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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie-Part I-Definitions-Mr. Claybourn has an interesting post in the wee hours of this morning on Communism.
One of the chief downfalls of the Soviet Union was its rush into communism. Indeed, the Soviets seemed to ignore what their founders had to say about it. A transitional phase necessarily exists between capitalism and communism. Karl Marx wrote, "Between capitalist and communist society lies a period of revolutionary transformation from one to the other." This period is usually labeled by the Marxist as "socialism," although you'll sometimes see it called "dictatorship of the proletariat." Scientific Communism: A Glossary makes it clear: "The different stages in the development of society based on public ownership of the means of production are the two phases of communism, the lower - socialism, and the higher - complete or developed communism." Modern day Marxists still hold this view.
Socialism is the control of the means of production by the blue-collar workers {my loose definition of proletariat), while communism marks the lack of need for such control when people automatically do the right things. Given human nature, communism will never be achieved while humans rule.
This transitional stage of socialism will be a blend between capitalism and communism. The main difference between communism and socialism is that, in their eyes, socialism will not have abolished all the problems created by capitalism.
It doesn't do away with greed. In the old USSR, the rulers lived better than workers, for connections were more important than money. Lacking the constructive outlets for rational self-interest, they turned to laziness, theft and corruption.
The stage is necessary, in part, because not everyone will accept a dictatorship of the proletariat. Pure communism, the final phase of development, will only result from a constant mutation into the socialist phase. Did the Soviets fail because they moved too quickly? That's a somewhat subjective question, but my own belief is that they did.
It's been a couple of decades since I seriously studied Soviet history (had a class on Soviet government in the early '80s) but one of the toughest nuts for Lenin to crack were the small farmers (Kulaks) who didn't want to be collectivized. A lot of productivity went down the tubes as they forced the kulaks into communal or state farms. The force needed to move to a state-run system was too traumatic.
But the inheritance of the communist's cause - the modern day far Left - seem to follow Marx's advice more closely by engaging in a much slower advance toward total socialism. Republicans love to proclaim that Reagan won the Cold War by defeating the Soviets. Did he win the war, or just a battle? I suppose only time and history will be the judge of that.
I remember back on GIGO, the NRO protoblog of the late 90s, one poster would mark a good day for the left by asking "Dr. Hayek, what milepost are we on?" The road to serfdom is largely paved with good intentions, for many liberals want merely to smooth out the rough edges of the free market system. They are egged on by the hard left, who would like a socialist state. The old analogy of boiling a frog slowly might apply; incremental changes to the size of government are lest apt to be rebelled against than dramatic ones. One problem that the modern-day Marxists have is that they have to overcome a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, bobo and otherwise. The average American doesn't see himself as lower-class, he wants to think of himself as middle-class (bourgeois in Marxist lingo). The bourgeoisie pay more taxes than they get back as benefits as a group. To increase the government, the bourgeoisie has to be persuaded that it is in his best interest to do so, typically driven by fear of the worst things happening. The conservative's aim is to show the bourgeoisie that a free market and lower taxes are in their best interest and that larger government is more bother than it's worth. I doubt the voters in Europe or the US will voluntarily vote in a hard-core, nationalize-everything Marxist, but there's a lot of room to screw things up short of a return of the hammer and sickle. For the next 50 years or so, the fight won't be American-style welfare capitalism versus USSR-style communism but with European-style market socialism. I'll revisit what I wrote a couple of weeks ago on Market Socialism
The key difference between the two systems (as I see it this evening) is that the American system has the individual as the core operating unit of society while the European system has the state as the core operating unit. Power flows to the government from the people in the US, while power flows from the government to the people in Europe. European "market socialism" looks like the American system at first glance, but there are two different assumptions based on European collectivism and American individualism. The first is that the European systems assumes that it is the government's job to look after the individual while the American assumption is that the individual can largely fend for themselves. This leads to a larger, paternalistic government, with guaranteed health care, guaranteed income and subsidized child care and culture. That larger government leads to slower growth and less wealth, but the underlying collective cultural assumptions are hard to shake. The second assumption is on collective wisdom; Americans feel that the individual is wiser than the collective, while Europeans seem to think that the collective is wiser than the individual. This leads to a greater tolerance of government intervention and of centralization of both government and businesses. In economics, the diversity of ideas that is the free market makes smarter decisions than a central planner, but that runs counter to a collectivist mind-set. The "unilateralist" flaps in geopolitics is a subset of this; if the rest of the world thinks X and the US thinks Y, the Euroweenie thinks that the collective must be right. Paternalism and collectivism both lead to slower-growing economies, while individualism and dynamism helps create faster-growing and richer economies. The continental Europeans see that, but have yet to get rid of the old paradigm. When the French bash Anglo-American economics, they're retreating to their collectivist roots, even though they know it's inefficient.
The fight will be between that more collectivist, more-risk-adverse European system and the more individualistic, less-risk-adverse American system. I don't see out-and-out communism making a comeback anytime soon, but the centralized European systems would be more prone to a spasm of Marxist popularity and could lead to a popularly elected Marxist screwing things up, al a Allende in Chile. However, it would likely take a generation or two for that to happen, for the memories of how bad things were in Eastern Europe are still fresh. For the meantime, conservatives will have to fight Market Socialism. Coming Soon-Part II-Market Socialism: How to get there and how to avoid getting there.

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