David R. Henderson  

North on the October Revolution

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On October 25, 1917, the October revolution, in which the Bolsheviks overthrew Kerensky's government, occurred. Gary North gives a nice encapsulation of the history and effects of Communism.

Introduction

On October 25, 1917, the precursor to the Communist Party in Russia launched a 24-hour revolution against the revolutionary government of socialist Alexander Kerensky. This became known as the October Revolution in order to distinguish it from the revolution that had overthrown the Czar the previous February. In the October Revolution, two people were killed while the revolutionaries were capturing the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government met. By the evening of October 26, it was clear just how provisional the government had been.

On August 21, 1991, eight leaders of the tattered remnants of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union launched a coup against the government of Communist Mikhail Gorbachev. They had placed him under house arrest at his dacha 900 miles away. Boris Yeltsin was visibly in charge of the existing government at what was known as the White House: the parliament building. The Communists sent in troops to remove him and his supporters. Thousands of citizens then lined up to resist the troops. The troops refused to fire on them. That ended the Communist Party's power. Three civilians were killed by armored personnel carriers.

A total of five people were killed at the beginning and the end of the Bolshevik revolution. In between, Lenin and Stalin (mainly Stalin) executed or starved at least 15 million people, according to the 2007 edition of Robert Conquest's 1968 book, The Great Terror. Conquest had initially estimated 20 million. We will never know for sure, he said in 2007.


Why North became convinced that the move away from Communism was real
Throughout the entire history of the USSR, the government changed the names of cities and towns. On the morning of December 25, 1991, Gorbachev announced on television the end of the USSR. The four-day-old Commonwealth of Independent States had replaced it, he said. He resigned as President. The Soviet flag was lowered for the last time that evening. For the next few years, the government changed the names of hundreds of Soviet cities and towns back to their pre-1917 names. The importance of this was missed by old-line American anti-Communists, some of whom insisted that the public suicide of the USSR was fake: a Communist-orchestrated deception. Those name changes persuaded me that the anti-Revolution revolution was real.

Bangladesh with missiles
The Communists took over the existing bureaucracies, and they imposed a centrally planned economy. This led to the militarization of both societies [USSR and China]. Both societies remained poor. (Journalist Richard Grenier in the mid-1980's described the USSR as Bangladesh with missiles.) Both had enormous military bureaucracies. Centralization is basic to military operations. What they did not have was output of consumer goods.

Ludwig von Mises's Insight
They resorted to a new modification of Marxism according to which it was possible for a nation to skip one of the stages of historical evolution. They shut their eyes to the fact that this new doctrine was not a modification of Marxism, but rather the denial of the last remnant which was left of it. It was an undisguised return to the pre-Marxian and anti-Marxian socialist teachings according to which men are free to adopt socialism at any time if they consider it as a system more beneficial to the commonweal than capitalism. It utterly exploded all the mysticism inwrought into dialectical materialism and in the alleged Marxian discovery of the inexorable laws of mankind's economic evolution.

The whole thing is worth reading.


Comments and Sharing






COMMENTS (7 to date)
Hellestal writes:

"He never wrote refutations of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, J. B. Say, John Stuart Mill, William Stanley Jevons, or Carl Menger. He barely or never mentioned any of them."

The first volume of Das Kapital mentions either Adam Smith or A. Smith upwards of 60 times. The second volume? Over a hundred. There are likewise mentions of Ricardo, Say, Stuart Mill, and even Bastiat, though at lower numbers.

I enjoyed reading the article, but this is a just a huge red flag for me. If North is going to argue that Marx "barely mentioned" someone he cites over 150 times, then what other errors might exist in the sections I don't know much about?

David R Henderson writes:

@Hellestal,
Thanks. I had wondered about that, which is why I didn’t quote it. But I should have said in the original post that I wondered.

IVV writes:

Although I suppose it could be argued that for the revolutions in Asia and most of Eastern Europe, would the adoption of communism in East Germany count as the Marxist revolution in an industrialized society? And would that demonstrate that Marxism as originally envisioned still wouldn't work?

IVV writes:

*it could be argued that for the revolutions in Asia and most of Eastern Europe, the industrial stage was skipped, but would...

Sorry that got left off.

David R Henderson writes:

@IVV,
I don’t think so because it wasn’t a revolution. It was a Communist takeover.

Tim Worstall writes:

" (Journalist Richard Grenier in the mid-1980's described the USSR as Bangladesh with missiles.)"

Hmm, I prefer the "Upper Volta with rockets" of Xan Smiley.....

David R Henderson writes:

@Tim Worstall,
Hmm, I prefer the "Upper Volta with rockets" of Xan Smiley.....
I like both. I’d always heard the “Upper Volta” one, but one thing I like better about the Bangladesh one is that more people have heard of Bangladesh than of Upper Volta, and so it probably would require less explanation.

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