4 June 2014 — Greanville Post
“Many critics of the Soviet Union conveniently forget that the Soviet experience was shaped in a significant part by what someday will come to be known as ‘The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union, 1917-1992.’”
A Special Column for The Greanville Post (Annotated)
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
In the Western, capitalist, telling of history, “Stalin” and “Stalinism” almost invariably equal “socialism/communism, which, of course, equal ‘bad,’ ” and beyond that, it/they could never work. One experiment (forgetting about what happened in China, and perhaps with more relevance, Cuba) and that’s it. Socialism, communism, the old term “Bolshevism,” was tried and failed in the Soviet Union and boy, it just couldn’t possibly work anywhere, anyhow, at any time in the future. This is a view that is adhered to not only by capitalist historians and political scientists. It is also adhered to by many self-styled “left-wingers” in the West. Without naming names, these folks, when talking about left-wing analyses of what is currently happening in the capitalist world, due to capitalist causation, like climate change and the coming Sixth Extinction or on a less-grand scale the export of capital from the advanced capitalist countries and what that is doing to living standards for most of their working classes, always start with an self-exculpatory statement.
The latter usually starts with something like: “of course ‘Stalinism’ [usually without defining what they mean by that term] was awful, the Soviet Union was a complete horror show, and we are definitely not talking about anything like that.” They often add that because of what happened over the next 75 years in the Soviet Union following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, carried out on Leninist principles, nothing like that sort of revolution could ever possibly succeed and, some of them say, must be opposed with as much fervor as that with which they claim to be opposing capitalism. Of course the capitalist analysts don’t have to engage in such exculpation, but use the same sort of analysis nevertheless.
For many years I have thought about what might have happened in the development of capitalism if, following the collapse of the Cromwellian Revolution in England and the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy (1661, which brought us Restoration Comedy and all those cute dogs), both its critics and original supporters had said something like, “well, that’s it. It’s obvious that mercantile capitalism (which was the driving force behind the Cromwellians) cannot possibly work, feudalism is here to stay forever, and well, folks, just live with it.” Of course that didn’t happen. In England next came the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Stuarts were replaced by an imported King who favored Constitutional Monarchy, and indeed the doors were opened to the development through the 18th century of mercantile capitalism and then industrial capitalism in the 19th century.
In my view, there is no reason why much the same sort of historical development could not take place for the replacement of capitalism with some sort of socialism that, without going into any detail here, learns much from both the positive and negative elements of the Soviet experience. In fact, if that doesn’t happen, our species is doomed to become a very different, much smaller, rather miserable one over the next century, taking many other species with us as we shrink in size and world-coverage, driven towards that end on a profits-first-and-only capitalism that refuses to do anything meaningful to deal with global warming.
One never hears “Hitler Equals Capitalism Equals Bad, and it could never work.”
One must also acknowledge (which Western analysts, neither capitalist nor self-styled “socialist” do) that the Soviet experience was shaped in a significant part by what someday will come to be known as “The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union, 1917-1992.” One must also acknowledge, that every other attempt at some sort of socialist experiment following World War II (except for Cuba) was beaten back and eventually destroyed by Western Imperialism, most often led by the United States.
Nevertheless, we have the mantra “Stalin Equals Socialism/Communism, Bad, and nothing like it could ever possibly work.” But one never hears “Hitler Equals Capitalism Equals Bad, and it could never work.” Of course, the first reason for that is that there are other models for capitalism and its preservation/expansion than the Hitlerian one. (And so why could not one also say that there are other models for revolutionary/Leninist socialism which could work?) But more importantly, for both capitalist and non-Communist analysts of 20th century history, Hitlerism/Nazism/Fascism is almost never openly associated with capitalism as the driving force for its development. But indeed it, and it brother fascist states in Italy (the first major one [Hungary under Admiral Miklos Horthy preceded it] that gave the governmental form its name) and Japan, were created by capitalist ruling classes that no longer wanted to entrust their control of the economy and the state to the (bourgeois) “democratic process.”
In Germany, the Nazis came to power on January 30, 1933 because a significant element of the German ruling class had decided that they could no longer stay in control of the German state and economy if the prominent and powerful German Socialist and Communist Parties and the equally powerful German trade union movement stayed in existence. The Communist Party was outlawed almost immediately, the Socialist Party was gone by the end of March, 1933, and the trade unions were shut down in April, 1933. The capitalists now had no opposition of any kind, and they maintained their position of power and profit-making throughout the War. Hitler lost the war militarily, of course. But to the bitter end, with all the state power controlled by the Nazis, Germany remained a capitalist country (as did Italy and Japan). [In several notorious instances allied bombers were instructed to spare Anglo-American-owned factories and installations in the Third reich territories.—Eds]
Anticommunism and anti-Sovietism have been deliberately cultivated by Western leaders for generations. Stalin’s controversial image has been used as a convenient battering ram.
However, with the victory of the allies, including the Soviet Union, there was no reaction to fascism of the “look where capitalism leads [or can lead].” Rather the United States, unscathed physically by the war, moved immediately to re-secure capitalism in Western Europe. The Marshall Plan was designed specifically to restore Western Europe’s industrial base, especially that of Germany (the western part only, of course), which had been so heavily damaged during the war. No Marshall Plan aid for the Soviet Union, of course. On the contrary, announced by Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech, which associated the Soviet Union with a policy to divide Europe that had been developed in the West almost since the end of World War II, the “75 Years War Against the Soviet Union” was resumed almost immediately.
The very powerful Italian Communist Party was prevented, due to US and Papal intervention (1), from winning the election of 1948, for which it had been heavily favored. Immediately after the war, with British support, the Rightists in Greece fought, and won, a two-year civil war with the Greek communists, who had borne the brunt of the resistance against the Germans. The British fought an 8-year war against communists in Malaya, who had borne the brunt of Malayan resistance to the Japanese. The French Communist party, which had led the French Resistance during the war, was excluded from the French post-war government by the US-backed Gen. Charles DeGaulle. And then came, of course, the decades-long world-wide campaign, led primarily by US imperialism, to forcibly shut down any socialist or proto-socialist movements, all around the world. And capitalism flourished, or seemed to.
But now we come to the modern era, when capitalism, as usual clothed in “democratic” garments, is beginning to fail, as noted above. Just as in Germany, Italy and Japan, in which the capitalist ruling class turned to fascist forms to save its collective skin, so could that happen again, as, for example, the “wealth gap” increases around the world. The ruling classes of certain smaller countries, like Hungary (again) are turning towards fascist forms, even while maintaining the appearance of electoral democracy. In others, like the United States, the groundwork for a modern form of fascism has already been laid: the Patriot Act; the actions and programs of the National Security Agency; the adoption of religious-determination (abortion and gay marriage), ethnic-group politics, and the beginnings of demonization as national policy (e.g., the poor, the unemployed) by the Republican Party; and the unbridled, unregulated growth of heavily armed right-wing militias (can you say “Black Shirts” or “Brown Shirts”?). The form that fascism could take in the United States could indeed mimic in many ways that which it took in Nazi Germany. Yet while we hear all the time “Stalin/Stalinism – socialism/communism bad,” we never hear any discussion of what capitalism could easily develop into in the 21st century, as it developed into in the 20th, on the Hitler/Mussolini/Imperial Japanese model.
This unreferenced column, long as it is, should be taken as an introduction to a much longer, referenced essay on this subject, which is under development, but for which there is no clear time-frame.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, (http://www.greanvillepost.com/); he is Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy (TPJfPD) magazine (http://tpjmagazine.us/); a regular Columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/); a “Trusted Author“ for Op-Ed News (http://www.opednews.com/); a Contributor to The Planetary Movement (http://www.planetarymovement.org/); and an occasional contributor to the Information Clearing House (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/), Dandelion Salad (http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com), and TheHarderStuff newsletter.
But things might have turned out very differently in World War II. If it had not been for British intelligence and the Norwegian resistance which, after a number of unsuccessful tries, managed to destroy the German “heavy water” process, located in Norway. German scientists had been working on building an atomic bomb using what was called “heavy water” for quite some time. If they had succeeded in getting their painstakingly manufactured supply of the material to Germany in 1943, they may well have been able to manufacture a bomb before the US did, and they already had the ideal delivery system, the V-2 rocket (courtesy of Werner von Braun, future head of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
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(1) One of the CIA’s earliest “victories” of this sort, and largely unknown to most Italian-Americans, who might resent learning that Italy was at one time treated as a “banana country”.—Eds)