Socialist Globalization

When I was young growing up in New York in the 1950s socialism was still considered a respectable political philosophy.  Communism was more or less banned and socialists were accused of an affinity with Communism but the socialist concept still had many advocates.  There were socialist governments in Western Europe and many industries there had been nationalized in the wake of the Second World War.  Socialism in the United States was no longer a mass movement but the idea that government should play some kind of role in economic life was not seen as strange or unusual.  Socialists differed on just how extensive this role should be but all agreed that “natural monopolies” like the railroad, phone service and electricity should be nationalized.

 

Times have changed.  Today in the United States there are not only competing phone companies but competing mail and package delivery companies, in effect competing post offices.  It has become an article of faith that so-called “private enterprise”, meaning large corporations, are more efficient and productive than anything the government can do.  Many of the socialist enterprises established in Western Europe after the Second World War have been privatized and even in the Communist and ex-Communist world most economic activity has been taken out of government hands.  What remains of the socialist ideal is mainly the concept of the welfare state, the notion that the government is or should be responsible for providing health insurance, welfare payments, unemployment benefits and old age pensions.  And even this truncated concept of socialism is under attack both in Europe and in the United States on the grounds that it is too expensive to sustain much longer.

 

I always thought of socialism as a kind of intermediate term between capitalism and communism.  Socialism to me meant government ownership, and you could combine government ownership of some industries with capitalist ownership of other industries and call it socialism.  Conversely you could have government ownership of almost everything, as was the case in the Soviet Union and most other Communist countries, and call that socialism.  But the essence of communism is rule by the Communist party, just as the essence of capitalism is rule by the capitalist class.  What is the essence of socialism?  Some say economic democracy, others a planned economy, still others humane social values.  In my opinion these are all worthy ideals, but they have never inspired the kind of dedication shown by Communist party members or the kind of deference accorded to the members of the capitalist class.  At one time socialism was thought to mean the rule of the working class.  That was a concept which commanded respect, but in practice it turned out to mean rule in the name of the working class.  Socialism today needs to be redefined if it is to achieve the power and popularity it once had.

 

The need for a socialist alternative to the international capitalist system stems from the failure of this system to cope with the three most pressing problems confronting the world today.  They are:

(1) The large and growing gap between rich and poor both within individual countries and between rich nations and poor nations.

(2) The degradation of the earth’s environment due to population growth, unchecked use of fossil fuels and other human activities.

(3) The intense violence of the endless conflicts both within the Muslim world and between the Muslim world and its neighbors.

The question is: could a socialist international system do a better job of coping with these problems than the capitalist international system?  What would such a socialist system look like?  And above all, how could it be put into practice?

 

Lenin said that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, but actually it would be more accurate to say that capitalism is the highest stage of imperialism.  First came the European empires of the early modern period, founded on the power of the gun, and then came the industrial revolution and the emergence of a capitalist system based on a set of unequal relations between the industrialized countries and their colonies or semi-colonies.  The former produced manufactured goods, especially textiles at first, which they exchanged for minerals or cash crops provided by the latter.  What was grown or mined, by whom, at what price, was determined by the industrialized countries, not the colonies or semi-colonies.  The bottom line was the military domination of the latter by the former, which tended to increase as industrialization proceeded.

 

In theory this state of affairs was supposed to have been transformed by the overthrow of colonial rule throughout the world in the wake of the Second World War.  And in fact significant changes in the international capitalist system have taken place in the past fifty years or so, but the system itself remains much the same.  The industrialized countries are rich, the non-industrialized countries are poor.  The former have overwhelming military force at their disposal, the latter do not.  What has changed is that relations between the various Great Powers have become much more harmonious than they once were.  Also there have emerged certain countries, such as China, India and Brazil, that are still very poor but are industrializing at a rapid rate.  And a whole set of international institutions, such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, have been established whose avowed function is to promote world peace and prosperity.  Yet despite all the attention that has been directed to stimulating economic development in the Third World in the past fifty years, the gap between rich and poor countries has actually increased during that span of time.

 

The big problem is that the majority of the countries that emerged from the colonial era do not constitute natural economic units.  Unlike China, India and Brazil, most of them are too small to contain a variety of natural resources or provide a large home market for their products.  If the countries of Europe with their long history of industrialization have nonetheless found it necessary to form an economic union in order to maximize their productive potential, how much more necessary would such a union be for the many impoverished small countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America?  They have no possibility of industrializing on their own and even their capacity to export minerals and cash crops is threatened by depletion of the minerals and declining fertility of the soil.  What now passes for economic development in most of these countries is the presence of multi-national corporations in search of a cheap labor force.

 

There is, however, one group of countries whose industrial production is very slight yet which do not fit the profile of the other non-industrialized countries.  That is the group of countries which export large quantities of oil.  Oil differs from minerals and cash crops in that it is not merely a desirable but an essential commodity for all industrialized countries.  Those who do not have it must import it and this gives the producers of oil a leverage which is reflected in much higher payments for their commodity than for any other,  With the income they receive from the sale of oil they are in a position to purchase heavy weapons, provide domestic social services and in general throw their weight around on a world scale.  And since the majority of these countries are dominated by the followers of the Muslim religion, much of their activity around the world is directed towards enhancing the power and prestige of Islam.  This activity takes many forms, some of which are peaceful, others of which are not.

 

Opinions differ on whether or not Islam actually mandates aggression against non-Muslims.  In any case, as is shown by the history of Christianity, you don’t have to preach violence in order to practice it.  The big difference between Christianity and Islam is that the Christians still have their empire whereas the Muslims do not.  Most of the dominant countries in the world, including four out of the five members of the UN Security Council, are countries in which Christianity is the majority religion.  The Christians have hydrogen bombs, whereas most of the Muslims cannot even manufacture their own tanks and planes but must buy them from the Christians.  There is no possibility of the Muslims mounting a serious challenge to Christian world domination any time soon, yet they remain obsessed by the memory of the great Muslim empires of the past.  From this contradiction results on the one hand terrorism against the perceived enemies of Islam, and on the other, sectarian violence on a massive scale between contending versions of Islamic rule.

 

What the Muslims lack in addition to industrialization is an indigenous model of political authority separate and apart from the Muslim religion.  Christianity does not rule the world in its own name but as the religious component of Western liberal democracy.  There are no non-Christian “Western” states, but you don’t have to be Christian to adopt liberal democracy as a political system.  What you do need is a literate middle class but for that you must also have industrialization.  The problem is, the more industrialization, the more pollution and degradation of the environment.  Add to this the pressure on available resources exerted by global population growth and the need for a more rational system of planet management than the international capitalist system becomes apparent.  It is foolish to think that the pursuit of profit as the main motive of economic activity can successfully address the problems which face the world today.  The welfare of all must be the goal and socialism is the most commonly accepted term for a system designed to benefit the human race as a whole.

 

The main reason why the capitalist system has become so dominant on a world scale over the course of the past 30 years or so is the advent of globalization.  Multi-national corporations that can roam the world in search of the perfect combination of cheap labor and cheap raw materials have a tremendous advantage over state owned enterprises that must employ local workers at a reasonable wage in local production facilities.  Although socialism was always in theory an internationalist movement, in practice socialist organizations have operated mainly within the framework of the individual  nation states.  What is needed today is a socialist form of globalization, a system of planning and production that transcends the boundaries of the individual nation states.  The goal of socialist globalization should be the treatment of the entire world as a single economic unit within which the provision of necessary goods and services would be maximized and the damage to the environment minimized.  The goal is clear: the question is how to get there.  The answer is that socialist globalization must be founded on the principle of global democracy.

 

The concept of global democracy implies not only the extension of democratic institutions to every country on earth but also the establishment of international organizations based on the democratic principle.  No such organizations exist at the present time.  The United Nations is a manifestly undemocratic institution.  A democratic international organization would be one based on the accepted democratic principle of one person one vote.  The only reason why countries with large populations accept the operation of the UN’s General Assembly on the basis of one country one vote is because the General Assembly has little real power over anything.  The greater the authority of an international body over the world’s economy, the greater would be the pressure to establish it on democratic principles.  Socialist globalization therefore requires global democracy in every sense of the term.  Only a truly democratic international organization could hope to acquire the authority to make meaningful decisions affecting the economic well being of the entire human race.

 

But before such an organization can come into being, democracy must first prevail in all or most of the world’s nation states.  At present there are two main obstacles to the further spread of democracy: Communist ideology and Islam.  I have no doubt that these obstacles will be overcome in time, but in how much time is hard to say.  Both China, the main remaining country with a Communist government, and the Muslims would find an international organization based on the principle of one person one vote very much to their advantage.  This might incline them to look more favorably on the concept of democracy than would otherwise be the case.  Adoption of democratic institutions by the individual Muslim states would also tend to reduce the level of violence which presently characterizes both their internal and external relations.  The bottom line is that there exists a mass movement in favor of democracy throughout the world and sooner or later it will bear fruit in those countries now under some form of authoritarian rule.

 

Yet even if democracy spreads throughout the world a major obstacle to socialist globalization will still remain.  Those wealthy countries which are already industrialized are unlikely to look with favor on any plan which threatens their control of the world’s economy.  Even if they would feel compelled to accept the principle of global democracy in the abstract they would oppose it in practice for fear that it would result in a loss of their ability to appropriate a substantial part of the world’s resources for their own use.  This opposition will not go away, but over time it will weaken.  Fossil fuels and minerals are not renewable resources; when they are gone they are gone and the whole structure of the industrialized world will be threatened with collapse.  Over the long term the pressure in favor of a slower and more equitable use of the world’s resources will therefore tend to increase.  And a truly democratic international organization would be the natural place for the conflicting interests of the industrialized and non-industrialized countries to play themselves out in a peaceful way.  A planned world economy would be to everyone’s benefit, although more for some than for others.

 

Ultimate authority for a planned world economy should rest with an assembly in which countries are assigned seats proportionate to their population.  The function of this assembly would be to formulate general policy guidelines for the economic development of the various regions around the world.  Long range planning based on these guidelines should then be the task of a body composed of experts in the various fields, such as economics, agronomy, geology and so forth, relevant to economic development.  This body should in turn assign responsibility for the implementation of its plans to an appropriate mix of private, state owned and cooperative enterprises.  It would be a utopian exercise to attempt a detailed analysis of just how such a system might work in practice.  The transition from capitalist to socialist globalization will be a complex process whose precise outlines cannot be decreed in advance.  One thing is for sure: for this transition to take place a revived international socialist movement is needed.

 

Globalization in and of itself is not a bad thing but a good thing.  It makes possible a more efficient use of the world’s resources than can be achieved within the framework of the individual nation states.  But in order for globalization to realize its potential, democratic decision making and long range planning must replace the pursuit of profit as the basis on which the world’s resources are allocated and employed.  Socialist globalization is what socialists today ought to be advocating.  In time we will prevail, because our cause is both reasonable and just.

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The Soviet Union Revisited

My parents visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s, my wife and I went there for a visit in the 1960s, and for some reason I am now feeling the need to revisit the Soviet Union in my thoughts and try to understand what went wrong.

 

Most people feel that they already know the answer to that question: Communism was just no good.  They seem to think that if the Bolsheviks had not come along, Russia would have evolved into a liberal democracy following the overthrow of the czar.  I am quite sure that they are mistaken on this point.  The choice Russia faced in 1917 was not Bolshevism or democracy but rather Bolshevism or fascism.  The Russian liberal democrats and moderate socialists did not have a military force of their own capable of standing up to the Czarist generals who were determined to restore the rule of the landed aristocracy.  Had the generals been successful they would have instituted a fascist regime similar to that later imposed by Franco in Spain, one in which the army rather than a fascist party was the dominant force.  Only the Bolsheviks were both willing and able to meet force with force to the extent necessary to prevent the restoration of the old regime in a fascist form.

 

Some people seem to think that even if it were true that the choice was between Bolshevism and fascism, the Bolsheviks were so ruthless that it didn’t really matter which one won.  I can’t agree with this point of view for many reasons, the most important being that I am a Jew.  The old regime in Russia not only had a long history of persecution of the Jewish people, but during the Russian civil war between 1918 and 1920 the anti-Communist White armies slaughtered something like 100,000 Jews in the areas under White control.  The Bolshevik Red Army was not always entirely correct in its dealing with the Jewish population, but on the whole it shielded Jews from the White armies and treated anti-Semitism as a reactionary ideology.  For Jews in Russia which side won in the civil war clearly made a big difference, a difference between life and death.

 

Nonetheless something obviously did go wrong.  If anti-Semitism is a reactionary ideology then the Russian Communist party must be a reactionary organization because it is thoroughly permeated with anti-Semitism and has been for a long time.  And in general Soviet style Communism has been completely discredited, in part by its collapse as an economic system at the end of the 1980s, in part by the revelation of the full extent and sheer injustice of the purges and deportations of the 1930s.  Yet I continue to identify with the former Soviet Union for one simple reason: it was the main force in the wartime alliance that defeated the Nazis in World War Two.  You have only to realize that some 80% of the German army was engaged in fighting the Soviets throughout the period from 1941 to 1945 in order to understand that the American and British contribution to the war effort, important though it was, was not the decisive element in the victory of the Allies.  No doubt much went wrong in the Soviet Union before the war, but something must have also gone right to make the Soviet victory over Nazism possible.

 

Two things that definitely did go right were creating a modern industrial plant and teaching the Soviet population how to read and write.  Modern industry, much of it set up in the Ural region out of reach of an initial German offensive, provided the tanks, planes and artillery needed for modern warfare.  And teaching formerly illiterate people how to read and write enabled them to manufacture and operate the modern weapons which the Soviet government needed to defeat the Germans.  There was perhaps an additional factor.  It is generally recognized that after a series of initial fiascos, Soviet troops fought very well, but most historians see this as simply a reflection of traditional Russian patriotism, something which Stalin went to great lengths to cultivate, downplaying the theme of proletarian internationalism in the process.  All the same I doubt that the Red Army would have fought as well as it did if the soldiers did not feel that on some level the government which led them derived a certain  legitimacy from its proletarian class background.

 

It is surprising how little attention has been paid by students of Soviet history to the fact that not only Stalin but also most of his close associates and the great majority of the Communists who implemented his policies came from working class or peasant backgrounds.  Opinions differ as to whether “socialism” is the exact right word to describe the Stalinist system, but whatever you may choose to call it, it was a system run by former proletarians.  Even Trotsky in exile still called the Soviet Union a “workers’ state” and declared it must be defended against its enemies on that account.  Did not the soldiers of the Red Army feel the same way?  Statistical proof is lacking but I strongly suspect that a sense of working class solidarity with Stalin’s government was a significant factor in the willingness of Soviet soldiers to fight and die on its behalf.

 

But when my parents visited the Soviet Union in 1936, I am sure that class solidarity was not the force that drew them there.  They were both social workers from middle class backgrounds and went as part of a tour of left leaning social workers organized by the American Communist party of which they were at that time members.  I think that they went in part to see what a socialist society might look like and in part to show their support for the Soviet Union, which they viewed as the main force opposing fascism in Europe.  I have the impression that they were neither greatly inspired nor greatly disillusioned by their visit; in any case they remained in the Communist party until 1939 when they quit right around the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact.  However, unlike many ex-Communists, they never disavowed their past, continued to have friends in the Party and remained committed to a “progressive” point of view for the rest of their lives.  Even though they no longer regarded themselves as Communists, they still adopted what might be called an “anti anti-Communist” position.  Anti-Communism in their eyes had no redeeming features; it was an expression of right wing and fascist ideology.

 

I can well understand why my parents thought as they did.  The American Communist party was a small organization with no chance of acquiring state power, whether by legal or illegal means, any time soon.  In practice it pursued a liberal agenda not very different from that of the rest of the left and in this context made a significant contribution to both the trade union movement and the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans.  Once the Cold War began it was subjected to unrelenting persecution resulting in many people losing their jobs and some being sent to prison.  My parents had every reason to question the motives of those who did the persecuting and to refuse to disavow their friendship with those who were being persecuted.

 

Had my parents a clearer idea of what was happening in the Soviet Union in the 1930s they might have thought a little differently, but at that time most people, whether Communists or non-Communists, were not very well informed about the purges which were then taking place.  Even after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956 it still took some time before the full extent of the purges was brought to light.  I had always thought that the purges were mainly directed against Stalin’s actual or potential political opponents, but in recent decades it has become clear just how random and arbitrary they became.  In a number of cases the secret police were assigned a quota, running sometimes into the tens of thousands, for how many people were to be arrested and then either executed or sentenced to slave labor camps.  It was the responsibility of the police to find enough people to meet the quota and to invent crimes for which those arrested could be charged.  The only conceivable motive for such a procedure was to inspire fear, and inspire fear is most certainly what Stalin did.  It is still not entirely clear whether on balance Stalin’s system of terror helped or hindered the Soviet war effort, but one thing it definitely did not do was to create a firm foundation for a viable socialist society.

 

However it took some fifty years for this to become evident.  In the interim for about ten years after Stalin’s death came the regime of Nikita Khrushchev.  Khrushchev is remembered today as something of a buffoon whom Kennedy forced to blink but he was much more than that.  The son of peasants who then went to work as a machinist in his teens he had the perfect class background for advancement in Stalin’s system.  After Stalin’s death he was the one who organized the arrest and execution of Beria, Stalin’s secret police chief, effectively bringing to an end the reign of terror in Soviet society.  He subsequently not only denounced Stalin for the purges but permitted information about Stalin’s slave labor system to be published.  He greatly reduced the size of the Soviet army and made the improvement of Soviet living standards the main priority of his regime.  In foreign policy he advocated “peaceful coexistence” between communism and capitalism with ultimate victory going to the one who could best deliver economic prosperity.  And so it transpired, although not in the way that Khrushchev had hoped.

 

Khrushchev’s efforts to tone down the Cold War have been largely forgotten in part because of the belligerent attitude which he often adopted in his dealings with the West and above all because he placed Soviet missiles in Cuba.  Also forgotten has been his main motive for doing so, which was to prevent a US invasion of Cuba.  He was convinced, whether rightly or wrongly is hard to say, that after the Bay of Pigs fiasco an invasion was imminent, and made withdrawal of the missiles contingent on obtaining a public pledge from Kennedy not to invade Cuba.  He did in fact obtain this pledge, as well as an oral agreement from Kennedy to withdraw missiles which the US had only recently placed in Turkey.  Khrushchev thought he had won but the public perception was that Kennedy had forced him to back down and this perception was a factor in his removal from power by the Soviet Politbureau a few years later.

 

At the time of the Cuban missile crisis I was in France doing research for a PhD thesis on the role of various popular organizations (as opposed to political parties) in the Paris Commune of 1871.  Not long after the crisis was over a chance came my way to visit the Soviet Union from France.  I learned of a commercial tour advertising two weeks in Moscow and Leningrad.  Visiting Russia from France was no big deal in the eyes of the French and it had the great advantage of avoiding the attention of the FBI which I most likely would have attracted had I tried to go from the United States.  I had not come to France with the thought of visiting the Soviet Union in my mind, but when the opportunity presented itself, it seemed like a good idea.  I was not precisely an admirer of Khrushchev but I thought him a big improvement on Stalin and, like my parents, wanted to see what a socialist society was like.  So at some point in the late spring or summer of 1963 my wife and I boarded a train in Paris and off we went.

 

Looking back over that trip some fifty years later it’s only highlights that stand out in my mind.  I remember being pleased and surprised when arriving at the Russian border to be transferred, at no extra cost, from the uncomfortable second class coach in which we had been travelling to an all one class sleeper train.  I remember discovering, when we arrived in Moscow, that the official exchange rate was exactly one dollar to one ruble.  I saw this as a political statement of equality with America and only later realized that it was also a way of obtaining US currency at bargain rates.  The main thing that I remember about Moscow is Gorky Park, which I liked very much and where I successfully ordered “dva pivo”, meaning “two beers”, thereby getting to flash almost the whole extent of my Russian vocabulary.

 

I think it was in Leningrad that we visited a church that had been converted into a museum of the follies of religion, but I no longer recall the exhibits that got this message across.  Leningrad was a study in contrasts between the stately town houses dating from Czarist times situated on canals in the center of the city and the miles of rubble still left over from the war in the outer boroughs.  I’m not sure whether it was in Leningrad or Moscow that we boarded a trolley only to find that we did not have the right change to pay our fare.  Seeing our plight, one of the passengers paid our fare for us, which struck me as a fine example of socialist culture.  But it is only now, while thinking back to that trip, that I realize that the most clearly socialist thing we saw was something we didn’t see, namely obviously wealthy people or obviously poor people.  Now it is claimed that actually almost everyone was poor, but at least in Moscow and Leningrad, they didn’t look it.  People were decently dressed and we didn’t see any beggars or homeless people.  I now know that there was a terrible housing shortage and people were living under very cramped conditions, but since we didn’t visit anyone at home we didn’t see that either.

 

In any case it is clear that there was relatively little improvement in Russian living standards during the decades following the ouster of Khrushchev in 1964.  The gap in living standards between the Soviet Union and the West became much larger rather than smaller during this period.  Various explanations have been advanced for this fact including: the conservatism and fear of innovation of the neo-Stalinist leadership that took over after 1964; the burden of a large military budget; and the alleged inefficiency of the highly centralized Russian economic planning system.  In my view the main factor promoting economic stagnation in the Soviet Union was the emergence and consolidation of a managerial and governmental class which was more concerned with enhancing its own privileges than promoting economic growth for the country as a whole.

 

The roots of this class went back to the Stalin era, but the purges had the effect of slowing its emergence as a coherent force by preventing its potential members from forming long term mutual relationships of trust and convenience.  Khrushchev too was a problem for the managerial class; he didn’t have people shot but he did fire them and constantly shake up the bureaucracy trying to improve its economic performance.  It was only under Brezhnev that a stable managerial and governmental class emerged.  The members of this class were still not permitted to accumulate or inherit wealth but they could enjoy a privileged life style and provide their children with the education and contacts necessary to follow in their footsteps.  So long as they followed orders their position was secure, and they were increasingly able to supplement their income through graft and corruption.  In short they had every incentive not to rock the boat, and so the boat sailed along, neither slower nor faster, while the ship of state of the West pulled ever further ahead.

 

All the same it is far from obvious why the system collapsed so rapidly after Gorbachev took over in 1985.  It was stagnant but still functional at that time.  Gorbachev had what seemed to many a realistic program to reform and revitalize it.  He carried de-Stalinization much further than Khrushchev had done, making possible the emergence of a small but influential democratic opposition.  At the same time he initiated a series of measures aimed at decentralizing the economy and making it more efficient.  But once the grip of centralized planning  was relaxed, individual managers ceased to cooperate with one another and began functioning in a totally anarchic amd dishonest way.  The result was that by 1990 food stocks had become dangerously low in the major cities, to the point where a real threat of famine arose.  It was this crisis which totally discredited Gorbachev’s leadership and resulted, after an unsuccessful neo-Stalinist coup, in Yeltsin’s rise to power on the basis of a program of privatization and a market economy.  This program simply legalized  what the managerial class had already begun to do in a covert way once Gorbachev tried to decentralize the system.

 

So far as I am concerned, the best way of understanding the transition from socialism to capitalism in the Soviet Union is by recognizing that socialism in Russia was always first and foremost a Jewish ideal.  It was the Jewish socialist Bund which popularized the socialist concept in Russia prior to the Revolution of 1905.  At a time when both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were small sects the Bund had a mass following and played a leading role in the wave of strikes that triggered the revolution.  As the socialist ideal spread among non-Jewish Russian workers after 1905 the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks became more influential, but the leadership of the Mensheviks was in large part Jewish.  So too was the leadership of the Social Revolutionary party, the main alternative to the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks for leadership of the Russian left  after 1905.  Even the Bolsheviks, who were the least Jewish identified of all the left wing parties, had a significant Jewish minority in leadership roles.  Jewish leadership of the Russian socialist movement was symbolized by the leading role of Trotsky in the revolutions of both 1905 and 1917.

 

For most Jewish socialists, socialism was essentially a system of economic democracy to be built on the foundations of political democracy.  Unfortunately in Russia the middle class was too small and weak to establish a stable system of political democracy.  The Cadets, the party of the liberal middle class, ended by aligning themselves with the Czarist generals in 1917 out of fear of the socialist left.  The Bolsheviks came to dominate this left because they were the only ones capable of organizing a military force strong enough to stand up to the fascists on the right.  But the more Bolshevik rule evolved in the direction of dictatorship, the more anti-Semitic it became.  This trend was already apparent in the campaign against “Trotskyism” starting in the mid 1920s, and it became even more obvious in the public purge trials of the 1930s, a large proportion of whose victims were prominent Jewish Communists.  Nonetheless the fact remains that it was the anti-Semitic Stalinist dictatorship that defeated the far more lethal anti-Semitism of the Nazis and made possible the continuation of Jewish life in Europe.

 

However anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union did not diminish but rather increased following the defeat of the Nazis.  Shortly before his death Stalin was considering the mass deportation of Soviet Jews to Siberia.  Although this plan was abandoned by his successors they continued in a less murderous form Stalin’s policy of barring any hint of Jewish influence on Soviet culture.  Jews could still find employment in various technical and scientific fields but were rigidly excluded from any position which might enable them to influence the opinions of others.  Even Stalin had permitted a few Jews in high places, such as Kaganovich and Litvinov, but under his successors there were none.  Fear and suspicion of Jews was openly stimulated by the Soviet governmnt under the guise of a campaign against Zionism and the state of Israel.  The main purpose of this campaign was to prevent the emergence of Israel as a model of democratic socialist development in the eyes of Soviet Jews and non-Jews alike.

 

Starting already with the suppression of the Mensheviks during the civil war era, advocacy of democratic socialism was viewed by the Bolsheviks as a dangerous threat to their concept of proletarian dictatorship.  And since this threat was Jewish identified, cultivation of anti-Semitic attitudes by the Soviet government was a convenient way of stigmatizing and discrediting it.  But ironically, the main effect of this policy was to make sure that when the dictatorship did break down, it was replaced not by a competing form of socialism but by capitalism,  Moreover, the specific form of capitalism which emerged in Russia after Putin replaced Yeltsin as the head of the Russian government was one in which economic power was concentrated in the hands of individuals most of whom, like Putin himself, had a secret police background.  The secret police had been the least ideological and most cynical component of the Soviet ruling elite, and once Putin and his associates had the power of the Russian state at their disposal, they were quick to use this power to gain control of the “commanding heights” of the new capitalist economy.

 

Yet when all is said and done, I still have the feeling that something good must come out of this tragic history of socialism in the Soviet Union.  I no longer have the desire to visit the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, but I still follow developments in that part of the world with close attention.  I cannot believe that such a long struggle waged by so many brave and dedicated people should have no other result than the forging of yet another link in the chain of capitalist globalization.  And in particular I refuse to believe that all those Jewish socialists, whether Bundists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Bolsheviks, Trotskyists or Zinovievists, died in vain.  To this day none of them have been “rehabilitated” by the powers that be in Russia, yet I feel sure that the time will come when their memory will become a force in the world.  They had the right idea, and in the long run it is that which counts..