Ser Scot A Ellison

Were Mao and Stalin Actually Socialists? (No True Scotsman)

202 posts in this topic

1 hour ago, James Arryn said:

An element to, say, Lenisism that also needs to be accounted for is that it was birthed in war and immediately deemed an existential threat by the surrounding governments. Thus it is IMO hard to distinguish what Lenin's actual aims would have been had he not had to assume a war mentality from the start. I think of the French Revolution and Terror, and then from there to Napoleon or, say, the Japanese internment camps as democratic illustrations of the same adaptation due to circumstance that throws the system on its head.

Lenin is harder to figure in this sense than, say, Stalin. He remains enigmatic to most historians, and I'm never entirely sure where the 'real' man can be found. Kinda rambling.

I've read the idea before. I honestly don't know what to make of it. There's probably some truth in that but it's also an argument that should be wielded carefully, lest it becomes a means to excuse many ideological betrayals.
I can't claim to know much about Lenin, but I'm quite positive that Stalin had a wider range of options.

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If anyone is interested  the Rubin Report just posted an interview with David horowitz discussing this very topic. He's another former far lefty turned conservative. I think he hates Trump so that might appease some. His parents were communist supporters we was raised by Communist Party member parents who disavowed it when they discovered stalin abuses.

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 Went looking for a Stalin/Mao meme centered on the Surfin' Bird lyrics (you know, Pappa uma Mao Mao, papa um Mao M-Mao) and was sorely vexed to find nothing. 

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Posted (edited)

15 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

If the Socialist revolutionaries gain control of the state but don't have the support of the majority of the people in the State do they cease to be socialist when they use the mechanisms of the State to impose socialist programs upon the State and the majority of the people who do not support them?

That's more or less the dilemma that socialists struggled with for most of the 20th century. By nature, socialism requires the consent of the governed, far more so than our liberal democracies. But it also means that socialism has to deliver as an economic system. So an easy way to sabotage a socialist state is to systematically hinder its economic development.

It's kinda like people who say our "democracies" (which aren't that democratic) are vulnerable to political parties or organisations advancing anti-democratic ideas. Except with socialism it's worse because of how economics and politics become merged.

There's at least one way out of the dilemma though. I'll advocate it someday. ^_^

Edited by Rippounet

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15 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Wait, so a Revolution can be socialist without the support of the majority of the people for the revolution?  How does that gel with the insistence that Democratic principles have to apply for a State to be truly socialist?  If the Socialist revolutionaries gain control of the state but don't have the support of the majority of the people in the State do they cease to be socialist when they use the mechanisms of the State to impose socialist programs upon the State and the majority of the people who do not support them?

Can a democratic revolution take place without clear majority support, and if not what was the American Revolution? If you eliminate slavery, what are you doing to an individual slave who does not want to be freed? Not being trite, really trying to emphasize how a principle can act in contravention to it's intent when broken down.

Short/awkward rendition: non-majorities can remove ownership from existing structure and transfer it to the collective at least in terms of passive ownership. It cannot force the collective to become active in ownership, but this is somewhat beside the point I think you're looking for. Again, the important distinction made earlier that original Socialism was mostly prediction rather than advocation in terms of specifics. I'd strongly recommend reading up on critical  analysis like, say, the IFS/Frankfurt school to get some understanding of how Marxism (and to a degree Socialism) can be distinctinguished from what Stalin/Mao enacted. 

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I am not sure I see the point in the whole discussion. Clearly, in >90% of the cases when today someone stresses that Mao or Stalin were "socialist" there is no interest whatsoever in history or history of ideas. The main reason for doing this is to paint with the broadest possible brush and relate positions that are called socialist today (like socialised medicine) with totalitarian terror.

But to my knowledge there is not a single historical example of a "social democratic" regime sliding on a slippery slope towards maoist style socialist totalitarianism. This slippery slope only exist in the fantasy of rightwing or "centrist" propaganda. All the totalitarian socialist regimes like the Eastern bloc, China etc. were established by revolutions or coups or military conquest and almost always the prior regime was monarchist or fascist or otherwise undemocratic.

Without trying to whitewash the atrocities of Stalinism, one always has to keep in mind that Czarist Russia was quite bad in many respects so that a lot of people put their hope into the revolutionaries. Heck, someone like Paul Robeson kept friendly with the Stalinist soviet union because the racism in democratic 1920s-30s US was so bad that he apparently saw the soviet union as the better alternative.

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19 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

I've read the idea before. I honestly don't know what to make of it. There's probably some truth in that but it's also an argument that should be wielded carefully, lest it becomes a means to excuse many ideological betrayals.
I can't claim to know much about Lenin, but I'm quite positive that Stalin had a wider range of options.

I agree it's open to dangerous usage...and almost inevitably it would be used regardless of accuracy, and totally agree about Stalin, but I find it difficult to deny as a real factor. Stalin is his own perfect storm in many ways, beginning IMO with his seminary education.

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14 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

That's more or less the dilemma that socialists struggled with for most of the 20th century. By nature, socialism requires the consent of the governed, far more so than our liberal democracies. But it also means that socialism has to deliver as an economic system. So an easy way to sabotage a socialist state is to systematically hinder its economic development.

It's kinda like people who say our "democracies" (which aren't that democratic) are vulnerable to political parties or organisations advancing anti-democratic ideas. Except with socialism it's worse because of how economics and politics become merged.

There's at least one way out of the dilemma though. I'll advocate it someday. ^_^

Rippounet,

Hold on, are you advocating democracy untempered by individual liberty rights?  Where if 50.00000001% of the people say "Ser Scot needs to die" I get killed?

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10 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

Can a democratic revolution take place without clear majority support, and if not what was the American Revolution? If you eliminate slavery, what are you doing to an individual slave who does not want to be freed? Not being trite, really trying to emphasize how a principle can act in contravention to it's intent when broken down.

Short/awkward rendition: non-majorities can remove ownership from existing structure and transfer it to the collective at least in terms of passive ownership. It cannot force the collective to become active in ownership, but this is somewhat beside the point I think you're looking for. Again, the important distinction made earlier that original Socialism was mostly prediction rather than advocation in terms of specifics. I'd strongly recommend reading up on critical  analysis like, say, the IFS/Frankfurt school to get some understanding of how Marxism (and to a degree Socialism) can be distinctinguished from what Stalin/Mao enacted. 

James,

The "American Revolution" was more a Civil War than a revolution.  A third of the population was Loyalist and wanted to stay part of the UK.  A third were Patriots supporting independence.  A third didn't care and just wanted to live their lives.  

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Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

James,

The "American Revolution" was more a Civil War than a revolution.  A third of the population was Loyalist and wanted to stay part of the UK.  A third were Patriots supporting independence.  A third didn't care and just wanted to live their lives.  

I know about the divide, though some argue that somewhat more than a third favoured Revolution. OT- I've only recently discovered that I have Loyalist ancestors (from Pennsylvania) who came to Canada after the war.

But that said, I'll repeat the question as it was asked (and don't really understand your distinction of revolution vs. civil war tbh) in terms of whether or not a populist movement inherently requires popular majority. I'm not even saying I have the answer, just pointing out how it's not really a definitive distinction as you seem to be suggesting. 

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8 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Rippounet,

Hold on, are you advocating democracy untempered by individual liberty rights?  Where if 50.00000001% of the people say "Ser Scot needs to die" I get killed?

How on earth did you come to such an interpretation of my words? :P

What I'm saying is that a true socialist state is extremely vulnerable to anti-socialist movements, just like some claim that our democracies are highly vulnerable to anti-democratic movements. My conclusion is that you really need a huge majority of the people to be on board to establish a socialist state. Not 50,01%, more like 90%...

As for liberty rights, I didn't even mention them, aren't you projecting your own fantasies here? ;) Or did you really believe that the "one way out of the dilemma" has to be through some kind of terror or totalitarian state?

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27 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Wait, so a Revolution can be socialist without the support of the majority of the people for the revolution?  How does that gel with the insistence that Democratic principles have to apply for a State to be truly socialist?  If the Socialist revolutionaries gain control of the state but don't have the support of the majority of the people in the State do they cease to be socialist when they use the mechanisms of the State to impose socialist programs upon the State and the majority of the people who do not support them?

Can a revolution be democratic without the support of the majority of the people for the revolution?  Can it lead to a democracy?  (the answers are maybe and yes, respectively by the way).  And why do socialist groups even need a State?  Proudhon certainly didn't think so, and he was definitely a socialist.  

5 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

I am not sure I see the point in the whole discussion. Clearly, in >90% of the cases when today someone stresses that Mao or Stalin were "socialist" there is no interest whatsoever in history or history of ideas. The main reason for doing this is to paint with the broadest possible brush and relate positions that are called socialist today (like socialised medicine) with totalitarian terror.

Nobody, least of all Scot, seems to actually care.  Nor does he seem to care that he's trying to group incredibly disparate political schools of thought under one banner and asking people to argue about whether they all fit under a definition that he refuses to define.  

1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Rippounet,

Hold on, are you advocating democracy untempered by individual liberty rights?  Where if 50.00000001% of the people say "Ser Scot needs to die" I get killed?

Jesus fucking Christ.  That'd be "truly democratic", wouldn't it? Is the US a democracy?  Why isn't every instance of someone proposing a "democratic" system attacked with this hypothetical?  Why aren't we vehemently attacking the idea of democracy itself because someone, somewhere, tried a "true democracy" and it didn't work?  Because that's asinine, Scot, and you know it.  You know he's not advocating that, you know that nothing in "socialism" intrinsically advocates for that (and that it is possible that some schools of socialist thought would, though I cannot think of any). And yet, this is the standard that you're holding socialism to.   So why exactly are you asking?

 

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29 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

I am not sure I see the point in the whole discussion. Clearly, in >90% of the cases when today someone stresses that Mao or Stalin were "socialist" there is no interest whatsoever in history or history of ideas. The main reason for doing this is to paint with the broadest possible brush and relate positions that are called socialist today (like socialised medicine) with totalitarian terror.

But to my knowledge there is not a single historical example of a "social democratic" regime sliding on a slippery slope towards maoist style socialist totalitarianism. This slippery slope only exist in the fantasy of rightwing or "centrist" propaganda. All the totalitarian socialist regimes like the Eastern bloc, China etc. were established by revolutions or coups or military conquest and almost always the prior regime was monarchist or fascist or otherwise undemocratic.

Totally agree btw.

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MC, Rippounet,

I'm trying to figure out what he means when he claims that Western Democracies "really aren't that democratic".  I should be more direct.  

Rippounet,

What do you mean when you say Western Democracies "aren't that democratic"?   

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2 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Rippounet,

What do you mean when you say Western Democracies "aren't that democratic"?   

What we call "representative democracy" and which the Founding Fathers of the US called "republic" only gives a limited power to the people. I'm sure you're familiar with what Madison wrote in Federalist n°10.
Some might say you are only free to elect your rulers, or that choosing between political representatives who don't actually disagree on fundamental issues (such as the nature of the economic system) makes a mockery of elections.

Socialism is something else however, since it purports to make the producers master of the production. There's no way to do that without a much purer form of democracy.

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42 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

But to my knowledge there is not a single historical example of a "social democratic" regime sliding on a slippery slope towards maoist style socialist totalitarianism. This slippery slope only exist in the fantasy of rightwing or "centrist" propaganda. All the totalitarian socialist regimes like the Eastern bloc, China etc. were established by revolutions or coups or military conquest and almost always the prior regime was monarchist or fascist or otherwise undemocratic.

No Democratic Socialist government has stayed socialist either. Historically, they have, upon gaining power, engaged in programs of mass nationalisation of heavy industry and infrastructure. And then, they just stop. And after a while, they abandon Socialism for an ideology of dirigisme and paternalism. Which is what all modern socdem parties follow. So a slippery slope may well exist, but it is one in the direction of capitalism.

 

Revolutionary socialists haven't failed to notice this. It is often seen as a justification for the violent overthrow of the state. They not agree with each other on why it happens, but do think it justifies an actual dictatorship, albeit a temporary one.

 

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

What we call "representative democracy" and which the Founding Fathers of the US called "republic" only gives a limited power to the people. I'm sure you're familiar with what Madison wrote in Federalist n°10.
Some might say you are only free to elect your rulers, or that choosing between political representatives who don't actually disagree on fundamental issues (such as the nature of the economic system) makes a mockery of elections.

And which has become more and more of an illusion. "These are your two choices". Both brought to you by New and Improved Tide Pods! Now available in Family Size!

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Quote

 

Must not mention Electoral College. Must not mention Electoral College. Must not mention Electoral College. Must not...

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1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

MC, Rippounet,

I'm trying to figure out what he means when he claims that Western Democracies "really aren't that democratic".  I should be more direct.  

Rippounet,

What do you mean when you say Western Democracies "aren't that democratic"?   

Well, for one, they contain a ton of provisions that restrict voting rights to certain groups, dilute power through increasing tiers of legislature, often don't have provisions for revoking consent to be governed, and those are just the restrictions de jure.  De facto, voting power is often massively eclipsed by money.  For that matter, you've pointed out the problems with simple-majority democracies.  A simple majority direct democracy is the most democratic democracy possible, but it is decidedly less liberal and less free than democracies with some restrictions. 

40 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Socialism is something else however, since it purports to make the producers master of the production. There's no way to do that without a much purer form of democracy.

I'm not sure this follows.  "There's no way to do that without" worries me as a phrase.  I don't think we need a "purer" form, specifically, but definitely a better one.  I just don't know what that is.  

 

18 minutes ago, Stalker said:

No Democratic Socialist government has stayed socialist either. Historically, they have, upon gaining power, engaged in programs of mass nationalisation of heavy industry and infrastructure. And then, they just stop. And after a while, they abandon Socialism for an ideology of dirigisme and paternalism. Which is what all modern socdem parties follow. So a slippery slope may well exist, but it is one in the direction of capitalism.

 

I can think of Venezuela.  What other examples do you have?  Because the others all run into the problem of "leader starts program of nationalization, immediately gets dead".  

 

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1 hour ago, Jo498 said:

I am not sure I see the point in the whole discussion. Clearly, in >90% of the cases when today someone stresses that Mao or Stalin were "socialist" there is no interest whatsoever in history or history of ideas. The main reason for doing this is to paint with the broadest possible brush and relate positions that are called socialist today (like socialised medicine) with totalitarian terror.

But to my knowledge there is not a single historical example of a "social democratic" regime sliding on a slippery slope towards maoist style socialist totalitarianism. This slippery slope only exist in the fantasy of rightwing or "centrist" propaganda. All the totalitarian socialist regimes like the Eastern bloc, China etc. were established by revolutions or coups or military conquest and almost always the prior regime was monarchist or fascist or otherwise undemocratic.

Without trying to whitewash the atrocities of Stalinism, one always has to keep in mind that Czarist Russia was quite bad in many respects so that a lot of people put their hope into the revolutionaries. Heck, someone like Paul Robeson kept friendly with the Stalinist soviet union because the racism in democratic 1920s-30s US was so bad that he apparently saw the soviet union as the better alternative.

Venezuela comes very, very close.

 

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