Back in the USSR

Charles Payne
Posted: Mar 18, 2014 12:01 AM
Back in the USSR

V. I. Lenin

Part III: Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)

Report On The Substitution Of
A Tax In Kind For
The Surplus Grain Appropriation System
March 15

A word or two on the theoretical significance of, or the theoretical approach to, this issue. There is no doubt that in a country where the overwhelming majority of the population consists of small agricultural producers, a socialist revolution can be carried out only through the implementation of a whole series of special transitional measures which would be superfluous in highly developed capitalist countries where wage-workers in industry and agriculture make up the vast majority. Highly developed capitalist countries have a class of agricultural wage-workers that has taken shape over many decades. Only such a class can socially, economically, and politically support a direct transition to socialism. Only in countries where this class is sufficiently developed is it possible to pass directly from capitalism to socialism, without any special country-wide transitional measures.

Only One Way to Build an Economy

While all eyes are fixed on the next move by Vladimir Putin, I should remind everyone of the Russian Revolution in our very midst, and how it might play out in the coming years. In the aftermath of the October Revolution, Vladimir Lenin discovered that it was a lot easier to talk about a command economy, then to implement one. The divisions between peasants and townspeople became problematic, and in the process created an omnipotent concern for revolution. With commerce wrecked, and the aftermath of civil war, a barter economy evolved.

The townspeople would take clothing and other items on trains to rural areas and exchange them for foodstuffs. These bagmen became ubiquitous on the railways and caused a stir among Bolshevik planners, who decided to take over the grain and foodstuff from the peasants through a harsh requisition program.

Demonizing Success

By demonizing "rich" farmers known as "Kulaks," Vladimir Lenin imposed War Communism, a centrally planned economy that would focus on the needs of the army by prohibiting private trade, and nationalizing all large industries. By 1920, even money was replaced with a system of state rationing.

By 1921, the Russian economy was on the verge of total collapse. In the cities people were going hungry, while peasants were busy revolting against requisition, and it was assumed that every farmer that could not produce surplus foodstuff was a "Kulak." So, Lenin did something outright amazing and he introduced taxes in the place of requisition.

The abolishment of taxes was central to War Communism, but socialism was the wrong economy to build wealth, as Lenin painfully admitted in his Tenth Congress report:

Can we satisfy this middle peasantry as such, with its economic peculiarities and economic roots? Any Communist who thought the economic basis, the economic roots, of small farming could be reshaped in three years was, of course, a dreamer. We need not conceal the fact that there were a good many such dreamers among us. Nor is there anything particularly bad in this. How could one start a socialist revolution in a country like ours without dreamers?

The bottom line is socialism could only make an immediate transition from countries with developed capitalism. Which begs the question why anyone would embrace the communal tenants of an economy that punishes success?

The idea would be to continue with other idea from the revolution, by focusing on the eradication of "individualism" through community programs, but also calling off the war against the professional class, known as bourgeois specialists, which comprised of technicians, scientists, and engineers, and allowing religion to exist. In the meantime, in addition to taxing grain, Russia had to export products in order to import tools and other products needed for a modern society.

Interestingly enough, broken Russian cities from Moscow to Petrograd became vibrant overnight and generated wealth to certain individuals including those "Kulaks." This created friction, as city dwellers were pushed to live communal lives, where all adjusted and jointly and cared for all the children in their communities while being encouraged to share everything, including clothes and shoes. This caused much anger and concern, but Lenin stayed with his NEP (New Economic Policy) as it was the only way to get the nation on its feet.

The idea was to divvy up the spoils later, but in order to get there some form of free market had to exist.

After World War I, Stalin hoped for a socialist revolution throughout Europe. Germany however went with Hitler, and Italy chose fascism and Mussolini, leaving Russia to be a socialist nation of one. It's unclear what Vladimir Putin is thinking right now, although one cannot argue the spirit of Lenin and Stalin, run deep in his heart and mind. Has Russia built its economy to the point that it can now try to transition back to socialism, and is he ready to return to a nation of one? It's doubtful the people of Russia will buy into that dream beyond reclaiming Crimea.

October Revolution...American Style

Fast forward to actions and rhetoric of the past five years and its remarkable how many similarities there are. Successful people and businesses have been called bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers, while the state has been busy with de facto nationalization of large industries.

  • Mortgages
  • Student Loans
  • Health Care System

Just as Lenin's War Communism was expensive, the Welfare Society erected under President Obama has an insatiable appetite. It has tried to straddle between outright socialism, but also knowing it needs the underpinning of wealth, which only capitalism can create. Knowing this, the administration continues its assault on corporate balance sheets. Pointing to record corporate earnings, the administration is using executive orders and public condemnation of these greedy entities, which are not people, only earning wealth by the use of public roads and the inequality of income.

The message from the left is that Capital is being rewarded more than labor, so the people should stand up and revolt. The thing is that the change in corporate wealth in recent years mirrors the increase in demand and profits from abroad. In addition, advances in technology have hurt the earnings power of many workers. However, the notion that capital itself is not rooted in labor is the part of the argument not heard.

I look for the next phase of this moved to planned from command economy, to include sympatric captains of industry. The conscience capitalist movement is making louder noises, weighing in on things, like climate change, consumer prices, and wages. This will become a more vocal component from those that even while owing everything to capitalism, think it is a truly unjust system that needs major revisions.

In the meantime, there is one thing that will keep Americans clinging to capitalism and free markets, (along with their guns and bibles and love of freedom) and it's remembering that it's the only system where former serfs could become wealthy landowners in half a dozen years. It is time to be "Kulaks" in America, get tight-fisted and ready to fight back.