random notes - completely weimar free!

IT is now a Doctor. (I think.)Congratulations from all of us here at Limited Inc!

Someone asked LI if we were going to say something about the death of Pinochet. No, we have nothing much to add. Pinochet was not only a dirty murderer, but he has also become a ritual object for abuse by lefties who long ago took the don’t-look-back rightist turn – the Jorge Castenedas and Christopher Hitchens. Kicking that corpse gives this group the illusion that they are still fighting the good fight of their youth – when of course they long ago joined the side of the Chicago Boyz and the ‘third way.’ Kicking Kissinger is another thing this group likes to do. It is rather like the boss airguitaring to “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.’ You really, really don’t want to see it, be in the room with it, or have to talk to the boss about the rock n roll giants of his youth later.

Give me the fascists of yore, who didn’t wrap the iron fist in the Winnie the Pooh language of the winds, the winds of freedom – and wasn’t that 68 something?

I’m reading a book by Geoffrey Hosking, Rulers and Victims: the Russians in the Soviet Union. Hosking’s thesis about communism is, from the beginning, a non-starter – it is a reprise of the tiresome communism-is-a-religion. And there is an astonishing underestimate of the effect of World War I on Russia – Hosking doesn’t even consider it as a major shaping factor in the end of the Czarist system. This is the usual – historians do seem to have problems with the sociological effects of war, and would much prefer to talk about communism-is-a-religion. However, I found this an astonishing fact:

‘During the course of the war, 17.6 million men passed through the barracks, trenches, naval bases, and hospitals of the armed services. Of those, 11.4 million (60.4 percent) never returned…”

But, of course, you will never read a historian include Czar Nicholas II as one of the 20th centuries great mass murderers. It was war, you see. Whereas Lenin, in spite of the fact that Lenin’s prison system was no different than, say, France’s, is a mass murderer. The architect of the Gulag. And all the rest of that total shit.


Paul craddick said…

I hope your intervention on behalf of Comrade Lenin isn't meant as an instance of - contra the putative turncoats like Hitchens - an instance of doggedly fighting the "good fight."

Identifying Lenin as a miserable (and baleful) little power monger - he who imagined that he could "run" an economy like a post-office, with the able assistance of secret police - is (logically) indifferent to the matter of the Czar's own crimes.

I feel, to say the least, zero grief or nostalgia at General Pinochet's passing (yes, let us never forget that he was a General!), but I did find Hitchens' obit strangely obtuse. As far as miserable (and baleful) little étatistes go, at least P's legacy has a tiny sliver of light cutting through the dark of his maleficence. Unlike, uh, other potentates for whom Leftists offer genuflectics-apologetics.
Paul craddick said…
doh - sorry for the lack of editorial precision!
roger said…
Paul, I always like to hear from you!

So: interestingly, as far as etatistes go, Pinochet was forced by the depression brought on by his policies to extend the state's ownership of the economy beyond anything Allende ever dreamed in the depression of 1981. Effectively, he socialized the private debts of chile's larger companies, and took over most of chile's banks. Then, of course, as the state managed the debt with taxpayer money, it was time for the second phase of the old and beloved neo-liberal ripoff as Pinochet "privatized" companies to a political economic elite, selling them for rock bottom prices.

Lenin, on the other hand, hammered against the state. He ended, for instance, the war - and there is no bigger enlargement of the state than war. Against his will, he had to replenish the army to fight against the reactionary white army, but in 1921 he became willing to endorse the kind of private enterpreneurial environment that succeeded in China in the 80s - NEP.

Of course, myself, I think the lines on the map of the political sphere that separate the state and the private sphere don't reflect reality. And I'm no fan of Lenin's. But I don't think the idea of running the economy, re a post office, is what Lenin had in mind. And, of course, he was not taking over an economy that was run a la Bentham - but more, a la Rasputin.
roger said…
PS -via Max, here's a piece in the Washington Post about Chile. Very interesting:
Paul craddick said…

There's a pretty serious equivocation in your rejoinder. The only sense in which Lenin "hammered against the state" was in the sense of smashing all of the machinery, institutions, and social relations which comprised the previous state - in order to erect his own hydra-headed powerhouse.

In The State and Revolution, Comrade Lenin fondly recalls a "witty German Social-Democrat" from the late 19th century who - rightly, in Lenin's view - analogized the socialist economy's administration to that of the postal service. What's stranger is that you seem to liken Lenin, in benignity, to this fellow!

You seem to suggest that Lenin's reconstitution of the military was a halting kind of tough love; to deal with, amongst others, those stubborn kulaks, whose "private entrepreneurial" ways didn't accord with the dialectic of History as revealed to the Prophet Vladimir. How bitterly ironic, then, that after playing a signal role in the ruin of Russia's economic and social life, by punishing private economic initiative, Lenin deigned to make space for a little entrepreneurial activity in the NEP!

As baleful as Pinochet was, I'd take my chances under his regime any day of the week, rather than VI's. The notion that - if I've followed your drift - Pinochet was in any meaningful sense (other than the rhetorical) more of a statist than Lenin, is bizarre.
roger said…
Paul, again, your picture of the ruin of Rusia's economic and social life came from - Nicholas' war. If you are going to ruin a nation's economic and social life, lose 11 million men in 3 years of war. It is a surefire recipe.

Lenin wrote a lot of stuff before he took power, but when, finally, the war against the Whites was over, Lenin took the pragmatic turn to state sanctioned sponsoring of the return to markets - especially for the kulaks.

Of course, I wouldn't have survived Pinochet's regime at all - my opinions and my expression of them would certainly have brought about some true unpleasantnesses - so I would have taken my chances, if some angel had given me two choices, under Lenin's government.

Moreover - I should point out that WWI made every government that participated into it into a very active economic intervener. As you should know, it certainly ended the whole golden age of free trade (although the Conservative party in England had already turned decisively against this even before the war).

Now, I'm not saying NEP went far enough. While restoring a currency economy, Lenin didn't really do much to encourage a financial sector - and the underdevelopment of a financial sector proved fatal to the U.S.S.R in the end. But the right direction was taken, much to Trotsky's chagrin. Unfortunately, Lenin was physically slipping.
it said…
Thanks Roger! I did indeed get it, no rewrites - so the proofreading proved infinitely useful!
roger said…
IT - I hope you had the energy to throw a small party. Enjoy the fleeting moment! - and then prepare to dissect your dissertation into numerous articles. You definitely have a Feuerbach article for the Journal of the History of Ideas, or some such journal, in your future. I can see it in my crystal ball!