Soviet and US Economy

Jim heartfield Jim at
Sun Jul 19 04:05:54 PDT 1998

In message <35B14D81.B0221355 at>, Mark Jones <Jones_M at> writes
>The problem with Gorbachev and Aganbegyan is that they are somewhat
>tainted witnesses.

Yes, of course. The truth was that the socialist economy was booming, but wicked capitalists had inveigled themselves into the Kremlin were telling lies about it.

> Agenbegyan's own schemes for revitalising
>Soviet industry (the '500 Days' programme) led directly to the debacle
>which happened under Yeltsin.

No argument there, but what has that got to do with the veracity of his reports on the soviet economy prior to the 500 days? In what particulars do you disagree with him?

>As for Jim Heartfield's position, it
>is actually the same as Richard Pipes' -- that everything
>which went wrong under Yeltsin was the direct result of the 70 years of
>communist evil.

On the contrary, it is a result of the failure of the social recontruction launched in the thirties - which itself was a reversal of socialism.
>Hillel Ticktin, as folks probably now, is a marxologist who edits
>Critique, a journal which has published many fine articles by people
>like Chris Arthur over the years,

Yes, it is a prestigious magazine amongst Marxists, who recognise it as an important contribution to the the left.

>but which was also the platform
>for Ticktin's thoroughly egregious and rabid anti-communism.

Insofar as Mark Jones' accepts the Cold War propaganda view that Communism is reducible to a militaristic dictatorship, this statement is true. All opposition to Stalinism is in his mind anti-Communism. But actually of course, Ticktin is amongst the foremost defenders of Communism - because he has worked to rescue it from the association with Stalinism.

As you yourself write in another post today of Ticktin's perpicacity: "Others, including the marxologue Hillel Ticktin, were predicting many of the events which took place as the SU unravelled, by the mid-1970s."

Which makes it all the more strange that you continue

>I don't
>find Ticktin -- or James Heartfield -- credible;

The person who lacks credibility is Mark Jones - who has acted as an apologist for military dictatorship and the Soviet elite in the USSR for the greater part of his life. His pathetic squirming now is motivated by a sense of guilt - guilt for all the times that he has lied and covered- up for repression and squalor.

What earthly interest could there be in what Jones finds 'credible'? In the twilight of his years he is struck by the fact that his life has been spent in the service of a brutal dictatorship - a fact that drives him on to lie and pontificate.

> anyone who spent any time
>in the USSR (sorry to pull rank like this)

What a terrible moment that must have been - to learn that the new Jerusalem was turned to Mammon. You shouldn't apologise, you have no rank to pull. By the time you got there they were not giving out military commands and gold braid anymore, but I expect you bought an army greatcoat, some medals and a big hat to pose in in your bedroom

>he cannot rise above his own prosaic preoccupations -- consumerism

Yes, how very weak of me, and indeed of the Russian people, that they could not rise above their prosaic preoccupation with consuming. If only they had higher motives they could have liberated themselves from such earthly bonds and fed on the air. As it was their impoverished lives led them to think that somehow the society they lived in was something less than socialism.

>is what Living Marxism is all about, so it's no surprise that this is
>the prism thru which Jim tries to understand Soviet realities.

Yes, its true. In assessing the claims of the 'Workers state' I asked myself, how did the workers' fare? Didn't Marx judge capitalism by its failure to meet the basic needs of its people. To each according to his needs, right?
>There are other and more important ways to measure Soviet achievements
>though, and they relate to more basic public health, mortality,
>morbidity, literacy and other measures of well-being.

Mortality was rising, as was alcohlism in the eighties. Stalin's industrialisation plan led to five million deaths through famine.

>People like
>Nato-financed Murray Feshbach provide what are more devastating
>accounts of the grim Soviet and post-soviet realities, yet they
>also acknowledge the reasons WHY things turned out as they did
Things turned out as they did because the society that was created in the thirties was incapable of rational planning. It wasted vast resources through inefficiency, reducing its people to penury.

>-- and
>they pay tribute to what was achieved and is now lost.

>These dimensions
>are lacking in this somewhat impoverished LM discourse.

That would eb the dimension of apologia for the failures of the Soviet economy.
>What is really tedious and depressing

And yah boo to you to

>about Jim Heartfield is the total
>lack of any sense of history.

'Sense of history' being the fantasy version that you substitute for the study of actual history. 'Total lack' - you descend into hyperbole, hoping that rhetoric will obscure the lack of an argument.

>His version of the Soviet Thirties is
>so tendentious as to be not worth responding to;

Translation: Mark cannot respond on the facts because he knows that they are correct.

> his notion of economic
>'inefficiency' is so breathtakingly lacking in context

On the contrary, the context was the Soviet regime's adaptation to imperialism.

> that you have to
>wonder how these streams of half-truths and distortions can
>be justified.
'half-true' meaning 'are true', 'distortions' meaning 'facts' - the weight of Jones' argument is that I should make allowances for the poor benighted bureaucrats who were struggling manfully against the wicked capitalists - which would be fine but that they were struggling against their own citizens.

>What shines thru all that Jim has to say on the subject is a desire to
>judge, rather than analyse and understand.

How pathetic. We should try to understand Stalin and Beria, because they had troubled upbringings, because they had psychological problems? Jones is not really asking that Soviet policy should be analysed, but excused. This is not a plea for rational enquiry, but apologetics.
>Even academic sovietology
>and its post-soviet incarnations have got beyond anything so shallow;
>who now wants to waste time comparing and contrasting soviet and
>American development models?

Forgive me, but isn't that exactly what you are doing with your Insurrection magazine and its stirring oil-paintings of Soviet workers reaping the harvests and joining the work-details?

> Who seriously can take Stalin's idea
>of 'socialism in one country' at face value, as (this is weird,
>when you think about it) Jim Heartfield does?

This is too cute to make any sense. 'Socialism in one country' was a utopian policy, whose attempted enactment reduced the USSR to destitution. For the greater part of his life, Jones was a proponent of Socialism in one country. Now, after the event, he seeks to excuse this mostrously destructive regime by blaming its failures on everyone else.

This is an evasion of political responsibility, dressed up in mock scientific objectivity.

>For once you start to
>analyse the global historical context, and to consider the ways in
>which the USSR was always imbricated into the global accumulation
>process, and never rose above, and never could have risen above, the
>forms of technology, production and the social division
>of labour, including crucially the division of intellectual and manual
>labour, which prevailed in the west --

Now, sixty years on, you try to excuse the failure of the Stalinist model as pre-destined fate.

> then what on earth sense does
>it make to even begin to regard the Soviet 'model' as one worth
>taking seriously in its own terms, and in terms of its own
>ideological self-perception?

Because it did fail, and unless one is to adopt your view outlined above that all socialism must fail, then we should try to understand why it failed.

>The C19 Russian empire was a 'weak link', a state and society which was
>unable to modernise and was always a candidate for Africanisation,
>as tsarism imploded under western industrial, political and military pressure.
>What was always on the cards has now happened: but it was Soviet communism,
>aka Stalinism, kept that grim outcome at bay for seven decades.

No, there is nothing in the Russian soil that makes people poor (any more than Africans are naturally impoverished). Stalinism did that. You are attempting not to explain, but to explain away the failure of the regime. With such an approach, even Hitler's crimes could be explained away as a necessary attempt to overcome entente oppression (but then of course that was Stalin's view of the matter).

>That's the
>real context. What Jim Heartfield retrospectively presribes for the Soviet
>was to abandon stalinist autarky and 'embrace the market'. In other words,
>he prescribes what Yeltsin prescribes.

On the contrary, I do not propose that they embrace the market. It only indicates the poverty of Jones' analysis that he sees the only choice as one between Stalinist repression or capitalism.

>It's as simple as that. It's an undisguised apologetics for colonial
>'solutions' to developmental 'problems'.

If you care to answer the points made instead of those that you hear in your own head, you would understand that you are the apologist, an apologist for Stalin and Stalinism. -- Jim heartfield

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