Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No, They're Not a 'Hitler' or a 'Stalin'

New York Times article "No, They're Not a 'Hitler' or a Stalin'" (November 16th, 2010) offers a complete misreading of Russian history leading up to the Second Congress of Soviets following the October Revolution of 1917.
Communism has never once arisen — not in the U.S.S.R., not in China, not in Cambodia, not in Cuba, not in Vietnam, not in North Korea — as the cumulative result of social reforms. It was always brought by violent revolution carried out by a fanatical minority, usually during or right after war. Once in power, committed revolutionaries sought to transform agrarian countries such as Russia or China into modern industrial states by oppressing peasants and applying political terror.
This is not true. The lead-up to the Russian Revolution was 56 years in the making, seeing a series of social reforms brought on by both violent extremists and political reforms. In the period between the Peasant Reform of 1861 and the October Revolution, Russia saw the freeing of the serfs, an overhaul of the penal code and judicial system, the creation of the Duma, the legalization of trade unions, organization of political parties, and the creation of local elective bodies with their own taxation rights. To be sure, Russia also saw anti-liberal reforms, but this strengthens the point that this period of great social reform lead directly to the Revolution of 1905, which in turn found its new steady state after the February and October Revolutions of 1917.

The claim that Communism did not result from "cumulative reforms" is a fallacy. Cumulative reforms certainly co-moved with increasing instability in Russia over the course of a half century, leading to the first Communist government, enabling it to kill tens of millions of people until its fall in 1991.

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