I’m making this a separate post to encourage discussion and responses. I don’t think it’s helpful to dismiss him as a kid playing red, because that doesn’t help us understand his beliefs. His views aren’t unique, this strain of left-liberalism is widespread in the first world left. It would be too lengthy to criticize all of his positions that show these liberal tendencies, so I’m just going to pick 2 of the worst offenders.
1. He doesn’t understand the contradictions of the NEP
It is vital to understand the causes of the collapse of the USSR because it affects how we approach policies in a socialist state. My view is that the dominant basis for the restoration of capitalism was the ~20% of the economy that was made up of illegal, capitalist enterprises, which distorted the policies and ideology of the Party and the USSR. I expand on this considerably in the link below. If this view is correct, then allowing private, capitalist enterprises of any sort opens the society up to a capitalist restoration.
ftm-communist’s view, as I understand it, is that the bureaucracy acted as a class and pursued its class interest in returning to capitalism. When asked what killed the soviet union, he blames an unaccountable bureaucracy. If the bureaucracy is unaccountable to the proletariat and peasantry, then they aren’t the ruling classes. This leaves the bureaucracy as the only logical option left as the ruling class.
As I said in an earlier post, this theory is not backed up by solid evidence or reasoning:
there are 6 common misconceptions over the cause of the collapse
this theory basically argues that the bureaucracy formed into a possessing class and the breakup was a result of the Yeltsin faction of the bureaucracy defeating the Gorbachev faction. however, this doesn’t explain why the bureaucracy apparently backed Andropov’s Marxist-Leninist point of view in 83, gorbachev’s revisionist reformist ideology in 87, and yeltsin’s free market cannibalism in 93. Since theft from the state by the bureaucracy was embryonic in 87 and became more and more blatant in the 90s, this suggests that outside class forces were causing the collapse and opportunists within the bureaucracy jumped on board.
An authoritative, in-depth study based on interviews with the Party elite showed that the bureaucracy was incapable of collective action to save or hurry the dismantling of the system.
5.lack of democracy/over-centralization
this theory attempts to save socialism by distancing it from the Soviet Union. It argues “The Soviet Communists screwed up, but we are different and smarter. They were too bureaucratic, undemocratic, and over-centralized, but we know better than that.” This explanation doesnt have any explanatory power whatsoever, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a common anti-Communist staple. It makes up for analysis with lofty utopianism and tries to explain history by the degree to which a country conforms to an ideal, instead of looking at the material conditions behind the collapse.
The bureaucracy didn’t have any of the traits associated with social classes (intermarriage, friendship, lifestyle, etc). As Al Szymanski points out in Is The Red Flag Flying:
Of the 47 government ministers of the USSR (the nearest Soviet equivalent to the richest owners and top managers of corporate wealth in the West) 40 percent in 1966 had manual working-class parents, 27 percent had parents who were peasants, 15 percent had parents who were low level white color workers, and only 18 percent had parents in the intelligentsia. i.e. about 80 percent came from humble origins.
The two leading bodies of the Communist Party, the Central Committee and the Politburo, are also predominantly composed of people from lower status non-intelligentsia backgrounds. For example, a study of the 1966 Central Committee showed that, of the 74 percent on which information could be found, 36 percent had manual working-class parents, 47 percent peasant parents and only 16 percent non-manual )ie either intelligentsia or low level white color) parents. ie About 90 percent of the leading Party members came from humble origins.
These facts combined with authoritative Western studies showing that the bureaucracy couldn’t act as a class show that it was influences external to the bureaucracy that was the cause of capitalist restoration.
The fundamental difference between my view and ftm-communist’s is that we view the source of capitalist restoration as coming from different places. With ftm-communist’s view, the way to prevent capitalist restoration is to avoid “authoritarianism” and a large state bureaucracy. His view doesn’t see the existence of capitalist institutions as a threat to the socialist structure. This view can be summed up in one phrase, “capitalism without contradictions”.
Every single leader and theoretician who has tried to take socialist countries back to capitalism has praised the NEP’s toleration of capitalist institutions. NEP-like programs should only be implemented in the most dire of circumstances due to the corrosive effect of capitalist institutions in a socialist society.
If there’s disagreements with minor points (for example, if ftm-communist doesn’t think the bureaucracy was a class), it doesn’t affect my fundamental argument that capitalist institutions have been the basis for capitalist restoration in every socialist country that has become capitalist.
2. He believes in the liberal conception of human rights
This tendency is extremely prevalent among first world leftists and is one of the most critical aspects of liberal imperialist ideology. By constructing a false narrative of human rights, liberalism creates justifications for imperialism. These justifications reduce civil resistance to imperialism and increases identification with liberal ideology and goals. I argue that we should have a materialist understanding of human rights, an understanding that is based in the class structure of society. For the sake of space, I’m only posting the introduction, but i encourage everyone to read it.
Human rights discourse today is largely grounded in value judgments, and this has the effect of disguising the class interests behind human rights. Rather than human rights being progressively developed and expanded as a result of enlightenment, discussion, and liberal thought, the idea and implementation of human rights has been embedded in the class relations of the societies. Class, rather than constitutions, are the driving force behind human rights.
While a moralistic stance towards human rights can be politically useful, it doesn’t get us any closer to understanding the causes. Societies don’t limit or expand public advocacy rights because the leadership is good or bad, power-hungry or humble, they’re limited or expanded based on class structure and power.
There’s 13 factors determining the limitation and tolerance of public advocacy in any given society:
This liberal conception of human rights views human rights as free floating ideas and principles that aren’t determined by the class structure of society. This is a decidedly un-Marxist view, and the historical record shows that human rights are entirely dependent on the security of the ruling class (whether proletarian or bourgeois), domestic threats, international threats, and other factors dealing with class structure and power.
By viewing human rights in a liberal fashion, imperialism becomes an acceptable vehicle for delivering freedom. Ideas are not imposed on the material world, the material world is the basis for ideas. This is the heart and soul of Marxist philosophy and is precisely why Marxism is a revolutionary leap; Marxist philosophy fundamentally changed the practice of philosophy.
As the materialist conception of human rights shows, this threat of imperialism actually makes class structures that fear for their safety and security more likely to clamp down on internal threats. This is a vicious cycle, as imperialism leads to restrictions on human rights, leading to more imperialism.