lbo-talk-digest V1 #1191

jeff sommers jsommers at
Sun Apr 4 14:49:30 PDT 1999

Brad, I think it might be instructive to take Jason's comments seriously. The whole point behind Kolko's The Politics of War was to demonstrate that nations linked to the West, like Greece, that might have gone Red after WW II would have done so by popular consent. Stalin got East Europe and the US got the West and each dictated the way their spheres would develop their political institutions at the outset. The West got social democracy, due to a combination of pressures from below and reformist accomodations from top. The Soviets tried to uplift their sphere providing their bloc with far more than it took (some empire where the provinces are richer than the center and subsidized!)

Greece, strattling the West is very different from what occurred in the examples you mention below in E. and C. Euro., with perhaps the exception of Tito. This makes all the difference in the world for how the experiment may have played out. The examples you cite in E. & C. Euro went Red (except Tito) because of the exigencies of power politics developing out of WW II and had little to do with any "ideas," communism or otherwise. They were imposed for security reasons on mostly unwilling publics, where as Greece may have chosen that path my majority will, and thus this would have been DEMOCRACY. If we can't accept that, then we're back to D.C. "experts" like Kissinger subverting democracy, because "he" knows better.

The only defense (and I mean understanding rather than supporting this view) I would offer of Red authoritarianism, is that the one case in which they tried to carry out their experiment peacefully and democratically, Chile, capitalist forces smashed them violently, which is what Reds have always said would happen if radical democracy was ever attempted, thereby developing a logic requiring authoritarianism until the disappearance of the capitalist threat. Of course we know it doesn't work, but history has also demonstrated loud and clear that radical democracy is not tolerated either, leaving them little alternative to authoritarianism to carry out alternative an alternative program. Furthermore, with the collapse of Soviets, social democracy has atrophied and inequality continues to mount, suggesting that the Reds got right the inherent nature of capitalism operating without any opposition. Historically, social democracy only flourished in the anomalous space created by the existence of the Soviet Union. Nothing glorious about any of this, but I think the history leaves little room for utopian visions of unfettered capitalism evolving into social democracy. With the checks gone, its back to the 19th century with the similar outcomes likely to repeat unless we abandon the ideological shackles of the Cold War and attempt to understand the material foundations which led to liberal democracy, its crisis, the fascist and Red (not the same thing) responses, and capitalist accommodation to democracy existing only as long as brown and red threats existed. Truly tragic....

Jeff Sommers

In a message dated 4/2/99 8:37:10 AM Central Daylight Time, delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU writes:

<< a Greek communist government taking over the country in

1944 or 1948 would have done anything other than repeat one of the sad

stories of Hoxha--Tito--Zhivkov--Ceausescu?

>> Brad,

I think you have to check out some histories about the Greek civil war. From my reading (and talks with my relatives) the country was deeply divided - would a leftist gov't in 1950 been as ruthless as the military dictators of 73-74? Maybe, but unlike Roumania and Albania, Greece had a lot more cultural, social, political, economic ties to the West. Maybe it wasn't "exceptionalism," but I really don't think Greece had the temperment/social structure for a Hoxha or Ceaucescu-type regime For example, the Greek shipping industry played a big part in both WW II transport and post-war oil development. Capitalists had a lot more power than in these other economies.

Though I don't have the exact stats, I'd say that Greece had a lot more potential (agriculture, shipping, refinery, etc.) in 1950 than either Roumania or Albania. Also, it was possible to get a decent education, and I suspect that the ratio of [engineers+ other technocrats]/population by 1960 also affected future development. Finally, there was a lot of finanical support going back to relatives in Greece. All of my mom's family in NYC regularly sent money back to uncles and cousins - this was especially true during the 1950s when times were pretty tough for rural folks.


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