheap public transportation.
During the Cold War era, East Germany's relative poverty was attributed to
public ownership and central planning - sawdust in the gears of the economic
engine, according to anti-socialist mythology. But the propaganda
conveniently ignored the fact that the eastern part of Germany had always
been less developed than the west, that it had been plundered of its key
human assets at the end of World War II by US occupation forces, that the
Soviet Union had carted off everything of value to indemnify itself for its
war losses, and that East Germany bore the brunt of war reparations to
Moscow. [14] On top of that, those who fled East Germany were said to be
escaping the repression of a brutal regime, and while some may indeed have
been ardent anti-Communists fleeing repression by the State, many were
economic refugees, seeking the embrace of a more prosperous West.

Today, nobody of an unprejudiced mind would say that the riches promised
East Germans, if only they would restore capitalism, have been realized.
Unemployment, once unheard of, runs at 25 percent, rents have skyrocketed,
and nobody goes to the doctor unless they can pay. The region's industrial
infrastructure - weaker than West Germany's during the Cold War, but
expanding -- has now all but disappeared. And the population is dwindling,
as economic refugees, following in the footsteps of Cold War refugees before
them, make their way westward in search of jobs and opportunity. [15] "We
were taught that capitalism was cruel," recalls Ralf Caemmerer, who works
for Otis Elevator. "You know, it didn't turn out to be nonsense." [16] As to
the claim that East Germans have "freedom" Heinz Kessler, a former East
German defense minister replies tartly, "Millions of people in Eastern
Europe are now free from employment, free from safe streets, free from
health care, free from social security." [17] Still, Howard Zinn is glad
communism collapsed. But then, he doesn't live in east Germany.

So, who's doing better? Otto Jelinek, a Czech whose family fled to Canada
after the Red Army booted the Nazis out and helped install an antifascist
government, became a cabinet minister in Canada's conservative, pro-Reagan
Mulroney government in the 80s. Today he lives in Prague, one of "many
individuals in positions of high influence, in politics, in business [who]
have moved back to the country." [18] What brings Jelenik, and his fellow
movers and shakers back? "These people understand that they better than
almost anyone help our nation make the transition to a market economy," says
the director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Prague, Oldrich
Tuma, [19] another way of saying that owing to their connections, they, more
than others, know there's a buck to be made and how to make it. And, of
course, there's the lure of restitution-getting back property, some of it
which can be pressed into service as a rent-bearing asset, they, and their
families, used to own. Jelinek didn't recover his old family home. It's an
embassy, and hence would have proved to be a spacious, comfortable abode for
the Jelinek family in its day, but the Czech government "did return 20 acres
of real estate outside of Prague." [20]

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright turned President, comes from a prominent,
vehemently anti-socialist Prague family. Havel's father was a wealthy real
estate tycoon, who developed a number of Prague properties. One was the
Lucerna Palace, "a pleasure palace.of arcades, theatres, cinemas,
night-clubs, restaurants, and ballrooms," according to Frommer's. It became
"a popular spot for the city's nouveau riche to congregate," including a
young Havel, who, raised in the lap of luxury by a governess and chauffeured
around town, "spent his earliest years on the Lucerna's polished marble
floors." Then, tragedy struck - at least, from Havel's point of view. The
Reds expropriated Lucerna and the family's other holdings, and put them to
use for the common good, rather than for the purpose of providing the young
Havel with more servants. Four decades later, Havel, as president -- and now
celebrated throughout the West as a champion of intellectual freedom --
presided over a mass return of nationalized property, including Lucerna and
his family's other holdings. As a business investment, Havel's
anti-communism proved to be quite profitable. Is he a champion of
intellectual freedom, or the formerly pampered scion of an establishment
family who had a material stake in seeing socialism overthrown?

The Roman Catholic Church is another winner, which may explain, in part, why
the Vatican takes such a dim view of communism. The pro-capitalist Hungarian
government has returned to the Roman Catholic Church much of the property
nationalized by the Reds, who placed the property under common ownership for
the public good. With recovery of many of the Eastern and Central European
properties it once owned, the Church is able to reclaim its pre-socialist
role of parasite -- raking in vast amounts of unearned wealth in rent, a
privilege bestowed for no other reason than it owns title to the land.
Hungary also pays the Vatican a US$9.2 million annuity for property it has
been unable to return. [21]

The Church, former landowners, and CEOs aside, most people of the former
socialist bloc aren't pleased that the gains of the socialist revolutions
have been reversed. Three-quarters of Russians, according to a 1999 poll
[22] regret the demise of the Soviet Union. And their assessment of the
status quo is refreshingly clear-sighted. Almost 80 percent recognize
democracy as a front for a government controlled by the rich. A majority
(correctly) identifies the cause of its impoverishment as an unjust economic
system (capitalism), which, according to 80 percent, produces "excessive and
illegitimate inequalities." [23] The solution, in the view of the majority,
is to return to the status quo ante (socialism), even if it means one-party
rule. Russians, laments the anti-Communist historian Richard Pipes, haven't
Americans' taste for multiparty democracy, and seem incapable of being cured
of their fondness for Soviet leaders. In one poll, Russians were asked to
list the 10 greatest people of all time, of all nations. Lenin came in
second, Stalin fourth (Peter the Great came first.) Pipes seems genuinely
distressed they didn't pick his old boss, Ronald Reagan, and is fed up that
after years of anti-socialist, pro-capitalist propaganda, Russians remain
committed to the idea that private economic activity should be restricted,
and "the government [needs] to be more involved in the country's economic
life." [24]

So, if the impoverished peoples of the formerly socialist countries pine for
the former attractions of socialism, why don't they vote the Reds back in?
In some countries, reconstituted Communist parties have received popular
mandates to govern. And in Russia, Unity and Fatherland, the party that has
become the parliamentary extension of the president, Vladimir Putin, has
tapped into a deep well of nostalgia for Soviet socialism. "They've managed
to create a new party of power, which in fact is replacing the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union," says Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the
Moscow-based Institute of Globalization Studies. "It functions like the old
Communist Party; it looks like the old Communist Party; it behaves like the
old Communist Party." [25]

But socialism can't be turned on with the flick of a switch (not that the
Unity and Fatherland party would, if it could.) The former socialist
economies have been mostly privatized and placed under the control of the
market. Those who accept the goals and values of capitalism have been
recruited to occupy pivotal offices of the State. And economic, legal and
political structures have been altered, to accommodate private production
for profit. True, there are openings for communist parties to operate within
the new multiparty democracy, but the pillars of socialism - public
ownership, central planning, and the lead role of the working class - have
been dismantled and carted away, tossed, we're told, into the dustbin of
history. Getting them back will take something more than returning Reds to

Of course, no forward step will be taken, can be taken, until a decisive
part of the population becomes disgusted with and rejects what exists today,
and is convinced something better is possible and is willing to tolerate the
upheavals of transition. That something better is indeed possible - not a
utopia, but something better than unceasing economic insecurity, private
(and for many, unaffordable) health care and education, and vast
inequality - is plain. It has been reality in the Soviet Union, in China
(for a time), in Eastern Europe, and today, hangs on in Cuba, despite the
incessant and far-ranging efforts of the United States to smash it.

It should be no surprise that Vaclav Havel, as others whose economic and
political supremacy was, for a time, ended by the Reds, was a tireless
fighter against socialism, or that he, and others, who sought to reverse the
gains of the revolution, were cracked down on, and sometimes muzzled and
jailed by the new regimes. To expect otherwise is to turn a blind eye to the
determined struggle that is carried on by the enemies of socialism, even
after socialist forces have seized power. The forces of reaction retain
their money, their movable property, the advantages of education, and above
all, their international connections. To grant them complete freedom is to
grant them a free hand to organize the downfall of socialism, to receive
material assistance from abroad to reverse the revolution, and to elevate
the market and private ownership once again to the regulating principles of
the economy. Few champions of civil liberties argue that in the interests of
freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, that
Americans ought to be free to replace their republican form of government
with a pro-British monarchy, or, more to the point, that Germans ought be
allowed to hold pro-Nazi rallies, establish a pro-Nazi press, and organize
fascist political parties, to return to the days of the Third Reich. To
survive, any socialist government, must, of necessity, be repressive toward
its enemies. This is demonized as totalitarianism by those who have an
interest in seeing anti-socialist forces prevail, regard civil and political
liberties (as against a world of plenty for all) as the summum bonum of
human achievement, or have an unrealistically sanguine view of the
possibilities for socialist survival.

Where Reds have prevailed, the outcome has been far-reaching material gains
for the bulk of the population: full employment, free health care, free
education through university, free and subsidized child care, cheap living
accommodations and inexpensive public transportation. Life expectancy has
soared, illiteracy has been wiped out, and homelessness, unemployment and
economic insecurity have been abolished. Racial strife and ethnic tensions
has been reduced to almost the vanishing point. And inequalities in wealth,
income, opportunity, and education have been greatly reduced. Where Reds
have been overthrown, mass unemployment, underdevelopment, hunger, disease,
illiteracy, homelessness, and racial conflict have recrudesced. Communists
produced gains in the interest of all humanity, achieved in the face of very
trying conditions, including the unceasing hostility of the West and the
unremitting efforts of the former exploiters to restore the status quo ante.
What they achieved surpassed anything achieved by social democratic struggle
in the West, where the advantages of being more advanced industrially, made
the promises of socialism all the more readily achievable - and to a far
greater degree than could be achieved elsewhere in the world. Hidden, or at
best, acknowledged but quickly brushed aside as matters of little
significance, these are achievements that have been too long ignored in the
West - and greatly missed in the countries where they were reversed in the
interests of restoring the wealth and privileges of a minority.

1. Howard Zinn, "Beyond the Soviet Union," Znet Commentary, September 2,

2. "Left behind by the luxury train," The Globe and Mail, March 29, 2000.

3. "Support dwindling in Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland," The Chicago
Tribune, May 27, 2001.

4. Ibid.

5. "An epidemic of street kids overwhelms Russian cities," The Globe and
Mail, April 16, 2002.

6. "UN report says one billion suffer extreme poverty," World Socialist Web
Site, July 28, 2003.

7. Associated Press, October 11, 2000.

8. "UN report....

9. "Union leader tastes McVictory," The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2001.

10. "In Post-U.S.S.R. Russia, Any Job Is a Good Job," New York Times,
January 11, 2004.

11. "Disdain for Ceausescu passing as economy worsens," The Globe and Mail,
December 23, 1999.

12. "Bulgarians feel swindled after 13 years of capitalism," AFP, December
19, 2002.

13. "Bulgaria tribunal examines NATO war crimes," Workers World, November 9,

14. Jacques R. Pauwels, "The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second
World War," James Lorimer & Company, Toronto, 2002. p. 232-235.

15. "Warm, Fuzzy Feeling for East Germany's Grey Old Days," New York Times,
January 13, 2004.

16. "Hard lessons in capitalism for Europe's unions," The Los Angeles Times,
July 21, 2003.

17. New York Times, July 20, 1996, cited in Michael Parenti, "Blackshirts &
Reds: Rational Fascism & the Overthrow of Communism," City Light Books, San
Francisco, 1997, p. 118.

18. "Jelinek: 'There's no looking back'," The Globe and Mail, April 15,

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. U.S. Department of State, "Summary of Property Restitution in Central
and Eastern Europe," September 10, 2003.

22. Cited in Richard Pipes, "Flight from Freedom: What Russians Think and
Want," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004.

23. Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25. "Putin's party echoes the Communist past," The Globe and Mail, December
6, 2003.


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