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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Quite…

38 comments to Quite…

  • Ferox

    Real marxism hasn’t been tried yet.

    Marxism is an incredibly successful and productive economic system, but the CIA, using radio programs to distribute capitalist propaganda and trade embargoes to stop us from buying capitalist goods, has managed to sabotage every country that has implemented it.

    Kulaks and saboteurs betrayed us the last time; we should have killed even more of them. We won’t make that mistake again.

    Anyway, none of that matters, as we have ironed out all the problems and will CERTAINLY get it right next time.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ayeh. (As we non-New-Englanders say. *g*)

  • ap

    Ferox wrote:

    Kulaks and saboteurs betrayed us the last time; we should have killed even more of them.

    You might just be right. If you could get a society’s population down to the size a communist economy could support, you would achieve a worker’s paradise.

    I suspect the size of the society would be about Dunbar’s number.

  • Stonyground

    Maybe there would be just one book on the subject of MZ motorcycles? The East German company achieved some quite remarkable racing success on a tiny budget and built odd looking but highly practical road bikes.

    As for the reasons for Marxism not working generally, these are many and obvious. Did Marx actually go out and do any field research or did he just sit in a library and theorise inside his own head? Genuine question.

  • I shall have this as a precursor to the “Socialism: the theory is great but the famines are to die for” cartoon. My second ever post here was about the left’s believing theory above experience, but this cartoon is a more concise way of saying that.

    It feels like it should be the 3rd panel of a 4-panel cartoon which earlier showed the girl’s huge bookcase of works predicting how successful Marxism would be.

  • Penseivat

    Marxism is about the cult of personality, such as the cult of Lenin and Stalin, the cult of Mao, or Castro, or Pol Pot, or Chavez, or the Kim’s of North Korea. Their politics may go under different names, as no dictator wants their policies to be linked to, or be named after, someone else. Even the Nazis, or German National Socialist Party, followed the cult of Hitler. Following such cults always leads to disasters, for which the dear leader cannot be blamed as it was always someone else’s fault.
    I fear that, after the great betrayal by May, this country may soon experience the cult of Corbyn or, more likely, McDonnell after he has done a Brutus. Mind you, it could even be the cult of Abbott, but she is so stupid she will wonder whether Marxism originated with Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo.

  • NickM

    Stony raises a very important point. Communism sometimes throws up very good products seemingly at random. 99.9% of commie stuff is utter crap but sometimes, just sometimes… I have a Tal-Mizar telescope which is ace and was dead cheap compared to, say, a Meade.

    It arrrived in a wooden crate (think of the final scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), direct from Russia, branded with stencied Cyrillic. I was away at the time so my (new) housemates (I was a physics undergrad) thought I’d bought something Uranius from the Sov break-up clearance sale (it was ’94). They were actually quite dissapointed when I got back and opened it.

    There may be some deep reason for these vanishingly rare successes but I suspect it is simply stopped clocks.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Well, i didn’t expect that there would be much to comment about here, but it turns out that there is.

    NickM:

    There may be some deep reason for these vanishingly rare successes but I suspect it is simply stopped clocks.

    A tentative answer is that these rare successes also happen in a free market. The real difference is that, in a free market, the other, crap manufacturers shape up or go bankrupt, while in a centrally-planned economy they don’t; or if they do, it’s not because they produce crap.

  • John B

    ‘There may be some deep reason for these vanishingly rare successes but I suspect it is simply stopped clocks.’

    Socialism removes incentive and freedom of choice contrary to the most basic Human desires.

    It has consistently been observed that when individuals are free to serve their own interests, this produces the best outcomes for the collective, whereas when individuals are forced to serve the interests of the collective, best outcomes are rare.

  • pete

    At least one shelf of that book case would be filled by tomes on the Castro regime in Cuba.

    Many western ‘liberals’ have convinced themselves that it has been a great success despite a lack of free speech, a free press, free elections or free trade unions.

  • NickM (May 5, 2019 at 9:16 am), Nazi Germany produced the V2, Carmina Burana and much between that was impressive. The goal of totalitarians is not in fact achievable. One of the symptoms of that is that human creativeness never wholly disappears under it; it just becomes much rarer. Maybe someone is making something of quality even in North Korea.

    Creativeness of an innately apolitical kind is of course least swiftly gutted. I am not surprised that communism produced occasional good motorcycles and telescopes, both things with military applications, just as I am not surprised Nazi Germany produced impressive rocketry and some music one can listen to, setting much older lyrics (that were apolitical in 30s Germany – though who knows how they were read a thousand years ago 🙂 ).

  • CaptDMO

    Wait….wait….”The Grasshopper And The Ant!” (Some ancient Greek slave sociological observer?)
    It worked PERFECTLY! for a grasshopper, and some ants, that can talk, and vote democratically, with NO “special exceptions” from actual contributions for “the common good”, and the eventual entertainer had NO voice in the distribution of goods and services.

  • Mr Ed

    pete

    Many western ‘liberals’ have convinced themselves that it has been a great success despite a lack of free speech, a free press, free elections or free trade unions.

    The lack of the first three in particular is how socialists measure their success, so from their viewpoint, it is a roaring success. Anyway, the dead don’t read books.

  • neonsnake

    Many western ‘liberals’ have convinced themselves that it has been a great success despite a lack of free speech, a free press, free elections or free trade unions.

    One suspects that they haven’t actually been to Cuba and spoken with the people there if they think it a great success. I’m not sure that a country that has rationing can accurately be called a “success”.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think, to be fair on liberals,that they would more likely point to the Scandanavian countries as their model. These countries aren’t really socialist in the strictest sense of the word, but do, I imagine, represent what Bernie and AOC are thinking of (at least as a stepping stone.)

    As to Cuba, you might want to point out that Cuba used to round up homosexuals and put them in labor camps, usually without trial, and during the actual revolution Castro had many of them rounded up an shot.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Fraser O.: “… Castro had many of them [homosexuals] rounded up an shot.”

    That is barbaric! Ask that Congresswoman from Somalia — the proper course of action would be to push homosexuals off walls. Or maybe it was to push the wall over on top of the homosexuals? Translation from Arabic can be so confusing. Just ask Ilhan Omar, she will set everybody right.

  • bobby b

    “Ask that Congresswoman from Somalia — the proper course of action would be to push homosexuals off walls. Or maybe it was to push the wall over on top of the homosexuals?”

    If you believe after-election analysis, my gay neighbors voted overwhelmingly for Ms. Omar, who had done a masterful job of subsuming her Islamist nature during her campaign.

    I hope they’re experiencing some buyer’s remorse at this point, but Minneapolis is so hard-left that they’re more likely simply ignoring the cognitive dissonance.

  • pst314

    “You might just be right. If you could get a society’s population down to the size a communist economy could support, you would achieve a worker’s paradise.
    I suspect the size of the society would be about Dunbar’s number.”

    Except that the survivors in such a situation would be the most vicious personalities imaginable. They would be constitutionally unable to maintain a stable society and would kill each other off.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Political Pilgrims by Paul Hollander is a very good book on the topic of how the fans of Communist regimes have visited these countries (e.g. the U.S.S.R. and Cuba) and come back just enchanted with all the wonderfulness they saw.

    Dr. Hollander does point out that a few have come back with their eyes cleared of pixie dust. Malcolm Muggeridge, for one.

    There’s a piece from 2017 at The Weekly Standard, “A Tale of Two Cubas,” by Ron and Allis Radosh, that touches on the question. It also reports that all is not sugar and spice in Cuba today, or at least it wasn’t a couple of years ago.

    https://www.weeklystandard.com/ronald-radosh-and-allis-radosh/a-tale-of-two-cubas-2008501

    From the article:

    … [I]n the heyday of Castroism — from the ’60s through the ’80s—when Americans going to Cuba were all part of pro-Castro organizations that ran trips there to promote solidarity with the revolution. These were trips, to use the term made popular by the scholar Paul Hollander, of “political pilgrims,” leftists who went to see societies that they thought offered alternatives to the corrupt, bourgeois one in which they lived. The late Saul Landau, perhaps the single biggest apologist for Fidel Castro in the United States, wrote that “Cuba is the first purposeful society that we have had in the Western Hemisphere [ — ] where human beings are treated as human beings, where men have a certain dignity, and where this is guaranteed to them.” As for Fidel Castro, Landau explained he was “a man who has been steeped in democracy [ — ] a humble man.” He described Castro as a Jeffersonian and a Leninist.

    [Snip]

    The average tourist may come away with the opposite impression of Cuba’s economy: that it’s booming. The area where most visitors spend their time is in the reconstructed Old Havana, a virtual Potemkin village. … Even in this tourist area, however, economic reality peeks through. You will find toilets without seats, since plastic is valuable and cannot be given even to a fancy establishment. Neither will toilet paper be provided. Tourists are advised to carry their own.

    The Radoshes also tell us that Cuban opinion on the lifting of the U.S. embargo is strongly divided.

    .

    As for the folks who made pilgrimages to the U.S.S.R., one of them was Lincoln Steffens, who visited in 1919 and later wrote of the country, “I have seen the future, and it works.”

    Another was G.B.S., who apparently was absolutely charmed by Stalin and the country, and remained so for the rest of his life.

    https://www.rbth.com/arts/literature/2016/07/26/bernard-shaw-i-cant-die-without-having-seen-the-ussr_615147

    A few days later [after returning from the U.S.S.R.] in London the writer made a long speech about his trip. To dispel the myth about severe hunger in the Soviet Union he said that in Russia he “ate the most slashing dinner in his life.”

    And of course, there were the wonderful Webbs ….

    Or take China:

    John Kenneth Galbraith sees a single kitchen in China stocked with comestibles and infers that there cannot be a food shortage in the country.

    from the article “On How and Why Intellectuals Deceive Themselves: A Paul Hollander Retrospective” at

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12115-017-0191-0

  • Phil B

    It is a shame that the words were embedded into the picture. Had the comment been placed below the picture, alternative slogans could have been used. Something along the lines of “Behold the harvest produced by the happy workers for the benefit of their fellow comrades”.

    I’m sure Samizdata readers could think up a few more …

  • Ferox

    It is a shame that the words were embedded into the picture

    The most trivial thing imaginable to fix. If there is someone with no photoshop skills who wants this, let me know where to upload the no-text version.

  • Stonyground

    “…And this is where we keep the toilet paper.”

  • neonsnake

    and during the actual revolution Castro had many of them rounded up an shot.

    To borrow the title from the thread itself…quite. And yet, people rightfully take a dim view towards the wearing of swastika armbands, but get funny with me for extending the same principle to those wearing Che Guevara t-shirts.

    Dr. Hollander does point out that a few have come back with their eyes cleared of pixie dust.

    Not that we were blinking pixie dust out of eyes to begin with, but that rings true for myself and the Lady. Cuba is a fascinating microcosm of communism and capitalism.

    First thing we noticed was the inefficiency (and lack of courtesy, if I’m honest) of check-in at the hotel – this spilled over to anyone in that kind of role – the people you got your wifi card from, the people who handled money exchange, and so on. They thought nothing of keeping you waiting, not communicating, and giving generally bad service.

    This then contrasted with the waiters and barstaff, who were incredibly efficient, remembered your “usual”, bought the drinks to the table (it was an all-inclusive hotel), laughed and joked with you – great service! Also, bizarrely, the maids – really happy to chat and cheerfully offering good morning every day, did the whole “making your towel look like a swan” thing. Brilliant, and it really was poles apart from the former group.

    So why the difference? It took us an hour or so of mulling it over, but I’m sure you’ve already worked it out – the group that was efficient and friendly worked in positions where they got tips. And the economy being what it is, a small tip from me was a big tip for them. Incentives lead to better work! Who’d have thought??

    From the article you linked to:

    “Cubans who are fortunate enough to work in the hotels earn tips that greatly improve their family’s finances”

    Then to Havana. It’s beautiful! It’s booming!

    Classic cars and cigars and vibrant colours!

    For an amateur photographer and classic car enthusiast, I couldn’t be happier! But, the classic cars are not the equivalent of mine, which is a weekend project and passion. These are their daily drivers. They call them “Frankensteins” – the insides are butchered together from scavenged spares to keep them running. And for every beautiful Chevrolet, there are two pig-ugly late 80s Skodas or Ladas.

    Oh, and the photo in the linked article is not cherry-picked. 70% of my street photos from Havana look like that.

    But you go with a tour guide, you get two days being ferried from the place that does the best mojitos to the place that does the best pina coladas to the place that does the best cigars (and get your wallet out each time). All the while, the guide tells you about their literacy rate (99+%), their incredible healthcare, their forward planning – university places are based on what the state will need in 5 years time. If it will need 500 doctors, then the best 500 applicants get their place in university. What if there isn’t a need for 500 doctors in 5 years? You still get to be a doctor, you just don’t have much work. But that’s not a life of leisure, since you don’t get paid the kind of salaries that we’d expect a doctor to earn. We met two taxi drivers who were doctors during the day and worked as taxi drivers in the evening to top-up their wages.

    By the second day, I was sick of being ferried between cash-grabs, and she was sick of listening to government propaganda (she’s Argentinian, so is especially sensitive to it). We got accidentally separated from the tour group when we decided to have one too many mojitos in La Bodeguita del Medio instead of the tour-guide approved bar, and decided we wouldn’t rejoin them. We spent the rest of the day with a Cuban couple we met and she started talking to (who eventually sold me cigars on the thriving black market for far less than the tourist shops, using the money from me to top-up their rations) who told her more of the truth about the place. It’s not, as expected, all roses. It’s a day-in, day-out struggle.

    Yes, their education is fantastic. Yes, their healthcare is fantastic. Yes, there’s almost zero violent crime. Yes, it’s beautiful. But they don’t have enough to eat and even clean water is rationed. And the only people topping up their salaries are those that come into contact with the more capitalist “areas” of the big tourist hotels.

    Oh, and:

    You will find toilets without seats, since plastic is valuable and cannot be given even to a fancy establishment. Neither will toilet paper be provided. Tourists are advised to carry their own.

    In one place we went too, someone is employed to go into the toilet after every visit, and pour a bucket of water into it, since the flush doesn’t work.

    Paradise!!

  • Steve Borodin

    Can you please get your terminology right! Marx is dead; we now call it liberalism.

  • Julie near Chicago

    neon, thanks for the “I was there” summary. It’s a terrible situation and I do feel bad for the people caught there.

    And I absolutely cannot fathom the crowd who seem to find in Señor Ernest Guevara a Great Freedom Fighter.

    Do you follow https://babalublog.com at all? At the moment, the lead posting is entitled “A personal story about those US properties stolen in Cuba,” May 5, 2019 by Silvio Canto Jr.

    Among other things, Mr. Canto says that Exxon is finally growing a pair to the extent that “In fact, ExxonMobil is moving forward with a suit alleging that Cuba has been using and profiting off its property seized in 1960.”

    Good for Exxon.

    There are a couple of other rather more distressing stories on the front page….

  • neonsnake

    And I absolutely cannot fathom the crowd who seem to find in Señor Ernest Guevara a Great Freedom Fighter.

    I keep meaning to read The Motorcycle Diaries to try to work it out. Happily I had a complete and utter stupid brain-fart and downloaded Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance instead by mistake before we left; which I hadn’t read for years and is very enjoyable in a way that Motorcyle Diaries would not have been.

    I hadn’t seen the blog before, but yeah. Nothing surprising, but plenty distressing.

    One of the other things that I realised – not for the first time, is that Socialism (proper capital-S Socialism, not the mixed economies of our countries or the Scandis and Nordics) absolutely cannot be sustained without violent revolution to begin with and continual purges of the “different” afterwards.

    Like I say, not new news, but it’s a very different guy-punchingly visceral experience to see the evidence with your own eyes rather than just intellectually understanding the theory.

  • Dr Evil

    Bought a second hand Zenit B Helios 50 mm lens camera when a student. The picture quality with it was superb. A Soviet camera made near Moscow. As was said sometimes they got it absolutely right.

  • llamas

    MZ, you say?

    There’s something about tuning oscillating gas flows that speaks to the Communist mind. They were awfully good at muzzle brakes and compensators, as well.

    An MZ taught me a valuable lesson, once.

    Picture, if you will, a spring day in the English countryside – which is to say, damp and foggy. Many enthusiasts have assembled at a remote, repurposed airfield for a 24-hour motorcycle endurance race – who can go the furthest.

    The mighty steed with which YHS is associated? The amazing Honda CBX, 6 cylinders, 1000 cc, double overhead camshafts, an honest 100 bhp at the rear wheel, this was one fire-breathing monster. In its day, you understand.

    Also entered in this Unlimited event? An MZ 300 twin. Two-cycle, with that peculiar mix of manky-looking bodywork and flashy badges that was the hallmark of Soviet-era transportation. The only modifications? Tires, and a very large aluminum-alloy fuel tank.

    Down goes the flag and our Japanese rocket-ship blasts into the lead, and is soon lapping everything in sight. The speed is just awesome, the acceleration breathtaking. The braking . . . . well, not so much, but you can’t have everything. This event is going to be a walkover . . . . .

    Except, of course, that it’s using fuel at a simply staggering rate, and the little tiny fuel tank is empty before you know it. As darkness falls, we learn (through some very hairy manouevres) that we have way more motor, than we do lights. Even the added halogen lights are not enough to keep the speed up, and then of course the added load fried the generator, necessitating a lengthy stop for repairs.

    Meanwhile, the tatty MZ just keeps plodding around. He only has to stop for fuel once every two weeks (or so it seems) and while his speed may have been risible compared to ours, he was maintaining that same speed, hour after hour.

    We eventually won the event – but not by nearly-as-much as the printed figures would have suggested. That MZ, costing perhaps 1/5 of what the flagship Honda cost, came altogether-too-close to matching it in this test of real-world performance. Aesop told the story of the tortoise and the hare, and this was just such a story again.

    llater,

    llamas

  • bobby b

    “An MZ taught me a valuable lesson, once.”

    Me, too.

    Don’t make pistons out of cardboard and tin.

    😆

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Incredible! That girl has so many friends, that they have all borrowed all her books!!!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas, you’re absolutely right. 💡 That never occurred to me! 😳

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Grayn

    That’s what comedians are for- the alternative viewpoint!

  • bobby b

    How about “before the revolution, this is where I kept my 23 brands of deodorant”?

    (I may be overestimating how many people have read Bernie Sanders’ Little Red Book.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    😆 That Bernie! What a pisher!

  • Paul Marks

    The tragedy is that many of the large Corporations and many very rich individuals are BACKING the Marxist groups.

    This madness may destroy civilisation.

    It is that serious.

    “But the billionaires are very clever – they would never back the Marxists”.

    But many of them ARE backing the Marxists – they are very clever in some ways, but the “Woke Billionaires” are incredibly unwise in other ways.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I was surprised to read, many years ago, that quite a few communists came from rich families. Do they end up hating their parents, and thus everything their parents supported? Do they believe that BIG government is inevitable, so they might as well join them? Anybody have any answers?

  • neonsnake

    I was surprised to read, many years ago, that quite a few communists came from rich families.

    I don’t find that surprising, tbh. If I substitute “communist” with “socialist”, then this rings very true – and I think the answer is that once you’ve reached a level of wealth whereupon you’re not constantly worrying about yourself, then you start to notice the people who are worrying about themselves, and looking for solutions. Socialists are, largely, “people with other peoples best interests at heart”. Capitalists, largely, believe that people should be trusted to have their “own best interests at heart.”

    I just wish they’d stop believing that governments have other peoples best interests at heart. If they realised that, maybe they’d stop believing that bigger and ever more complex government is the answer.

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