Bryan Caplan  

Communist Economic Policy: Stalinism or the Red Army?

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Politics Gets Ugly... More Unhappiness...

Did the members of the Soviet bloc copy Stalin's economic policies after World War II because they were run by True Believers? Or were they just afraid of the Red Army? My knee-jerk reaction is to say "True Believers, of course," but look what "liberal reformer" Khrushchev did to Hungary in 1956 when Nagy strayed too far from the Party line.

Just today, however, I came across a fascinating essay by Nina Halpern, "Creating Socialist Economies: Stalinist Political Economy and the Impact of Ideas," (in Goldstein and Keohane, eds., Ideas and Foreign Policy) that proposes an interesting way to test for the independent power of Stalinist ideology:

In the case of the East European countries that depended on the Soviet army for their very existence, clear evidence for these propositions [that Stalinist ideology had a large, enduring effect on economic policy in the Communist world] cannot be derived from an examination of their early experiences; the alternative explanation that their choices were purely a response to Stalin's commands is impossible to disprove. Thus, the case for the role of ideas must rest upon a close examination of the early experiences of the other two countries, China and Yugoslavia. [Why not Albania, too? B.C.]

Of course, if you know the early history of these regimes, you know what the answer's going to be. Ideology mattered a lot; in fact, the Stalinists were often truer to Stalinism than Stalin himself:

In Yugoslavia, Tito asserted his personal independence of the Soviet Union in several ways, including adoption of Stalinist policies more rapidly than Stalin wanted... Tito insisted on following Stalinist ideas rather than Stalinist wishes.

Similarly, in China...

Many students were sent to study economics in the USSR, and measures were taken to reindoctrinate all of China's economists... Although Mao at one point suggested that adoption of Stalinist economic theory was needed primarily to displace the hegemony of noeclassical economics... in fact Stalinist orthodoxy was enforced even for economists who were long-time Party members who professed adherence to Marxism... If the Chinese leaders were making obeisance to the Stalinist model only in order to maintain Stalin's support and actually were contemplating adoption of an alternative long-term strategy for development, this behavior would be hard to understand.

The clincher is that China's whole-hearted embrace of Stalinist policies began after Stalin died and his successors counseled moderation.

On reflection, Halpern's approach is pretty obvious. But pointing out an obvious approach that others neglect is one of the highest forms of scholarship.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (42 to date)
Barkley Rosser writes:

Well, Mao defended Stalin against the "revisionist" Khrushchev. But Mao's own approach and policies differed from Stalin's in many ways, more decentralized, more favoring of agriculture, among other things.

Todd writes:

But Mao's own approach and policies differed from Stalin's in many ways.

Right. Mao managed to kill more people.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Mmmm. Mao had more people to kill. In percentage terms, I think Stalin beats Mao, although it remains somewhat up in the air whether one should hold Stalin and Mao "morally responsible" for the massive deaths occurring during their respective collectivizations. And to what extent does one hold Stalin responsible for the Soviet war dead in WW II? This is a messy business, to put it mildly.

Todd writes:

although it remains somewhat up in the air whether one should hold Stalin and Mao "morally responsible" for the massive deaths occurring during their respective collectivizations.

That collectivization would be a disaster was know ahead of time to anyone, such as Herbert Hoover, who did not look upon Russia with the eyes of true believer. And Stalin deliberately prevented the escape of people from areas of famine with road blocks.

Mao should have learned from the experience of Stalin at the very least but evidently learned the wrong lesson. The budgetary savings from massive die-backs were factored into China's post war 5 year plans ahead of time.

And to what extent does one hold Stalin responsible for the Soviet war dead in WW II?

During war, communist and non-communist countries are about as lethal as each other. During "peace", when the war stops, communist violence, by contrast, escalates.

This is a messy business, to put it mildly.

And many to this day are determined not to learn from the experience; are fully prepared to rerun the horrors of the 20th Century all over again as a bleeding testament to their own immense good intentions.

liberty writes:

Well put, Todd.

To excuse Lenin, Stalin, Mao and other Marxists from the consequences of their actions is no better than to defend Hitler. To say that they had good intentions is to ignore their own writings, their own analysis and treat them like children or idols.

They were intelligent enough to read and write many books and articles and plan and implement policy. The fact that the policy they implemented caused mass famines and justified gulags and created a totalitarian regime should rightly be their legacy and they should be held accountable.

If we ignore the economic reasons or give them a pass because with rose-colored glasses we view their intentions as moral: we ignore all the lessons to be learned from 20th century economics and political science.

Was totalitarianism the only possible outcome of the theory? Yes. Many economists and anyone clearly analyzing the theory before 1917 could see this, and there is no excuse for not recognizing it by 1921 when "war communism" had been played out with real lives.

Barkley Rosser writes:

I'm not giving anybody a pass, although I once had the editor of an economics journal go to my dean to demand that I be fired because I was obviously a communist for raising any questions regarding various reported and claimed numbers of dead that should be attributed to that unpleasant mass murderer, J. Stalin.

However, there is a difference between noting that Stalin put up roadblocks against the fleeing starving and saying that Stalin should have known what was going to happen because Herbert Hoover did. In fact, a lot of later Commies did learn from Stalin.

Collectivizations were carried out all over eastern and central Europe with almost nobody dying after WW II. They learned from old Uncle Joe. I would note that Stalin himself was very much inspired by writings of Marx about the virtues of large scale enterprises in agriculture. He did not foresee the mass slaughter of animal herds that happened. And indeed there are such economies of scale to some degree, as the pathetic performance of the privately owned dinky farms in Poland compared to the large collective farms in Hungary reminds us. But the market disincentive problems are serious, and Stalin did not see them, although to some degree he did not mind seeing ag go down as he wanted people to move out of the countryside and into the factories anyway.

Regarding Mao, the really big deaths came with the Great Leap Forward, which coincided with the most extreme push to collectivization, but also included a lot of other wacko elements. Mao was forced later to publicly apologize and engaged in "self-criticism" for his errors related to the GLF, not that this should be construed as letting him off the hook, especially as shortly thereafter he was at it again with his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its deaths and suffering. Nevertheless, a curious offshoot of the GLF is the modern town and village enterprises that have underpinned the current boom of the Chinese economy, appropriately embedded in a market economy with elements of quasi-private ownership now in place for these direct lineal descendants of the old commune and brigade enterprises initially established during the truly awful GLF.

Regarding the moral ambiguity question I mentioned earlier, what was on my mind was the argument that Stalin should be blamed for the Soviet war dead in WW II rather than Hitler (or perhaps jointly with him) because of the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact, or his firing of Soviet military leaders during the purge, or things like that. I do think that Stalin can be held at least partly responsible for several million of the WW II dead in Europe thanks to Molotov-von Ribbentrop. But I think that regarding the Soviet war dead themselves the blame remains mostly in the lap of Hitler. He was the one who invaded, and all the evidence suggests that he was going to do so sooner or later, one way or another, irrespective of pretty much anything that Stalin might have done.

liberty writes:

>However, there is a difference between noting that Stalin put up roadblocks against the fleeing starving and saying that Stalin should have known what was going to happen because Herbert Hoover did.

Not because Hoover did, but because the Marxist theory should have made it obvious to anyone who cared that a planned economy would create famine and famine would mean deaths (more here: ). In fact, Stalin himself while pushing for collectivization did know much of this effect. He also actively advocated killing off, starving, executing the bourgeoises, as did most Marxists at that time, before and since.

You are actively denying all of this just as he actively advocated the worst that you prefer to see as accident:

"And so, the question stands as follows: either one way or the other either back -to capitalism, or forward-to socialism. There is no third way, nor can there be.

The "equilibrium" theory is an attempt to indicate a third way. And precisely because it is based on a third (nonexistent) way, it is utopian and anti-Marxian...

The characteristic feature in the work of our Party during the past year is that we, as a Party, as the Soviet power,

a) have developed an offensive along the whole front against the capitalist elements in the countryside;

b) that this offensive, as you know, has brought about and is bringing about very palpable, positive results.

What does this mean? It means that we have passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting proclivities of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class. This means that we have made, and are still making, one of the decisive turns in our whole policy.

Until recently the Party adhered to the policy of restricting the exploiting proclivities of the kulaks...

... Could we have undertaken such an offensive against the kulaks five years or three years ago? Could we then have counted on success in such an offensive? No, we could not. That would have been the most dangerous adventurism. It would have been playing a very dangerous game at offensive. We would certainly have failed, and our failure would have strengthened the position of the kulaks. Why? Because we still lacked a wide network of state and collective farms in the rural districts which could be used as strongholds in a determined offensive against the kulaks. Because at that time we were not yet able to substitute for the capitalist production of the kulaks the socialist production of the collective farms and state farms...

... Now we are able to carry on a determined offensive against the kulaks, to break their resistance, to eliminate them as a class and substitute for their output the output of the collective farms and state farms. Now, the kulaks are being expropriated by the masses of poor and middle peasants themselves, by the masses who are putting solid collectivization into practice. Now, the expropriation of the kulaks in the regions of solid collectivization is no longer just an administrative measure. Now, the expropriation of the kulaks is an integral part of the formation and development of the collective farms. Consequently it is now ridiculous and foolish to discourse on the expropriation of the kulaks. You do not lament the loss of the hair of one who has been beheaded.

There is another question which seems no less ridiculous: whether the kulaks should be permitted to join the collective farms. Of course not, for they are sworn enemies of the collective-farm movement ...."

- Stalin, Problems of Agrarian Policy in the USSR. December 27, 1929

"Kulaks" were bing killed, anyone who had earned anything in private farming was forced to hide, pretend not to have earned anything, their food was all taken, they were starved, they were banned from joining collective farms while at the same time prevented from privately farming - resulting in deaths for most of them, the rest were all sent to the gulag where many of them died. Speeches like the above show how obvious this was to Stalin and the rest of the party. They were not unaware of what was happeneing: they were actively advocating it. To say otherwise is to actively deny the facts: just like a holocaust denier. There is far too much evidence that they were well aware of the "risks" beforehand (the inevitable results) and actively engaged in brutality, creation of famine, executions and gulags while in power. And yes, it was a result of their Utopian Ideology; which only shows the danger in such schemes, it does not lessen the evil of the men or their actions.

liberty writes:

OOps. The link I tried to post above can be found here.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

Stalin unapologetically was pleased to kill kulaks who resisted his policies. The issue is not kulaks who were shot for resisting, the issue is the millions who starved to death at the time.

I repeat: this did not happen during the collectivizations in the Soviet subject states after WW II. There was nothing necessary about it at all. It may have been, as a lot of Ukrainian nationalists have charged, that Stalin was really out to starve millions of people (mostly Ukrainians) to death, even though most of them were not kulaks. I doubt it.

Keep in mind. This was history's first socialist collectivization of agriculture. There was a lot of socialist lit going back to Marx predicting all kinds of productivity wonders. We now know that they mostly did not happen, and to the extent they did they were more than offset by other problems. That Stalin did not believe such prophets as Hoover is simply not surprising.

I for one think that moral responsibility depends substantially on intention and knowledge. Stalin clearly intended to kill kulaks. I do not think he set out to kill all the millions who starved to death, nor do I think he expected them to die, although there are many who think he did, especially some Ukrainian nationalists, as I have already said.

liberty writes:

>I repeat: this did not happen during the collectivizations in the Soviet subject states after WW II.

I do not know enough about their history to contest this point. It did happen under Mao, that's for sure. I would guess that even if famine did not occur:
a) It was in part because of imports of food from USSR and other places
b) There was still very low productivity and plenty of suffering

>It may have been, as a lot of Ukrainian nationalists have charged, that Stalin was really out to starve millions of people (mostly Ukrainians) to death

He did certainly starve many on purpose as can be seen by the unwillingness to allow "Kulaks" and Ukrainians from leaving or finding other sources of food, and by the forceful repatriation and gulags. Yet this was not the cause of the major famines. The cause of the major famines was the Marxist ideology followed to the letter by Lenin (1919), Stalin (1929) and Mao (during several periods). If this did not happen in other socialist countries it may have been due to not following Marx to the letter.
quote: "If one summarized the lesson to be drawn from the Soviet experiment, one could say: the experiment was successful where it was unfaithful to its principles; it has failed where it has been faithful to them" - Rougier


>I for one think that moral responsibility depends substantially on intention and knowledge.

I do not. Willful ignorance is no excuse. You could argue Ghengis Khan was less aware of the rest of the world and other possibilities than the communists - the communists lived during a modern era where they could have learned from the United States, the British, Europe; instead they purposefully tried an experimental economic system, something so radical that many economists whom they had access to demonstrated it would be a disaster; and against all reason they implemented the system and refused to re-inroduce the market even after it proved fatal (except partially during the 1920s).

All of them had read economists who described what would happen, and they all ignored them and called them "bourgeios."

Stalin knew what would happen because he had already experienced "war communism". Mao knew what would happen because Lenin and Stalin had come before. They all knew and they are all morally culpable. To say otherwise is to excuse totalitarian, brutal mass murderers simply because you sympathise with their ideology.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Actually I am curious who was writing predictions of massive famines if there would be a socialist collectivization of agriculture. Can you inform us? I mean prior to it happening. I have not read Herbert Hoover on the matter, but I imagine he wrote about the famine of the early 1920s, helping the victims of which first brought him to public attention. I would not be surprised if he supported free market farming, which in fact Lenin brought in about that time as part of his New Economic Policy (NEP), which Stalin later undid.

That early 1920s famine was a result of the War Communism agricultural policies, which did not include collectivization. It was a non-market command policy, "give us [the government] this much grain!" which pretty obviously led to the peasants not producing much grain, and certainly not making much available for the agents of the government. However, they were controlling their own plots at that time, even if technically the state owned all the land after Lenin's land decree of 1917, a contrast with the still-remembered collectivism of the feudal/serf period.

In some ways, Stalin's policy (aside from the famine) was a throwback to feudalism but run by the state, with elements from the Narodniks and Social Revolutionaries, who had defeated the Bolsheviks in the only Duma election after the Bolshevik coup, leading Lenin to shut down the Duma. Quite a few of the kolkhoz collective farms of the Stalin period were simply reconstructions under state control of old feudal estates with their serfs.

I cannot prove this, but my own gut sense of what happened is that the famine got out of control and went much further than Stalin either planned or desired. Why were they keeping those starving from getting out? To contain the damage politically. Stalin wanted to kill a lot of kulaks, heck maybe even a million of them. He was the one who declared "the death of one is a tragedy, but the death of a million is merely a statistic." But the thing got out of control, and many more died, an order of magnitude or more or so. It is important to keep in mind that this was the first time in history that anyone had tried this particular policy, and I think you are mistaken that there was some big pre-existing literature forecasting what would happen. Again, mass famine was avoided in the post WW II European collectivizations, although they were not done completely bloodlessly in all countries.

Another sign that it got out of control comes from a faction of Ukrainian nationalists who were/are angrier at Khrushchev than Stalin. Why? Khrushchev was on the ground in the famine and is accused by these folks of engineering it, overseeing it, making it worse, while Stalin was "far away," like an old timey tsar, not aware of what his wicked underling was doing (I personally find this aspect of the argument pretty silly; I bet Stalin knew).

BTW, later Khrushchev would give Crimea to Ukraine from Russia, feeding into current Russia-Ukraine disputes, with some saying that this was out of guilt for his role in the famine, although I have also heard it asserted that it was because he had a Ukrainian mistress at the time.

I am perfectly willing to hold people responsible for results of their actions they did not intend, but will continue to hold those who have bad intentions (and knowledge) as being even guiltier.

liberty writes:

>Actually I am curious who was writing predictions of massive famines if there would be a socialist collectivization of agriculture. Can you inform us? I mean prior to it happening.

Sure. The Austrian school (see one here) debated Marxism from the start and writers from Adam Smith to Bastiat before Marx had explained the problems with Socialism and the necessity for freedom and prosperity of the free market. (See here: )

Bastiat also saw through the phony "philanthropy" of the socialists who constantly proposed helping this or that person or group by plundering the wealth of other innocent members of society through the aegis of the state. All such schemes are based on "legal plunder, organized injustice."[16]...

Bastiat not only believed that collectivism constituted legal plunder; he also believed that private property was essential to fulfill man's nature as a free being who, by nature, acts in his own self-interest to satisfy his (subjective) wants. To argue against the right to private property would be to argue that theft and slavery were morally "correct."

There were other contemporaries of Marx who predicted the savage nature of the communist plans.

"We have passed out of the socialism of the tribal state and cannot re-enter it again, except by a retrogression that would involve anarchy and perhaps barbarism."
- Henry George, Progress and Poverty quoted in Chapter 10, Socialism and Communism, Bruce Smith , Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the Growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (1887)

"The great error of the majority of Socialists is that they do not sufficiently take into consideration the fact that the great incentive to labour and economy is individual interest."-M. DE LAVELEYE, The Progress of Socialism. -Contemporary Review, April, 1883.

"In the preface to this work, I affirmed that the tendency of modern legislation was in the direction of certain forms of society,known as Communism and Socialism; and I undertook to show, as one of the links in the chain of my reasoning on behalf of true Liberalism or Individualism,
that, wherever and whenever these forms of society had been resorted to, the result had invariably been-by reason of the necessary elimination of the element of self-interest-to sap the energies of the people constituting the community, and
to reduce them a11 to the dead level of the tribal form of society, in which the conditions of life are of the most primitive, and progress, in the higher developments of man’s nature, as in art, science, philosophy, and literature, almost
unknown."
Bruce Smith , Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the Growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (1887)

There is much more in that chapter.

Sumner 1878:
"The aim of socialism is to create a state of things in which all shall be equal in effort and enjoyment... the idea of it does not exist, it is only a hollow phrase. The effort to realize the socialistic idea, therefore, involves the destruction, first, of natural differences of ability by destroying all abilities above the lowest, and thus securing universal poverty…"

Herbert Spencer again:
"All socialism involves slavery. ... The degree of his slavery varies according to the ratio between that which he is forced to yield up and that which he is allowed to retain; and it matters not whether his master is a single person or a society. If, without option, he has to labour for the society, and receives from the general stock such portion as the society awards him, he becomes a slave to the society. ...
he machinery of Communism, like existing social machinery, has to be framed out of existing human nature; and the defects of existing human nature will generate in the one the same evils as in the other. The love of power, the selfishness, the injustice, the untruthfulness, which often in comparatively short times bring private organizations to disaster, will inevitably, where their effects accumulate from generation to generation, work evils far greater and less remediable; since, vast and complex and possessed of all the resources, the administrative organization once developed and consolidated, must become irresistible.
...The final result would be a revival of despotism. A disciplined army of civil officials, like an army of military officials, gives supreme power to its head—a power which has often led to usurpation, as in medieval Europe and still more in Japan—nay, has thus so led among our neighbours, within our own times." - The Coming Slavery 1884

"Beyond the regulative apparatus such as in our own society is required for carrying on national defence and maintaining public order and personal safety, there must, under the régime of socialism, be a regulative apparatus everywhere controlling all kinds of production and distribution, and everywhere apportioning the shares of products of each kind required for each locality, each working establishment, each individual. Under our existing voluntary cooperation, with its free contracts and its competition, production and distribution need no official oversight. Demand and supply, and the desire of each man to gain a living by supplying the needs of his fellows, spontaneously evolve that wonderful system whereby a great city has its food daily brought round to all doors or stored at adjacent shops... Suppose now that this industrial régime of willinghood, acting spontaneously, is replaced by a régime of industrial obedience, enforced by public officials. Imagine the fast administration required for that distribution of all commodities to all people in every city, town and village, which is now effected by traders! Imagine, again, the still more vast administration required for doing all that farmers, manufacturers, and merchants do; having not only its various orders of local superintendents, but its sub-centres and chief centres needed for apportioning the quantities of each thing everywhere needed, and the adjustment of them to the requisite times. Then add the staffs wanted for working mines, railways, roads, canals; the staffs required for conducting the importing and exporting businesses and the administration of mercantile shipping; the staffs required for supplying towns not only with water and gas but with locomotion by tramways, omnibuses, and other vehicles, and for the distribution of power, electric and other. Join with these the existing postal, telegraphic, and telephonic administrations; and finally those of the police and army, by which the dictates of this immense consolidated regulative system are to be everywhere enforced. Imagine all this and then ask what will be the position of the actual workers! Already on the continent, where governmental organizations are more elaborate and coercive than here, there are chronic complaints of the tyranny of bureaucracies—the hauteur and brutality of their members. What will these become when not only the more public actions of citizens are controlled, but there is added this far more extensive control of all their respective daily duties? What will happen when the various divisions of this vast army of officials, united by interests common to officialism—the interests of the regulators versus those of the regulated—have at their command whatever force is needful to suppress insubordination and act as "saviours of society?" Where will be the actual diggers and miners and smelters and weavers, when those who order and superintend, everywhere arranged class above class, have come, after some generations, to inter-marry with those of kindred grades, under feelings such as are operative in existing classes; and when there have been so produced a series of castes rising in superiority; and when all these, having everything in their own power, have arranged modes of living for their own advantage: eventually forming a new aristocracy far more elaborate and better organized than the old? How will the individual worker fare if he is dissatisfied with his treatment—thinks that he has not an adequate share of the products, or has more to do than can rightly be demanded, or wishes to undertake a function for which he feels himself fitted but which is not thought proper for him by his superiors, or desires to make an independent career for himself? This dissatisfied unit in the immense machine will be told he must submit or go. The mildest penalty for disobedience will be industrial excommunication. And if an international organization of labour is formed as proposed, exclusion in one country will mean exclusion in all others—industrial excommunication will mean starvation."
- From Freedom to Bondage 1884

See also:
A Critical Examination of Socialism
by William Hurrell Mallock, 1908

These and other examples show that many could forsee the poverty, tyranny and absurdity of socialism before the ideology was put into true practice in 1917.

liberty writes:

>In some ways, Stalin's policy (aside from the famine) was a throwback to feudalism but run by the state

Which is what communism is. He followed Marx to the letter as did Lenin and Mao. Its true that collectivism was not implemented fully during "war communism" but many other aspects of Marxism were - including the destruction of the money-economy, nationalization of banks, large factories, railroads - the "commanding heights" of the economy, obligatory labor for bourgeios, etc.

Todd writes:

Collectivizations were carried out all over eastern and central Europe with almost nobody dying after WW II

Hundreds of thousands of post-war deaths in Central and Eastern Europe is a bit more than "almost nobody".

You can not possibly be for real.

Nevertheless, a curious offshoot of the GLF is the modern town and village enterprises that have underpinned the current boom of the Chinese economy

The "modern town and village enterprises that have underpinned the current boom of the Chinese economy" is a repudiation of the Great Leap Forward not an offshoot of it. The "modern town and village enterprises that have underpinned the current boom of the Chinese economy" is a result of Deng's reforms, Deng being the Communist party official who was put under house arrest by Mao after being beaten up by Party goons for modestly questioning the wisdom and compassion of Mao's Great Leap.

Mao knew or should have known what he was doing. He should have learned from the body count due to Stalin's collectivization of Russia at the very least but evidently learned the wrong lesson. Mao was warned that what he was doing was a disaster in the making and simply killed or jailed those who said so.

But I think that regarding the Soviet war dead themselves the blame remains mostly in the lap of Hitler.

Soviet war deaths were blowback from Hitler and Stalin's joint attack on Poland, not that this has anything to do with the multiple millions that Stalin also managed to get killed during "peace" time.

I'm not giving anybody a pass

Sure. And neither is David Irving.

Try pulling my other leg.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty (1)

Of course plenty of people praised free markets, in general, and criticized socialism, in general, prior to the collectivization of agriculture in the USSR. The question I raised was more specific and followed a previous claim you had made: who specifically predicted mass famine from a socialist collectivization of agriculture? None of these quotations you have provided do that, as near as I have spotted it, although I am not sure I read that last one absolutely in a detailed manner.

liberty (2)

Well, one of the easier slams on Marx is that he really did not say very much about how a socialist or communist society should be run, even though his writings criticizing capitalism fill several shelves. He considered such speculations and cogitations to be "utopian" and not "scientific." Thus, he left it to Engels to praise central planning, for example.

One way that Lenin (and Stalin and Mao and... ) did not follow Marx was that in many places Marx declared that socialism should be democratic (although in the aftermath of the fall of the Paris Commune, and the suicide of his daughter, he made negative remarks about "bourgeois democracy" that Lenin picked up on). In any case, the minute Lenin shut down the democratically elected Duma a month after the Bolshevik coup, he and his successors were all arguably sharply at variance with strongly and repeatedly stated views of Marx.

Todd,

You are not paying attention. The question is the number of deaths DUE TO AGRICULTURAL COLLECTIVIZATION in the postwar period in eastern and central Europe (sorry to capitalize, folks, but this guy seems to have trouble reading). Of course lots of people were executed for political reasons during the period of Soviet rule there, especially while Stalin was still alive, and some afterwards as well (see Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, etc.).

I just did a pretty thorough google search, and what I reported is confirmed (or at least not disproven). I could not find one single site or source, including a couple that go through very long and detailed lists of exactly who died how under communism and where and when, that listed even one individual who died as a result of famine or the collectization process more broadly in that region during the post WW II period, just as I have claimed. The closest I came was one report that during the early stages of the collectization in Romania, there was "brutality."

I have said that probably some people were shot or killed in the process somewhere for resisting it, although I could never get a report of anyone specifically, much less any numbers for any country. What most definitely did not occur was anybody starving to death during the process in any of those countries, not one.

So, yes, Mr. Todd, I am for real. Are you? Can you provide any sources for your claim of "hundreds of thousands" dying as a result of agricultural collectivization in central and eastern Europe in the post WW II period? (We are not talking the USSR itself before the war or Mao or North Korea; millions died in those countries.) Or did you fail to read properly and somehow thought that I said nobody at all died due to communism in postwar Europe? Duuh.

BTW, in the early 1980s, Hungary exported more agricultural produce than did France.

Regarding the TVEs, I said that they became successful only after they were embedded in market context, which of course happened as a result of the Dengist reforms, although I did not specifically say that. However, they are still the lineal descendants of the earlier enterprises, simply evolving in the new context, which is what I already said. Do you have sources to contest this claim?

For that matter, a major motive for the GLF was a leftover from WW II, both in terms of China's own experience and that of the USSR in WW II. Mao was afraid of invasion by the US onto the coasts. Hence, he made this drastic push for development in rural areas deep inland. Part of the current problems in China are that the market favors the coastal areas while the interior is falling behind, leading to huge increases in regional income inequality that are becoming a serious political problem in the current PRC.

BTW, if you pull my other leg, well, it might come off, Mr. Irving... :-).

Todd writes:

Can you provide any sources for your claim of "hundreds of thousands" dying as a result of agricultural collectivization in central and eastern Europe in the post WW II period?

In Hungary, your favorite example, the Soviets found it necessary to kill 25,000 in 1956 alone to prop up the government that enforced collectivization.

http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/hotel/hungary1956.htm

In Yugoslavia, Tito found it necessary to kill several hundred thousand more, and the collectivization there was only part way.

http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DBG.TAB14.1.GIF

Or did you fail to read properly and somehow thought that I said nobody at all died due to communism in postwar Europe?

The brutality of communism was necessary to enforce the collectivization.

BTW, in the early 1980s, Hungary exported more agricultural produce than did France.

If you can credulously believe the numbers pulled out of some Communist official's ass.

liberty writes:

>Of course plenty of people praised free markets, in general, and criticized socialism, in general, prior to the collectivization of agriculture in the USSR. The question I raised was more specific and followed a previous claim you had made: who specifically predicted mass famine from a socialist collectivization of agriculture?

Considering that socialists hadly promised the exact nature of their government, as you pointed out, it would be hard to critisize the exact nature - collectivization. Hence most critics focused on the broader promise - central control over the means of production, no profits, no private ownership of property, etc.

The fact that many of those critics foretold poverty, brutality and totalitarianism should have been enough to give Lenin pause, which was my point.


>One way that Lenin (and Stalin and Mao and... ) did not follow Marx was that in many places Marx declared that socialism should be democratic

But it can't be. Lenin praised democracy too, though he also said that bourgeois democracy is not real democracy, that capitalism gives the rich the upper hand, that proletarian democracy and economic democracy would bring true freedom.

He shut down the duma in order to bring communism which would promise this "true democracy".

And then they tried to bring this true democracy. They had soviets everywhere, which were supposed to allow the worker to speak his mind. They had trade unions and coopertives and they truly believed that the worker would be heard for the first time.

What they didn't realize is that democracy is impossible under communism, I explain why here.

Even if they managed to stave off famine in Europe, they certainly had poverty. Just look at the figures comparing East Germany to West Germany. In constant dollars, West Germany had the following GDP per capita:

1950 3421
1955 5133
1970 9425
1980 11920


While East Germany looked like this:

1970 4825
1980 7638

In 1970, East Germany had half the GDP per capita of West Germany and was behind the 1955 GDP of West Germany, by 1980 it still hadn't caught up to where West Germany had been in 1970. Statistics found here.

By the way, the numbers for Czech and Hungary are even worse!

liberty writes:

Check out the USA and USSR from those tables - the USSR by 1989 hadn't caught up to where the USA was in 1950!

Barkley Rosser writes:

Todd,

Again, we are dealing with people killed by the regime, not people starving to death from the collectivization. Indeed, I see no breakout regarding how many of those killed were killed for specifically resisting agricultural collectivization, if any, although I have already said I am sure there were some. I
have not disputed at all that many were
killed as you said. I said none died from
famine during those collectiviztions, the
original claim of liberty.

Tito did not collectivize agriculture, although he did kill many opponents, both during his high Stalinism period and later as well.

The most authoritative source on communist agriculture is The Red and the Green by Frederic Pryor, who was imprisoned in East Germany and exchanged for Penkovskiy, not exactly Mr. Communist. Anyway, I suggest you check his figures before making a bigger fool of yourself further regarding actual data. Hungary was well known to be the most agriculturally productive of the socialist bloc with collective farms. Others did not do nearly so well.

Old Soviet Joke from the Brezhnev era. Planner asks Brezhnev: "Can we increase our plan for oranges?" Brezhnev: "No, Hungary does not grow them." BTW, in the initial period of privatization in Hungary, agricultural production fell, although it has since recovered.

I would rank Stalin's personal moral culpability for the tens of millions he killed in the following order.

1) Those whose death warrants he personally signed (most in the Great Purges, but other times also).

2) Those who died as a result of policies he enacted that he knew would lead to deaths:
a) others killed in the purges and gulag
b) people killed in E. Europe as a result
of Soviet invasion at beginning of WW II.
c) kulaks killed as part of collectivization
for resisting.

3) People killed as unplanned result of bad
policies, with this including the majority of
the dead from the ag collectivization by famine.

4) Some portion of the Soviet war dead, although
my view here is that this would be more for his
trasning of the Soviet military leadership than
any blowback, as it is pretty clear Hitler was going to invade sooner or later no matter what.

All of this adds up to tens of millions, but how much one assigns out of that last one makes a big difference, as those numbers total to about 25-30 million.

Todd writes:

Again, we are dealing with people killed by the regime, not people starving to death from the collectivization.

By this reasoning robbery is not the cause of violence but "people killed by the robber" is. The process of collectivization is deadly, starvation is just the icing on the communist cake.

Tito did not collectivize agriculture, although he did kill many opponents, both during his high Stalinism period and later as well.

Tito did, in fact, have a go at collectivizing agriculture but stopped short of going all out when the body count got too high.

The most authoritative source on communist agriculture is The Red and the Green by Frederic Pryor, who was imprisoned in East Germany and exchanged for Penkovskiy, not exactly Mr. Communist. Anyway, I suggest you check his figures before making a bigger fool of yourself further regarding actual data.

And where did Pryor get his numbers? Out of some Communist official's ass.

Hitler killed Roehm, Stalin killed Trotsky. Socialist often kill their own. That Pryor spent time in a communist jail cell is no proof that he is not a nutjob.

BTW, in the initial period of privatization in Hungary, agricultural production fell, although it has since recovered.

In other words, the actual productions numbers were lower than the inflated communist era ones, and now, after privatization, the actual numbers are as good or better than the inflated ones.

Old Soviet Joke from the Brezhnev era. Planner asks Brezhnev: "Can we increase our plan for oranges?" Brezhnev: "No, Hungary does not grow them."

They also used the same sort of joke for East Germany, which put your much beloved Pryor in jail. The punchline does not praise Hungary, it condemns Russian aparatchiks even more than it condemns Hungarians.

I would rank Stalin's personal moral culpability for the tens of millions he killed in the following order.

Stalin's personal responsibility is as beside the point as Hitler's is. Socialism is deadly, full stop.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Starvation would have been the icing on the cake, except that nobody starved in E. or C. Europe then. Get your facts straight.

Tito did make an effort, but stopped with less than 5%, and it was not because of the body count. What body count? You and liberty have yet to come up with any evidence of even one dead body over ag collectivization in this period and set of countries, although I do think some were killed, as I have now said so many times I am losing count. Get some data and real sources, please.

Regarding Pryor's numbers, let me simply note that it is much harder to falsify export numbers than it is to falsify production numbers. That you are calling Pryor a "nutjob" simply shows that you are ignorant. There is probably no one on the planet more knowledgeable about these matters, not even my friend Janos Kornai.

Regarding the Old Soviet Joke, let me note that it was not private ag Poland that was going to be unable to supply oranges to the USSR. Their productivity was too pathetic, a joke, as you will see if you look at any actual data.

Not everything is ideology, Todd. It is not that socialism was wonderful in Hungary and capitalism was terrible in Poland. Those countries had patterns of land use that dated from an earlier period that they had to live with then and still live with today.

Thus, Poland, especially its southeastern part, is still stuck with an awful pattern of misshapen and tiny farm plots that doom it to low productivity under any system. The pathetic productivity of Polish ag was (and continues to be) the biggest single obstacle to Poland integrating into the European Union, just as it was a horrible headache for the various commie leaders of Poland between 1945 and 1989.

Hungary has been fortunate to have large scale farms in a flat and fertile plain. The experience of Hungary in the post 1989 period is actually instructive of a broader point. Disruptive and uncertain changes of property relations in general in ag can lead people to panic and kill their animal stocks ("capital" is derived from a Latin word for a head of cattle). It happened in the USSR in the early 1930s, and it happened again in Hungary in the period right after 1989. Fortunately, things are now settled, and unlike Poland, Hungary again has a productive agricultural economy.

Todd writes:

Starvation would have been the icing on the cake, except that nobody starved in E. or C. Europe then. Get your facts straight.

Observe that you have moved the goal posts from deaths due to collectivization (or deaths "DUE TO AGRICULTURAL COLLECTIVIZATION" as you gently put it) to deaths due to starvation due to collectivization. Not all who died in Stalin's Harvest of Sorrow died from malnutrition. Pretty much all of them died from an excess supply of good intentions.

Regarding Pryor's numbers, let me simply note that it is much harder to falsify export numbers than it is to falsify production numbers

Under Communist rule "exports" largely meant plunder taken from Hungary by Moscow. To repeat, the numbers come straight from some Communist official's ass.

Tito did make an effort, but stopped with less than 5%, and it was not because of the body count. What body count?

You have been given links. You have been shown numbers that you already know exist. But like Stalin and Mao, you do not see the dead because like David Irving you have invented an elaborate accounting system to keep them hidden from your pristine intentions.

You will make a great commissar, comrade. Double-plus great.

liberty writes:

I also noticed that you ignored the data I provided, from the Penn World Tables. Hungary was supposed to have very high productivity due to great success in agriculture under the Soviet regime?

Lets see, the Breznev era would have been 64 to 82...

1970 GDP per Capita (in constant 1985 dollars)
Poland 2941
Hungary 3358
USSR 4088
USA 12963

1980
Poland 4419
Hungary 4992
USSR 6119
USA 15295

Looks like Hungary was only slightly ahead of Poland, Poland was catching up; Hungary was behind the USSR and not even 1/3 of the USA. I would call that deep poverty even if not quite famine.

I am not sure where PWT get their data, but I think its probably at least as reliable as your communist figure. Its also widely known that even the most successful communist experiments fell far short of even the most pathetic capitalist recession.

But my broader question: Why do you think you are so eager to defend these brutal killers?

Barkley Rosser writes:

This will be my last posting on this topic as this is beginning to run in circles, with liberty and Todd increasingly simply resorting to calling me names, although liberty does at least sometimes provide some data. Before proceeding, however, I will simply note that it is ridiculous of either of you to somehow claim that I am defending either Mao or Stalin. Just exactly what was it that I said when I said that they were both morally responsible for tens of millions of people dying that made either of you come to such a ridiculous conclusion? I know that Todd would prefer not to talk in terms of personal moral responsibility and only about how it was all due to an abstraction, "communism," and not actual real people. liberty seems to be bothered by any distinction between Stalin consciously ordering people killed rather than people dying incidentally as a result of screwed-up policies that could have been handled better.

Much of this has focused on the postwar ag situation. Why? Because of the claim initially of Todd (I lost track before) that Stalin should have known (from reading Herbert Hoover) that ag collectivization would necessarily lead to a disaster. I assumed by a disaster he meant millions dead as did happen in the Soviet and Chinese collectivizations. I then pointed out that this did not happen in postwar Soviet bloc Europe, a claim that has never been refuted even remotely by either of you guys. I would say that this would actually increase the case of the personal culpability of both Mao and Stalin, which was part of my point. They could have avoided killing tens of millions of people. Other commie leaders did.

My only substantive reply to Todd will be to note that the USSR was not the only importer of ag products from Hungary.

Let me note, as appears not to be on either of your radar screens, that one reason why Hungary did pretty well in ag was that it had abandoned command central planning as of 1968 as part of its New Economic Mechanism, which led to the so-called "goulash communism" of Hungary. You could visit there and find no lines for things, in sharp contrast to most of the rest of the Soviet bloc. So, its ag system was really one of efficient scale cooperatives operating in a mostly market framework, albeit with a lot of restrictions and weird things going on. Hungary was the most market-oritnted of all the Soviet bloc countries. It is not all that surprising that its agriculture did pretty well, even if it was technically state-owned, in contrast to the much more poorly performing agriculture of Poland (and of Yugoslavia also, which also maintained privately owned farms).

liberty,

I said nothing about GDP, only ag productivity. Your numbers are interesting but irrelevant. The numbers you are citing for those periods of time do not indicate deep poverty and certainly do not indicate famine. If you want to make a case for famine, then provide a source that tells of the famine and all the people who died of starvation. Nobody did there, not even in the much poorer immediate aftermath of WW II. The level of life styles you are reporting are not deep poverty, but something more like a lower middle income status. There is a reason why that part of the world was known as the Second World. They were way behind the West, but they were also way ahead of the truly poor Third World LDCs. The food may have been boringly simple and not all that good, but there was certainly enough of it that nobody starved. This is simply a fact, and both of you really need to accept it, even if it causes your ideological bones to rattle and snap. Go read Pryor, and please do not mouth off about him just reproducing things "out of the mouths of communist officials." This is just the worst sort of sheepish blathering and b.s.

Let me close out by returning to the original issue raised by Bryan Caplan, which has rather gotten lost in all this wrangling over who killed how many how and when. I guess I am in disagreement with Bryan and his praise of Halpern. I do not see the evidence proving what he claims.

The reason is that while some of these nations either briefly or ultimately followed very Stalinist models, the ones that followed the Soviet/Stalin model most closely and exactly in the immediate postwar era were those in which the Red Army was located. Tito briefly played at being an ultra-Stalinist, but rather quickly (1948) went quite the other way towards worker-managed market socialism. That was when his break with Stalin became really serious. Albania's eventual move to Stalinism came much later, 1961.

The most recent bio of Mao (sorry, forget author and title, just read a review of it) claims that he was much more the hand-picked guy of Stalin than anyone else in the Chinese leadership. However, Stalin picked him for his ruthlessness, not his necessary following of any ideology. My opening comment on this thread was to comment on that Mao was not such a good follower of Stalinism after Stalin died. I would argue that he followed more closely while Stalin was alive. His split with Khrushchev was partly ideological, with Mao defending Stalin against Khrushchev. But it was more on political grounds, maintaining power, and not on economic grounds, although in the 1960s Mao would oppose as "revisionism" the quasi-market oriented "Liberman" reforms.

The real kicker in the initial split in the late 1950s was that Khrushchev cut off aid for China to build nuclear weapons. This was the underlying issue. Defending Stalin simply was a convenient way of getting at Khrushchev over this more fundamental matter.

So, from where I sit, it looks like the countries in postwar Europe that had the Red Army sitting in them, followed more closely the Stalinist line of that period, even as they avoided the disastrous mistakes that Stalin made during agricultural collectivization, thereby avoiding mass (or even any) famine in their countries.

liberty writes:

>I said nothing about GDP, only ag productivity.

Sure, but GDP per capita is a measure of overall productivity, and its meaningless to say "overall productivity was low but agricultural productivity was high!"

If you force everyone to focus only on agricultural productivity and thereby increase it, but overall productivity is very low, what have you gained?

The only reasonable way to analyze living standards is with data that reveals overall productivity, such as GDP per capita.


>The level of life styles you are reporting are not deep poverty, but something more like a lower middle income status.

Sure, if you compare to other totalitarian regimes, backward impoverished tribal nations, and so forth, they will be "middle income". But the Soviets promised greater productivity than capitalist nations, but couldn't even reach 1/3 the GDP per capita.


>I will simply note that it is ridiculous of either of you to somehow claim that I am defending either Mao or Stalin.

Let me remind you of why we think so:

"Mao had more people to kill. In percentage terms, I think Stalin beats Mao, although it remains somewhat up in the air whether one should hold Stalin and Mao "morally responsible" for the massive deaths occurring during their respective collectivizations."

"there is a difference between noting that Stalin put up roadblocks against the fleeing starving and saying that Stalin should have known what was going to happen because Herbert Hoover did."

"a curious offshoot of the GLF is the modern town and village enterprises that have underpinned the current boom of the Chinese economy"

"Keep in mind. This was history's first socialist collectivization of agriculture. There was a lot of socialist lit going back to Marx predicting all kinds of productivity wonders."

"I for one think that moral responsibility depends substantially on intention and knowledge."

...

I could go on, but if you open your eyes, you should see why we accuse you of dending these monsters and their fatal ideology. Imagine that it was Hitler you were defending:

"A curious offshoot of NAZI concentration camps is the modern factory that has resulted in the booming German industry today.."

"Keep in mind it was history's first attempt at National Socialism of that sort, there was all kinds of literature about the great advantages of command economy and ethnic purity..."

"I don't know that Hitler should be held morally accountable for the full scale of genocide as he could not have known that it would all be implemented..."

Stalin had experienced war communism. He knew the risks, he knew that deaths would occur. All Marxists should be held accountable as there was plenty of literature and common sense that indicated the kinds of danger, famine, poverty, totalitarian command required, etc (some of which I quoted above). Lenin should have known but Stalin did know- there is no denying that, he was there. Mao knew even more so having seen 1929-31 and having knowledge of how that turned out.

That you excuse them, don't hold them morally accountable and pretend that it was unknown is disturbing. That you admit that they killed millions in the middle of the excuse only makes it sicker.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

Said I would say no more, but guess I cannot stand still for these kinds of accusations.

1) I do stand by all the statements you quote. Let me simply jump to your second half.

German industry predated the concentration camp, most especially its chemical industry, the world's most advanced. Nothing good came of the Nazi concentration camps, nothing.

I suppose you could argue that racist ravings constituted a lit about the virtues of racial purity for an economy. However, modern economic theory in fact fully agrees with Karl Marx regarding the virtues of economies of scale. That such economies exist in agriculture is simply an empirical fact. However, their advantages can also be undermined by the numerous inefficiencies of the command socialist system, which I have in no way minimized. The overall real GDPs of the Soviet socialist bloc were well behind those of the West. I said that. Can you not read? No one there wishes to go back, and I have most certainly not said that they should. Are you only happy if people spout lies about everyone starving to death all the time in the old socialist bloc?

Hitler's genocide was at the top of the evilness of the moral scale that I laid out. He ordered and hoped that it would succeed, just as Stalin ordered the Great Purge and hoped it would succeed, knowledge, intention, and control. That the agricultural collectivizations in C. and E. Europe after WW II were not carried out in the same famine-inducing way as it was in the USSR in the early 1930s, suggests that perhaps Stalin himself realized that he screwed up. He was in charge of the whole system in the immediate postwar system, and these countries did not emulate Stalin's "kill the kulaks" campaign. Stalin was a monster, but he was also smart. Maybe he figured out that such campaigns can end up killing a lot more other people that one did intend to kill in the first place. The evidence would actually suggest that.

Even so, Stalin clearly intended to kill millions of people and did so, as did Mao.

And, oh yes, to repeat something I have already said, but which you seem to have missed, the War Communism ag policies were not the same as those that Stalin put in place over a decade later.

One last point for Todd, in case he is going to hop in here on Pryor again. Pryor's book came out after the fall of the Soviet socialist bloc and when the old data had been revised. His numbers are not those from communist officials but the later revised numbers.

And now, I really will say no more, no matter how outrageous or unreasonable the accusations are that may be made further on this thread. Good night, one and all.

liberty writes:

>German industry predated the concentration camp, most especially its chemical industry, the world's most advanced. Nothing good came of the Nazi concentration camps, nothing.

What about the lovely lamp shades?

I'm sorry, but you have on the one hand admitted that Stalin and Mao killed millions and on the other tried to excuse them for it by saying that they didn't expect it. You say the agricultural productivity was high, I point out the very low overall productivity and you say "Yeah I admitted that" - completely missing the significance.

I quoted sources that predicted totalitarianism by use of a command structured economy and poverty by use of a planned economy. Because they ignored those warnings and instead listened to Marxists that predicted that human nature would change, making totalitarianism unneccesary and predicted that economies of scale (which may exist in agriculture but not in most other industries, at least not past a certain size) would literally outweight the thousand other reasons why productivity would necessarily fall, is no excuse!

Its like excusing a parent who ignored all reason, science, advice and warnings and refuses to give her child medicine or food and instead prays - but not only that, with good intentions, she decides to give the child poison that all the doctors and nurses and therapists and friends have all said would probably kill the healthy child, yet because one wacko doctor suggested that the poison would - because of change in the child's digestive system due to the prayer - actually become nutritious and heal the child's soul.

Would you be so quick to give this mother a pass based on her intentions? At least with a parent its very easy to believe that her intentions were pure and she loved the child. What if she was a drug addict? Lenin was an obsessive egomaniac who cared mostly about his life mattering, not about the country - he was not like a loving mother of the country. Stalin perhaps wanted to see productivity, but only so that he could get the credit - not because he was a loving mother of the country.

So, if you imagine this mother that poisons her child as an egomaniac, self centered woman who wants to show off that she turned her child into a superhero and so follows the doctrine of a wacko-religious cult (though everyone else around her advises her against it) that recommends she poison her child - and it kills the child or nearly does - that is the kind of moral pass at best you should be giving these Marxists.

Barkley Rosser writes:

I am back again, but not to respond to liberty. His remarks can stand by themselves. I want to make some further comments about the issues in the original post by Bryan.

In particular, I am going to back off my most recent remark and say that I partly agree with points made by Halpern and supported by Bryan (although they might not want to be agreed with at all by such a moral monster as myself). I think that they are correct that the self-identified Marxist communists who came to power after WW II without being installed by Stalin and the Red Army directly were independent and genuine ideologists on their own.

However, I would cite their ideology as being "Marxism-Leninism," which is a more general category that includes "Stalinism." Most of them were also, like Stalin himself, pragmatic opportunists who would change their specific practices and party lines to suit local and temporal conditions. Mao did so, and certainly Tito did so when he shifted from "ultra-Stalinism" to worker-managed market socialism after 1948-50. The same could be said also for Albania's Enver Hoxha, and later, Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh and Cuba's Fidel Castro.

I note that what distinguishes "Marxism-Leninism" from just plain old-fashioned "Marxism" is 1) focus on poorer countries as the loci of revolution rather than "the most advanced capitalist countries," and 2) abjuring democracy in favor of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat," with the Central Committee of the Communist Party as the "Vanguard of the Proletariat," Lenin's precise formulation in his split with the Mensheviks. While these various people might disagree about workers' management or how one planned or whatever, they all agreed on these aspects, along with the basic idea of general state ownership of the means of production.

However, the same could not be said of those installed directly by Stalin, the leaders of East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and also Kim Il Sung in North Korea, although he would later go his own way on his localized path to traditional Korean hermeticism with his "juche" ideology of self sufficiency (aka "Kimilsungism"), which has more recently culminated in disastrous famines there.

A very important fact about all these leaders is that they spent the war years, and in some cases much longer than that, in Moscow under Stalin's watchful eye. Many of them survived the Great Purge of the late 1930s there. Indeed, many of them participated in terms of overseeing purges in their own national parties at the behest of Stalin. These people were truly his slavish followers, with some of the most extreme cases being Ulbricht of East Germany, Rakosi of Hungary, and Zhivkov of Bulgaria, with Ulbricht and Zhivkov in particular long outlasting Stalin.

Of course in some of those countries it took several years to get those people fully into power, in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary in particular, with full control only being achieved in 1948-49, by which time Tito was taking Yugoslavia out the door both politically and ideologically and in terms of practice. But once in, these people followed policies for as long as Stalin lived that very closely followed the Soviet model. This would say that they were obeying the presence of the Red Army and its master, J. Stalin, whom they knew personally.

That is why it is all the more interesting that there was this deviation in the area of agriculture, which must have been approved of by Stalin himself. While collectivization was pushed, it did not coincide with a "kill the kulaks" campaign and did not result in famine or mass deaths in any of those countries.

The most interesting case is in fact Poland. As in Yugoslavia, there was an effort to collectivize, but it was abandoned when peasant resistance was encountered that was too great. Ag remained overwhelmingly privately owned in Poland, and there is no doubt that Stalin accepted this outcome.

Stalin was more generally wary of Poland. Whereas tsarist Russia had controlled most of Poland, along with Finland, Moldova, and the Baltic republics, after WW II Stalin did not reannex Poland or Finland, although he did reannex the Baltic states, Moldova, and parts of both Finland (Karelia) and of Poland. He was aware of the deep nationalism of Poland and the strong attachment to the Catholic Church there.
Indeed, in 1944 Stalin wrote in a letter to Stanislaw Mikoxajczyk:

"Communism does not fit the Poles. They are individualistic, too nationalistic. Poland's future economy should be based on private enterprise. Poland will be a capitalistic state."

Of course, once the Red Army got control there, he changed his mind. But his willingness not to insist on the full implementation of ag collectivization suggests that he had not forgotten these earlier thoughts. Poland could not be fully swallowed by him or his system, and he knew it.

Barkley Rosser writes:

I did not mean to say or imply that the leaders imposed by Stalin were independent ideologists. Just the opposite.

liberty writes:

Just one question, Barkley, you say:

"I note that what distinguishes "Marxism-Leninism" from just plain old-fashioned "Marxism" is ... abjuring democracy in favor of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat," with the Central Committee of the Communist Party as the "Vanguard of the Proletariat," Lenin's precise formulation in his split with the Mensheviks. While these various people might disagree about workers' management or how one planned or whatever, they all agreed on these aspects, along with the basic idea of general state ownership of the means of production."

How can you have state ownership over the means of production and *not* have dictatorship? And how could you have Marxism without state ownership of the means of production? (you can be inspired by Marx without that, as some market-socialist countries today, but you cannot be rightly called a Marxist government)

As you say, this was [part of] the split with the Mensheviks - but the Mensheviks were never in power. There has never been a single truly Marxist economy - with state ownership of the means of production - that was not a dictatorship. I have linked to my explanation of why several times though I doubt you bothered to read it.

Tell me how I am wrong.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

While there is a strong correlation between state ownership of the means of production and dictatorship, it is not absolute. For one thing, we almost never see absolute state ownership or absolute private ownership anywhere. Almost all real world ecnonomies are mixed to varying degrees.

I would agree that for Marx, the key to having socialism was state ownership. Of course to him, socialism was supposedly only a means to get to classless communism where the state would "wither away." Curiously enough, all of the actually existing Marxist socialist states went along with this formulation, and none claimed to have achieved communism, simply calling themselves socialist.

Some examples where more than 50% of the capital stock was state owned but the society remained politically democratic include Great Britain and Austria from the late 1940s to the late 1970s, with France getting there to in the 1980s after the Mitterand round of nationalizations. Also, quite a few of the transition economies became democratic but only privatized their capital stocks later and with delays. Several still have substantial chunks of their economies state owned, but are democratic.

In my view the key is permanent command of the economy. This tends to correlate with state ownership, but also not perfectly so. Thus, we have seen examples of market socialism (no command or central planning, but mostly state ownership) in such places as Yugoslavia, Hungary, and more recently China, none of which were democratic while these conditions prevailed.

Finally we have examples of societies where the capital stock remains privately owned, is capitalist, but there is permanent command, command capitalism. The classic example is old friend in this discussion, Nazi Germany. It is permanent command that is antithetical to democracy, not state ownership per se.

liberty writes:

Berkely, that's fine. There are non-Marxist countries that are democratic: agreed. There are non-Marxist countries that are non-democratic: agreed. There are various mixtures of state and private ownership: agreed. And if the state portion is small enough and private property is protected for the private section, they may remain democratic. But you have given no examples of Marxist countries that are democratic. And there is a good reason: its impossible.

You said that "It is permanent command that is antithetical to democracy, not state ownership per se." -- but you have not explained how you can have full state ownership without a command economy - its impossible. Many economists discussed this for decades, none could show how it is possible. You imply that there were no fully Marxist, fully state owned economies - but there were some that were as close as they could get. Black markets remained, but criminalizing private property except in very few exempt cases will get the economy very close to 100% state run. Most "classical socialist" economies came very close at one point or another - and though all wished to remain democratic and non-totalitarian and help the state to wither away: none ever did because its impossible.

Just because Marx and Lenin and all Marxists wanted the state to wither away does not make it possible. That is why intentions are not enough.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

I completely agree that we have not seen a Marxist-(Leninist) state that was democratic, perhaps at least partly because they have all been Marxist-Leninist rather than just plain Marxist, the legacy of the first one having been led by Lenin, and the rest more or less inspired by that unfortunate example.

Would it be possible to have such a state? Well, it certainly is possible to have "market socialism" of various sorts, where some level (or levels) of government is/are the technical owner(s) of most of the enterprises, but there is no central planning of even an indicative sort, much less a command sort. Tito (who, again, was not democratic) argued that the peculiar worker-managed market socialism of Yugoslavia was truer to Marx than the Soviet-Chinese models. That has been a matter of much debate within Marxist circles, and one can find writings of Marx to support either side. Partly this is because of the point I made earlier: Marx just did not say all that much about what his socialist society would look like.

Obviously for a pretty solidly socialist society in the sense of state ownership to persist as a democracy would mean that a continuing majority of the populatin would have to support that. Certainly right now there are very few societies where one would find such support. However, one cannot rule it out as something impossible ever in the longer run, although it looks to be something pretty unlikely and rare, if it ever did occur.

liberty writes:

>I completely agree that we have not seen a Marxist-(Leninist) state that was democratic, perhaps at least partly because they have all been Marxist-Leninist rather than just plain Marxist, the legacy of the first one having been led by Lenin, and the rest more or less inspired by that unfortunate example.

You're missing the point, Lenin followed Marx.

>Would it be possible to have such a state? Well, it certainly is possible to have "market socialism" of various sorts

Market Socialism is not at all Marxist. Marx called for the dictatorship of the proletariat and was defined by the central ownership of the means of production.

>peculiar worker-managed market socialism of Yugoslavia was truer to Marx than the Soviet-Chinese models. That has been a matter of much debate within Marxist circles, and one can find writings of Marx to support either side.

I don't know enough about the Yugoslav system, but if it had a market, it was not true Marxism. Marx wanted to do away with the market entirely, and did not consider a system that retained a market as an end in itself - only a means toward purer communism which would be marketless.

>Obviously for a pretty solidly socialist society in the sense of state ownership to persist as a democracy would mean that a continuing majority of the populatin would have to support that. Certainly right now there are very few societies where one would find such support. However, one cannot rule it out as something impossible ever in the longer run, although it looks to be something pretty unlikely and rare, if it ever did occur.

That isn't all that is required. State ownership of the means of production requires planning. A marketless society must have planning - people only have ever debated whether it could be de-centralized or must be centralized, the latter is the only way it has worked at all. Planning requires centralized knowledge and rules - in order to make sure that output in each sector fills the plan as input for the other sectors - and centralized decisions about production, prices, budget, etc.

This centralization necessitates a dictatorship, because the central body (the state) makes choices about what is produced, by whom, how much, what the cost will be, etc. Ultimately, this means the state decides what is in the store, how much it costs and even where you work. It is not possible to maintain a free and democratic society under such a dictatorial system.

That has been my point - not whether people like living there. I don't even beleive people know whether they like it very much, as they don't have full knowledge of the choices.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

On the issue of democracy, Lenin most definitely did not follow Marx. Rosa Luxemburg, who agreed with Lenin about many issues, split with him over this, his anti-Marxian abjuration of democracy.

As I have already explained, Marx argued for the dictatorship of the proletariat and against democracy in a few places, most notably his Notes on the Paris Commune, which Lenin quoted extensively in his State and Revolution. Marx supported democracy over and over again throughout his writings. It should be kept in mind that he saw socialism coming out of the advanced industrial countries, where he foresaw that the industrial proletariat would be the majority of the population. Therefore, democracy would allow them to rule.

When you start defining what is "true Marxism" and what is not, I think you are just repeating something you have thought up and not what Marx himself said. Again, he never supported central planning in his own writings (although he also never opposed it, just never discussed it). In some places he appears to support workers' management, in others he is more critical, most notably in his early critiques of Proudhon, whom he despised.

Probably the closest one can find to a specific set of "policy recommendations" by Marx (and Engels, in this case) is at the end of the Communist Manifesto. I note that they only call for the nationalization of the "commanding heights of the economy," specifically mentioning banks, and of property owned by those who flee the revolution. This formulation is quite consistent with markets for small businesses that remain privately owned, and quite a few modern, largely democratic, mixed economies have looked like that.

There are people around, such as Robin Hahnel, Allin Cottrell, and Pat Devine, who continue to support planning. They do so in the context either of computerized systems that instantly solve general equilibrium systems that may be used in an indicative manner, or of situations where people democratically get together to decide on what the plans should be. I question the practicality of some of these schemes, but they are not obviously anti-democratic, per se.

liberty writes:

It is very telling that ignored my entire proof and point. You are still just talking about intentions. And you have misunderstood Marx.

The "commanding heights" is the beginning, not the end of communism. Marx didn't go into specific policy details because he didn't know. Nor did Lenin. Lenin started with the commanding heights during war communism - and he tried to eliminate money and the market as he went, when it was a horrific failure, he turned it back. It is exactly what Marx would have done, he followed Marx closely. Neither Lenin nor Marx himself *wanted* to do away with democracy forever, Lenin did it in order to try to implement communism which was supposed to bring much truer democacy.

But once again, my point: you cannot have communism (worker owned means of production) without totalitarian central planning.

Prove me wrong. I gave you a theoretical reason which is support by all the experimentation into communism to date. Every attempt to move toward communism and give workers ownership of the means of production has followed exactly the route I describe. If you can tell me why a more modern, industrialized society would work any differently, please do. That was Stalin's thought, so he industrialized but post-Stalin USSR was just as totalitarian as pre-Stalin (actually more so).

So please stop ignoring my point and telling me that "Lenin was not at all like Marx, Marx wanted democracy, that was why Lenin split with people who never actually ruled and implemented communism who also said that they would be democratic if they ever came into power....".

Lenin said all the same things before he implemented communism. The fact is that you can't implement a Marxist society - worker ownership of the means of production - without a command economy and you can't have a command economy without totalitarianism.

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

Oh dear, running in circles again.

I do not know the "intentions" of either Marx or Lenin, only what they wrote and did. Lenin clearly disagreed with and acted differently from Marx in the majority of his writings regarding democracy. You say that Lenin was aiming for a truer democracy, maybe, but I find little in Lenin's writings, and even less in his actions, that suggests he had any respect for democracy whatsoever, except for his curiously non-democratic "democratic centralism."

Certainly most Marxist-Leninist "actually existing socialisms" did as you say, carried out programs of systematic and thorough-going nationalizations that were accompanied by command central planning and dictatorial rule by the central committees of unelected communist parties that widely suppressed civil liberties. Of course, except when they were not so thorough as when the Poles held back (with the apparent approval of Stalin) from collectivizing agriculture. A certain amount of private enterprise even remained in East Germany; the actual balance of these things being a very complicated matter in these countries. Very few of them actually nationalized every industry completely.

Regarding workers' management, well, there is the reverse example of Slovenia right now. It democratized out of the non-democratic former Yugoslavia. It has largely privatized most of its industries. But it continues to have a high level of workers' management and many of those privatizations took the form of the workers taking over ownership as cooperatives. I see nothing at all contradictory between such an economic structure, even if a formal state ownership remained, and democracy.

Your statement that every road to socialism followed exactly the route you claim is simply an incorrect statement. There has been a lot more variety out there than you are admitting. I do not see any point in repeating some counterexamples that have already been mentioned.

BTW, just for the record, for anybody who wants to read some of the recent arguments for how to have a planned economy that is within a democratic context, I suggest the special issue of Science and Society edited by Pat Devine, 2002, volume 66, "Building Socialism Theoretically: Alternatives to Capitalism and the Invisible Hand." Again, my bottom line is that any of these systems that involves permanent command will inevitably be non-democratic, whereas indicative planning is perfectly compatible with democracy, as the long running postwar examples of France, Japan, and India demonstrate.

liberty writes:

Since when do France, Japan, and India have worker ownership of the means of production? You have come back to citing non-socialist countries (slovenia, which has privatized everything - France which is not at all Marxist...) as examples of democracy. You still have not explained how you can have worker-ownership of the means of production and not have central planning.

Your examples of the opposite keep tending back to countries that have markets and private ownership. Private ownership is inconsistant with Marxism. Was Poland a counter-example? Was there private ownership? Was there totalitarianism? If there was no more private ownership than in Russia during the Soviet regime and yet it was not at all totalitarian, then you have provided a counter-example, but I don't think you would make this claim. Just because they did not nationalize everything doesn't mean that they were not totalitarian. I am simply asking for an example of very little market and yet freedom and democracy. Do you have one? I have explained why I think it is impossible - you only hint that there is a way to have worker-ownership of the means of production without central planning, what is it? Who has achieved it? It will be a big shock to all the economists of the past century who spent their live on this question and found that it is impossible.

I appreciate your comment, from the side of your mouth to "anybody who wants to read some of the recent arguments for how to have a planned economy that is within a democratic context" - as opposed to saying it straight to me - but I do not have access to the article. Why not give me a straight answer? How does it work? I explained my summary of the theory of why it cannot work, why not give me the same courtesy?

Finally, it is odd that you don't have knowledge of Lenin's discussion of democracy because it was a constant part of his writings and he consistantly made the Marxist argument that only communism can bring true democracy. Every other Soviet ruler made the same claim, along with every Marxist writer before he gained power.

Here is a quote from 1918:
"The dictatorship of the proletariat alone can emancipate humanity from the oppression of capital, from the lies, falsehood and hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy — democracy for the rich — and establish democracy for the poor, that is, make the blessings of democracy really accessible to the workers and poor peasants, whereas now (even in the most democratic — bourgeois — republic) the blessings of democracy are, in fact, inaccessible to the vast majority of working people."

Barkley Rosser writes:

liberty,

Hmmmm. I think you need to read a good textbook on comparative economic systems. I would suggest _Comparative Economics in a Transforming World Economy_, by J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. and Marina V. Rosser, 2nd edition, MIT Press, 2004.

So, worker-owned enterprises exist in many countries that are fully democratic have no central planning either command or indicative, and have fully functioning markets. They exist in the US in many sectors. They are called cooperatives.

You are not correct that "Slovenia has privatized everything." In fact they have been very slow to privatize, even though they democratized as of 1990-91. A majority of their capital stock remained state owned as late as the end of the 90s. I just did a google search to see if I could find the current figure and was unable to do so, but I think it is still as high as 1/4, if not 1/3.

France may not be "Marxist," but when the Socialist Mitterand engaged in France's final wave of nationalizations in the early 1980s, backed up by highly developed indicative central planning, his government included the very orthodox French Communist Party in it, which is still around and still bears its old name.

As has been mentioned now quite a few times, agriculture remained privately owned in Poland, although it was certainly not a democratic state for several decades under Communist rule.

I believe I made it clear that I have some serious questions about some of the schemes suggested in the volume edited by Devine, and that once one has command in the system, democracy will not persist. However, this has been my point all along: it is command and not either state ownership or planning that is inimical to democracy, although we have certainly seen many "actually existing socialisms" that combined all three as in the old Soviet Union and which were certainly not democratic. These are the models that you are thinking of, although they are not the only models around.

Every time I give you examples of societies that have (or have had) high levels of state ownership or high levels of indicative planning, or even high levels of workers' ownership (aka cooperatives) or workers' management that also are democratic (and have markets), you reply back "but they are not Marxist," even though Marx never clearly and explicitly called for the complete abolition of markets (although he certainly criticized them at very great length).

Now you ask how they work. Well, they work like France or India or recent Slovenia, to name a few. And some of these have had self-styled Marxist parties in power. Heck, India right now has the main Communist Party as part of the current ruling coalition, if not the leading party of the coalition, and it is certainly democratic. Communist parties have ruled in the states of Kerala and West Bengal in India for years without going totalitarian. While West Bengal has been very poor and troubled, many such as Nobelist Amartya Sen have praised Kerala as one of the best run and most humane states of India. It actually more resembles one of the Nordic social democracies in its policies than a Soviet-style command planned socialist economy.

You are right that Lenin sometimes spoke of the "dictatorship of the proletriat" as being "true democracy." I will note that one finds much more talk of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in Lenin, which in practice he associated with the central committee of the communist party serving as the "Vanguard" of, than one finds in Marx. Again, for better or worse, Marx just plain did not say all that much about what was supposed to happen under socialism. Hence, it is easy for everybody from Lenin to you to put words in his mouth or ideas in his head about the matter.

In any case, liberty, I think that I am tiring of this running around in circles. You can have the last word again. This baby is getting near scrolling off into the archives soon anyway, and I have other things I must attend to...

liberty writes:

Just because a socialist or communist party in a market society such as France gained enough seats to be Prime Minister, doesn't mean the society is following Marx. Clearly we are on different pages as to what Marx described. You think that you can interpret Marx to mean that communism can exist with markets - I don't. When I discuss the implementation of Marxism, I do not allow for private property, and nor did he. He didn't describe the details of how this would work, but he did call for abolishing markets and private property- if he had thought it through thoroughly as others have since, he would have discovered that the only way to do this is a command economy. Bucharin figured this out in the twenties, but still had hope for the change in human nature; the calculation debate in the 1930s provided many probing questions and answers, and ultimately many Socialists recognized the truth of this; many Soviet economists recognized this over the years and tried to decentralize their command economy as they knew it would always have to remain so long as it was a Socialist country.

You act as if you can have markets and private property and still call it Marxist. No, Marx described Socialism and communism very specifically as not compatibile with private property or markets.

You say :

you reply back "but they are not Marxist," even though Marx never clearly and explicitly called for the complete abolition of markets (although he certainly criticized them at very great length).

Clearly you have not read much Marx. He called for the abolition of markets and of all private property many times. It is the distinguishing feature of his system.

"In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." - Communist Manifesto, chapter 2 (see same chapeter for how without private property there is no buying and selling - no market - and also for how the communists are the vanguard of the proletarian class).

Then he lays out the first ten inroads into destrucion of rights of private property, very much the same as Lenin ordered during war communism after the revolution.

In The Principles of Communism, after the first 10 steps are described, Engels explains:

"Finally, when all capital, all production, all exchange have been brought together in the hands of the nation, private property will disappear of its own accord, money will become superfluous, and production will so expand and man so change that society will be able to slough off whatever of its old economic habits may remain."

Finally, in one paragraph they explain here nationalization of all goods (and production according to a plan):
"The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last the master of his own form of social organization, becomes at the same time the lord over Nature, his own master — free." - Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Chapter 3

This of course is all a direct result of Marx's Primitive Accumulation theory (See Capital, chapter 32) of the exploitation of the laborer by the capitalist, and his theory of surplus value.

liberty writes:

In case you are still having trouble with this basic definition of Marxism, I will give you a couple more quotes that demostrate that the main goal of communism is the abolition of private property and hence markets, replacing them with communal ownership - beginning with nationalization and then with the expected "withering away of the state" to simply communal ownership as working people. This is entirely antagonistic to private ownership and private markets. Socialized production is to be run with a rational plan, not the "chaos" and "anarchy" of the market.

Here are some more quotes:

"Agriculture, mining, manufacture, in one word, all branches of production will gradually be organized in the most effective form. National centralization of the means of production will become the natural basis of a society composed of associations of free and equal producers consciously acting upon a common and rational plan. Such is the goal to which the great economic movement of the 19th century is tending."
- The Abolition of Landed Property, 1869

And again in 1872:
"The nationalisation of land will work a complete change in the relations between labour and capital, and finally, do away with the capitalist form of production, whether industrial or rural. Then class distinctions and privileges will disappear together with the economical basis upon which they rest. To live on other people's labour will become a thing of the past. There will be no longer any government or state power, distinct from society itself! Agriculture, mining, manufacture, in one word, all branches of production, will gradually be organised in the most adequate manner. National centralisation of the means of production will become the national basis of a society composed of associations of free and equal producers, carrying on the social business on a common and rational plan. Such is the humanitarian goal to which the great economic movement of the 19th century is tending."


"With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation." - Engels, Socialism, Theoretical, 1877

See also The German Ideology, 1845

" Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one." - Address to the Communist League 1850

Article 1 of the Rules of the Communist League: "The aim of the league is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society which rests on the antagonism of classes, and the foundation of a new society without classes and without private property."

Engels: "All contradiction and doubt were finally set at rest, the new basic principles were unanimously adopted, and Marx and I were commissioned to draw up the Manifesto." This would, of course, become the Communist Manifesto.

From the Principles of Communism:
"Above all, it will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing individuals, and instead institute a system in which all these branches of production are operated by society as a whole – that is, for the common account, according to a common plan, and with the participation of all members of society.

It will, in other words, abolish competition and replace it with association.

Moreover, since the management of industry by individuals necessarily implies private property, and since competition is in reality merely the manner and form in which the control of industry by private property owners expresses itself, it follows that private property cannot be separated from competition and the individual management of industry. Private property must, therefore, be abolished and in its place must come the common utilization of all instruments of production and the distribution of all products according to common agreement – in a word, what is called the communal ownership of goods.

In fact, the abolition of private property is, doubtless, the shortest and most significant way to characterize the revolution in the whole social order which has been made necessary by the development of industry – and for this reason it is rightly advanced by communists as their main demand. ...

Society will take all forces of production and means of commerce, as well as the exchange and distribution of products, out of the hands of private capitalists and will manage them in accordance with a plan based on the availability of resources and the needs of the whole society. In this way, most important of all, the evil consequences which are now associated with the conduct of big industry will be abolished."

liberty writes:

By the way, I wanted to comment further on your idea of the participatory economy of Yogoslavia as Marxist. Again, I think you are mixing a general concept of socialism with Marxism per se. Just as France is not Marxist (even if there have been socialist Prime Minister) neither is an economy based loosely on guild socialism.

You suggest I read a comparative economics textbook - and in fact I am, though not the one you suggest - and I suggest that you read some basic texts of Marx and also some books on the Socialist economy. I can suggest a few places to start
By Marx/Engels:
The Communist Manifest
Principles of Communism
Socialism, Utopian and Scientific
Capital

On The Socialist Economy:
Economic Calculation in the Socialist Economy - Hoff
The Socialist Economic System - Nove
Socialism - Kornai

You could also read some Lenin, Hayek, Mises, Bucharin and Trotsky along with some history of the USSR such as Ulam and Pipes.

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