Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Theory.

Late Soviet-Russian philosopher and social scientist Richard Kosolapov quotes, in his 2002 book "Let's Stalin Speak", his friend a former member of the Presidium of the Central Committee, a philosopher and a professor of Moscow State University, Dmitri Chesnokov who had a conversation with Stalin shortly before Stalin's death in March of 1953. In this conversation, Stalin, speaking about formalism and bureaucratization of the Party, almost pleaded with Chesnokov, when stated:

«Вы вошли в Президиум ЦК. Ваша задача – оживить теоретическую работу в партии, дать анализ новых процессов и явлений в стране и мире. Без теории нам смерть, смерть, смерть!»

Translation: You are now a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee. Your task is a revitalization of the theoretical work in Party, to provide the analysis of new processes and phenomena in our country and in the world. Without theory, for us it is death, death, death!  

These are some of the most powerful and dramatic words from a man known for always keeping his cool and not yielding to panic even under the most pressing circumstances of the early stages of the Great Patriotic War. Yet, here it is--stressing an utter urgency. Why so? The answer, is quite obvious--classic Marxism of the 19th-early 20th Century simply ran its course and stopped being adequate and Stalin knew it, even if to assume some theoretical probability that Stalin's formulation to Chesnokov is somewhat exaggerated, albeit I doubt it--in many respects, events of 1940s-1950s and Stalin's character leave no doubts that such a conversation, with such emphasis, did take place. His no less dramatic statement to Shepilov, a famous economist and chief editor of "Pravda", in which Stalin warns about lack of scientific approach to preparation of economic and political elite in USSR and where he also uses hyperbole of historic urgency and of death for the country, only confirms Chesnokov's episode. 

Stalin recognized that times changed, he also recognized a profound effect of the scientific revolution on the society, not just Soviet, but global and that no matter how useful Marxist analytical apparatus was, the theory was increasingly becoming outdated. It was difficult to apply economic views formed in the times of belt transmissions and steam to economic and industrial reality which already in early 1950s saw a revolutionary spread of radio-electronics, mass means of communications and early computers with increase automation of production. Some Russian Marxists today even dare to assume--the view I happen to share with them--that Stalin didn't have a theory of Socialism (in Russian). Not only I share such a view, but seeing where the Soviet Union was going in 1970s and 1980s I dare to state that nobody had. It is of course, a matter for debate and "what if" scenarios when trying to predict if Stalin could have saved the USSR, or could a working theory be realistically developed, but there is no doubt whatsoever, that market relations were already emerging in the USSR as early as 1940s even within the framework of an extremely strained by war mobilizational economy. Such a theory should have accounted for the human nature which, even with the most sophisticated and effective ideological education and upbringing, couldn't be changed, especially against the background of a country which, on Stalin's watch, was becoming the most educated country in the world. One is forced to recall a famous sociological truism, about marriage and family, which emerged early in 20th Century: the higher is the educational level of a woman, the higher is her professional qualification, the wider her circle of personal and public connections, the more self-reliant and independent such a woman is, the higher will be her requirements for marriage.   

This truism is fully applicable to a nation as a whole and could be reduced to a simple formula--the more educated is a nation, the higher will be its requirements for economic well-being. Humans are many things, and they are not exclusively Homo Economicus, but they ARE Homo Economicus among many other things and that is one of the factors which Marxists decided "to solve" by means of creating  "a new man"--highly educated and highly tempered in his (her) economic demands. What they forgot, of course, were the sources of wisdom which for millennia spoke about human sin, ambition, jealousy, envy and, generally, what came to be known as an individual "pursuit of happiness". They forgot that human nature is hard to change and that to find this "golden path" to both high living standard and sensible consumption is a hell of a task. The ideas were sound, the execution, as is always the case with most ambitious undertakings, left a lot to be desired. Those details which contained those proverbial devils interfered. Marxism was and is well suited to use as an analytical tool, but as a stand alone economic theory--it doesn't work, or, works as not intended. It either leads to a dead-end or stops being Marxism in its original meaning. And here we can draw--and you know that I am extremely uncomfortable with this drawing--parallels with modern severest crisis of the capitalism unfolding in a front of our eyes and which is being prevented from unleashing a global war to resolve its gigantic insurmountable contradictions largely due to Russia's massive nuclear and conventional fire power. 

Remarkably, it is also Russia which, yet again, is playing with a fascinating mix of some Marxist, free enterprise and economic nationalism ideas, trying to create a new model which will lead out of the dead-end neoliberalism led humanity into. Stalin may not have had theory of "socialism", but modern Western "thinkers" do not have the theory of "capitalism" either. Same as Soviet communists, or rather, party "thinkers", who got caught in the peculiarities of the ideology and could not see the way out, modern Western thinkers are in no position to criticize--these were they who justified and helped to implement the economic ruin of the West in general, and the United States in particular, by means of creating an alternative socioeconomic universe, or wonderland, which turned out to be even more bizarre than the most outrageous visions by Marxist fundamentalists. So, here we are today facing the existential crisis of the combined West and de facto disintegration of the United States which cannot produce both effective national idea and save its economy from a complete implosion. Make no mistake, Wall Street will do just fine, for a little while longer. But with the US Dollar being stripped of its hegemony as a main reserve currency and inability of the United States to enforce its parasitic lifestyle which such status of US Dollar provided it for decades, the issue of the real wealth-creation in the United States remains unsolved. It will stay as such for a foreseeable future because not only America doesn't have an economy which can overcome such a challenge without a massive social upheaval, but because American, so called, intellectual class has no theory and is not capable of developing it. In the end, it is not that intellectual to start with. 

As Dmitry Orlov sarcastically noted, while illustrating his thoughts with one of the most ridiculously funny and... accurate memes I ever encountered:

But perhaps most importantly, it must be understood that repatriating production to the US and redeveloping the industrial base will not be a profitable venture, at least not initially. At the outset, and for at least the duration of the first Five-Year Plan, it will definitely lose money. Borrowing it is a bad idea; the federal government is already $21 trillion in debt. Instead, this money needs to be confiscated from the top 1% of the population which owns close to 40% of the country’s wealth. Doing so will yield roughly $50 trillion—more than enough to fund this project. This is best done as part of a Cultural Revolution: round up the one-percenters, make them wear dunce caps and march them through the streets while pelting them with fruits and vegetables and heaping verbal abuse on them. Oh, and take away all of their money and sentence them to a lifetime of free public service.  

American social and political structure is not designed to deal with this issue. No, sure, there are many voices which shame and even accuse America's 1%, but they only are capable to implement the consumption restrictions for the overwhelming majority of deplorables, who do not have that much to start with. One-percenters will remain impervious to any economic and social changes and will continue to buy US one-party Congress, which will do as told while American intellectual class, which is incapable of learning, will continue to create all kinds of garbage such as Critical Race Theory or Gender Studies, on one hand, while trying to debunk those on the other hand, and nearly no one (with some minor exceptions), as empirical evidence shows, will start developing some practical view on the state of the affairs, which is based on the economic realities and the way wealth is distributed. It is a very hard intellectual and scholarly work. I know 99% of present crop of what passes in the United States as intellectuals are utterly unqualified and incapable of developing sound theories. Pseudo-scientific BS and sophistry they produce aplenty, sensible solutions--a number of thinkers who could be counted on fingers of one hand. 

Soviet Union failed to develop the theory of socialism and because of that it failed. The United States failed to develop a theory of capitalism, bar some monetarist BS, and because of that the US is failing and is in at the end of the historically unprecedented de-industrialization. It is difficult to argue with this: 

A new report by EPI Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Research Robert E. Scott finds that President Trump’s trade policies have failed to curb offshoring—and they have not addressed the root causes of America’s growing trade deficits and the decline of American manufacturing... “The Trump administration has taken credit for ‘reshoring’ manufacturing jobs, but the data show that isn’t true. Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared under Trump between 2016 and 2018,” said Scott. “Additionally, the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose significantly between 2016 and 2019. In fact, the real U.S. trade deficit has increased in every year since 2016, reducing GDP growth by roughly 0.25% annually over the past three years. Compounded with the devastation left by the coronavirus pandemic, the blue collar manufacturing workers need serious help from policymakers.”

Even if to "adjust" data for anti-Trump sentiment in media and all kinds of think-tanks, there is absolutely no doubt about continuing offshoring of American jobs. Trump promised a lot, as does every US politician when it is the time to (re)elect oneself. Usually, nothing is done or if done--achieves often an opposite to intended result. It is a systemic flaw. It is not some combination of some factors here and there, which is always the case, but it is an indication of system simply not working as intended, or not working at all. It surely works in terms of profit for very few who own companies but it is not going to change, even when some traditional monetary and trade remedies are applied: taxes, tariffs, political pressure etc. They are increasingly useless and, in fact, often--detrimental to survival of the remaining true economic capacity. And there is no theory which is capable to balance out healthy profits, competition and national interest which is the interest of the majority of people in the nation. It is especially difficult to do in the country where nationhood is a cuss word and has a whole "intellectual" class being busy, both on nominal "left" (which is not left) and nominal "right", hard at work inventing essences (many a Ph.D theses and books are written on that) which will allow to keep the people who populate the country of the United States of America from formulating their true national interest. The only way to do so is to prevent them from coalescing into a true nation. 

Let's harken to 1977, so called Brezhnev Constitution:

Translation: This society--society of mature socialist public relations, in which, based on convergence of all classes and social strata, judicial and de facto equality of all nations and peoples, their brotherly cooperation a new historic community of people  has formed--Soviet people. 

Boy, talk about delusions. 11 years later this whole "new historic community of people" started to kill each-other based on racial, ethnic, religious and other grounds. Believe me, I was there when shit hit the fan. Boy, I thought to myself, when the first tanks started to roll in Baku supporting us, already stretched thin Baku garrison, desperately trying to stop chaos and violence, the theory sucks. It doesn't work. It worked neither socially nor economically, Stalin was right when stated that "without theory it is death, death, death." He was prescient. So, in the world of Critical Race Theory, and Facebook and Twitter being considered an economy, ask yourself a question: does the United States need a theory or will it go down in flames of economic and social chaos. Don't look at me, I am no theoretician, I just call shit as I see it.     

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