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Old 11-19-2018, 01:43 AM
adaher adaher is offline
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Why were most Communists totalitarian?

I've seen this discussed before in short form, usually with glib, easy answers like, "power corrupts", or "they just hijacked the ideology because they wanted power". But as much as I love to punch totalitarians, it doesn't ring true to me. Fascism was always just as attractive during the time communism rose, and it seems a lot simpler: there's us, there's them outside our borders(as well as minorities inside our borders), and you should be for us. Oh, and here's a dab of socialism so we seem to be champions of the working class. Communism, though, was freakin' complicated. People don't need to be educated to make a nationalist pitch to them. Communism by contrast requires indoctrination and some fairly complex ideas. Plus there's limited appeal. Nationalism can be sold to poor, middle class, and rich alike. Communism is primarily a lower working class phenomenon. Even the middle class is generally hostile to the idea. Just seems an unnecessarily complicated way to just take power and lord it over people.

But nowhere among those ideas is totalitarianism really a selling point. Nor does it seem particularly necessary to control people's lives to the extent communist nations did. Why are free unions a problem? Why is a free press a problem? Why must foreign ideas be kept out? Why must the world of the arts be controlled? Why can free elections never be allowed? And most importantly, from an ideological standpoint, what was accomplished between the Bolshevik Revolution and the 1980s when it all started to crumble? Was there any progress at all towards any communist goals? It was just all sacrifice and toil all the time for the workers and not so much as reliable bread supplies or a decent car or house 60 years later, and all the authorities had to offer were exhortations to work harder. They were full of five year economic plans but did they have any plans to actually make the system work for the average person at some point?
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Old 11-19-2018, 02:02 AM
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Because the Soviet Union and Maoist China were Authoritarian socialist states.

The political-economic spectrum is a plane and not a line. The political and economic aspects are separate axis.

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Old 11-19-2018, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by adaher View Post
I've seen this discussed before in short form, usually with glib, easy answers like, "power corrupts", or "they just hijacked the ideology because they wanted power". But as much as I love to punch totalitarians, it doesn't ring true to me. Fascism was always just as attractive during the time communism rose, and it seems a lot simpler: there's us, there's them outside our borders(as well as minorities inside our borders), and you should be for us. Oh, and here's a dab of socialism so we seem to be champions of the working class. Communism, though, was freakin' complicated. People don't need to be educated to make a nationalist pitch to them. Communism by contrast requires indoctrination and some fairly complex ideas. Plus there's limited appeal. Nationalism can be sold to poor, middle class, and rich alike. Communism is primarily a lower working class phenomenon. Even the middle class is generally hostile to the idea. Just seems an unnecessarily complicated way to just take power and lord it over people.

But nowhere among those ideas is totalitarianism really a selling point. Nor does it seem particularly necessary to control people's lives to the extent communist nations did. Why are free unions a problem? Why is a free press a problem? Why must foreign ideas be kept out? Why must the world of the arts be controlled? Why can free elections never be allowed? And most importantly, from an ideological standpoint, what was accomplished between the Bolshevik Revolution and the 1980s when it all started to crumble? Was there any progress at all towards any communist goals? It was just all sacrifice and toil all the time for the workers and not so much as reliable bread supplies or a decent car or house 60 years later, and all the authorities had to offer were exhortations to work harder. They were full of five year economic plans but did they have any plans to actually make the system work for the average person at some point?
You think politicians actually believe the messages they use to manipulate the masses?
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Old 11-19-2018, 02:26 AM
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Because the Soviet Union and Maoist China were Authoritarian socialist states.

The political-economic spectrum is a plane and not a line. The political and economic aspects are separate axis.
Yes, but why did they choose that? And why did they not change course at some point? Many right-wing dictatorships have transitioned to democracy, but it only happened in communist countries through sudden overthrow. I'd be interested to see what a communist country slowly moving towards greater civil liberties and free elections would look like. We know what the right wing version looks like: Chile, Argentina, Taiwan, Brazil, Haiti, South Korea. Why did no Communist countries attempt this and why are the holdouts still insisting on totalitarian government even as they liberalize their economies?
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:13 AM
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It's theoretically possible that the issue was simply the inertia of the political reality of those places. The people expected a dictator, and so they got a dictator. You can't rule through any means other than totalitarianism, because it just don't work in those places and won't until the culture adapts.

Except that there were the Utopianists, in the US and elsewhere, who tried to make a go at setting up Socialist/Communist communities where there was no property, everyone got an equal slice of what everyone produced, according to their need, etc. and ultimately those all either fell apart or started to take on dictatorial rule to try and enforce the system. So I don't think the cultural inertia theory holds, entirely, in this case.

Probably your best answer would be to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Her politics and philosophy be as they may - which I'll call the woo fan-girlism of Capitalism - if you ignore that part of the book, which is really sort of the minority of the text, what remains is basically a sequence of vignettes where she goes through and details how Communism promotes bad behavior - bullying, corruption, racketeering, tyranny, etc. - which doesn't come from her fan-girl philosophy, that part comes from being a person who lived in the USSR and saw how Communist economics interacted with human psychology. As someone who did not grow up under Communism, I am less able to accurately describe the sequence of events that leads to misbehavior.

But basically, humans expect a hierarchy. If forced to live without one, they'll create one. And, similar to how outlawing alcohol leads to crime but doesn't make alcohol go away, outlawing hierarchies doesn't make them go away, it just makes all of the hierarchies criminal. And hierarchies are a lot more fundamental to humanity than alcohol, so that need either ends up tearing everything apart or the criminal hierarchy that is produced will end up taking over and living for itself.

There are just some things about humans - drinking alcohol, having sex, aborting fetuses, cheating on their spouses, forming a hierarchy, etc. - that you can't stop. Any system you set up will probably do better managing those things rather than criminalizing them, to get the best results.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 11-19-2018 at 03:16 AM.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:25 AM
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It's theoretically possible that the issue was simply the inertia of the political reality of those places. The people expected a dictator, and so they got a dictator. You can't rule through any means other than totalitarianism, because it just don't work in those places and won't until the culture adapts.
Only, Communism hasn't only been totalitarian in those countries in which it became the political system, and what in Cuba's history makes it more likely to be totalitarian than, say... Costa Rica?

The moment Communism is summed up as "the dictatorship of the masses", you're saying it is inherently authoritarian. You're part of the masses or you're against the wall.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:40 AM
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Only, Communism hasn't only been totalitarian in those countries in which it became the political system, and what in Cuba's history makes it more likely to be totalitarian than, say... Costa Rica?
Also true.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:50 AM
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What is a dictatorship of the proletariat though? That sounds to me like democracy, since that's the only way the will of the people can be roughly ascertained. It would be an authoritarian democracy, with no limits on government other than what the majority wanted, but it would still be democracy.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:52 AM
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No, because in a democracy people don't get thrown in prison or killed for disagreeing. A democracy is pluralist; a dictatorship isn't.
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Old 11-19-2018, 04:02 AM
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What is a dictatorship of the proletariat though?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy
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Old 11-19-2018, 05:01 AM
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Short answer: Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

As for what it achieved... Well, rapidly enforced large-scale industrialisation and (some aspects of) social modernisation, surviving and overcoming the Nazi invasion and rebuilding thereafter, but all at great human cost, and only by ingraining habits of a command economy that simply could not adapt to an economy based on small-scale innovation focussed on individual and variable consumer desires (and the political corollaries thereof).

Hard to know whether or how anything different would have been achieved if the Bolsheviks had been seen off in the first place, but you can be reasonably sure that it wouldn't have been a socialist or communist alternative.
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Old 11-19-2018, 05:25 AM
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I think the appeal of communism is partly the worker's paradise stuff but also, perhaps mainly when it comes to near-term matters, that it promises ant colony-like unified collective effort. For all its faults, it can be extremely effective at a small number of objectives chosen by central command like getting heavy industry in the '30s, producing weapons in the '40s or the space and nuclear programs in the '50s. In that way, it's reminiscent of the military and government under conditions of total war. Note how communism gained popularity in Germany, Russia and China after those countries were defeated and vulnerable. See how much more North Vietnam had its shit together than South Vietnam. Also note how the military doesn't have that much of a pay gap between privates and generals.

Combine that with ignorance or denial of the importance of supply/demand-derived price as information & incentive for economic calculation & innovation purposes and it can be tempting to have a whole society where everyone is made to shut up and pull in the same direction already. Since commies can hardly let profit serve as carrot, they have to use sticks.

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Old 11-19-2018, 05:56 AM
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In typical situations, the governing elite more or less let’s the people do what they do and simply skims off the top or makes modest changes to their practices. Communist elites wanted to change things quite a bit. This requires force.

I think part of the problem was communism didn’t happen like theorists thought it would. Russia was not a matured industrial base ripe for a turn to communism. Neither was China. In Russia, you had the most improbable of successful coups by a middle-class movement, this is not what Marx would have predicted. Therefore, you had ideological folks trying to mold and shape a populace to fit into the box they created.

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Old 11-19-2018, 07:12 AM
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Short answer: Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

As for what it achieved... Well, rapidly enforced large-scale industrialisation and (some aspects of) social modernisation, surviving and overcoming the Nazi invasion and rebuilding thereafter, but all at great human cost, and only by ingraining habits of a command economy that simply could not adapt to an economy based on small-scale innovation focussed on individual and variable consumer desires (and the political corollaries thereof).

Hard to know whether or how anything different would have been achieved if the Bolsheviks had been seen off in the first place, but you can be reasonably sure that it wouldn't have been a socialist or communist alternative.
Oh, I know what it achieved in practice, I was just wondering if there was something they were trying for in theory that they made progress on in 60 years when it came to making citizens' lives better. Was it ever going to be a priority or was the leadership too focused on the struggle and spreading Communism?
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Old 11-19-2018, 07:17 AM
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In typical situations, the governing elite more or less letís the people do what they do and simply skims off the top or makes modest changes to their practices. Communist elites wanted to change things quite a bit. This requires force.

I think part of the problem was communism didnít happen like theorists thought it would. Russia was not a matured industrial base ripe for a turn to communism. Neither was China. In Russia, you had the most improbable of successful coups by a middle-class movement, this is not what Marx would have predicted. Therefore, you had ideological folks trying to mold and shape a populace to fit into the box they created.
That sounds reasonable, but it doesn't explain why the Soviets enforced their version of communism on their satellite allies. Dubcek in 1968 and Solidarity in 1980 shouldn't have been a threat at all, just different ways of doing things under the communist system.
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Old 11-19-2018, 07:46 AM
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On the hoof opinion, but as communism constitutes among its characteristics a fundamental rejection of the previous order - overturning the law and appealing directly to the sovereignty of the people - that attitude leads directly to authoritarianism, as it's easier to justify violating settled (even communist) law in the name of the people. It's a fundamentally anti-minority rights and anti-rule of law ideology.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:43 AM
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The ideological justification was the vanguard theory of Communism which Lenin added to the original Marxist form of communism.

In the original Marxist idea, communism was something that would happen inevitably when the time was right. Lenin put forth the idea that it wasn't necessary to wait until the time was right. As long as there was a group of right-minded communists in charge, the vanguard, they could push things along ahead of schedule.

This theory justified a lot of what communist regimes have done. They could argue that resistance to their rule didn't invalidate it; it was just a sign that some people hadn't caught up with communism yet. But the regime would carry on and lead the way and eventually everyone would realize how great communism was.

It also meant that the regime was justified in holding power and denying it to anyone else. As communists, they alone were leading society in the right direction even if the non-communists didn't see it yet.

Think of it as a parent and child relationship. The vanguard theory saw the communists as the parents and everyone else as the children. The parents needed to have absolute authority over the children because the children didn't have the wisdom to run their own lives. But the parents were acting in the children's best interests and their goal was to raise the children up to the point where they would see this and be able to run their own lives.
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Old 11-19-2018, 09:04 AM
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Marx posited that thev move to Pure Communism would involve transitional phases. The first he termed 'socialism' (not to be confused with the identical word we use to refer to modern welfare states) in which there was an acknowledgement that 'bourgeois law' still had an impact on society and it would be necessary for 'the people' embodied by the state to redistribute resources and equitably manage the means of production. So there was a universal agreement that a state was needed during this transitional period, but Marx and Engels didn't really spend a lot of time thinking about how this state would work. They seemed to think that it was largely a temporary thing that would soon disappear due to the inevitable rise of true communism. This meant that these early revolutionaries didn't really have a plan in place for governing. They agreed that the proletariat couldn't do it en masse because they were too beholden to capitalist cultures in which they existed and would do more harm than good. So they knew that the people truly dedicated to the cause (ie themselves) would have to rule somehow during this transitional period. So the rise of a one-party state really seems inevitable in Marxism. The fact that they didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the structure of these one-party states made it nearly inevitable that people would soon be exploiting these power structures and that's really exactly what happened. I don't know that I would say that a Communist revolution inevitably leads to authoritarianism, but the real lack of political philosophy behind the transitional government makes it very likely.

What you see with the second wave of revolutions is that it was in large part a sort of reaction against the first wave. The first wave was really all about politics. It was about checking the natural tendency of human society towards authoritarianism. The people in that revolutionary era were largely wealthy people shut out of the power structure, so they invented a power structure that made sure that their interests were taken into account and they knew that other wealthy people would want to infringe on their wealth, so they spent a lot of time thinking about how to prevent that. The Marxist revolutions really didn't spend any time thinking about politics. They saw economics as the great destroyer, so spent a ton of time thinking about how to better balance economic output to deal with inequality. The first suffers from runaway capitalism and the second from authoritarianism.
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Old 11-19-2018, 09:17 AM
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Survival of the fittest, sort of. People in a complex society won't willingly live in a communist system for very long, so any state that tries democratic communism isn't going to last more than a few years-- maybe just a few months. The ones that do last are the ones where the system is imposed on the population without the choice of voting it out, so those are the ones of note.

Communism works well at the smallest of social levels-- family group or maybe a little larger. Parents will often sacrifice almost anything for the children. Once you have large, complex societies, the bonds that bind humans to each other like a family group break down.

Extreme political systems like Communism or Libertarianism just don't last through many election cycles. And that's because they are not suited to the way people actually want to live in complex societies. They don't want to share everything but they don't want to be completely on their own, either.

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Old 11-19-2018, 09:56 AM
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Communism has to be totalitarian to work on a large scale, because it goes against human nature. People like to own things and be paid based off of work or contribution, not some system where everyone makes the same even if a slacker.

As much as people claim to want equality, they actually don't want equality. Nobody plays the Powerball thinking, "I want to be like the 99.99999% who don't win." They want to be that lucky one.
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Old 11-19-2018, 10:33 AM
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Communist ideology is inherently conflict based. The capitalists are perpetually in conflict with the working class. In order to achieve communism capitalists have to be defeated violently and bloodily. This is very explicit in all communists ideology.
Thus violent people are attracted to communism.
Communist ideology is very specific about the evils of capitalism but assumes that when communism is achieved and the evil is gone everything will work itself out. Of course in the real world, there are still coordination problems to deal with, and all the other issues that an economy and a political system have to deal with. Being violent ideologues communist leaders with all they knew, violence. The problem could never be with the ideology only with the opponents and the way to deal with opponents was to crush them.
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Old 11-19-2018, 10:54 AM
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I've seen this discussed before in short form, usually with glib, easy answers like, "power corrupts", or "they just hijacked the ideology because they wanted power". But as much as I love to punch totalitarians, it doesn't ring true to me. Fascism was always just as attractive during the time communism rose, and it seems a lot simpler: there's us, there's them outside our borders(as well as minorities inside our borders), and you should be for us. Oh, and here's a dab of socialism so we seem to be champions of the working class. Communism, though, was freakin' complicated. People don't need to be educated to make a nationalist pitch to them. Communism by contrast requires indoctrination and some fairly complex ideas. Plus there's limited appeal. Nationalism can be sold to poor, middle class, and rich alike. Communism is primarily a lower working class phenomenon. Even the middle class is generally hostile to the idea. Just seems an unnecessarily complicated way to just take power and lord it over people.

But nowhere among those ideas is totalitarianism really a selling point. Nor does it seem particularly necessary to control people's lives to the extent communist nations did. Why are free unions a problem? Why is a free press a problem? Why must foreign ideas be kept out? Why must the world of the arts be controlled? Why can free elections never be allowed? And most importantly, from an ideological standpoint, what was accomplished between the Bolshevik Revolution and the 1980s when it all started to crumble? Was there any progress at all towards any communist goals? It was just all sacrifice and toil all the time for the workers and not so much as reliable bread supplies or a decent car or house 60 years later, and all the authorities had to offer were exhortations to work harder. They were full of five year economic plans but did they have any plans to actually make the system work for the average person at some point?
I think the simplest answer is the correct one...Communism has to be imposed at all levels to 'work'. A lot of people think that it merely has to be imposed on the upper classes and the bourgeoisie but that's not so. Look at how Communist states came down on the workers and peasants as well, especially when they tried to impose collectivism. Some of the most brutal slaughters by Communist states happened when the party came down on these classes. At all levels, Communist states try and impose their will on a people and make it conform to their idealized reality...and it just doesn't work. Mao with his idiotic agriculture reforms, attempt to impose heavy industry and industrial steel manufacture in every backyard, etc etc are perfect examples of how, even when they aren't deliberately trying to be brutal they kill 10's of millions simply because they use force to try and impose their idealism on reality.

What's funny is how intellectuals, even on this board STILL keep the flame of this idiotic idea afloat and attempt No True Scotsman type arguments that this isn't an inherent flaw in Communism, just that all those who attempted it on a large scale were obviously monsters (or misunderstood) and did it wrong. But the NEXT time it's sure to work out perfectly!
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:06 AM
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An important factor to consider is history. The peoples in these areas were accustomed to living under a Tsar, or other Kings and Princes and Emperors, and existing as serfs (which is maybe kinda slaves). We in the democratic west have a hard time wrapping our heads around how these people went in the direction they did, because we fall into the trap of thinking they were starting from where we are. That is not the case.
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:14 AM
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Marxist theory is concerned with material inequality -- who has the goodies, the wealth. It does not specifically advocate totalitarianism but it also doesn't specifically concern itself with unequal authority and coercion and power as areas where we ought to be concerned about inequality. So from that standpoint, if all the tangible resources are distributed fairly, we're all cool here even if all the authority is directly vested in an absolute ruler of some sort.

Marxist theory does specify that in order to solve the material inequality problem, the workers' state must be coercive (must seize the authority to force the redistribution of resources out of the hands of the eeevil boirgeois capitalists who have concentrated it in their own hands). There is no concern that this authority would be abused -- instead it will magically "wither away".

Result = totalitarian governments
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:20 AM
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An important factor to consider is history. The peoples in these areas were accustomed to living under a Tsar, or other Kings and Princes and Emperors, and existing as serfs (which is maybe kinda slaves). We in the democratic west have a hard time wrapping our heads around how these people went in the direction they did, because we fall into the trap of thinking they were starting from where we are. That is not the case.
Other countries had kings, princes and emperors and were able to move past that. I don't think that's a good excuse. The best case to underscore the differences is Korea. Just look at the difference between Communist North Korea and South Korea. They are all Korean people who either lived under the thumb of the Chinese or more recently the Japanese, and who before that had a king of their own. Yet today, they are pretty different.
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:54 AM
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Survival of the fittest, sort of. People in a complex society won't willingly live in a communist system for very long, so any state that tries democratic communism isn't going to last more than a few years-- maybe just a few months. The ones that do last are the ones where the system is imposed on the population without the choice of voting it out, so those are the ones of note.

Communism works well at the smallest of social levels-- family group or maybe a little larger. Parents will often sacrifice almost anything for the children. Once you have large, complex societies, the bonds that bind humans to each other like a family group break down.

Extreme political systems like Communism or Libertarianism just don't last through many election cycles. And that's because they are not suited to the way people actually want to live in complex societies. They don't want to share everything but they don't want to be completely on their own, either.
Of course libertarianism has nothing to do with being completely on your own. It seeks to bring individuals together in voluntary arrangements, so it both benefits from and fosters social cohesion. Free-market capitalism, one aspect of libertarianism, especially encourages cooperation and reliance on trusted connections on a worldwide scale.
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Old 11-19-2018, 01:11 PM
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The arguments above are largely based on a presentism fallacy.

Note that while Russia chose a quasi-Marxist economic model, the Italian and German fascists also were Authoritarian.

Authoritarianism values orderliness and authority, and distrusts outsiders and social change. As western society is currently experiencing another rise of authoritarianism as demonstrated by Brexit and Donald Trump, why not drop the Monday morning quarterbacking and assumptions that it is directly related to an economic model and explain why a population may tend to authoritarianism?

As economic models are separate from this the political axis that was common across that part of Eurasia it seems that question is more relevant to finding the cause.
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Old 11-19-2018, 02:07 PM
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That sounds reasonable, but it doesn't explain why the Soviets enforced their version of communism on their satellite allies. Dubcek in 1968 and Solidarity in 1980 shouldn't have been a threat at all, just different ways of doing things under the communist system.
The Soviets authoritarians wanted power and that meant authoritarians who were subservient to the Soviet Union in their satellites. People doing things their own way may have meant the communists there decided that there was a better way than the Soviet way (and it may have led to ordinary people in the Soviet Union realizing there can exist communism without the heavy handed ness).

Anyways, you've hit on something there that there were movements of less authoritarian communism or socialism that were snuffed out by the Soviet Union (in the Warsaw Pact area) or United States (in the "third world"). So I wonder if perhaps things may have been a bit different if Poland or Iran or Chile were able to develop their systems without violent outside influence.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:57 PM
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Were the sandanistas in Nicaragua Dictators? They had some abuses but they held elections in 1984.

Looking online, even they had censorship and disappearances. So maybe so.
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Old 11-19-2018, 04:03 PM
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The arguments above are largely based on a [URL="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentism_(literary_and_historical_analysis)"]why not drop the Monday morning quarterbacking and assumptions that it is directly related to an economic model and explain why a population may tend to authoritarianism?
Your average person likes an authoritarian government, that is true.

The average person just wants life to be simple, to not be bothered by nuance or shades of grey, and if the Great Leader makes someone disappear, well that's probably because they deserved it. "Doesn't effect me none."

Rational, slow moving, deliberative government just gives the average man angst, making them get angry because everyone expects them to think about things.

But so, any style of government is quite liable to venture towards authoritarianism, particularly if it is more populist, collectivist, or Democratic.

Long live Republics.
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Old 11-19-2018, 04:26 PM
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In Russia and China those governments were instituted as the result of extremely violent wars against strong enemies. Communist or not, the winners of those wars won control of states with essentially no history of democracy as a means of making decisions. It would have been seen as very difficult/impossible to keep control if you let all the people you just beat in a very difficult war have the same political rights and freedoms as the "good guys." From this line of thinking it's very easy to then fall into permanent authoritarianism.
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:51 PM
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The Soviets authoritarians wanted power and that meant authoritarians who were subservient to the Soviet Union in their satellites. People doing things their own way may have meant the communists there decided that there was a better way than the Soviet way (and it may have led to ordinary people in the Soviet Union realizing there can exist communism without the heavy handed ness).

Anyways, you've hit on something there that there were movements of less authoritarian communism or socialism that were snuffed out by the Soviet Union (in the Warsaw Pact area) or United States (in the "third world"). So I wonder if perhaps things may have been a bit different if Poland or Iran or Chile were able to develop their systems without violent outside influence.
Wasn't Mexico fairly revolutionary socialist and also democratic during the years the PRI dominated? Of course, as in all democracies, one party states can't last forever, so Mexico is now a lot more capitalist and free than it was then, but it does seem to be an example of a socialist democratic government that lasted quite awhile.
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:53 PM
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Were the sandanistas in Nicaragua Dictators? They had some abuses but they held elections in 1984.

Looking online, even they had censorship and disappearances. So maybe so.
Latin American socialism usually keeps democracy but controls the flow of information to rig the system in the ruling party's favor. But if there's enough anger at the government they'll still lose eventually, and they did. And now they are back. Democracy.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:37 PM
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Of course libertarianism has nothing to do with being completely on your own.
Of course it does. In the context of a government system, you aren't going to get help from the state if you fall on bad times. You might get private charity, but not public assistance. Most people aren't willing to take the risk of there not being a public safety net of some sort. And lots of people want a public safety net even if they think they'll never need it themselves.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:45 PM
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Tolernace for a social safety net seems entirely based on how much of an impact it has on people's paychecks. If people aren't paying a lot in taxes, it's an easy sell. "For just 1% more of your pay, we'll give you income security if you lose your job!" But if people are paying high taxes, their tolerance for further safety net measures becomes quite low. It also matters how good the government is at determining need and preventing fraud. One of the problems with communism was that almost all the European versions had a culture of working the system to get the easiest ride you could. and why not? Working hard gained you nothing.
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:13 PM
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Y'all got me on ignore or somethin'?

Yeesh, I'm not that goddam boring, am I?
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Old 11-19-2018, 11:28 PM
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As much as people claim to want equality, they actually don't want equality. Nobody plays the Powerball thinking, "I want to be like the 99.99999% who don't win." They want to be that lucky one.
A Marxist would tell you the people are being duped. Only .00001% actually wins the grand prize; the lottery system did nothing for the other 99.99999%. A Marxist would say the capitalism system promises you great wealth but actually gives you nothing. A communist system would only promise you enough to live on but would actually deliver it. (And a realist would observe the communist system actually lies just as much as the capitalist system does.)
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Old 11-20-2018, 12:10 AM
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Tolernace for a social safety net seems entirely based on how much of an impact it has on people's paychecks. If people aren't paying a lot in taxes, it's an easy sell. "For just 1% more of your pay, we'll give you income security if you lose your job!" But if people are paying high taxes, their tolerance for further safety net measures becomes quite low. It also matters how good the government is at determining need and preventing fraud. One of the problems with communism was that almost all the European versions had a culture of working the system to get the easiest ride you could. and why not? Working hard gained you nothing.
Also obviously it depends on how likely people are to think they will get to use it.

In the US, a lot of our social safety nets apply to the poor and elderly. For someone who is 30, they don't really think about being elderly because that is 40 years off. And they aren't poor so they don't get pell grants, subsidized rent, medicaid, daycare, food stamps. So they aren't seeing a lot of direct benefit from a social welfare state.

Meanwhile a nation with universal healthcare can point to the benefits of the welfare state to the average citizen. In America our public health care systems only apply to the poor and elderly.

Also tolerance for a social safety net is also based on how homogeneous a culture feels. If a culture is easily divided into Us vs. Them, and only Them get to use welfare, then that creates a lot of resentment. In the US where welfare is portrayed as something that black people and latino immigrants use, it is very infuriating for native born white people to pay taxes to fund that system.
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Old 11-20-2018, 01:19 AM
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That sounds reasonable, but it doesn't explain why the Soviets enforced their version of communism on their satellite allies. Dubcek in 1968 and Solidarity in 1980 shouldn't have been a threat at all, just different ways of doing things under the communist system.
Because they couldn't imagine an alternative that would not - in their view - imperil their security. "Finlandisation" or an Austria-Hungary solution wasn't an option for the larger countries of central Europe so directly between them and West Germany (not least because the NATO powers weren't willing to accept a neutralised West Germany). And given the underlying strength of immoderate nationalism in those countries, that wasn't entirely groundless a fear. The Soviets knew no other way of counter-acting it than repression, from the show trials of the late 40s onwards.

As a result, little or nothing could change in most of the satellites till the Soviet Union did.

That said, Tito managed to direct Yugoslavia on its own way both economically and strategically, and Romania under Ceausescu made a great show of independence in international politics. Hungary under the post-1956 Kadar regime achieved a greater degree of economic relaxation than all the others, but the relationship with the USSR could never be questioned. And all three were still dictatorships.
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Old 11-20-2018, 01:43 AM
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It's the way imperialism worked in the 20th century: US puppets (not allies, different thing) were more varied in their official internal organization because the US is also pluralistic internally.
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Old 11-20-2018, 06:50 AM
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I don't know why my spell-check slipped to Austria-Hungary in post #39. I meant, of course, the Austrian State Treaty of 1955.

A factor I didn't mention was that Stalin simply imposed the system he had imposed on the USSR, and his successors found it well-nigh impossible to relax it without risking giving free rein to people who had awkwardly independent ideas; they just couldn't imagine an alternative that didn't undermine their position (as it almost certainly would). When (of all people) Beria the monster offered to calm down confrontation with the west by allowing a unified but neutral and non-Communist Germany, and some economic liberalisation at home, his rivals offed him.
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Old 11-20-2018, 09:13 PM
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Marxist theory is concerned with material inequality -- who has the goodies, the wealth. It does not specifically advocate totalitarianism but it also doesn't specifically concern itself with unequal authority and coercion and power as areas where we ought to be concerned about inequality. So from that standpoint, if all the tangible resources are distributed fairly, we're all cool here even if all the authority is directly vested in an absolute ruler of some sort.

Marxist theory does specify that in order to solve the material inequality problem, the workers' state must be coercive (must seize the authority to force the redistribution of resources out of the hands of the eeevil boirgeois capitalists who have concentrated it in their own hands). There is no concern that this authority would be abused -- instead it will magically "wither away".

Result = totalitarian governments
I think you got it. Or as one of my professors noted, Marx identified the problem correctly, it was his solution that was fucked up.
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Old 11-20-2018, 09:57 PM
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Marxist theory does specify that in order to solve the material inequality problem, the workers' state must be coercive (must seize the authority to force the redistribution of resources out of the hands of the eeevil boirgeois capitalists who have concentrated it in their own hands). There is no concern that this authority would be abused -- instead it will magically "wither away".

Result = totalitarian governments
Not really. Most western nations have reduced inequality via investments in the middle class, social welfare and progressive taxes.

I do wonder to what degree communist nations go totalitarian due to international imperialists (like the US) trying to overthrow their government. But then again, nations like Israel and South Korea have to deal with foreign nations trying to sabotage them too and they are still liberal democracies.

Either way my impression is that communism is a failure and that social democracy has replaced it. I think every communist nation left has abandoned economic communism for market economics (except maybe Cuba).
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  #44  
Old 11-20-2018, 10:11 PM
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Not really. Most western nations have reduced inequality via investments in the middle class, social welfare and progressive taxes.
Well, what AHunter3 said is what Marxism postulates: your disagreement is with Marxism, not with his explanation.

Marxism is an extremely reductionist ideology; its evolution from Marx' initial postulates has made it even more reductionist. It views economic reasons (often reduced to "money", when actually "the economy" is a much wider concept) as the root of all human action, views humans as incapable of positive behavior unless coerced or forced by the enlightened few (the vanguard), and in general has an extremely negative view of the world. When a person jumps into the water to save someone else from drowning, the Marxist instinctive response is a combo of "who pushed him?" and "he was expecting a monetary reward." I find that terribly sad, but then, I'm definitely not a Marxist.
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Old 11-20-2018, 10:16 PM
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Not really. Most western nations have reduced inequality via investments in the middle class, social welfare and progressive taxes.

I do wonder to what degree communist nations go totalitarian due to international imperialists (like the US) trying to overthrow their government. But then again, nations like Israel and South Korea have to deal with foreign nations trying to sabotage them too and they are still liberal democracies.

Either way my impression is that communism is a failure and that social democracy has replaced it. I think every communist nation left has abandoned economic communism for market economics (except maybe Cuba).
Well, there is that China place. Even if we ignore how the CCP manipulates and controls their markets, you have the fact that a large percentage of their companies and economy are still command driven and state owned (and often owned and controlled by the movers and shakers of the CCP). They trade with the west, but in many key ways they haven't abandoned communism and embraced capitalism...they merely use capitalism to achieve their own ends. But the reality is the veneer of capitalism is pretty thin once you really start to look at things below skin deep.

I do agree that communism is pretty clearly a failure. I just don't think the folks in the CCP or other communist states (or folks who still ascribe to communism) believe that.
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Old 11-20-2018, 10:18 PM
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BTW, Israel and South Korea (and the USA) are in the "flawed democracy" tier according to the Democracy Index, indicating significant faults (in both of those countries they are pretty glaring), but there are obviously much, much worse places to live.

I don't think "communism is a failure" (or inevitable success) insofar as economic theory does not have to be frozen at 1860, 1960, or 2019. Especially if one finds a way to ostracize the authoritarian or genocidal politicians (easier said than done) and better employ modern analytic/computational tools.
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Old 11-20-2018, 10:34 PM
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BTW, Israel and South Korea (and the USA) are in the "flawed democracy" tier according to the Democracy Index, indicating significant faults (in both of those countries they are pretty glaring), but there are obviously much, much worse places to live.

I don't think "communism is a failure" (or inevitable success) insofar as economic theory does not have to be frozen at 1860, 1960, or 2019. Especially if one finds a way to ostracize the authoritarian or genocidal politicians (easier said than done) and better employ modern analytic/computational tools.
Yeah...they have the US as a 'flawed democracy' as well, looks like. And looks like, for some odd reason, China has gone up in their books to just mildly authoritarian. Same as Russia, though of course Russia isn't communist anymore. Israel and South Korea are the same shade of light green as the US, India and most of western Europe with the exception, for some VERY odd reason, as Spain, which seems to be rated higher. Canada, Australia and most of Scandinavia seem to be the only ones who get the coveted 'full democracy' rating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democr...Index_2017.svg

ETA: Oh, and I missed Venezuela...only the same mild authoritarian as China. So, yeah, this is pretty legit!!
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  #48  
Old 11-20-2018, 10:51 PM
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Well, there is that China place. Even if we ignore how the CCP manipulates and controls their markets, you have the fact that a large percentage of their companies and economy are still command driven and state owned (and often owned and controlled by the movers and shakers of the CCP). They trade with the west, but in many key ways they haven't abandoned communism and embraced capitalism...they merely use capitalism to achieve their own ends. But the reality is the veneer of capitalism is pretty thin once you really start to look at things below skin deep.

I do agree that communism is pretty clearly a failure. I just don't think the folks in the CCP or other communist states (or folks who still ascribe to communism) believe that.
China has a mixed economic system, and after the reforms of 1978 their economic growth rates started skyrocketing compared to before.

China is communist in name only from what I know of it. A mixed economic system is not the same thing as a centrally planned economic system. Then again pure capitalism doesn't work well either.

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BTW, Israel and South Korea (and the USA) are in the "flawed democracy" tier according to the Democracy Index, indicating significant faults (in both of those countries they are pretty glaring), but there are obviously much, much worse places to live.

I don't think "communism is a failure" (or inevitable success) insofar as economic theory does not have to be frozen at 1860, 1960, or 2019. Especially if one finds a way to ostracize the authoritarian or genocidal politicians (easier said than done) and better employ modern analytic/computational tools.
To my knowledge, almost every nation that adopted communism either gave it up, or gave up economic communism and is just communist in name.

Laos, Vietnam & China all practice market economics. North Korea has a huge capitalist black market and is arguably more fascist than communist at this point (cult of personality, hyper militant, etc). Cuba may be the only communist nation left.

My point about Israel and South Korea is that a nation can be under threat and still maintain a democracy. Taiwan too.
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  #49  
Old 11-20-2018, 10:59 PM
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Canada, Australia and most of Scandinavia seem to be the only ones who get the coveted 'full democracy' rating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democr...Index_2017.svg
Incorrect. There are two groups within "full democracy"; several Western European countries (Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg, UK) are in the lower bracket, and you missed others in the upper bracket (Ireland, Switzerland). Oh, and all of Scandinavia is in the upper bracket.

You misread both the colors and the explanations for them.



The differences between the authoritarian brackets are mainly how much they go into people's private lives. China is pretty bad there, but nowhere as efficiently bad as Saudi Arabia or NK; Venezuela doesn't give much of a shit.
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Last edited by Nava; 11-20-2018 at 11:03 PM.
  #50  
Old 11-20-2018, 11:08 PM
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Incorrect. There are two groups within "full democracy"; several Western European countries (Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Luxemburg, UK) are in the lower bracket, and you missed others in the upper bracket (Ireland, Switzerland). Oh, and all of Scandinavia is in the upper bracket.

You misread both the colors and the explanations for them.
Perhaps I'm just color blind, but I see 4 shades of green, and it looks, to me, as if the US, France, Portugal (7-7.99) ect is lighter than German, Spain, the UK (8-8.99), etc, while Ireland and most of Scandinavia is the darkest green (9-10). So, two shades for 'full democracy', two shades for 'flawed democracy', and assuming I'm seeing the colors correctly that means Spain, Germany etc is lowest level of 'full democracy', while the US, Portugal, India etc is the highest level of 'flawed democracy'...same as Israel and South Korea. On the Authoritarian side it looks to me, again, like China, Russia and Venezuela are the lowest level of 'authoritarian regimes' (3-3.99).


I do admit I didn't read the explanations, as just looking at things as depicted it seems a bit leading to say Israel and South Korea are 'flawed democracies' without putting that into the context of the whole map there.
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