Created: 2000-03-05
Last Modified: 2000-03-05
Go to
Brad De Long's Home Page

Teaching | Writing | Career | Politics | Book Reviews | Information Economy | Economists | Multimedia | Students | Fine Print | Other | My Jobs

Communism: An Assessment

J. Bradford DeLong



>Your strategy rests on assuming away or abstracting from relevant
>historical contexts and leaving only general, abstract qualities as the
>number of persons that perished, to balance the accounts of the dead and
>then pronounce your moral verdict.

My Comment

Gee. Other people complain that I do not abstract enough--that I argue too much from relevant historical contexts and so,as some put it, wind up making the same arguments that justify the Nazi New Order.

Let me try to distinguish between two kinds of "relevant historical context." The first--which I reject completely and utterly--is that there is a difference between people killed by the Okhrana or shot by Franco's police on the one hand and people killed by the NKVD (or people starved to death because the soldiers took all their grain and no one would dare tell Mao that the harvest was low) on the other hand because people who fall in the second group are counterrevolutionary scum. Dead is dead. To deny the humanity of some of the dead seems to me to simply be anti-human.

The second--which I think everyone has to admit is valid--is that great crimes can be... not eliminated or justified but, I think, excused in some sense... if they are necessary steps on the road to Utopia. Whether the enormous death toll of Maoist China or Stalinist Russia (or Suhartan Indonesia) could be justified if these projects had wound up building Utopia is a very hard question to which I don't have answers--although I do recommend reading Trotsky's "Their Morals and Ours," Lukes's "Marxism and Morality," and Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" as things form which I have profited.

But in this world we don't have to deal with that question. *None* of these projects constructed anything like Utopia.

You can blame the failure to construct Utopia in Russia and China on the structure of the Communist Party as a sick and perverse institution, or you can blame it on renegades in high places--that Mao was in the end defeated by a conspiracy of his aides (Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaochi, Chou Enlai, Peng Dehuai, Lin Piao) and that Stalin's good works were blocked by successive conspiracies of *his* peers and aides (Trotsky, Radek, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Kirov, Mikoyan, Beria, Khrushchev, and so forth). But if you go down that line, you soon conclude that the whole Communist leadership throughout the twentieth century was dominated by renegades and counterrevolutionaries--in short, you blame it on the structure of the Communist Party as a sick and perverse institution (even though your definitions of "sickness" and "health" are opposed).

And without Utopia at the end of the road, the (valid) question of means and ends simply does not arise. "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." But eggs are broken. The habit of breaking them grows. Yet no omelette appears...


Brad DeLong


>I don't agree with you that it would have been "vastly better for the
>Vietnamese people" if *we* had won the war.

My Comment:

Let me rerun my argument.

Start at, say, Norway's North Cape, and walk around what people used to call the "Communist sphere of influence" or the "Iron Curtain." And as you walk, ask yourself on which side of this dividing line has life been better--more humane--closer to utopia, if you will--over the past generation or two.

You start with the former Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic on your left, and Finland on your right. Finland broke away from the ex-Czarist empire at the end of World War I, and was one of the few pieces not reabsorbed either under Lenin or Stalin. I do not think anyone would dispute that life has been better in Finland than in the former R.S.F.S.R. over the past couple of generations.

Continuing your walk, you find the former Soviet Balticshore Republics--Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--on your left, and on your right Sweden, the jewel and the model of a good but attainable society for us social democrats for most of the post-WWII period. Once again, I don't think anyone would dispute that life has been better in Sweden.

You come to the dividing line between the former East Germany and the former West Germany, then to the dividing line between what is now the Czech Republic and West Germany, then to the Hungarian-Austrian border, then to the Yugoslav-Austrian and Yugoslav Italian border. Once again, I don't think anyone would dispute that for the past two generations it was better to be on the right-hand side of this dividing line to the left.

Continuing on, you ponder the question of whether life has been better in Albania and Bulgaria on your left, or in Greece and Turkey on your right. Once again, I see no contest. Further along the boundary you compare life in the Central Asian ex-Soviet Republics against life in Iran and Afghanistan. Here I am genuinely unsure: it seems very clear that life was better to the right before the Islamic Revolution, but afterwards? I am not sure whether life was better in a Soviet Central Asian Republic or in an Islamic Theocracy...

But by the time you reach the border between India or Nepal and Tibet, there is once again no dispute: better to be outside the power of Mao and his successors than to be in.

The border between India or Thailand and Burma leaves me scratching my head. Is Burma Communist? How would we tell? Has life in Burma been better than in neighboring regions of China? I don't know.

Life has been much better in Thailand than in postwar Laos or Cambodia--and we all owe the Vietnamese government a debt of gratitude for destroying the regime of Democratic Kampuchea. Life since 1975 has been better in Indonesia or the Philippines than in Vietnam. Life has been better in what we now call the "Taiwan province" of China than in the other provinces where Mao and his successors have ruled.

And when we walk the border between North and South Korea the regime to our left has managed to combine all the delights of imperial theocracy, hereditary monarchy, and high Stalinism.

By the time you finish your walk, simple induction--the same thing that leads us to fondly believe that the sun will rise tomorrow--leaves you with one inescapable conclusion:


Perhaps, if your will is strong and your intellect weak, you might want to maintain that it should be that "Eurasian Communists are bad" (and that Latin American Communists might have been different, had they ever managed to hold power). But at the very least:


Wherever the dividing line between the "U.S. sphere" and "World Communism" happened to settle as a result of World War II and subsequent conflicts, life has been a lot better outside the Iron Curtain than inside it. The natural conclusion is that Communism was not one of the brighter lights on humanity's tree of good ideas, and that it is a terrible shame that it could not have been contained within a much smaller area before it strangled itself to death on its own massive internal contradictions as a mode of domination and production.

Thus I do not see how anyone can do anything other than wish that the U.S. had won the Vietnam War--that the North Vietnamese government had given up and brought its soldiers home in 1973 and settled to the task of building socialism north of the DMZ. Then Cambodia and South Vietnam would have been left to work out their own destinies independent of the high priests of Marxism and central planning, and would probably today look something like Thailand, something like the Philippines, and (if we were lucky) something like South Korea.

Their people would be vastly better off than they are in fact now.


Brad DeLong

> I never meant to imply that LBJ gave marching orders to have
>Suharto butcher his minions, merely that it served US policy, and
>therefore was supported by the US.

But I don't think that it *did* serve U.S. policy, because Suharto's massacre put genocide back on the list of acceptable policy options for countries that were interested in maintaining good relations with the U.S. I suspect that Indonesian behavior in East Timor would have been very different had Suharto not had the example of U.S. acquiescence in 1965 in mind. I suspect that Yahya Khan in Pakistan would have thought twice before trying to exterminate the Bengali intelligentsia had there been a previous example in which massive bloodshed by a U.S. military ally had serious consequences for State and Defense Department policy.

I think that Pinochet would have rounded up fewer people into soccer stadiums and shot them. I think that the Pinochet government would not have blown people up in DuPont Circle. I think about Argentinian governments that threw people out of helicopters into the South Atlantic.

I think a lot of things: it seems to me that the failure of the U.S. government to establish in 1965 the principle that allies of the U.S. are anti-communist but they are not genocidal mass-murderers is a failure that has made the world a significantly worse place over the past generation.

>The 10 to 15 thousand names of communists and
>labor organizers that US intelligence did turn over to them though, was
>for the purpose of exterminating those people.


>Third, I think you incorrectly trace the path of Vietnamese development.
>The construction of "North" and "South" Vietnam was not chosen by the
>Vietnamese. The Geneva Accords of 1954 called for elections throughout
>Vietnam in 1956. General Eisenhower, then President, had intelligence
>indicating that Ho Chi Minh would win those elections by %80 of the vote.
>I know the number is high, but that was the US intelligence figure.
>So they intervened to prop up this fiction called "South Vietnam."

The U.S. has intervened to prop up several fictions in history: "South" Korea, "West" Germany, "Taiwan." The U.S. has also intervened to destroy one political government that had all the shared-culture earmarks of a nation-state: the "Confederate States of America".

It seems to me that we live in a better world because the U.S. took powerful steps to help create these three fictitious nations, and to destroy the one genuine one. And it seems to me highly likely that had the fiction of "South Vietnam" taken hold, we would have a better world still...

>We really don't know how experiments in
>alternative economic development may have turned out, because there is
>nowhere on earth where the global hegemons haven't interfered to sabotage
>them. They may failed of their defects, but we don't know, none were
>allowed to be tried unfettered....

You appear to want to argue on the one hand that capitalism--the market economy, the international division of labor, international capital flows and multi-national corporations--is an unjust, cruel, and exploitative system against which it is natural to rebel.

You appear to want to argue on the other hand that international trade and investment are such valuable resources to a developing country that to embargo trade with the U.S. (even if you are still free to trade with Europe and Japan) is a cruel and vindictive act that sabotages any attempt at economic development.

I think that it is very hard to sustain both of these poles of argument simultaneously. Either international trade and investment are very valuable tools for a competent and public-spirited developing country government, in which case a peasant revolution to expel "imperialism" is simply a mistake. Or international capitalism is an unjust, cruel, and exploitative system, in which case a trade embargo is probably desirable.

I believe that the post-1975 U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam was cruel and vindictive--and also that the Communist-led peasant rebellions of twentieth century Asia were extremely destructive, tragic, and ultimately worse than pointless.

>For an interesting analysis of recent Vietnamese development see Gabriel
>Kolko's new ANATOMY OF A PEACE (not to be confused with his previous work
>ANATOMY OF A WAR). Here Kolko shows that Vietnam's economy began to
>recover after its pullout from Cambodia/Kampuchea, thus freeing up capital
>to finally reinvest in its economy. The vindicative US trade embargo
>(remember who was invaded and who lost almost all the people) was finally
>lifted with the fall of the Soviet block. This helped bring investment to
>this area, along with alternative sources of cheap labor in Southeast Asia
>drying up. Yet even with all this, the standard of living for Vietnamese
>people has not increased since the boost their economy received from the
>Kampuchea pullout many years back.

Why should it have increased? The standard of living of the Soviet people appears not to have increased between the late 1920s and the early 1950s (although a guy named Adolf Hitler is as responsible as a guy named Josef Stalin). Then the Soviet Union had one generation of improvement in its standard of living, before the arteriosclerosis of the system brought economic development to a halt at the end of the 1970s. It is very hard to believe that the standard of living of the Chinese people was any higher at the end of the Cultural Revolution than it had been in, say, 1937--before Japan's army moved in. Centrally-planned, collectivized-agriculture regimes appear to be good at (i) producing large numbers of T-34 tanks, (ii) building dams, and (iii) taxing the peasants to support urban workers and bureaucrats. They are not good at delivering increases in the standard of living...

Brad Delong


...While not entirely
consistent, Carley says Franco-British indifference caused Litvinov's fall
but mainly avers that the Soviet Union remained loyal to collective
security until 19 August, after the Anglo-French military mission proved
to be less than serious...

My Comment:

Is there any reason to imagine that Stalin was ever loyal to "collective security"?

I had thought it reasonably clear--as clear as any riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma can ever be--that Stalin didn't think he had a dog in any possible fight between Germany and Britain and France. Stalin's hope was to build up a strong and mighty power, watch while capitalism's crisis caused a repeat of World War I among the imperialist powers, and then pick up the pieces. Just as the end of World War I had seen communism triumphant in the Soviet Union and temporarily triumphant in Hungary and Bavaria, so--Stalin must have imagined--another war between the imperialist powers would have also seen massive gains for communism.

Thus it has always seemed to me overwhelmingly likely that, no matter what alliances were in effect and what scraps of paper were signed, that the outbreak of a war between the western allies and Nazi Germany would have been followed by a retreat of the Soviet Union into neutrality.

Conversely, Stalin's fear was that Britain and France would explicitly or implicitly use Nazi Germany as a tool to try to destroy the Soviet Union.

Thus Stalin's policy after the rise of Hitler has never seemed to me to be inconsistent or to involve any changes of direction. The three constant imperatives are (i) try to make friends with Germany, make it aware of how valuable Soviet assistance could be, and turn it to the west; (ii) try to induce Britain and France to defend liberal democratic values against Nazi Germany; and (iii) try to hide when the balloon goes up.


Brad DeLong


>Which brings me back to the query
>with which I ended my previous paragraph acknowledging Brad De Long's
>criticism and accepting his point: What term should be used to describe
>this kind of ideological commitment which does (to get back to the
>original issue of I.F. Stone's independence) call into question the
>presentation of such individuals as existing or writing outside such
>partisan agendas?

My Comment:

I remember talking to then future-Ambassador Kirkpatrick after a high-school football game. The topic was treason and dissent. I must have been 17 or so.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick said that there were two rhetorical modes which it was difficult--but important--to keep separate:

The first mode was the criticism of U.S. policy from the standpoint that since we are the good guys, we ought to act like the good guys. One can justifiably criticize elements of U.S. policy during the Cold War (i) because U.S. actions caused collateral damage to the innocent (or not very guilty) that was disproportionate to the gain achieved in the fight against totalitarian dictatorships, or (ii) because U.S. actions eroded the principles of freedom and democracy and so made our victory in the Cold War less worthwhile. Indeed, one should: we are looking into the abyss, and only the constant recall of our ideas and principles to ourselves keeps the abyss from looking into us.

(One can also criticize elements of U.S. policy during the Cold War because of their stupidity--much of Acheson's criticisms of Dulles, for example.)

The second mode was the excuse of others' acts of destruction on the grounds that American policy had made similar mistakes, or committed analogous acts of destruction: How can you criticize the Slansky trial when America executed Ethel Rosenberg? How can you criticize the Sandanista campaign against the Miskito Indians while America is arming the Contras? How can you criticize the Hitler-Stalin pact when America brought Werner von Braun across the Atlantic to head up its missile program? And many, many more...

Ambassador Kirkpatrick said, if I recall correctly, that when you were in the first mode it was sometimes hard to keep from sliding into the second, and that when others were arguing in the first mode it was easy to jump and accuse them of sliding into the second, but that it was nevertheless very important to try to keep the distinction between the two clear: because the first is important and praiseworthy, while the second is destructive and damnable.

I think that she was right.

So I would prefer to keep the term "fellow traveler" for those who actually wanted to end up at the destination hoped for by the Soviet Union--abolition of private property, world socialism, all ruled by a Leninist (or Maoist, or Castroite) party--perhaps Alexander Cockburn, post-1956 Eric Hobsbawm, and post-19546 E.P. Thompson belong in this category.

I'm not sure what term to use for Kopkind--who genuinely thought that the Soviet Union was a "progressive" force in the third world (although not in the second). Idiot, perhaps?

And I'm not sure what term to use for myself. Revolutions eat their children: The leaders who triumph within the revolutionary organization are often the worst. This holds for the right as well as for the left: if Nicaragua's choice in the 1980s was between the Sandanistas and the dictatorship of someone like General Galtieri who likes to throw pregnant women out of airplanes into the South Atlantic, perhaps I.F. Stone was right. I think the Sandinistas were better than Somoza. I think the Sandinistas were much worse than what Nicaragua has well. But I do not know what regime would have been produced by a Contra military victory in the second half of the 1980s. I look to Guatemala or Argentina and I shudder. (Of course, I look to the South American urban guerillas and I shudder too...)

I think that Stone falls perhaps halfway between Kopkind and me. Traces of an idiot, and occasional (or perhaps more than occasional?) falls from the first rhetorical mode into the second. But more than anything else loyal to America as it ought to be...


Brad DeLong


>Your snipping of my comments to you, and changing the subject thread even
>though we are no longer talking about Kazan or HUAC are two more signs of
>intellectual dishonesty.

My Comment:

Right. I'm supposed to use your subject line "DeLong thinks fascism leads to democracy." You know as well as I do that your subject line is a lie,

And I will use it when pigs fly.

The real question is why in the years from 1945 to 1989 the non- or semi-democratic regimes in the West Bloc--Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia--have evolved, slowly and haltingly, toward political democracy, human liberty, and economic prosperity, while their counterpart non-democratic regimes in the East Bloc--Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, E. Germany, and the USSR itself--did not until the revolutions of 1989.

The difficulty of this historical problem is amplified once one notes that for almost the entire post-WWII period this democratizing trend did not hold for South Asia, Africa, or Latin America (although we hope it holds now). Moreover this democratizing trend did not hold before WWII in Europe--then it was democratic regimes that evolved into non-democratic ones, not the reverse. Fascism in the sense of Mussolini, or Hitler, or their many interwar imitators in Europe and post-war imitators outside Europe, is a powerful enemy of political democracy.

I don't think that I have all of the answers. I have been impressed by Charles Maier's analyses of the "politics of productivity" after World War II in western Europe. I have scattered thoughts about how the success of western European social democracy in Bonn, Paris, London, Benelux, and Scandinavia exercised a powerful magnetic attraction on non-democratic countries in southern Europe...


>This question ignores the fact that to a large degree the Soviet Union and
>the US did not ALLOW development of political democracies and general
>economic prosperity during the Cold War. Its tough to get a democracy
>going when every time you start to reform society someone comes in with a
>gun and shoots you.

My Comment:

But in the first three post-WWII decades the U.S. "allowed" the development of political democracy (and economic prosperity) in western Europe, and more recently the U.S. has "allowed" movements toward political democracy (and economic prosperity) in East Asia...

The explanation that the U.S. always and everywhere seeks to create poverty and dictatorship--and has the power to do so--seems to me to be simply wrong.

To reach this conclusion you have to close your eyes to the differences between South and North Korea, Japan and China, Taiwan and Vietnam, Greece and Bulgaria, Italy and Hungary, and West and East Germany throughout most of the post-WWII period.

I do think that in Latin America (and to a great extent in Africa) United States policy has--wrongly--bet on authoritarian thugs rather than democratic socialist reformers, and that Latin America has suffered greatly from it--that Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and several others would be much better off if not for the United States.

But others disagree:Jeanne Kirkpatrick, for example, says: (i) that revolutionary leaders like Salvador Allende who are attractive to pinko-bleeding-heart-liberal-San-Francisco-social-democrats like myself never come out on top once the revolution has rolled through to its completion; (ii) that the leaders of the communist dictatorship that the revolution ends in are people like Josef Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Josip Tito; (iii) that someone like Fidel Castro is at the benificent end--way at the benificent end--of the possibilities of what might happen after the revolution; (iv) that a Latin America ruled in the 1970s and the 1980s by a couple of Castros, a few Zhivkovs, a Kadar or two, plus a Hoxha and a Pol Pot would have led to a world vastly inferior to the one we have; and (v) that the illusions about the possibility of acceptable regimes to the left of Sweden under which I suffer were allowable back before Kronstadt but today indicate nothing more than a softness of the brain.

And I have a hard time arguing back, for there are not and never have been any acceptable regimes to the left of post-WWII Sweden...


>You cannot fairly take a paragraph, post it up as a law, then then
>disprove it, proudly trumpeting an intellectual victory. Debating points,

My Comment:

Let's look at Marx's passage again...

"Let us some up: The more productive capital grows, the more
the division of labor and the application of machinery expands.
The more the division of labour and the application of machinery
expands, the more competition among the workers expands and
the more their wages contract.

"In addition, the working class gains recruits from the higher
strata of society also; a mass of petty industrialists and small
rentiers are hurled down into its ranks and have nothing better
to do than urgently stretch out their arms alongside those of the
workers. Thus the forest of uplifted arms demanding work becomes
ever thicker, while the arms themselves become ever thinner."

Did you note that the first paragraph begins "Let us sum up"?

Do you really mean to say it is not fair to take a paragraph that begins "Let us sum up" and turn it into a thesis to be investigated? When I begin paragraphs with the phrase "Let us sum up," I mean the reader to understand that the paragraph is a summary, thumbnail sketch of what I am trying to say. Are you saying that Marx worked by different rules, and that when he said "let us sum up" he in fact meant "don't take this paragraph to be a summary statement of what I am trying to say"?

Now I could take care of the argument that Marx's thought "evolved over time" by jumping from 1849 to 1864, to the Inaugural Address of Marx to the First International, which begins:

"It is a great fact that the misery of the working
masses has not diminished from 1848 to 1864, and
yet this period is unrivalled for the development
of its industry and the growth of its commerce."

And after four pages of official statistics and government reports detailing poverty in England, moves on to the European continent where:

"Everywhere the great mass of the working classes
were sinking down to a lower depth, at the same rate
at least, that those above them were rising in the
social scale. In all countries of Europe it has now
become a truth demonstrable to every unprejudiced
mind, and only denied by those, whose interest it
is to hedge other people in a fool's paradise, that
no improvement of machinery, no appliance of science
to production, no contrivances of communication, no
new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no
free trade, nor all these things put together, will
do away with the miseries of the industrious masses;
but that, on the present false base, every fresh
development of the productive powers of labour must
tend to deepen social contrasts and point social
antagonisms. Death of starvation rose almost to the
rank of an institution, during this [1848-64]
intoxicating epoch of economical progress, in the
metropolis of the British Empire."

The tone--of both _Wage Labour and Capital_ and the _Inaugural Address to the First International_--sounds insistent. And phrases like "sinking down to a lower depth" and "death by starvation" certainly sound like absolute immiserization to me.

But there isn't really any point to this. When a text becomes itself transfigured--when it ceases to be of mortal origin and meaning, but instead becomes Holy Writ for a world religion--then all rules of interpretation and argument are suspended...

Brad De Long


>Well I asked you, and other people have asked you, three times now, to
>either retract or prove the claim that Churchill's meddeling in Greek
>politics and the installation of a fascist-inspired and backed government is
>what led to PASOK and Greece's current crazy little parliamentary democracy...

My Comment:

Well, they *did* keep having elections -- a huge number of elections.

Had Churchill's little meeting with Stalin turned out differently and had Churchill traded Greece to Stalin for Bohemia and had EAM-ELAS seized control over Greece in December 1944, or had Vafiades' December 1947 proclamation of a provisional government been rapidly followed by a communist victory, then -- as you know at least as well as I -- there would have been no more elections in Greece, at least not until the aftermath of 1989. Political leaders would have been executed for treason, expelled from the Party for "deviations," purged and forced to resign in disgrace, and so forth. But there would have been no elections.

Without elections, progressive political evolution is... unlikely. (Here, by the way, is where I think your labeling of as many people as you can as "fascist" betrays you: fascists dislike elections even more than communists do -- for fascists, the people do not choose leaders, the people obey the leaders. Fascists may hold rigged plebiscites, and they may accept the unanimous endorsement of hand-picked "corporatist" bodies. But fascists do not hold elections. And that is a key difference between Italy in the 1920s and 1930s and Greece in the late 1940s and 1950s.)

There was an election in 1946... a plebescite on the monarchy in 1946... an election in 1950... another one in 1951... another one in 1952... an election in 1956 (adding women to the voting rolls)... another election in 1958... another election in 1961... another election in 1963... another election in 1964... a *big* political mistake by King Constantine in dismissing Georgios Papandreou from office in 1965... an election scheduled for 1967 but preempted by the Papadopoulos-Patakos-Spandidakis coup... an appeal by King Constantine at the end of 1967 to overthrow the junta and restore democratic government... expulsion of Greece from the Council of Europe in 1969... continued military rule (in which Nixon, Kissinger, and Agnew played a destructive role...) until the disastrous military adventure in Cyprus in July 1974... Karamanlis's restoration of the constitution of 1952 in August of 1974... elections in November 1974 aqnd again in November 1975... first PASOK victory in 1981... et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

From your perspective, all this is just an episode: "...fascism and royalism, and the immense corruption of the current democracy" and compared to this history "Bulgarian-style politics would not have been much worse or even worse at all."

I do not think that such a position can be maintained. If the history of the twentieth century teaches us anything, it is that political democracy -- regular elections, circulation of elites, a free press that allows political debate, and so forth -- is of immense importance. When Karl Marx wrote that the Rights of Man and of the Citizen -- liberalism -- bourgeois liberties -- were not "human emancipation," he nevertheless qualified his observation by noting that they were "civil emancipation" and that civil emancipation was a very good thing.

I think that the wreck of twentieth century Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism-Maoism -- along with the wreck of Mussolinism, Francoism, Hitlerism, and so on -- has taught us that civil emancipation is much more important than Marx recognized, and that you have no prospect of getting anywhere close to human emancipation unless you take a road that leads through civil emancipation -- the liberal and social-democratic republic.


Brad DeLong


Yes, it seems something of an exaggeration to say Lin Biao was saying that all are to think as one ABOUT EVERYTHING as, Brad sort of implies.

My Comment:

To me the most horrible thing is that it isn't *anything* of an exaggeration:

Mao Zedong thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which
imperialism is headed for total collapse and socialism is
advancing to world-wide victory. It is a powerful ideological
weapon for opposing imperialism and for opposing revisionism
and dogmatism. Mao Zedong thought is the guiding principle
for all the work of the party, the army, and the country.

Therefore the most fundamental task in our Party's political
and ideological work is at all times to hold high the great
red banner of Mao Zedong thought, to arm the minds of
the people throughout the country with it, and to persist
in using it to command every field of activity. The broad
masses of the workes, peasants, and soldiers, and the broad
ranks of the revolutionary cadres and the intellectuals
should really master Zedong thought; they should
all study Chairman Mao's writings, follow his teachings,
act according to his instructions, and be his good fighters....

In our great motherland, a new era is emerging in which
the workers, peasants, and soldiers are grasping Marxism-
Leninism-Mao Zedong thought. Once Mao Zedong thought
is grasped by the broad masses, it becomes an inexhaustible
source of strength and a spiritual atom bomb of infinite
power. The large-scale publication of _Quotations from
Chairman Mao Zedong_ is a vital measure for enabling
the broad masses to grasp Mao Zedong's thought and for
promoting the revolutionization of our people's thinking.

It is our hope that all comrades will learn earnestly and
diligently, bring about a new nation-wide high tide in the
creative study and application of Chairman Mao's works and,
under the great red banner of Mao Zedong's thought, strive
to build our country into a great socialist state with
modern agriculture, modern industry, modern science and
culture, and modern national defence!

Lin Biao


Mao Zedong thought was to be the guiding principle "for *all* the work of the party, the army, and the country." Not some. All. Only the revisionists, the dogmatists, and the other counter-revolutionary elements opposed Mao Zedong thought.

And (at least until his assassination on Mao's orders) Lin Biao was to be in charge of telling everyone else what Mao Zedong thought was...


The USSR had to keep pace with the militarist U.S. to protect itself from another holocaust as committed by "NATO" 1919 and the capitalist Nazi army in the 1940's.

My Comment:


How quickly they forget.

The world "socialist camp" was on the *offensive* between 1945 and... call it 1980 or so.

The overthrow of the capitalist regime in Czechoslovakia and the Maoist conquests of China were singular offensive victories by the socialist camp, followed by the defeat of the French at Dien Ben Phu and the successful defense of North Korea against MacArthur's unprovoked aggression between 1950 and 1953. The aggressive response of the Red Army to counterrevolution in East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia laid down the law that not an inch of socialist territory would be yielded to imperialists.

Things reached a crescendo in the 1960s, with the glorious socialist revolution in Algeria, the successful establishment of a western-hemisphere beachhead in Cuba and the conquest of the south and the reunification of Vietnam.

As Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy wrote in... was it 1965?: "The highest form of resistance is revolutionary war aimed at withdrawal from the world capitalist system and the initiation of social and economic reconstruction on a socialist basis.[T]he revolutionary peoples have achieved a series of historic victories in Vietnam, China, Korea, Cuba, and Algeria. These victorieshave sown the seeds of revolution throughout the continents.It is no longer mere rhetoric to speak of a world revolution: the term describes what is already a reality and is certain to become increasingly the dominant characteristic of the historical epoch"

Neither Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, or Mao *ever* perceived themselves as being on the politico-military defensive. It's a little late to start (falsely) claiming that they did.

Sign up for Brad Delong's (general) mailing list

Go to related links...

Add a comment on this page...

Rob Schaap wrote:

>if memory serves, Marx held out hope for revolution by constitutional
>means within monarchies during his 1873 speech

Memory serves you poorly. By 1873 Marx had already given up any hope or expectation of proletarian revolution anywhere.

He'd based his life on the great throw of a dice: staked it on the belief that a newly-emergent social class, the working-class, would become a class-for-itself, with its own political culture, leadership and trajectory to power - a naove belief based probably in an overestimation of Rousseau's conception of a civil society, in which 'classes' of people succeed one another in a kind of stately historical minuet; the fact that Marx's own conception of the w/c was protean, apocalyptic etc, that this was not a class so much as a furnace consuming history and reforging the world, was in contradiction with his optimistic Enlightenment core beliefs.

When it became clear to him that this proletariat did not exist, and the one which DID exist was and would ALWAYS be quite incapable of reshaping the world, he turned to ethnography and begun blindly clutching at anthropological straws, in other words he abandoned the western European political field aka actually-existing Capitalism in toto, along with all its classes, cultural impedimenta etc. Right at the end one of the straws he clutched had Russia written on it and, poignantly, beside his death-bed was a large box stuffed with various pamphlets and writings about or from Russia.

But this was just piling pain onto grief. It had all been the forlorn pursuit of will o'the wisps. Marx's political ideas were driven, as he was driven, by a burning desire, lust, for POWER (the next person on the scene to be similarly motivated was Lenin; Engels, that genial old duffer, had no such yearnings and by the time his life-juices ran into the sands of the latter-day 2nd International, his personal accommodation to the world had also, tragically or bathetically, become his political accommodation to late-Victorian politics, an accommodation to which he, fondly but quite impermissibly, assimilated his old friend Karl, whose days of incandescent political passion he no doubt remembered sentimentally.
The sheer extent of Marx's despair at the end, his absolute repudiation of events as they'd turned out, his remorseless cynicism about the everyday world of labour-bureaucracies, with their time-serving placemen and greasy little deals -- this is something we barely know and can hardly guess at, but in fact his latter writings, as do his latter SILENCES, his failure to complete any of Capital after vol I (pub 1867) speak eloquently enough, once you understand what's going on.

This was a man who had not expected to end his days in Bournemouth watching young governesses push prams and ply their trade; he'd expected volcanoes to erupt and to transfigure the geology of human civilisation, let alone its routine history. He'd expected to win power, to be a statesman for his elective class, and to begin epochal processes of change. It was not to be.

He was a man who above all others had relentless and self-sacrificially sought after the truth, JUST BECAUSE he sought after power, and who had always striven to interrogate the world in the way which was MOST inimical to himself, in order not to hide from the truth, had therefore indulged himself as a thinker less than almost any scientist; one thinks of Plato, Newton (who also went mad, for the same kinds of reasons), Darwin, maybe Godel and a few mathematicians, but there are precious few others in the entire unfolding of western civilisation and none whose devotion to the unyielding perverse malice of facticity was more true, than Karl Marx's. Yet at the end of his life he was obliged to face the unyielding facts of absolute failure, absolute seeming-miscomprehension of the world he'd striven so hard to deconstruct.

It is hard to imagine a more profound personal tragedy, a sense of a life completely wasted, than this, than must have afflicted him.

The man's life was a tragedy consumed by terrible poverty and personal disaster. What sustained him through all of that, and made him hope that the bourgeoisie would rue his painful illnesses, was an incorrigible belief in the certain outcome of events, but it was not to be. He was not justified by events, and died painfully, in despair, defeated and in obscurity.

Contributed by Mark Jones ( on May 24, 2000.

Professor of Economics J. Bradford DeLong, 601 Evans Hall, #3880
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax

This document:

Search This Website