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Re: the Stalin essay

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  • thekoba@aztec.asu.edu
    ================= Begin forwarded message ================= Dear Kevin, The idea that people are programmed to be individualistically selfish -- to the
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 21, 2002
      ================= Begin forwarded message =================

      Dear Kevin,

      The idea that people are "programmed" to be
      individualistically selfish -- to the extent that they
      will generally ignore the interests of the community
      (however that may be defined) is incorrect.

      Social values have historically undergone many
      changes, and are still doing so from culture to
      culture.

      We accept that in a nuclear family parents take care
      of and spend money on children. Why? Surely it would
      be more individualistically fun for parents to ignore
      their needs and tend to their own.

      Is this for survival? Possibly. But the nuclear
      family as such, is a product of history, not nature.
      People are also known to sacrifice for an extended
      family, tribe, and in more modern times for nation,
      class, etc. None of those acts would be intelligible
      if we were all "programmed" to do only what is in our
      individual and most narrow best interest.

      I don't know how many of the combatants on either side
      during the Crusades would have responded to a call to
      die for their nation. The Muslim leader Salah al-Din
      al-Ayyubi, known in the west as Saladin, was
      ethnically a Kurd, yet he never fought for Kurdistan
      but for Islam, because in his epoch and part of the
      world, for various social reasons, loyalties were
      primarily defined along religious not ethno-linguistic
      lines.

      On the other hand, how many Germans fought on the
      eastern front in World War II in the name of
      Lutheranism? Few, I would imagine. How many
      Americans fought Japanese with the main idea in their
      heads that they were fighting for Christianity. Those
      soldiers defined their struggles in national terms.
      This is all historically determined, to a very large
      degree.

      World War II was fought in an age of developed
      capitalism and strong nation-states. The crusades
      reflected the preoccupations of a feudal age where
      values were supposedly fixed for all eternity just
      like the nobility and commoners were social castes
      that did not rise and fall the way merchant's fortunes
      do.

      As a result, loyalties and solidarity groups were
      different.

      So we cannot speak of an eternal set of values that
      carries on and on for ever unaffected by social
      change.
      There is plenty of evidence from other times and
      places of other sets of values being prevalent.

      Tribal loyalty, is another example of a kind of
      loyalty hard for a modern, urban person to understand.
      Why, for example, will Pakistani peasant always vote
      for their tribesmen, regardless of political
      platforms, etc., thereby rendering "democratic
      elections" merely a reflection of which tribe has more
      members of voting age? Why do Europeans and North
      Americans -- products of centuries of capitalist
      atomization -- consider it nepotism for a government
      to favour kinsman, while in a tribal context that is
      the only possible form of rule?

      No, it's true, people looked out for their own
      personal interests, but they did so while adhering to
      forms of loyalty that are now pretty much
      unintelligible. Unintelligible because the social
      structure has totally changed.

      Even in the last 150 years in North America there have
      been changes. Many southern officers in the US army
      joined the Confederacy because they felt their loyalty
      first to their state and only after that to the US.
      Today, because of mobility, etc., such a perspective
      seems strange to many of us, and nearly
      unintelligible. It was different when few people
      ventured out of their home town much less their state
      more than once or twice in a lifetime.

      So, to claim that people are eternally selfish and
      individualistic is to take the bourgeois values of the
      "dog-eats-dog" market and claim that they are some
      universal and unvarying human trait. But this is a
      falacy.

      In fact the period of socialism in the USSR, I think
      did produce a different psychology in many (not all)
      people. As a result one finds many in the former
      Soviet Union who are unable to cope with the present
      day world dominated by get-rich-quick schemes and the
      classic "spiv" type who has an "angle" for making
      money here and there off of everyone. Such people
      have emerged but they are the exception and the rest
      of the population often strikes the western observer
      as being rather naive at least as far as the vaguaries
      of the market are concerned.

      Although without doubt the transition to socialism
      will take longer than Marx, Engels, Lenin, or even
      Stalin thought, I have seen repeated confirmations of
      the Marxist teaching that social begin determines
      consciousness, and that therefore a new social
      arrangement will change consciousness and values that
      people have. Of couse such a change can be expected
      to take several generations, once a socialist system
      is firmly established, and with part of the world
      capitalist and other parts socialist, this process of
      transforming thought patterns can't really get
      established.

      Comradely,

      Eric
      -------------


      Captain of DPRK trading cargo ship interviewed.

      Pyongyang, December 20 (KCNA) -- We have never
      seen such piracy as that committed against a peaceful
      trading vessel with the involvement of huge troops.
      This was robbery which could be committed only by the
      U.S. and its followers keen on isolating and stifling
      the DPRK. The captain of the DPRK-flagged trading
      cargo ship Sosan said this at a press conference held
      aboard the ship on Dec. 17 after entering Mukalla Port
      in Yemen.
      He continued:
      When the ship was on its voyage in the open sea on
      Dec. 9, Spanish battleships and planes encircled the
      ship all of a sudden at the U.S. instigation. They
      indiscriminately fired guns at equipment of the ship,
      severely destroying them. Then, two helicopters and a
      speedboat brought more than 60 commandos on board.
      After occupying an engine room and a steering
      house, they fired thousands of large and small-caliber
      bullets, thus seriously threatening the lives of
      crewmen and putting the ship under their complete
      control. They even kicked sailors and beat them with
      butts.
      On that afternoon 18 crewmen of the ship were
      taken to a Spanish warship and transferred to the U.S.
      warship later.
      The pirates committed such unimaginable inhuman
      acts as inhibiting the Koreans from talking and
      allowing them to go to toilets only under armed
      pirates' escort.
      They searched the cabins several times and robbed
      them of valuables and money.
      The U.S. mobilized a destroyer, a cruiser, an
      escort ship, a carrier and huge troops to carry out
      the piracy.
      The U.S. must apologize for such brazen-faced
      piracy, own full responsibility for it and make a
      compensation for the mental and material damage done
      to the ship and its crewmen.
      The participants in the press conference looked
      round the ship to learn about the damage.

      -------------------------------------------------

      Rodong Sinmun on DPRK's legitimate right to
      self-defence.

      Pyongyang, December 20 (KCNA) -- The U.S.
      imperialists should clearly understand that if the
      U.S. has a right to use nuclear weapons, the DPRK is
      entitled to counter it, Rodong Sinmun today says in a
      signed commentary. A war against Iraq, to be ignited
      amid the escalating U.S. nuclear threat to the DPRK,
      may be a preliminary war and a test war for a new
      Korean War, the commentary says, and goes on:
      The Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s brought a
      nuclear crisis to the Korean Peninsula.
      The Bush administration has not implemented the
      DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework deliberately but breached
      it systematically. The Bush bellicose forces have led
      nuclear pressure upon the DPRK to a high pitch,
      bringing the "nuclear development" of the DPRK to the
      international arena.
      Meanwhile, they are escalating nuclear threat to
      the DPRK. The U.S. talking about "biological and
      chemical attack" by "enemy states" is sophism to
      justify its moves to start a nuclear war against the
      DPRK.
      The DPRK has already put forward a proposal for
      concluding a non-aggression treaty between the DPRK
      and the U.S. if the U.S. has no willingness to launch
      a war against the DPRK, there is no reason why the
      U.S. should not accede to the proposal.
      If the U.S. imperialists ignite a nuclear war on
      the Korean Peninsula, they themselves will be burnt to
      death in their flame.
    • auvenj <auvenj@mailcity.com>
      ... capitalism ... spies, ... former ... socialism in ... Has there ever been a successful social system that required worldwide adoption to succeed? It
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 21, 2002
        --- In azsecularhumanists@yahoogroups.com, thekoba@a... wrote:
        > I did indeed notice that the anarchist prediction of "state
        capitalism"
        > in which a state would persist complete with police, gendarmes,
        spies,
        > etc., does indeed bear a closer resemblance to the reality of the
        former
        > Soviet Union than Comrade Stalin's prediction of future socialism.
        > Stalin's prediction, however, was for world socialism, not
        socialism in
        > one area and capitalism in others.

        Has there ever been a successful social system that required
        worldwide adoption to succeed? It strikes me as inconsistent to on
        the one hand describe the socialist system as "inevitable" and on the
        other hand say that the whole world must adopt it before it can be
        realized. Even if socialism were otherwise a wonderful, productive
        system it seems to me that the need for worldwide adoption itself
        constitutes a fatal flaw.

        > Obviously most of the 20th Century
        > consisted in a struggle for socialism that was fought across
        international
        > borders, not socialism realised on a world scale. Obviously if the
        > capitalist world is trying to bribe and threaten people to betray
        > socialism, a state continues to be necessary. Trotsky brought this
        up,
        > and it was indeed a valid point, though Trotsky's idea of having
        Russia
        > immediately attack western Europe to bring socialism there was
        obviously
        > unworkable. Further, Marx did indeed realise that during the
        struggle
        > a period known as the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which
        the state
        > would need to exist to suppress capitalist remnants would be needed.
        >
        > In any case, socialism was a very productive period for the USSR.
        The
        > success of the Five Year Plans proves that. If resources wasted in
        > defending the country against German invaders and in matching an
        > American ICBM force put huge dents into that and eventually allowed
        > the system to be overwhelmed, that's not an internal flaw of
        socialism
        > or the dictatorship of the proletariat.

        The West also fought WWII, built ICBMs, AND (according to you) spent
        resources "bribing and threatening people to betray socialism", AND
        (according to you) suffered the effects of inefficient competition,
        exploitation, unemployment, and duplication. Yet somehow, the West
        still ended up "overwhelming" socialism. It seems to me that you're
        missing something in your analysis. :-)

        It seems to me that the dictatorship of the proletariat has but one
        advantage over capitalism: The ability to enforce very high capital
        formation rates upon the population. Where the people determine
        individually whether to save or to consume, consumption will tend to
        be higher than where the individual is forced to consume only what
        the state determines is "needed" and the rest is available for
        capital formation. Thus, the early gains of the socialist
        dictatorships were, in my opinion, due to high rates of capital
        formation imposed on individuals in those societies.

        The problem is that individuals eventually recognize, as they always
        do, how to play this game to their maximum individual advantage.
        Inflating one's "needs" while reducing one's "ability" improves
        individual satisfaction. So that's what is done, with the inevitable
        toll upon the ability of the society to produce and generate capital
        in excess of "needs".

        > The fact of the matter is that during that period which we Marxists
        > know as primitive Communism, everything was shared, the land, the
        > food, skins, crude tools, etc.

        Within an extended family? Perhaps, but not among non-kin, with the
        exception of land. Land must be considered separately from food,
        skins, and crude tools because in primitive times there was no way to
        effectively improve land -- within a geographic region accessible to
        a primitive human family any area of land of significant size was
        generally as good as any other area of land of similar size. In
        other words, there was nothing to be gained by defending one area of
        land as opposed to simply moving on to another area of land. On the
        other hand food, skins, and crude tools were worth defending because
        they could not be replaced simply by moving on. My understanding is
        that these items were shared, if at all, only among genetically
        related individuals.

        > Do we advocate returning to that? No.
        > Obviously that system was necessitated by scarcity, and to the
        extent
        > that it was the result of improved methods of production that made
        > private property possible, it was an improvement. The point Stalin
        > was making is that human beings have historically functioned in the
        > absence of any concept of private property, and that for most of our
        > history (or rather, prehistory). There is no reason we cannot
        function
        > that way again on the basis of a rationally planned modern
        industrial
        > society. It will take some getting used to, perhaps several
        generations.
        > Then again I expect private property took some getting used to,
        probably
        > millenia.

        Observing my kids, I think not. Shortly after the word "mama"
        and "dada" are mastered, "mine" makes its grand entrance into the
        child's vocabulary. :-) Sharing objects is a behavior that must be
        taught; private property is not. Not coincidentally, however,
        sharing seems to be innate in terms of location/land with private
        property concepts needing to be taught. In other words, a young
        child will rarely if ever object to another child, even a stranger,
        entering the area he's currently occupying. But if the new child
        attempts to pick up a toy the current child has played with in the
        past, more often than not the result is an attempt to grab it back
        while shouting "MIIIINE" at the top of his lungs. This is quite
        consistent with what I understand about our evolutionary history.

        --Jason Auvenshine
      • thekoba@aztec.asu.edu
        ... Capitalism likewise had reversals in its early days and had to overcome feudalism in a series of struggles. The collapse of Cromwell s government after
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 21, 2002
          >Has there ever been a successful social system that required
          >worldwide adoption to succeed? It strikes me as inconsistent to on
          >the one hand describe the socialist system as "inevitable" and on the
          >other hand say that the whole world must adopt it before it can be
          >realized. Even if socialism were otherwise a wonderful, productive
          >system it seems to me that the need for worldwide adoption itself
          >constitutes a fatal flaw.

          Capitalism likewise had reversals in its early days and had to overcome
          feudalism in a series of struggles. The collapse of Cromwell's
          government after his death and the defeat of Napoleon did not spell
          the defeat of capitalism for all time. Socialism was first defeated
          in Paris in 1871, but it rose from the ashes in 1917. It has again
          been defeated, but there is again a global struggle to raise it from
          the ashes.

          >The West also fought WWII, built ICBMs, AND (according to you) spent
          >resources "bribing and threatening people to betray socialism", AND
          >(according to you) suffered the effects of inefficient competition,
          >exploitation, unemployment, and duplication. Yet somehow, the West
          >still ended up "overwhelming" socialism. It seems to me that you're
          >missing something in your analysis. :-)

          You are right. I left out the advantage the West had in the resources
          of the Third World and the exploitation of Third World labour.

          >It seems to me that the dictatorship of the proletariat has but one
          >advantage over capitalism: The ability to enforce very high capital
          >formation rates upon the population. Where the people determine
          >individually whether to save or to consume, consumption will tend to
          >be higher than where the individual is forced to consume only what
          >the state determines is "needed" and the rest is available for
          >capital formation. Thus, the early gains of the socialist
          >dictatorships were, in my opinion, due to high rates of capital
          >formation imposed on individuals in those societies.

          Doubtful given how little was being spent on savings or consumption
          by the typical Russian worker or Chinese peasant before the revolutions.
          It did help, particularly in the case of China, stop the net flow of
          resources out of the country to benefit imperialism.

          >The problem is that individuals eventually recognize, as they always
          >do, how to play this game to their maximum individual advantage.
          >Inflating one's "needs" while reducing one's "ability" improves
          >individual satisfaction. So that's what is done, with the inevitable
          >toll upon the ability of the society to produce and generate capital
          >in excess of "needs".

          Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, people were paid based on
          their work, so this wouldn't apply.

          >> The fact of the matter is that during that period which we Marxists
          >> know as primitive Communism, everything was shared, the land, the
          >> food, skins, crude tools, etc.
          >
          >Within an extended family? Perhaps, but not among non-kin, with the
          >exception of land. Land must be considered separately from food,
          >skins, and crude tools because in primitive times there was no way to
          >effectively improve land -- within a geographic region accessible to
          >a primitive human family any area of land of significant size was
          >generally as good as any other area of land of similar size. In
          >other words, there was nothing to be gained by defending one area of
          >land as opposed to simply moving on to another area of land. On the
          >other hand food, skins, and crude tools were worth defending because
          >they could not be replaced simply by moving on. My understanding is
          >that these items were shared, if at all, only among genetically
          >related individuals.

          That is not what anthropologists have found. In any case Friedrich
          Engels addresses the knowledge known to him in the late 19th Century
          (in part from studies of people who still were then in the state
          of Primitive Communism, particularly among the Native Americans and
          Polynesians) in <The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the
          State>.

          >Observing my kids, I think not. Shortly after the word "mama"
          >and "dada" are mastered, "mine" makes its grand entrance into the
          >child's vocabulary. :-) Sharing objects is a behavior that must be
          >taught; private property is not. Not coincidentally, however,
          >sharing seems to be innate in terms of location/land with private
          >property concepts needing to be taught. In other words, a young
          >child will rarely if ever object to another child, even a stranger,
          >entering the area he's currently occupying. But if the new child
          >attempts to pick up a toy the current child has played with in the
          >past, more often than not the result is an attempt to grab it back
          >while shouting "MIIIINE" at the top of his lungs. This is quite
          >consistent with what I understand about our evolutionary history.
          >
          >--Jason Auvenshine

          With your children being reared in a society in which private property
          is the norm, naturally they are quickly socialized to it. For society
          overall to adjust, however, took millenia. The retention of communal
          forms of property long after primitive communism itself ended is proof
          of that.

          --Kevin
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