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History / 🌍 History, The Red Giant: Rise and Fall of the USSR
« on: July 18, 2018, 12:54:49 AM »

History, The Red Giant: Rise and Fall of the USSR
A Brief History of Russia, Part 5
By Julien Paolantoni

Global Research, July 16, 2018
Region: Russia and FSU
Theme: History

Related: From the Early East Slavs to the Grand Duchy of Moscow (part 1); The Rise of a Superpower, Foundation of the Russian Empire (part 2); The Road to the Revolutions (part 3); Russian Revolutions and Civil War (part 4).

Part 4 of this series aimed at explaining how a combination of diverse economic, social and political events resulted in the successive Russian Revolutions. With the Romanov Dynasty deposed, Bolshevik leaders faced a paradox while implementing the USSR in 1922: they had to reconcile the goal of achieving political unity on an enormous scale without giving in to the temptation of systematically using authoritarian means to do so. Otherwise, a reminiscent flavor of tsarism would blow upon the newly formed government structure and fuel the angry masses’ urge for violent political change … In this perspective, the resistance faced by Red Army troops in Central Asia only one year after the creation of the USSR was symptomatic of the difficulty to rule a supranational entity. In this region, armed Islamic guerrillas known as basmachi had formed to fight the Bolshevik takeover. The Soviet government did not manage to dismantle this group entirely until 1934. [1]

The history of the USSR can essentially be broken down into five periods, each dominated by the personality of the Politburo’s leader: Leninism (1922-1924), Stalinism after a sort of second ‘Time of Troubles’ following Lenin’s death (1928-1953), De-Stalinization under Khrushchev (1953-1964), the ‘Era of Stagnation’ under Brezhnev (1964-1982) and liberal reform attempts under Gorbachev (1985-1991).

The chief goal of this series being to propose a global and balanced analysis regarding Russia’s stance in international relations on a long-term horizon, less attention will be given to some otherwise important events in domestic affairs.  First, a short discussion of the USSR’s ideology and its evolution is necessary to understand soviet foreign policy.

Ideology and Objectives of the USSR on the International Stage

The core theory of Soviet foreign policy was set forth in Lenin’s Decree on Peace, adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets in November 1917. It asserts the dual nature of the USSR’s foreign policy, which intends to be a mix of both ‘proletarian internationalism’ and ‘peaceful coexistence’.  Directly stemming from Marxist theory, the former refers to the working classes’ worldwide struggle to overthrow the bourgeois State in order to establish communist regimes. The latter is a doctrine coined by Khrushchev whose goal is to ensure pacified bilateral relations with capitalist states. The support provided to peoples struggling for independence in the Third World was in line with the first pillar of Soviet foreign policy but it did so at the cost of increasing difficulty for the second one to be a stable reality in international relations. [2]

Although priorities were subject to change, two basic goals of Soviet foreign policy remained constant: maintaining influence over Eastern Europe (since the late 1940s) and ensuring national security through the maintenance of adequate military forces and internal control within the Communist Party. [3] To achieve the latter goal, the Soviet Union focused on its relations with the United States, leader of the Western bloc. Relations with Eastern Europe (the other members of the Warsaw Pact) and Western Europe (the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—NATO) came in second position regarding foreign policy priorities. Finally, a lesser degree of importance was given to Japan and some states located along the southern border of the Soviet Union (especially China, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey which is a NATO member. Other regions received marginal attention, except those bordering strategic naval straits or sea lanes, or providing opportunities to establish strategic bases.

Generally speaking, until the 1980s Soviet foreign policy had been most concerned with balance of power between members of the Warsaw Pact and those of NATO, then Soviet leaders pursued improved relations with all regions of the world. [3]

Political Structure of the Soviet Union

The new nation included four constituent republics: the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian SFSR (which was comprised of today’s Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia).

In 1924, a constitution was ratified and it established a federal system of government based on a succession of soviets set up in villages, factories, and cities in larger regions. In each constituent republic, this pyramid of soviets culminated in the All-Union Congress of Soviets. This body was supposed to exercise sovereign power, but in reality it was governed by the Communist Party, which in turn was controlled by the Politburo from Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union. The October Revolution had shifted the center of power back to the Third Rome, just as it had been under the tsars before Peter the Great. [4]

A New Economic Policy (NEP)

From 1917 to 1921, the Bolshevik Revolution knew a period of consolidation known as ‘war communism’.  Mass nationalizations were carried out over land, industry, and small businesses. Unrests followed shortly afterwards, as peasants wanted cash payments for their products and protested having to surrender their surplus grain to the government in the context of civil war policies.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was designed by Lenin precisely to answer peasant opposition, by including a few capitalistic features on the commodity market: to name a few, peasants were allowed to sell their surplus production on the open market and freed from wholesale levies of grain. Besides, commerce was stimulated by permitting private retail trading while the state continued to be responsible for heavy industry, banking, transportation and public utilities. The program proved highly beneficial and the economy revived through increased trade. However, following Lenin’s death in early 1924 the NEP came under increasing opposition within the party, as rich peasants (kulaks) were accused of betraying the Revolution. [5]

Russian Society in Upheaval

While the Russian economy underwent significant changes, social life was being transformed in an equally important manner. The main features of this evolution will be briefly discussed in the following paragraphs.

First, the new regime implemented a ‘sovietization’ policy on minority groups living in the USSR. It can be defined as the adoption of Soviet-like institutions, laws, customs and traditions in order to create a common way of life in all States within the Soviet sphere of influence. To further advance cohesion in the new nation, medical services were extended, which was also necessary to increase productivity and keep a viable army. Notable medical campaigns included those against cholera, typhus and malaria. Public investments were made to develop medical facilities and medicine was defined as a priority field of education by the central government.

These efforts combined with the economic benefits of the NEP helped decreasing infant mortality rates and increasing life expectancy. [6]

In accordance with marxism, the government also promoted atheism. Its objective was to break the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, a major barrier to social change and a former pillar of the tsarist regime. This policy was implemented in a mainly repressive way: many religious leaders were sent to internal exile camps and members of the party were forbidden to attend religious services. Meanwhile, the education system was separated from the Church to keep control over teaching materials. [7]

Besides, the role of women slowly began to change:  abortion was legalized as early as 1920 while divorce no longer required court procedure. The gradual emancipation of women led them to get an education and pursue a career. It became possible after efforts were made to shift the center of people’s social life from home to educational and recreational groups, called the ‘soviet clubs’. [8]

However, the 1929-1939 decade was particularly tumultuous due to massive industrialization and internal struggles as Stalin eventually managed to establish near total control over Soviet society. Indeed, following Lenin’s death in 1924 Stalin wrestled to gain control of the Soviet Union with rival factions in the Politburo, especially Trotsky’s. By 1928, most Trotskyists were either exiled or rendered powerless as a result of Stalin’s rise as the unchallenged leader of the USSR. [9]

One year later, he proposed the First Five-Year Plan, thereby abolishing the NEP:  key components of the policy program were shifting the economy’s center of gravity to heavy industry, restrictions on the manufacture of consumer goods and collectivization of agriculture. For the first time in history, a government had complete control over all national economic activity. [10]

With a clear focus on Ukraine, the Soviet government took control of agriculture through State and collective farms (kolkhozes). In February 1930, a decree forced about one million individual peasants (kulaks) off their land. Many of them slaughtered their own herds when faced with the loss of their land, among other types of protest, which resulted in countless executions. The combination of harsh weather, dysfunction of the hastily established collective farms, and massive confiscation of grain produced a serious famine, which killed several million peasants, mostly in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and parts of southwestern Russia. The deteriorating conditions in the countryside fueled an uncontrolled urbanization. [11]

Meanwhile, the political police (NKVD) carried out tens of thousands of arrests, deportations and executions on behalf of Stalin, thus reminding Soviet citizens the worst times of autocratic rule under tsars Ivan IV, Nicholas I and Alexander III, certainly even surpassing them. Besides, the five original members of the 1917 Politburo who survived Lenin (Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sokolnikov and Bubnov) were all purged by Stalin. Old Bolsheviks who had stayed loyal to Lenin, high officers in the Red Army, and directors of industry were liquidated in the Great Purges under the command of NKVD’s director Yezhov (known as the ‘Bloody Dwarf’). The total of people imprisoned or executed during the ‘Reign of Yezhov’ (Yezhovschina) amounted to about two million [12]

At the climax of Stalin’s paranoia, many citizens were prosecuted for fictitious crimes including sabotage and espionage, inspiring major pamphlets such as Kafka’s masterpiece The Trial. In any case, the labor provided by inmates working in the labor camps of the Gulag system became an important component of the industrialization effort, especially in Siberia. Indeed, an estimated 18 million people passed through the Gulag system, while it is argued that another 15 million had experienced some other form of forced labor. [13]

Soviet Union’s Stance on the International Stage before World War II

Several distinct phases occurred in Soviet foreign policy between the conclusion of the Russian Civil War and the Nazi-Soviet Non Aggression Pact in 1939. Each was partly influenced by political struggles within the USSR and partly driven by dynamic developments in international relations and their effect on Soviet security.

Red guard unit of the Vulkan factory in Petrograd. (Source: Public Domain)

Lenin believed that the October Revolution would ignite a ‘World Socialist Revolution’. The Communist International (Comintern) was set up precisely to export revolution to the rest of Europe and Asia. [14]

The first priority for Soviet foreign policy was Europe, especially Germany, which was the country that Lenin considered most ready for revolution. According to Robert Service, Bolshevik leaders had a very idealized picture of Germany and Lenin was extremely disappointed when the October Revolution did not bring about a similar revolution there as he had expected. Shortly after, in March 1918, Russia ended its participation in World War I by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) at an enormous territorial cost (see previous part of this series). Afterwards, a new foreign policy doctrine emerged, according to which Russia should seek both a pragmatic co-operation with Western powers when it suited its interests and the promotion of a Communist revolution abroad whenever possible, based on Lenin’s critique of imperialism. [15]

However, the Russian Civil War required using the bulk of the country’s military resources. Therefore, Lenin could not send the Red Army into Central Europe in 1919 to export Communism. By the way, his approach was quite paradoxical: on one hand, he supported the right of nations to self-determination in western colonies but on the other hand he discarded this possibility for peoples that were in the Russian sphere of influence and was ready to use force to spread the communist ideology. After realizing that capitalism was not going to collapse at once as he had hoped, Lenin made a major effort in the early 1920s to increase German foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Soviet Union as a way of modernizing the country. In order to form a German-Soviet alliance, the Soviets signed the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922, under which each renounced all territorial and financial claims against the other following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. [16]

One year before, the revolutionary era ended after Russia’s defeat in the war with Poland. As European revolutions were crushed, the Bolsheviks shifted their ideological focus from the world revolution to building socialism inside the Soviet Union, while keeping some of the rhetoric and operations of the Comintern continuing. In the mid-1920s, a policy of peaceful co-existence began to emerge, with Soviet diplomats concluding bilateral agreements with Western governments, including one with Germany (Treaty of Rapallo, 1922). [17]

However, there were still members of the Soviet government who kept arguing for the continuation of the revolutionary process, especially Trotsky with his theory of Permanent Revolution. After Lenin’s death in 1924, two rival sides faced each other in the Politburo: Trotsky and the internationalists were opposed by Stalin and Bukharin, who developed the concept of Socialism in One Country. In the field of foreign policy, Permanent Revolution gave birth to the United Front, which consisted in convincing foreign Communists to enter into alliances with liberal reformist parties and national liberation movements of all kinds. It became a source of bitter dispute with Trotsky, who received support from some influential American corporations in his struggle against Stalin. [18]

In 1928, after defeating Trotsky, Zinoviev and Bukharin in the power race for control of the Politburo, Stalin formulated a new doctrine in the International called Third Period, which argued that social-democracy was a form of social fascism, socialist in theory but fascist in practice. All foreign Communist parties were to concentrate their efforts in a struggle against their rivals in the working-class movement, thereby ruling out the possibility of united fronts against a greater enemy. The direct result of this policy was the destruction of the German Communist Party (one of the strongest in Europe, along with its Italian and French counterparts) after Hitler’s election in 1933. Soviet-German cooperation, which had been extensive until then, was now limited. [19]

Litvinov, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs between 1930 and 1939, aimed at closer alliances with Western governments and placed ever greater emphasis on collective security. That’s why the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations in 1934 and concluded alliances with France and Czechoslovakia. In the League, the Soviets were always prompt to demand action against ‘imperialist aggressions’, especially in the wake of the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which eventually resulted in the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkhin Gol. However, against the rise of fascism, the League was unlikely to accomplish anything mainly due to the lack of sanction power and heavy financing of fascist regimes by a handful of major Western banks and corporations, including Ford, IBM or Brown Brothers Harriman & Co (one of the bank’s partner being Prescott Bush). [20]

In this context, Litvinov and others in the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs continued to conduct diplomatic initiatives with anti-communist Nazi Germany, while the USSR supported the Popular Front government in Spain in order to try preserving the Second Republic from the 1936 Fascist rebellion led by Franco. Two years later, Germany annexed Austria and the Munich Agreement could be seen as the first stage in the dismantlement of Czechoslovakia, for Germany, Hungary and Poland divided parts of the country between themselves without opposition from other Western powers.

Consequently, the Soviets feared that they were likely to be abandoned as well should a war with Germany occur. Besides, between 1938 and 1939 the Soviet Union had to fight against Imperial Japan in the Russian Far East, which led to Soviet-Japanese neutrality and the tense border peace that lasted until August 1945.

In May 1939, Litvinov was replaced by Molotov after failing to adopt a common stance with Great Britain and France about Germany. From now on, the Soviets no longer sought collective but individual security through modernization of its army and the non-aggression pact signed with Nazi Germany known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The USSR thereby thought to protect itself from the most aggressive European power while also managing to spread its sphere of influence by dividing Eastern Europe with Germany: the latter was to receive Western Poland and Lithuania while the USSR was to take control of Eastern Poland, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Bessarabia (the bulk of which is now part of Moldova, whereas the southern regions bordering the Black Sea and the northernmost regions are part of Ukraine). Some territories that had been lost by Soviet Russia in the aftermath of WWI (Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 1918) were therefore in the process of being recovered in the wake of the second world conflict … [21]

Soviet Foreign Policy during World War II

On 17 September 1939, seventeen days after the start of World War II by the German invasion of Poland, the Red Army advanced into eastern portions of the latter country stating the ‘cessation of existence’ of the Polish State as the justification of this action combined with the ‘need to protect Ukrainians and Belarusians’ there. As a consequence, the Ukrainian and Belarusian’s western borders changed dramatically and the new Soviet western border was drawn close to the original Curzon line. [22]

Meanwhile, the negotiations with Finland about the Soviet-proposed redrawing of the Soviet-Finnish border further away from Leningrad failed. In retaliation, the USSR started a campaign against Finland in December 1939, known as the Winter War (1939–40). It resulted in a heavy death toll on the Red Army but forced Finland to sign the Moscow Peace Treaty and to cede the Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia. [23]

Then, in the summer of 1940 the USSR issued an ultimatum to Romania to force it to cede the territories of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. At the same time, the Soviet Union also occupied the three formerly independent Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). [24]

After ignoring repeated warnings by senior officials including Molotov (Commissar for Foreign Affairs), Timoshenko (Commissar for Defense) and Zhukov (Chief of Staff of the Red Army), Stalin was stunned when Hitler invaded the USSR in June 1941. Following a series of summit meetings, the Soviet leader came to terms with Great-Britain and the United States. The later massively supplied war materials through the Lend Lease policy. [25]

By the autumn, the Wehrmacht had seized Ukraine, besieged Leningrad (Saint Petersburg), and threatened to capture Moscow. In December 1941, thanks to a successful counterattack the Red Army threw off the German forces from Moscow but the Nazis had still enough resources for approximately another year and carried out a deep offensive in the south-eastern direction, reaching the Volga and the Caucasus. The turning point of the entire World War happened to be the battle of Stalingrad (now Volvograd, in Southern Russia) for Germans never regained the ability to sustain offensive operations on the Eastern Front and the Soviet Union recaptured the initiative for the rest of the conflict. Lasting a little over five months, it is often regarded as the single largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. It is estimated that the Axis suffered around 850,000 total casualties (killed, wounded and captured) among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies, while the USSR suffered 1,129,619 total casualties according to official archives. [26]

Red Army soldiers display a captured Finnish banner, March 1940 (Source: Public Domain)

By the end of 1943, the Red Army managed to break through the siege of Leningrad, had freed much of Western Russia and Ukraine and was moving into Belarus. One year later, the Eastern Front had moved beyond the 1939 frontiers of the USSR and Soviet forces began to drive into Eastern Germany, eventually capturing Berlin in May 1945.

The last Soviet battle of World War II occurred in Manchuria three months after Victory Day in Europe, where the USSR defeated the Japanese troops. World War II casualties amounted to around 27 million people for the Soviet Union, which corresponds to about half of the war’s total casualties. [27]

Although the Soviet Union was victorious in World War II, its economy was devastated. Over 1,700 towns were destroyed. In occupied territories, thirteen million Soviet citizens suffered from mass murders, deportation, slave labor, famine and absence of elementary medical aid while the Gulag system and collectivization produced similar results in other parts of the Union. The Nazi Genocide led to the almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population over the entire territory occupied by Germany and its allies, while Leningrad’s region and Belarus lost respectively around a quarter and between a quarter and a third of their population. Moreover, out of 5.5 million Soviet prisoners of war 3.6 million died in German camps. [28]

Cold War and the Emergence of a Dual World

The latent conflict between American and Soviet national interests known as the Cold War, came to dominate the international stage in the postwar period. It emerged in July 1945 during the Potsdam Conference, when Stalin and Truman discussed the future of Eastern Europe. Key provisions of the Potsdam agreement included:

    Denazification of the German society by removing from positions of power those who had been members of the Nazi Party and by disbanding the organizations associated with this ideology.
    Demilitarization of the German arms industry and former Wehrmacht forces.
    Democratization by restoring freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the press, resulting in the formation of new political parties and trade unions.
    Decentralization, which would ultimately lead to German federalism. At that time, Germany was divided into four occupation zones following the Yalta Agreement: the Western part of the country was split between the United States, Great Britain and France while the Eastern one was handed down to the Soviet Union.
    Reparation payments from Germany to the USSR.
    Establishment of a Provisional Government of National Unity in Poland. [29]

Stalin aimed at establishing a buffer zone of states between Germany and the Soviet Union, for Russia had suffered three devastating Western invasions during the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War. He was also buying time, as the Soviet atomic bomb project was steadily progressing in secret to offset the American monopoly in this field following completion of the Manhattan Project led by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. To maintain technological advantage over the USSR, the US government hired top-level former Nazi scientists as part of Operation Paperclip in the immediate aftermath of the war, especially for its space program. Some of the most influential scientists recruited through this policy include Wernher von Braun (inventor of the V-2 rocket and the Saturn V launch vehicle, used on the Apollo space program), Ernst Stuhlinger (developed guidance systems with von Braun’s team on behalf of the US Army), Georg von Tiesenhausen (credited with the first complete design of the Lunar Rover), Eberhard Rees (became the second director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center), Walter Schreiber (one of the foremost experts in epidemiology at the time, invited to the US after WWI when the Federal government first sought to assess the feasibility of using biological warfare agents in future military conflicts) and Hans K. Ziegler (a pioneer in the field of communication satellites who ultimately became Director of the US Army Electronics Technology & Devices Laboratory). [30]

On the other side, Truman accused Stalin of betraying the Yalta Agreement, as the Red Army occupied Eastern Europe. Indeed, in Yalta Stalin pledged to permit free elections in Poland but political repression was implemented instead, culminating in the ‘Trial of the Sixteen’. The Government Delegate, together with most members of the Council of National Unity and the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Army, which was the main Polish resistance movement in World War II, were invited by Soviet general Serov to a conference on their eventual entry to the Provisional Government. It was an ambush, for they were arrested by the NKVD under the command of Beria and brought to Moscow where they were tortured and presented with false accusations, including collaboration with Nazi Germany and propaganda against the USSR. As reported by Montefiore, Beria was introduced by Stalin to Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference as ‘our Himmler’, which gives a rather precise idea of his importance in the Soviet police State and the level of cruelty he achieved to deserve this title. [31]
Video: How the U.S. Caused the Breakup of the Soviet Union

A puppet government was installed in Poland exactly during the trial in March 1945, while other occupied countries would soon be converted into satellite States as well (Hungary and Czechoslovakia in Central Europe; Romania, Bulgaria and Albania in the Balkans). As a result, Soviet foreign policy was arguably at least as focused on maintaining hegemony over Eastern Europe as it was on enhancing of national security at that time. Soviet foreign policy was famously denounced by Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in 1946. [32]

In March 1947, the Truman Doctrine was formulated to expressly ‘contain’ Soviet imperialism, thereby marking the official start of the Cold War. It can be defined as the ideological struggle between the US and the USSR for the defense of their respective hegemonic spheres of influence and for the planetary domination of the socio–economic system each advocated. As a result, States were divided into three groups: the First World comprised the United States and their allies; the Second World was made of the USSR, their allies and China; whereas the Third World was defined as the sum of neutral and non-aligned countries. The latter term was coined by Sauvy, a French demographer in reference to the three estates in pre-revolutionary France, the first two estates being the nobility and clergy with everybody else comprising the third estate. He thus compared the capitalist world to the nobility and the communist world to the clergy, while all the countries that were not included in this Cold War division were called the Third World. [33]

In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in the wake of the Berlin blockade by Soviet forces one year before as a mutual defense pact between most Western nations whereby an armed attack against one nation would be considered as an assault on all. The same year, the U.S. nuclear monopoly ended and the Communist revolution occurred in China, giving a more global scope to the opposition between Eastern and Western blocs.

In 1955, an Eastern counterpart to NATO known as the Warsaw Pact was established following the Zhdanov Doctrine (1946), which opposed the ‘democratic’ and ‘imperialistic’ worlds headed respectively by the USSR and the US, whose main outcome has been control of cultural production within the Soviet Union. Political order within satellite States was to be maintained by force, the most famous examples of this policy being the quelling of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, later followed by the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Solidarity movement (Solidarnosc) in Poland in the early 1980s. [34]

De-Stalinization and ‘Peaceful Coexistence’ under Khrushchev

Image result for Khrushchev

Stalin died in March 1953, succeeded by Khrushchev as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) with Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union. However, the central figure in the immediate post-Stalin period was Beria, First Deputy Premier and former head of the NKVD, forming the ruling ‘troika’ with Molotov and Malenkov until his death in December of the same year. Against all odds, Beria initiated a period of relative liberalization including the release of some political prisoners and allowing criticism of Stalin, to the extent that his dictatorship betrayed the principles laid down by Lenin. In addition, the Baltic States were given prospects of national autonomy. In science, the world’s first nuclear power plant was established in Obninskin (near Moscow) in 1954.

However, other Politburo members feared Beria for his role under Stalin and had him arrested. At the end of the year, he was shot following a show trial where he was accused of spying for the West, committing sabotage, and plotting to restore capitalism. The secret police were disarmed and reorganized into the KGB, so that they remained under complete control of the party. Khrushchev emerged as the key figure in the post-Beria period. [35]

During the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU (1956), Khrushchev shocked the audience with a speech entitled ‘On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences’ which also mentioned the crimes committed by Stalin’s closest associates, thereby stripping the legitimacy of the remaining Stalinist faction. The main consequence of Khrushchev’s takeover was the liberation of millions of political prisoners: the Gulag population declined from 13 million in 1953 to 5 million in 1957. It was part of a larger shift in political, economic and cultural life in the Soviet Union known as “The Thaw”, especially important regarding industrial policy which now put more emphasis on producing commodity goods, allowing living standards to rise dramatically while maintaining high levels of economic growth. [36]

Besides, he advocated a new foreign policy doctrine called ‘Peaceful Coexistence’ whereby the orthodox view of war between the capitalist and communist worlds ceased to be seen as inevitable. In a perfect Marxist tradition, he argued that competition with the West rather than outright hostility would be sufficient given that capitalism would decay from within, thereby expressing a political counterpart to the ‘tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ in economics.

However, Khrushchev made clear that if Western countries desired war, the Soviet Union would fight back. Obviously, the same hold true for satellite countries in Central and Eastern Europe: as a result of the censorship easing, some critics were voiced in the arts and public spheres, tolerated as long they did not break into riots such as in Poland in the summer of 1956. When the local communist party elected Gomułka without consulting the Kremlin in October of the same year, it almost triggered a Soviet invasion. Due to Gomułka’s popularity, a deal was made instead: Poland was to remain a member of the Warsaw Pact but the USSR granted itself the right to intervene in its neighbors’ domestic and external affairs. The next month saw a way more brutal solution enforced, as the Hungarian Revolution was crushed by Soviet troops resulting in around 2,500–3,000 casualties, while nearly a quarter million left the country as refugees.

Then, in 1957 Khrushchev defeated a Stalinist coup by the so-called “Anti-Party Group”. However, none of the plotters were killed or even arrested, including the leaders: Malenkov was sent to manage a power station in Kazakhstan while Molotov was named ambassador to Mongolia and later became the Soviet representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. [37]

Regarding diplomacy, Khrushchev also introduced a significant shift for he began reaching out to newly independent countries in Africa and Asia (in sharp contrast to Stalin’s Europe-centered foreign policy) and also became the first Soviet leader to visit the US, in September 1959.  Scientific research focused on space technology and weaponry combined to aid to developing countries maintained the USSR as one of the world’s two major world powers. The most notable accomplishments of the Soviet space program were launching the first artificial Earth satellite in history (Sputnik 1), which orbited the Earth in 1957, taking the first photo of the far side of the Moon (1959), launching the first probe to another planet (Venera 1, which approached Venus in 1961), sending the first man into space (Gagarin) that same year and carrying out the first spacewalk (Leonov) four years later. [38]

Other Reforms and Khrushchev’s Fall

Connected with the decentralization of industry and agriculture was Khrushchev’s decision in 1962 to recast party organizations along economic rather than administrative lines. The resulting shift of the party apparatus at the province (oblast) level and below discontented many party officials at all levels. In 1963, the abandonment of Khrushchev’s special seven-year economic plan (1959–65) two years short of its completion was symptomatic of the country’s economic difficulties and bureaucratic struggles. [39]

In defense policy, Khrushchev decided to cut military expenditures, arguing that the Soviet nuclear arsenal was an adequate deterrent to outside aggression contrary to the opinion of key figures in the Soviet military establishment. Besides, the ongoing crisis in Berlin reached its climax with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 under initiative of the East German authorities in reaction to mass emigration, especially skilled workers. Overall, it is estimated that approximately 20% of the entire East German population had left by 1961, i.e 3.5 million people. An important reason the West Berlin border was not closed earlier was that doing so would have cut off much of the railway traffic in East Germany. In 1961 precisely, the Berlin outer ring (a new railway bypassing West Berlin) was completed … [40]

By 1964, Khrushchev’s prestige had been seriously damaged in a number of key areas.

First, even though industrial production, consumer goods and living standards were still growing at a fast pace, the agricultural sector faced a bad harvest in 1963, significantly decreasing agricultural production.

Abroad, the Sino-Soviet split which began in 1960 coupled with the Berlin and Cuban Missile Crisis (respectively 1961 and 1962) were seen as political liabilities for the Soviet leader, especially in the military. Regarding relations with China, the major factors explaining their deterioration are Mao Zedong’s rejection of peaceful coexistence (perceived as Marxist revisionism) and the destalinization policy combined with competition between the two Eastern powers to control Asian communist parties.

Furthermore, Khrushchev was subject of a growing personality cult, which was especially noticeable at the celebration of his 70th birthday in 1964 and he constantly travelled abroad, which made it easier for plots to be formed against him. Indeed, in October 1964 he was unanimously voted out of office while he was on holiday in Crimea and replaced by Brezhnev as First Secretary. [41]

The Brezhnev Era (1964-1982)

This period is often called the ‘Era of Stagnation’ (a formula coined by Gorbachev) due to poor economic performance during the second part of Brezhnev’s rule.

It began with high economic growth and soaring prosperity as measured by GDP per capita, which grew at a steady pace of 3.5% per annum from 1964 to 1973 (slightly less than in the last years of Khrushchev’s rule) following a significant development of higher education and the ‘Kosygin reform’ (1965-1970). Besides, consumption per capita rose by an estimated 70% under Brezhnev but roughly three quarters of this growth happened in the first half of the period.

The main features of Kosygin’s plan were a decentralizing of the enterprise incentive system (including wider usage of capitalist-style material incentives for good performance) combined with the empowerment of several central ministries which had lost influence under Khrushchev. Nevertheless, this unachieved decentralization created administrative obstacles, one of the most important being price setting by central administrators.

The period ended with a much weaker Soviet Union facing major economic, social and political struggles mainly due to inertia, massive corruption (data falsification became common practice among bureaucrats to report satisfied targets and quotas to the government), a reverse move towards full-scale central planning and the Nixon Shock (1973) which resulted in massive currency volatility following the unilateral cancellation of the direct convertibility of the US dollar to gold. Moreover, diseases were on the rise because of the decaying health care system, while the average living space remained below First World standards (about 13 square meters per capita) and homelessness also become an urging social issue. Most importantly, during Brezhnev’s rule life expectancy decreased by nearly five years whereas Soviet citizens used to enjoy a higher average than their American counterparts in 1962. Poor agricultural output performances were a prime explanation of this phenomenon and by Brezhnev’s final year, food shortages reached disturbing levels of frequency. Despite the utter failure of collective farming, the Soviet government remained committed to reducing food imports from the West, even cheaper commodities. They did so not only for reasons of national pride, but out of fear of becoming dependent on capitalist countries for basic necessities. Particularly embarrassing to the regime was the fact that even bread had become rationed, although its availability was a priority of economic policy. [42]

Pollution and environmental damage became a growing concern especially where the government carried out nuclear weapons testing, such as in Kazakhstan. On the other hand, the USSR was able to keep its superpower status thanks to the military buildup of the 1960’s and achieved inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) parity with the United States in 1966. [43]

Charged with the failure of his reforms, Khrushchev was also criticized for his autocratic rule and disregard for Party institutions. The new government was rather of bureaucratic nature, with four key advisors to the First Secretary forming together a collective leadership:  Kosygin as Chairman of the Council of Ministers (‘Premier’), Suslov as Chief Ideologue, Kirilenko as organizational secretary and Mikoyan as Chairman of the Politburo. [44]

Kosygin was replaced by Podgorny when it was decided in high spheres that his economic reform program was no longer suitable. As early as 1970, Brezhnev started conspiring against the new Premier because of his rank as first in the Soviet diplomatic protocol. However, his attempts remained unsuccessful for much of the period because of a lack of support in the Politburo, since the removal of Podgorny would have meant weakening the power of the collective leadership itself. Brezhnev’s tolerance of critics from Yugoslavia and his disarmament talks with Western powers, were not policies which pleased hardline Soviet officials either. According to Robert Service, even if Brezhnev talked of the need to ‘renew’ the party cadres, his ‘self-interest discouraged him from putting an end to the immobilism he detected. He did not want to risk alienating lower-level officialdom.’ Indeed, the Politburo saw the policy of stabilization as the only way to avoid returning to Stalin’s purges and Khrushchev’s re-organization of Party-Government institutions. [45]

In 1977, the First Secretary eventually managed to secure enough backing in the Politburo to oust Podgorny from office, while also stopping increases in military investments at the level deemed sufficient to protect national security, a policy that would be maintained under Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev. [46]

During his rule, Brezhnev was also the Chairman of the Constitutional Commission of the Supreme Soviet, which worked on drafting a new constitution. The resulting document can be seen as proof of the limits of de-Stalinization, in the sense that it enhanced the status of the individual in all matters of life, while at the same time solidifying the Party’s hold on power. In late 1977, the Politburo established a new position of ‘First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet’ (thereby reaching a new height in bureaucratic wording), a post similar to a ‘vice-president’, to cope with Brezhnev’s deteriorated health condition. The 76 year-old Kuznetsov was unanimously approved for this job and the collective leadership took an even more important role in everyday decision-making. At that time, the Soviet government turned into a gerontocracy, i.e the rulers were significantly older than most of the adult population (the average age of the Politburo’s members was 71 years old in 1981). For this reason, Brezhnev’s death in 1982 did not alter the balance of power in any meaningful way: Andropov and Chernenko, respectively chairman of the KGB and second to the General Secretary, were obliged by protocol to rule the country in the same fashion as Brezhnev left it. Towards the end of his life, the latter was more focused on developing his own cult of personality than ruling the USSR, and awarded himself the highest military decorations. The height of absurdity was reached when a ‘Lenin Prize for Literature’ was awarded to Brezhnev’s ‘trilogy’, three auto-biographical novels … In 1980, Kosygin died one day before Brezhnev’s birthday and the media (including Pravda) postponed the reporting of his death until after the First Secretary’s birthday celebration. [47]

As for Soviet dissidents and human rights groups, political repression by the KGB tightened during the Brezhnev era. The two leading figures in the dissident movement during the period were Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. The former, author of the pamphlets One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) and The Gulag Archipelago (1973) was forced out of the country in 1974; the latter was forced into internal exile in 1979. The Brezhnev regime also became infamously notorious for using psychiatry as a means of silencing dissent. Many intellectuals, religious figures, and generally speaking anyone protesting their low standard of living were at risk of being ruled clinically insane. For example, it happened in 1978 to Klebanov, who led a group of unemployed miners trying to form a labor union and demanding collective bargaining.

In the religious sphere, Orthodox churches were staffed by docile clergy often tied to the KGB while minority faiths continued to be harassed (especially Islam in the Central Asian republics, were authorities feared a rise of political instability in the wake of the 1979 revolution in Iran). [48]

In technology, the USSR did not follow the path of advanced economies which were moving to computerization after 1965. Central authorities took the poor decision to copy the IBM 360 of 1965, which locked scientists into an outdated system they were unable to improve. Besides, they had major difficulties in manufacturing chips reliably and in quantity, and also in programming efficient softwares. [49]

However, the Soviet Union became a leading producer and exporter of petroleum and natural gas in the 1960’s. In 1972, the Ba’ath Party nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company and the Vice President of Iraq (Saddam Hussein) negotiated a trade agreement and a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union to soften the anticipated loss of revenue. The alliance forced the Ba’athist government to temporarily stop their prosecution of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which was even awarded two ministries. When world oil prices quadrupled in the 1973-74, it turned the energy sector into the key driver of the Soviet economy, and was used to cover multiple weaknesses. Kosygin once told the head of oil and gas production: ‘things are bad with bread. Give me 3 million tons [of oil] over the plan’ … [50]

According to Gaidar (Prime minister of Russia in 1992 and architect of the ill-advised ‘shock therapy’): ‘The hard currency from oil exports stopped the growing food supply crisis, increased the import of equipment and consumer goods, ensured a financial base for the arms race and the achievement of nuclear parity with the United States, and permitted the realization of such risky foreign-policy actions as the war in Afghanistan.’ [51]

Regarding foreign relations, the early part of the era was characterized by the easing of strained relations between the two blocs known as Détente, which materialized in arms control and trade agreements, notably the SALT I treaty (1972). It was made possible by a more complicated pattern of international relations in which some less powerful States (the non-aligned countries such as Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Yugoslavia or Congo), had more room to assert their independence thus contributing to the emergence of a less polarized world.

Brandt’s ascension to the West German chancellorship in 1969 was equally critical to this diplomatic success. Brandt’s Ostpolitik (i.e ‘new eastern policy’) contributed to the signing of the Moscow and Warsaw Treaties in which West Germany stopped contesting the state borders established following World War II, thereby recognizing East Germany as an independent state. However, the Soviet leadership’s policy towards the Eastern Bloc did not change much with Khrushchev’s replacement, as the States of Eastern Europe were seen as a buffer zone between the Soviet Union’s borders and NATO countries. The leader of Hungary (Kádár) initiated a series of economic reforms similar to Kosygin’s program while Gomułka’s successor in Poland (Gierek) tried to revitalize the local economy by borrowing money from the First World. Both experiments were approved by the Soviet leadership since it was trying to reduce its large Eastern Bloc subsidy program in the form of cheap oil and gas exports. Dubček’s political and economic liberalization policies in Czechoslovakia did not receive the same kind of support however to say the least, which points out once again the incoherent nature of the Soviet decision-making process. In the aftermath of the 1968 invasion, the Brezhnev Doctrine was introduced, stating that the Soviet Union had the right to intervene in any socialist country on the road to communism provided that said country is deviating from the communist norm of development. [52]

In the Far East, Sino-Soviet relations did not improve significantly after Khrushchev’s rule. Brezhnev offered a non-aggression pact to China, but it was rejected because its terms included a renunciation of China’s territorial claims. In 1972, Nixon’s visit to Beijing aimed at restoring relations with the PRC only confirmed Soviet fears of collusion between its neighbor and the leader of the Western bloc. In short, relations between Moscow and Beijing remained extremely hostile through the entire decade of the 1970’s, even after Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. After Brezhnev’s death, the Soviet leadership actively pursued a soothed foreign policy with China.

The 1975 Helsinki Accords (a Soviet-led initiative) were disappointing in that they were not binding as they did not have treaty status. Notable sections included Sovereign equality (I), ‘Refraining from the threat or use of force’ (II), Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (VII) and Equal rights and self-determination of peoples (VIII). Ford reaffirmed that the US non-recognition policy of the Baltic States’ forced incorporation into the Soviet Union had not changed.

Additionally, relations between the USSR and Iraq soured in 1976 when the Iraq Ba’athist regime started a mass campaign against the ICP. Despite pleas from Brezhnev for clemency, several Iraqi communists were executed publicly [53]

In Southeast Asia, Khrushchev had initially supported North Vietnam out of ‘fraternal solidarity’, but as the war escalated he urged the North Vietnamese leadership to give up the quest of liberating South Vietnam and advised them to enter negotiations in the United Nations Security Council. With Brezhnev in power, economic and military assistance to the communist resistance in Vietnam resumed and it even became the cornerstone of local socio-economic activity in the post-war period. It is estimated that in the early 1980’s 20 to 30% of the rice consumed in Vietnam was supplied by the USSR. The Soviet Union also backed the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia (1978) and the ensuing puppet government, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). When Carter complained to Brezhnev about the presence of Vietnamese troops in Cambodia during a 1979 summit, Brezhnev replied that the citizens of Cambodia were ‘delighted’ about the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge government, which was obvious. [54]

In 1980, Détente ended when the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Saur Revolution (1979) was denounced by Carter in his State of the Union address as the ‘most serious danger to peace since 1945’, according to his National Security Adviser (Brzezinski). The USSR had backed the previous regime under Mohammed Daoud Khan, also supported by the Parcham faction of the Afghan communist party. However it was the competing Khalq faction that designed the coup and subsequently took over the country, with Taraki as both President and Prime Minister, while Amin became the Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan. In March 1979, Taraki attended a meeting with Kosygin, Gromyko (Foreign Minister), Ustinov (Defense Minister), and Ponomarev (head of the International Department of the Central Committee), to discuss the possibility of a Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to quell the opposition. Kosygin opposed the idea, telling the Afghan leader he had to gain popular support on its own, but in a closed meeting without the Premier, the Politburo unanimously backed a Soviet intervention. In October, Taraki then added to the existing turmoil when he plotted a failed assassination on Amin, who successfully engineered the President’s own assassination a few days later. The USSR eventually invaded Afghanistan at the request of Khan in December while the United States were providing arms and financial aid to the Mujahideen movement in collaboration with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (leaders of the guerilla included no other than Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden …) in the hope of toppling the Moscow-friendly government. Eventually, Amin was killed by a KGB unit and the leader of the Parcham faction (Karmal), was chosen by the Soviet leadership as his successor. [55]

In retaliation to the Soviet invasion, the United States stopped all grain export to the Soviet Union, and boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow. The Soviet Union responded by persuading their athletes not to participate to the next Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. In 1981, the election of Reagan further increased tensions when he promised a sharp rise in US defense spending and a more aggressively anti-Soviet foreign policy in general. At the time of Brezhnev’s death, the USSR was still stuck in Afghanistan, and it would remain the case until 1989. [56]

In August 1980, the Soviet Politburo established a commission chaired by Suslov to examine the political crisis in Poland. The possibility of a military intervention was voiced but when the Eastern Bloc leaders met at the Kremlin later that year, Brezhnev had concluded that the USSR would intervene in the country’s domestic matters only if asked to do so. Instead, martial law was initiated in December 1981 by the Jaruzelski Government. The ongoing Soviet-Afghan war coupled with the size of the opposition network were among the major reasons why the Politburo Commission did not opt for a direct military intervention in Poland. [57]

Andropov and Chernenko Transition Governments

Brezhnev died in November 1982 and was succeeded by Andropov who could rely on his KGB connections while also having the support of the military thanks to promises not to cut defense spending. For the first time in Soviet history, a leadership change occurred with no arrests or killings.

Andropov carried out a deep house-cleaning throughout the bureaucracy: more than 20% of the Soviet ministers and regional party first secretaries were replaced; the same fate was reserved for roughly one-third of the department heads within the Central Committee apparatus. But Andropov’s ability to redistribute the cards at the top leadership level was limited by his poor health condition and the influence of Chernenko, his rival and longtime ally of Brezhnev, who had previously supervised staff matters in the Central Committee. Still, he was able to launch a massive anti-corruption campaign, made easier by the fact that he himself lived quite simply, contrary to former heads of government.

On the economic side, 1982 recorded the USSR’s worst economic performance since World War II, with real GDP growth at almost zero percent but no significant reforms attempts were made under Andropov. [58]

In foreign affairs, Andropov kept the same stance as Brezhnev’s regarding US−Soviet relations, which deteriorated dramatically after Reagan’s March 1983 speech when he called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’. Six months later, the atmosphere between the two governments became even more tense in the wake of the Soviet shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 which carried 269 people including a sitting US congressman (McDonald), and also over Reagan’s stationing of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe. This decision resulted in mass protests in France and West Germany, sometimes numbering 1 million or more people. Under the Reagan Doctrine, the US began undermining Soviet-supported governments by supplying arms to anti-communist resistance movements in these countries (Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola and so on) on the now too well-known motive of ‘restoring democracy’ … [59]

Andropov died in February 1984 after disappearing from public view for several months. Nonetheless, he was influential in the promotion of Gorbachev through the Kremlin hierarchy during the past six years. Although Gorbachev served as a deputy to the general secretary throughout Andropov’s illness, his time had not yet arrived when his mentor died.

At 71, Chernenko was not in better shape when he was chosen to replace his longtime rival, but his short time in office did bring a few notable policy changes. First, the anti-corruption campaign undertaken under his predecessor’s supervision came to an end while repression of dissidents by the KGB increased. Major cases illustrating this policy include the Danchev and Senderov ones, respectively a broadcaster for Radio Moscow and a leader of an unofficial union of professional workers. The former referred to the Soviet troops in Afghanistan as ‘invaders’ and he was sent to a mental institution for several months after refusing to retract this statement; the latter was sentenced to seven years in a labor camp for denouncing work discrimination against Jews. [60]

Despite calling for renewed détente with the West, Chernenko achieved little progress towards closing the rift in East−West relations during his rule: the USSR boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (in retaliation for the US-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow), the East German leader (Honecker) was prevented to visit West Germany in late summer that same year and the war in Afghanistan intensified to the point of being referred to as the Soviet Union’s ‘Vietnam War’.  The two superpowers agreed to resume arms control talks in early 1985, however. [61]

Early Years of Gorbachev’s Rule, 1985-1987

In March 1985, the Politburo elected Gorbachev to the position of General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, making him the first head of state not born a subject of the last tsar. Gorbachev started by appointing younger and more educated men to important official posts, such as Cherbrikov (KGB Chief), Ryzhkov (Secretary of Economics), Shevardnadze (Foreign Minister replacing the 75-year-old Gromyko), Zaikov (Secretary of Defense Industries) and Yeltsin (Secretary of Construction). The same strategy was implemented at province level (oblasts) where up to 40% of the first secretaries were replaced and the defense establishment was not spared either (the commanders of all 16 military districts had to leave their office). Overall, Gromyko’s removal was the most unexpected move in this reshuffle of the Soviet elite, who was named Chairman of the Politburo instead. [62]

Regarding foreign policy, relations with the United States remained tense through 1985 reaching levels not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis as Reagan increased US military spending to 7% of GDP, resulting in the Soviet Union increasing its own military spending to over 20% of GDP. In October, Gorbachev made his first visit to a non-communist country when he traveled to France. One month later, he met Reagan for the first time in Geneva. During the few weeks prior to the summit, major public relations campaign were launched against the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) both in the Soviet Union and the US. It was most widely known as the ‘Star Wars’ program, which consisted in a proposed missile defense system intended to protect the United States from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons (Intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles) through a combination of ground-based units and orbital deployment platforms. It replaced the previous Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine which stated that the threat of using nuclear weapons against the enemy in retaliation prevents the enemy’s use of those same weapons. It depends on the completion of a nuclear triad, whereby a State achieves the ability of deploying its strategic nuclear arsenal by air (strategic bombers), land (intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs) and water ways (submarine-launched ballistic missiles, SLBMs). Indeed, it significantly reduces the probability that an enemy could destroy all of a nation’s nuclear forces in a one-strike attack. Game theory is behind this strategy, which consists in a form of Nash equilibrium where neither side, once armed, has any incentive to initiate a conflict or to disarm (there is a fundamental uncertainty about the other player’s motives and the perspective of nuclear annihilation certainly qualifies as a ‘negative payoff’ …). When the summit finally took place, the two leaders issued a joint communique stating that nuclear war could not be won by either side and must therefore never be allowed to happen, despite Reagan’s refusal to abandon the SDI. [63]

Contrary to the Chinese Way (economic liberalization with preservation of political system), Gorbachev decided to combine political and economic liberalization reforms (respectively the Glasnost and Perestroika policies).

In 1987, the Law on State Enterprise was enacted, allowing state enterprises to determine output levels based on demand and declaring them ‘self-financing’. However, the government kept control over the means of production, even if the law formally shifted control over enterprise operations from ministries to elected workers’ collectives.

Next year, the Law on Cooperatives permitted private ownership of businesses in the manufacturing, services, and foreign-trade sectors for the first time since Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) was abolished sixty years ago. Most importantly, foreigners were now able to invest in the USSR in the form of joint ventures with Soviet ministries, state enterprises, and cooperatives thereby ending the government’s monopoly on foreign trade. Under the terms of the revised Joint Venture Law (originally enacted in 1987), the Soviet partner supplied labor and infrastructure while the foreign one supplied capital, technology and management skills. [64]

Implosion of the USSR

Although the Perestroika did bring some welcome and significant changes to the Soviet economy, it was not sufficient to catch up years of underperformance. Besides, most government controls over the means of production and price levels remained, as did the ruble’s inconvertibility. By 1988, government expenditures rose sharply as an increasing number of unprofitable enterprises needed state support and consumer price subsidies continued, thereby creating a hidden inflation phenomenon. Costs related to the maintenance of superpower status (military, space program, subsidies to client states) did not help either. On the other hand, federal tax revenues declined mainly because local governments withheld tax revenues from the central government due to growing regional autonomy and the open development of a black market to deal with supply shortages also undermined the official economy. [65]

Lacking more and more financial resources, the USSR thus began looking for a withdrawal route in Afghanistan. That same year, the Geneva Accords were signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the two superpowers as guarantors. They included a timetable for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, which was completed in early 1989.

Even so, the Pakistani secret services (ISI) continued to support the Mujahideen against the communist government of Afghanistan and by 1992, the latter collapsed. Meanwhile, Reagan actively hindered the USSR’s ability to sell natural gas to Europe and its government worked to keep gas prices low, which further starved the Soviet Un

The Diner Pantry / Save As Many Blueberries As You Can
« on: July 16, 2018, 07:52:55 AM »
Yesterday morning, disaster struck the RE household.  In the morning in trying to extricate a box of eggs which had migrated to the back of the refrigerator, I knocked over an entire 16oz container of Blueberries formerly ON SALE for $3.98 in the produce dept of 3 Bears in a nice container now spilled onto the floor where they rolled and spread out over the entire kitchen.  AAACCCKKKKK!  :o  Once freed from the city-sized (for Blueberries) container onto the floor in a clear demonstration of the Population Overshoot problem I have with Blueberries in my fridge.  The BIG problem was how to clean up this mess of blueberries,  They were all fresh and whole and so they didn't squish on landing.

The problem though was how to clean them up?  I didn't want to sweep them up with a broom and dustpan because then the blueberries would have mixed with dirt and been a nightmare to wash for eating.  Besides, it's about impossible to operate a broom, a dustpan and the cripple cart all at the same time.  So I had to pick them up the same way some Mexican Ag worker picked them originally, blueberry by blueberry, one by one.  To add to the difficulty, I can't reach the ground from sitting in the cripple cart, I have had to devise a "reach extender" for that because I drop things quite often nowadays.  I don't have sensation in my fingers.  My reach extender is a set of BBQ Tongs which give me about another 6" of reach, enough to make it to the floor and pick up some pretty small objects, like blueberries.

The task was daunting in many ways, First I had to extricate myself from the middle of the sea of blueberries and do it without cruching too many of them with the wheels of the cripple cart.  In doing this, I managed to only squish 4 blueberries this way.  To paraphrase  Uncle Joe Stalin, "you can't make a Parfait without squishing a few blueberries".

Once out to the edge it became a long and tedious process of moving gradualy inward, and making some paths before finished so I could get to the sink and fridge as necessary before it was all cleaned up.  When yu have a big job like that, it's best to brek it up into manageable chunks rather than do the whole thing at once.  It took me all of yesterday at midnite to get finished, in chunks of 10-20 blueberries at a time.  In the end, I only crushed the 4 original blueberries and 2 besides that.  There might be a couple that rolled too far under the fridge to get.  I Saved most of those bleberries.  :icon_sunny:  I don't think I have been as successful saving the online Blueberries from the Collapse though.  :(

What this illustrates though besides being a metapahor for Collapse is how absolutely impossible it has become for me to live these days.  The simplest tasks are now all ordeals to be survived.  I have some new trial every day, like one day discovering I can't stretch out both legs lying down without waves of pain flowing through my body.  So I can't even quasi-sleep in my office chair with my legs up on the Ottoman anymore, except sitting up, in which case I slump over the desk and wake up in even MORE pain.  My latest solution to this ordeal is back to the bed, only now I don't lay down on it completely, my legs hang off the side of the bed.  Then I can't lift and straighten my right leg so it stays on the floor and I lift my left leg (using my arms to help) onto the coffee table,  then I kind of ttwist sideways at the waist to lay down partially on my side with my head sideways on the pillow.  I can sleep as much as an hour this way, hich I do 2 or 3 times to get through the night.

I should have someone coming over from Mat-Su Regional taday, although they didn't show up again last week.  Something has to be done here if I am to last long enough to go on the Last Great Alaska Adventure with Eddie and Mrs Eddie.  They are stuck with the trip no matter what, the plane tickets are already bought.  They may end up with a nice Alaska Honeymoon for 2 while I cool my heels in another hospital bed or start my long dirt nap.  I will be like Elihjah at the Passover Dinner table, the Ghost at the Table.


Geopolitics / 🚀 Outer Space Warz
« on: June 27, 2018, 01:57:09 AM »
Maybe Elon Musk can show a profit once he gets on the MIC Gravy Train.  ::)


The American Empire Preps for a US Space Force   

June 26, 2018 Posted by Addison dePitt


          By RENEE PARSONS

At a meeting of the newly-revived National Space Council, President Donald Trump announced the  Space Policy Directive:  National Space Traffic Management (STM) Policy and ordered the Department of Defense to establish a Space Force as a sixth branch of the US military – although creating a ‘separate but equal’ Space Corps would need Congressional authorization.   

Under the guise of a ‘space junk directive’ to clean up a “congested and contested” cosmos that promises to keep the MIC fat and happy; at the same time make space safe for the up-and-coming commercial space industry (CSI), the Directive suggests an overly-ambitious mission of broad, wide-ranging goals with no time schedule or funding.
US “ownership” of outer space has long been advanced in the popular culture. The heroes in Star Trek, though supposedly representing a sort of interplanetary United States-led federation, are essentially mostly a projection of American power to the limits of the universe. Like MASH, the show projected an idea of American goodness and benevolence in all interactions with foreigners.

Specifically, the Directive provides a role for the DOD “to protect and defend US space assets and interests’ and I am still trying to wrap my mind around how the Director of National Intelligence will provide a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) of ‘knowledge and characterization of space objects.” Further expounding on the US role in outer space, Trump added  “..our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.  We must have American dominance in space.”     

US “ownership” of outer space has long been advanced in the popular culture. The heroes in Star Trek, though supposedly representing a sort of interplanetary United States-led federation, are essentially mostly a projection of American power to the limits of the universe. Like MASH, the show projected an idea of American goodness and benevolence in all interactions with foreigners.

As the US presumes to act on behalf of other countries on the planet and commercial space endeavors which might someday launch a satellite up into the wild, blue yonder, the Directive proposes to establish operational criteria with the assumption that all players will accept the Empire’s dominance and happily follow their every command.

Opposition within the Trump Administration has not been reticent with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson suggesting that “The Pentagon is complicated enough.  This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money.”

In an October, 2017 letter on the NDAA 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis commented:

“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”   

And in a later letter to Congress, Mattis reiterated “ I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,”

Despite Pentagon opposition, an administration witness told a recent House Armed Services subcommittee that  “the President has prioritized space. He recognized the threats that have evolved and the pace at which they evolve.”  In March, the president endorsed a Space Force during a White House ceremony with “we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons” suggesting that the true purpose of a Space Force may be more than the equivalent of a celestial traffic cop.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are 1,738 operational satellites with 803 US satellites in orbit (476 commercial, 150 government, 159 military and 18 civil).  Russia has 142 operational satellites and China has 204.   There are also 2,600 non-functional human-made satellites, most of which weigh less than 5 tons and fly in a low orbit specifically programmed to burn out and fall to earth after 25 years.

It is difficult to conjure up the effects of a ‘growing threat’ from ‘human-made’ orbital clutter and debris floating the infinite vastness of outer space as cosmically significant enough to qualify as a national security risk or that US global dominance is required to sweep the cosmos clean of said debris.  Perhaps, however, the President is referring to something other than debris and clutter.

While outer space is a wide-open, limitless expanse full of life that remains as clandestine as any black ops project. global citizens no longer members of the Flat Earth Club are familiar with the noteworthy increase of reported extra terrestrial activity across the planet.   While UFO’s are part of the lexicon, having evolved from folklore to real time events, government secrecy abounds.

Especially intriguing are former astronauts who have commented on their experiences as well as members of the US military who have described sightings that move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion or that hover with no apparent means of lift and can change direction or speed on a dime.

A black ops until it was revealed in December, 2017, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) which prepared a 500 page document of worldwide UFO sightings, was Congressionally funded by former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), home state of Area 51.   In a CNN interview, retired AATIP director Luis Elizondo who resigned in protest over ‘excessive secrecy’ said “my personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone.”

Two events that dared challenge the government’s decades of secrecy with open disclosure were two press conferences at the National Press Club featuring retired military personnel providing public comment on their direct experiences with an extra terrestrial world in their official capacity.  The first press conference occurred on September, 10, 2001, one day before the 911 attacks and another on September 27, 2010.    Both press conferences were organized by Dr. Steven Greer of the Disclosure Project who also produced the videos Sirius and Unacknowledged.   

In responding to the Directive, Greer said he has been “talking about this for years and has spoken to multiple witnesses who said that at least since the 1960s the US has had military assets in space. They (Trump administration) are acknowledging something that is already there. However, what is not being talked about, even now, is that those military assets are tracking and targeting ET craft.”

On the edge of human consciousness lies a more subtle, less obvious presence than the usual political adversaries as the US continues to lay specious claim to ownership of Outer Space.   Since the Roswell crash in 1947, the US has maintained a committed disinformation campaign to withhold truth from a disempowered citizenry – a truth that would empower those who have been blind to the government’s deception and a truth that would challenge the carefully crafted, familiar world we call reality.
DO YOUR PART!Educating and
 Renee Parsons served on the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

Geopolitics / 👳 Caliph Erdocrook
« on: June 26, 2018, 12:21:22 AM »
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Economics / 🚗 Carmageddon in Houston Continues
« on: June 26, 2018, 12:01:59 AM »

I’m in Awe of How Carmageddon Continues in Houston at Financial-Crisis Levels

by Wolf Richter • Jun 25, 2018 • 21 Comments   
Where the heck is the hyped “replacement demand” from Hurricane Harvey?

Auto dealers in the Houston metro sold 23,720 new vehicles in May, down 9.2% from the dismal oil-bust levels of May last year, with car sales plunging 17.6% and with even truck sales – SUVs, pickups, vans, and compact SUVs (crossovers) — dropping 4.9%.

Even used vehicle sales plunged 13.5% in May from a year ago, to 67,239 vehicles. This is not a propitious indication. If there had been a shift from new to used, it would have been a different scenario. But both declined.

Auto sales in the Houston metro were battered by the oil bust. Between late 2016 and mid-2017, new-vehicle sales plunged by 20% to 30% a month compared to the same month a year earlier, to levels not seen since the Financial Crisis. Then, just as the effects of the oil bust were bottoming out and hopes were lining up that this would end Carmageddon in Houston, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the area. It shut down all dealers for days, and some of them for weeks, and new vehicle sales collapsed (down 45% year-over year in August from the oil-bust levels a year earlier).

But instantly, stories cropped up on Wall Street that the “replacement demand” from Hurricane Harvey would cause a boom of indescribable proportions in auto sales in the Houston area that would be so large as to fire up the declining auto sales in the US overall. And in Houston, though not the rest of the nation, auto sales did rise for a few months, but not nearly as much as promised, before starting to peter out again late last year.

And now Carmageddon is back.

The Houston situation has been fascinating to observe, in part because there is good and timely vehicle sales data available, gathered by the Houston Auto Dealer Association from its member dealers, put together by TexAuto Facts, published by InfoNation via the Greater Houston Partnership. Few other metro areas offer this kind of granular data.

For the rolling 12-month period ending in May, dealers sold 295,373 vehicles — up only 1.5% compared to the oil-bust levels a year earlier but down 22% from the happier era before the oil bust (chart via Greater Houston Partnership, red and green marks added):

Year to date, total sales are up 4.2% from the oil-bust levels last year, with car sales down 7.3% and truck sales up 10.1%. But this includes the tail-end of the infamous “replacement demand” earlier this year that has now completely disappeared.

Sales of “trucks” — that is, SUVs, pickups, vans, and crossovers — accounted for 70% of total new-vehicle retail sales in May, as cars are simply dying out in Texas even faster than in the US overall.

Despite dismal unit sales, prices continue to rise: The average retail transaction price rose 2.2% to $37,258, largely due to “truck” transactions where the average transaction price reached nearly $40,000, compared to the average transaction price of cars at $31,090.

This dismal scenario in auto sales is not reflected in the overall economy in Houston, though it remains spotty. Some sectors are still getting crushed from the oil bust, including commercial construction, where activity has collapsed. Year-to-date non-residential building contracts, measured in dollars, have plunged 32% from the already terrible levels last year. But residential permits have surged 29%. And the total is down only 2.1%. Total employment rose 2.4% year-to-date through May, with employment in the goods-producing sector rising 3.7% and in the service sector 2.2%. And the unemployment rate in May declined to 4.2% from 4.8% a year earlier.

So the continued crisis-level new-vehicle sales in the Houston metro – still down by over 20% from their range before the oil bust – are in contradiction of other economic data in the area. To a much milder extent, this has also been the case in the US overall, where the economy has been growing a relatively decent pace, while new vehicles sales have been on decline since 2016. But it pales compared to the situation in Houston.

New and used vehicle transaction prices have been surging across the US. But don’t expect this to show up in inflation data where “hedonic quality adjustments” perform miracles. Read…  The Dollar’s Purchasing Power Drops 2.9% in May from Year Ago, Fastest Drop since Nov 2011 

Economics / 💸 Get your Social Security NOW while you still can!
« on: June 25, 2018, 01:07:07 AM »

Your Opinions | While Trump distracts, GOP to gut Medicare, Social Security

By U-T Letter writers

Social Security and Medicare belong to us

Re “House GOP unveils budget to fast-track tax cuts, end Obamacare” (June 19): I wrote a letter to the editor when the Republicans were drafting their tax bill. In that letter I stated that Republicans will have to find money to make up for said tax cuts and that they will be coming after Medicare (the sick) and Social Security (the elderly). Republicans consider these to be “entitlements.”

Like most of the middle class, I have been paying into Social Security and Medicare my entire working life. It is like a savings account for our retirement, and now that we have reached the age to receive it, Republicans don’t believe we deserve it, just that we are getting an entitlement.

They gave tax cuts to the very wealthy and expect the middle class to cover the deficit it created. This is before any infrastructure bill is even considered. Please remember this when you vote. This is going to hurt middle-class America no matter what party. This, along with the rising consumer prices, will bring us to the next great recession. Of course politicians and the very wealthy are not as affected by recessions as normal Americans.

The Kitchen Sink / Doomstead Diner Summer Solstice Fundraiser
« on: June 24, 2018, 09:01:49 AM »

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Published on the Doomstead Diner Blog & Forum on June 24, 2018

Stonehenge at dawn on the Summer Solstice

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

The Summer Solstice brings with it many things, first off is the longest day of the year.  Here on the Last Great Frontier that means it's still light at midnight, and for the few hours we do have "darkness", it's more of a twilight where you can still see to walk around without a flashlight, (torch for you Brits).  Where I live is below the Arctic Circle, if you go above that you will get light 24 hours a day.  Conversely, during the Winter Solstice it's dark most of the time, with the few hours of sunlight coming in the afternoon with the SUN very low on the horizon.  This type of seasonal lighting regimen can cause a psychological condition know as SAD, for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Here is a photo from my back porch Collapse Perch at Midnight on June 21, 2018.

The view from my back porch at Midnight on June 21, 2018

I'm not a sufferer of the official version of SAD, in Summertime all I do is throw a Sleep Mask on (the kind you use on planes that they give away for FREE if you ask for them) and in the Winter I spend most of the time indoors anyhow and I have plenty of Diode Lights in my Preps.  This year I am SAD for another reason though, and no it's not because Industrial Civilization is Collapsing or because we might incinerate the globe in a Thermonuclear Holocaust on July 19th, according to our local Nostradamus Soothsayer on the Diner.  The reason is because I worry about the future of the Diner when I buy my ticket to the Great Beyond, which comes a little closer each day.

For the past 6 years, I have carried the costs for keeping the Diner up and running, and have had to upgrade the server and my package from the web hosts I have used to do things like handle increased traffic, handle SPAM attacks, keep backups automatically, etc.  I am not a Code Jockey who can go inside a software package and diagnose problems and fix things when they are broken.  I'm not even confident to do routine maintenance like upgrading to the latest version of WP or the various Plug-Ins the Diner uses to spiff it up some because I am afraid I will cause a problem myself.  So it would be nice if the Diner had a little Buffer to handle emergencies.

There are also upgerades I would like to do on the Diner, like opening a Storefrom to sel l"Best in Class" Preps for getting ready for SHTF Day.  It would be good to have a "one stop shop" for SHTF Day prepping instead of having to track stuff down all over the net all the time and read reviews and so forth.  I do that stuff myself all the time, so why should the readers here have to reinvent the wheel?   Also Diner products and Memoribilia, so after the Internet Goes Dark, you'll have something tangible to remember those great lead up years on the Diner waiting for the Collapse of the Monetary System and Industrial Civilization.  The Diner does need some form of an income stream in thi world where you can't do jack shit without MONEY, and since we are Ad Free and no Paywall, this is about the only way to do it.

So anyhow, I am setting a modest goal for this fundraiser of $2000, which I am contributing to 10% or $200 as Kickoff Money (in addition to the 38% of the Server Bill I covered for this year).  If you have enjoyed our work in covering the Collapse of Industrial Civilization for the last 6 years, give generously what you can afford to help the Diner last until the Internet Goes Dark!

You can make your Donation by hitting the DONATE button on the right side menu bar at the top of the page.

Doomstead Diner Fundraising Thermometer

Medicine & Health / 🏥 Communist Medical Care
« on: June 23, 2018, 05:41:31 AM »

When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born

by Don Fitz / June 21st, 2018

As discontent increases with overly expensive and totally inadequate US health care, it is time to look closely at the beginnings of the modern Cuban medical system.  Like the US, Cuba had unintegrated, overlapping medical institutions that failed the poor, especially black, population of the island.  Though several European countries have developed health care systems about 40% cheaper than the US, Cuba was able to craft health care which became more than 80% less costly than the US with a roughly equivalent life expectancy.

When the revolutionary government took the reins in 1959, millions of Cubans went without medical care.  The years 1959-1964 aimed at overcoming the crisis of care delivery as half of the island’s physicians fled.  During the second half of the decade (1964-1969) Cuba began redesigning medicine as a holistic system.  It’s created a model for poor countries that forever changed medicine.  Cuba did so largely by putting the polyclinic at the center of care delivery.

The Policlínico Integral

The term “polyclinic” (or “policlínico” in Spanish) generally refers to a medical facility offering outpatient services.  In 1961, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) began a study to unify preventive and curative medicine. In May 1964, it opened the first policlínico integral.  The next year, MINSAP spread the model throughout Cuba.

Staff at the new polyclinics included at least a general practice physician, nurse, pediatrician, OB/GYN and social worker.  Nurses and social workers made house calls.  Staff extended services to workplaces, schools and communities.  Community outreach included health campaigns such as mass vaccination programs and efforts to control malaria and dengue.

Vaccination began shortly after the revolution; but the policlínico integral structure vastly increased its effectiveness.  In 1962, 80% of all children under 15 were vaccinated against polio in 11 days.  In 1970, it took one day for the same national effort.  Malaria was eradicated in 1967, as was diphtheria by1971.

Clinic staff coordinated primary care programs (maternal and child care, adult medical care, and dentistry) as well as public health (control of infectious diseases, environmental services, food control, school health services, and occupational and labor medicine.)  In addition to combining preventive and curative medicine the policlínicos integrales provided a full range of services at a single location, coordinated community campaigns and offered social as well as medical services.  Most important, they provided a single point of entry into the system, allowing for a complete record of patients’ medical histories.

Mutualism Withers Away

Post-1965 efforts increased nursing schools as well as training for auxiliary nurses, x-ray technicians, laboratory technicians, sanitarians and dental assistants.  Always attentive to alternative medicine, Cubans integrated healers (curanderos) into the health system.  As dentists were absorbed by the polyclinics, their numbers quadrupled.

MINSAP also addressed the unbalanced number, proportion and location of medical facilities.  Only 22% of Cubans lived in Havana, which had most of the country’s hospital beds.  The Oriente, or eastern part of the island, with a larger black population, was home to 35% of all Cubans but had only 15.5% of hospital beds.  Plans for new beds and doctors were concentrated in the east.

Also problematic was the existence of many small rural hospitals which could not provide a full range of services.  They dealt with the contradiction by decreasing the number of rural hospitals simultaneously with increasing the number of rural polyclinics as well as beds per hospital.

The role of the polyclinic became more central – more patients were initially seen at polyclinics where a physician could refer them to a hospital.  Polyclinic visits doubled at the same time visits to hospitals went down.

Cuban planners confronted a thorny dilemma: How do you cope with an inefficient medical anachronism that is immensely popular?  “Mutualism” had existed in Cuba for 400 years.  It was a pre-revolutionary holdover unable to resolve health issues because of its disheveled array of unconnected services.

Mutualism was similar to insurance, with subscribers paying a monthly fee for hospitalization and medical services.  The type of services covered varied widely from plan to plan and always left something out.  Unlike the new policlínicos integrales, mutualist clinics did not offer preventive medicine, were not adequately linked to hospitals, and did not have a specific geographical area where they provided services.

The revolutionary government was wise to not nationalize mutualist clinics as it did many large, foreign-owned businesses.  Instead, mutualist clinics were required to be increasingly similar to government clinics.  When separate financing for them ceased, their reason for existence withered away.  In 1970, mutualism ended new memberships and monthly dues as it equalized services for members and non-members.  It thereby ceased to exist.

At the same time, private medical practice, while not prohibited, faded into the sunset.  Within 10 or 11 years of the revolution, Cuba had a unified medical system, with a focus on the polyclinic for care delivery and all services guided by MINSAP.


Planners carefully studied health systems of the Soviet Bloc.  They were typically overly centralized, leaving little opportunity for creative thought by practitioners or local administrators.  Instead, Cubans developed the concept of “centralization/decentralization.”

Centralization increased with a 1966 statute creating 10 new research institutes.  A centralized MINSAP was overseeing virtually all professional services by 1967.

What may be difficult for non-Cubans to grasp is that decentralization increased conjointly with centralization.  By pulling mutualist clinics into the medical system, MINSAP increased the number of clinics and their decision-making power.  While there was vertical control of programs for tuberculosis, leprosy and venereal disease, their efficiency was improved by the polyclinics’ deciding how to implement them.  The period saw a process of unifying and standardizing the rapidly expanding system of clinics while decentralizing clinic management and increasing autonomy.

At the very beginning of the polyclinic era, the Cuban government charted a course which would ensure their role as the cornerstone of decentralization: The policlínicos integrales became independent of hospital control.  Instead of being administrative branches of regional hospitals, clinics had an administrative position equal to hospitals.

A subtle but important component of elevating the status of the policlínico integral was creation of primary care as a specialty, which addressed everyday medical problems in clinics.  Offering this as an option for post-graduate training put primary care physicians on par with other medical specialties.

Mobilization for a Health Revolution

The role of polyclinics in coordinating health campaigns both enhanced their stature in the eyes of the average Cuban and consolidated their position in the decentralization of health services.  No one knew better than Fidel Castro that a government cannot merely decree that a campaign will occur.  The literacy campaign showed that there must be massive involvement and enthusiasm for it to be successful.

Fidel was a driving force of mobilization.  He motivated physicians, graduating medical students, and the entire country by reminding them that “Public health occupies a prioritized and sacred place in the revolution.”  Fidel pushed for changes that would accelerate training of medical personnel and rotate professors, instructors and residents from Havana to new medical schools.

One of Fidel’s most important contributions was explaining that Cuba could improve upon eastern Europe’s concept of community clinics.  He believed that Cuba needed to create an example of public medicine that could be used by poor and undeveloped countries.

The Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) were organized in 1960 to guard against sabotage and attacks from the US.  They provided social networks for neighborhoods and soon became intricately linked to public health coordination.

CDRs took on the task of registering the entire population at policlínicos integrales.  Since each policlínico integral had a defined geographical area, 100% enrollment was not an unreasonable goal.  Working in conjunction with policlínicos integrales, the CDRs were deeply involved in establishing social and preventive medicine; educating and mobilizing the population to help combat flies and mosquitoes, control infectious diseases, and donate blood; building schools and parks; and cleaning and repairing streets

The first decade of the Cuban revolution shows that if limited resources are distributed in an egalitarian fashion medical miracles can happen.  The key to Cuba’s medical revolution was (a) dedication and work by all health care professionals under (b) a well-guided structure set forth by MINSAP with (c) decentralized implementation of health campaigns by policlínicos integrales in coordination with mass organizations.

Lingering Issues

Despite Cuba’s having forged a unified medical system with a single point of patient entry into a decentralized policlínico integral, significant issues persisted 10 years after the revolution.  Most disturbing was that infant mortality continued to climb.

Also, the fusion of centralization and decentralization was often not as smooth as hoped.  Even though many revolutionary doctors took positions in MINSAP or as administrators of medical facilities, conflicts still surfaced between those whose primary jobs were re-creating the medical system and those whose daily work focused on care delivery.

While the new ideology proclaimed the importance of preventive medicine, doctors and other clinicians frequently perceived health to merely be the absence of disease.  The changeover in attitudes did occur, largely through the education of the next generation of practitioners.

Doctors tend to be very autonomous, confident that their method is the best.  What happens when their approach diverges from policy, the community and/or colleagues?

There was widespread disagreement over a parent wanting to “live-in” with a hospitalized child.  Most doctors and nurses were very opposed to initiating a policy of letting a parent sleep in a child’s hospital room, fearing that s/he would be a nuisance.  Dr. Ezno Dueñas recalled his experience at Lenin Hospital in Holguín when there was a shortage of nurses: “So we had to have mothers taking care of their children.  Now, the mother is with the child in the hospital and is not upset.”  When the government decided to implement the policy of live-in parents it became very popular and resulted in shorter hospital stays for children.

The stress of going to medical school in Cuba during the 1960s was enough to cause almost half of students to drop out.  One program to keep them enrolled was to create alumnos ayudantes (student assistants or peer tutors).  Dr. María Luísa Lima, who currently teaches at ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine), began medical school in 1965 when she was 17 years old.  She explained to me that ayudantes were those who had done well in basic sciences and were closely tutored by doctors so they could help others through courses.  The ayudantes expanded the reach of professors and were themselves potential new faculty.

Despite all efforts, there was still a shortfall of doctors in 1969.  This unquestionably hurt the ability to provide health care for all.  I asked Cuban historian Hedelberto López how difficult it would have been to implement the changes of the 1960s, including the development of polyclinics, if the counterrevolutionaries had stayed.  He replied that “Of course, the revolution in medicine would have been impossible if doctors had not fled the country.  They would have disrupted everything.”

By the last half of the 1960s, the departure of half of Cuba’s doctors to Miami proved to be a double-edged sword.  One edge slashed into the health care of Cubans, depriving millions of desperately needed health care as the other edge cut off the ability of nay-sayers to hamper the building of a new medical world.

Many lessons of the first decade of Cuban medicine had been assumed or suspected before the revolution confirmed them.  It became clear that medical care could only be improved if a country simultaneously addressed necessities such as food, housing and education; medical campaigns must be based on mass participation; it may be possible to cope with an obstructive institution such as mutualism by creating a better method of delivering care before abolishing the old one; an institution could be improved by undertaking two contradictory processes simultaneously (such as centralizing and decentralizing medicine); despite the short term damage of 3000 doctors leaving, the long term ability to renovate medicine was blessed by their absence.

None of these principles can be applied in a rigid fashion to another country.  They demonstrate that providing health care which genuinely meets human needs must go beyond patching up holes in the old system and completely reconceptualize the system itself.

Don Fitz is on the Editorial Board of Green Social Thought, which is sent to members of The Greens/Green Party USA. He is newsletter editor for the Green Party of St. Louis and was the 2016 candidate of the Missouri Green Party for Governor. This is a condensed version of the article which appeared with more detail and full citations in Green Social Thought and June 2018 print and online issue of Monthly Review. Read other articles by Don.

History / 👨‍🔬 Albert Einstein was a Misogynist & a Xenophobe
« on: June 14, 2018, 12:09:32 AM »
#MeToo will exhume his corpse and flagellate it.


Albert Einstein decried racism in America. His diaries reveal a xenophobic, misogynistic side
by Kristine Phillips June 13 at 5:58 PM Email the author

Albert Einstein and wife Elsa at a sake-drinking party with geishas in Tokyo in November 1922. (The Leo Baeck Institute, New York)

In 1946, Albert Einstein stood in front of students at one of the oldest historically black colleges in the United States and decried the oppression of African Americans.

“There is separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it,” he said during a commencement speech at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

As a Jewish scientist who experienced anti-Semitism in Germany, Einstein showed deep sympathy for black people in America. He wandered around black neighborhoods in segregated Princeton, N.J., his home after leaving Germany amid the rise of the Nazis. He sat on people’s porches, chatted with them and handed out candies to their children and grandchildren. Einstein had become so entrenched in America’s civil rights movement that the FBI placed him under surveillance, collecting nearly 1,500 pages of documents on Einstein by the time he died.

But there’s another side to Einstein that perhaps people did not know then.

Travel diaries he wrote during a months-long voyage in the 1920s reveal that in his private moments, the Nobel-winning physicist portrayed people of other races, such as Chinese and Indians, in a stereotypical, dehumanizing way. Einstein’s unfiltered musings about the people he saw and interacted with during his journey show that even the civil rights icon and “paragon” of humanitarianism harbored racist thoughts about those who did not look like him, said Ze’ev Rosenkranz, senior editor and assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.

Albert Einstein and wife Elsa aboard the S.S. Kitano Maru
en route to Japan in October 1922. (NYK Maritime Museum)

“In published statements, he’s usually in favor of civil and human rights and was socially progressive. I’m not saying that he didn’t believe in those things,” Rosenkranz said, but he added that the words Einstein never intended to be published are in stark contrast with his more guarded public statements.

That contradiction makes Einstein all the more human, said Rosenkranz, who edited “The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein,” published recently by Princeton University Press.

“I’m not apologizing for him or anything. … I still feel that the unpleasant remarks are quite shocking, but they do reveal that we all have this darker side to our attitudes and prejudices,” he said.

[The solar eclipse that made Einstein famous]

Einstein wrote the travel diaries from October 1922 to March 1923, when he and wife Elsa traveled by ship to the Mediterranean, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. He wrote every day about his surroundings, at times writing as if he was in a hurry. “Radiant day. Sea quiet, almost windless,” he wrote Oct. 12, 1922. Other times, he was more detailed: “In the evening, wonderful sunset — purple with finely illuminated narrow wind-swept clouds,” he wrote on the same day.

He chronicled his observations of people he saw and met, summing up “their personalities and idiosyncrasies in just a few, often humorous or irreverent, words,” Rosenkranz wrote in the introduction portion of the travel diary.

The average Japanese, Einstein wrote, is “unproblematic, impersonal, he cheerfully fulfills the social function which befalls him without pretension, but proud of his community and nation. Forsaking his traditional ways in favor of European ones does not undermine his national pride.”

While Einstein used male pronouns for deeper reflections about the Japanese, his thoughts about women were more about their physical appearance than their personality. Japanese women, he wrote as he observed them on the ship, “look ornate and bewildered. … Black-eyed, black-haired, large-headed, scurrying.”

His reflections about the Chinese, with whom he spent far less time, were more callous, even insulting. Though he called the Chinese “industrious,” he also described them as “filthy” and “obtuse.” They’re a “peculiar herd-like nation,” Einstein wrote, “often more like automatons than people.” He saw them as intellectually inferior, quoting — instead of challenging — Portuguese teachers he met during his travels who claimed that the Chinese “are incapable of being trained to think logically” and “have no talent for mathematics.”

There was, as Rosenkranz described, a “healthy dose of extreme misogyny”:

    I noticed how little difference there is between men and women; I don’t understand what kind of fatal attraction Chinese women possess which enthralls the corresponding men to such an extent that they are incapable of defending themselves against the formidable blessing of offspring.

His reflections in the few days he spent in China also reveal Einstein’s tendency to perceive foreigners as a threat.

“It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races,” he wrote. “For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary.”

[Astronomers just achieved something Einstein said was impossible]

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, he wrote with empathy about the beggars on the streets. He was “very much ashamed” for his complicity in such “despicable treatment of human beings,” he said. But he also was critical of them for being poor, Rosenkranz said. He saw them as inferior people who “live in great filth and considerable stench.”

The Indians and Sinhalese in Colombo, Einstein said, “do little” and “need little.”

The Einsteins at Port Said in Egypt with Max Mouschly and Celia Mouschly-Turkel
in February 1923. (The Albert Einstein Archives, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

As he traveled in the Levant in the Mediterranean, he described Levantines as a “screaming and gesticulating” group of people “of every shade.” Levantine merchants swarmed the ship, Einstein wrote, transforming the upper deck into a bazaar. He found them both repulsive and beautiful, describing them as “bandit-like” and “filthy,” but also “handsome and graceful to look at.”

About a decade after his travels, in December 1932, Einstein and his wife left Germany for a three-month trip to the United States. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party took over the German government the following month. Einstein didn’t return home and stayed in the United States, where he became more aware of the plight of African Americans. He entrenched himself in the civil rights movement, signed anti-lynching petitions and volunteered to testify as a character witness in the trial of writer and philosopher W.E.B. Du Bois.

“It would be easy to say, yes, he became more enlightened,” Rosenkranz said. But whether Einstein’s racist views, particularly about the Chinese, had changed, Rosenkranz is not sure.

All of this is to say that our understanding of Einstein misses his complexity as a human being, Rosenkranz said.

“One should emphasize the different elements and contradictory elements in the statements that he made and in his personality,” Rosenkranz said. “On one hand, he was very generous and very favorable. … But there’s also these statements that one should not ignore.”

What this says about human nature is that we are complex beings with both enlightened and dark beliefs, Rosenkranz said. “We generally don’t express them, but we might harbor them secretly. This gives us the opportunity to look at ourselves.”

History / 🌍 CHURCHILL AND WORLD WAR TWO: The Man and the Myth.
« on: June 11, 2018, 12:00:25 AM »


Wherein resident historian Mike Faulkner analyses the man and his times, well beyond expected parameters. This is a Virtual University selection.

In a BBC nationwide poll in 2002 which attracted more than a million votes, Winston Churchill was named the greatest Briton of all times. With 447,423 votes he far outstripped Shakespeare who had won the accolade in 1999. Even when one allows for the frivolousness of such polls, it is noteworthy that the name “Churchill” continues to evoke such awe and adulation based essentially on the five years of his premiership during the Second World War. And, if one chooses to be less generous to his memory it would be more accurate to say that his enduring heroic reputation was forged in the thirteen months between June 1940 and July 1941. His part in the events of that year gave rise to the seemingly imperishable myth of his greatness.

With the single exception of his unlamented predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, Churchill was born before any other leading political figure holding power in the belligerent countries during the war. Stalin was four years his junior; Chiang Kai-shek was 13 years younger, De Gaulle 16 years younger, Hitler 15 years younger and Roosevelt eight years younger than Churchill. When Churchill was born in 1874 Disraeli was prime minister of Britain and Bismarck had recently become the first Chancellor of the new German Empire; Marx and Engels were still hard at work in London, Lincoln had been dead for only nine years and General Custer still awaited his fate at the Little Big Horn.

Churchill was a solid Victorian from an illustrious aristocratic family born to privilege and power. The myth has cast the “young Winston” in the role of a devil-may-care adventurer of a type popular with schoolboy readers of pro-imperialist yarns in fin de siècle Britain, active on Her Majesty’s service as soldier and journalist, serving his apprenticeship in preparation for the fulfilment of a great destiny that surely awaited him. If such it was, the hand of destiny failed to anoint him in the manner he had expected until he was sixty-six years old – past the statutory age of retirement. During the two decades that followed his first election to parliament he held many different offices of state in both Tory and Liberal administrations, in none of them did he distinguish himself with any outstanding achievement.  Indeed, he gained a reputation as a loose cannon. He spent the 1930s in the political wilderness on the back benches where he was regarded by most of his Tory colleagues as a dissident and a trouble-maker with literary pretentions. When he died in 1965 he had lived for 91 years, an age achieved by none of his World War Two contemporaries.

The “Great Man” on the Cinema Screen.

Since the 1960s there have been more than eleven movies about Churchill. Some of Britain’s leading actors – including Richard Burton – have been cast in the role. With one exception, Richard Attenborough’s 1972 Young Winston, all of them have dealt with his time as prime minister during World War Two; in 2017 alone three films were released. Two of them,  Darkest Hour and Churchill concentrated respectively on two episodes – the months following his appointment as prime minister in May 1940, and the lead-up to the Normandy landings in June 1944. The third, Dunkirk, in which Churchill was not featured, was about the evacuation of the British expeditionary force from France between 26. May and 4. June 1940, an event that was crucial to his first weeks in office. As most of Western Europe fell to the German Wehrmacht’s panzer blitzkrieg in the late spring of 1940 it was far from certain that Churchill would succeed the arch appeaser Neville Chamberlain as prime minister. He was not the favourite of the great majority of Tory members of parliament and the most influential members of the ruling class in the country, including the royal family, who had backed Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazi regime, continued to hope for an accommodation with Hitler that would allow him to turn against the Soviet Union and take Britain out of the war with its empire intact. Had Churchill not been appointed, not only would the course and outcome of the war have been very different, but Churchill himself would be remembered, if at all, as a very minor player in the history of twentieth century Britain and probably not remembered at all in the wider world. But this may simply illustrate the fruitlessness of “counter-factual” historical speculation. If the appeasers had succeeded in doing a deal with Hitler it could have enabled him to launch his invasion of the Soviet Union a year before he did, strengthened the isolationist lobby in the United Sates and made the prospect of a decisive Nazi victory far more likely – a grim prospect indeed. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman won an Oscar for his fine impersonation job.

The political conjuncture that led to Churchill’s appointment as prime minister can easily be used to argue a version of the “great man” theory of history. In one form or another, this has bedevilled historiography across the political spectrum.  In modern times it has been most extreme in the case of fascism, where, following the collapse of “divinely appointed” absolutist and authoritarian hereditary monarchies during the First World War, the semi-mystical notion of a charismatic leader emerging from among the ordinary people as a  saviour to restore a degraded nation to greatness again, led to the rise and triumph of a Mussolini or a Hitler. Even on the left, where one might hope such mystical notions had little traction, there have been cases where, possibly because of widespread ignorance in less developed societies emerging from authoritarian rule, attributes of supposedly innate wisdom and intuitive cognisance of the “popular will” have been conferred on some  popular leaders by the oppressed class or classes in whose name the leaders hold power. Unless the relationship between leaders and the people is based on solidarity and mutual interaction residing in active engagement in democratic institutions and procedures, the risk will always be that the leaders, however well-intentioned, will finish up exercising their rule over the people. In such cases genuine popular democracy becomes corroded into institutional bureaucracy. Care should be taken to question the nature of and claims to greatness made by or on behalf supposedly “great men” – or “great women” for that matter.

The films made about Churchill have all subscribed to the notion of Churchill as the great British leader. A flawed leader maybe, but great nevertheless. Only one of the films made in the last forty years or so, has dealt with his early life and while it is possible to see the young Churchill as brave and reckless, it is not possible to see much more than that. The claim that intimations of future greatness can be discerned in his youthful exploits is no more than wishful thinking. We need consider only one of the recent films to understand the theme of all of them.

Darkest Hour is probably the best of the recent films. The actor, Gary Oldman gives a bravura performance as Churchill. He is thoroughly convincing without succumbing to parody. The set-piece scenes are sometimes very well done. The dwindling numbers of those who remember Churchill will be struck by the brilliance with which Oldman captures his essential style, appearance and personality. These qualities are beguiling because the unwary may imagine that they are getting history that is factually accurate and historically truthful. This is not quite so. While the film presents some reconstructions of parliamentary debates, war cabinet meetings and set pieces of discussions with King George VI, Lord Halifax, Chamberlain and one or two others that appear to be accurate, it grossly simplifies the crucial issues that are at the centre of the story. Churchill’s famous speech pledging to fight and never surrender is delivered with an emotional power and to uproarious acclaim from a packed House of Commons. It far outdid the original. A much derided, totally fictitious scene in which Churchill travels in a London underground train, making a speech to a carriage of passengers displaying a mixture of social class and ethnicity which would have been highly unlikely at the time, is intended to suggest that in this incident the “common people” convinced him of his belief that he was right to oppose the appeasers. The inclusion of such a scene demonstrates the near impossibility in a feature film such as this of dealing with the actual process that had persuaded him and a small group of like-minded Tories, over the preceding two or three years, that appeasement of Nazism could only strengthen Hitler. This led him to believe that although Hitler was violently anti-Soviet, Germany posed an immediate threat to Britain and the British Empire, and that therefore the country must rearm without further delay, and if necessary engage in serious talks with the Labour opposition, Soviet Union and other states aimed at building collective security alliances. None of this is touched on in the film at all. The role of the League of Nations, whose Charter was being torn to shreds by the fascist powers, is not mentioned. Without any reference to Churchill’s life-long passionate defence of British imperialism, he is treated as the pre-eminent all-seeing leader surrounded by lesser mortals trying to hold him back from doing the right thing in the face of evil. Of course, one cannot expect a film about Churchill during a few weeks during in 1940 to deal in any detail with the years 1898 to the 1930s, but the complete absence of any reference to his deep-rooted imperialist ideology, his undeniable racism and his consistently reactionary record in parliament and in ministerial office over decades cannot so easily be wiped from the record. Before further examining his role during the war it is worth briefly reiterating some of the facts attesting to his heavily blemished record in the earlier decades of the century.

The Churchill Paradox.

Churchill was an anachronism long before he became prime minister. The British Empire, to  which he was so passionately attached, was surviving on borrowed time after the First World War. With the upsurge of movements for national independence unleashed by the war, more far-sighted political figures from the ruling class could see the writing on the wall.  Churchill continued to hold on to the belief that the sun would never set on the Empire and that malcontent tribes and nations who did not appreciate the benevolence of British rule needed to be dealt with firmly, as they had always been in the past. He never really relinquished this view. He also believed that a firm hand was necessary in dealing with “seditious” elements at home – striking workers, trade unions, alien malcontents and others who preached dissent and stirred up discontent. These sentiments anchored him firmly in the last decades of the nineteenth century. And yet, without any serious re-appraisal of such prejudices he made a smooth transition in the mid -1930s to an appraisal of the threat from Nazi Germany that brought him close to those on the left who had for years been warning of the same danger. It may even be said that the arguments he mustered in support of his warnings had a more hard-headed edge to them, in that he pressed for rearmament at a time when all sections of the left in Britain were firmly opposed to it. Opposition to rearmament was strong on the left (and not only on the left) throughout Europe influenced by memories of the arms race that had led to the First World War. It only began to change slightly during the Spanish Civil War which started in 1936. In 1933 both Germany and Japan left the League of Nations. In 1934 the Soviet Union joined the League and embarked upon a vigorous campaign to build collective security alliances with the Western powers. Stalin had made clear to the French government that, in view of the fact that Germany was rearming, the Soviet Union favoured French rearmament. It was difficult for the French Communist party, or any other Communist party, to support the rearmament of capitalist states as long as the Comintern was officially opposed to such a policy. In Britain the Labour party under the leadership of George Lansbury opposed rearmament on pacifist grounds. The Communist party also opposed re-armament as it was bound by Comintern policy. The inconsistency was evident in attempting to reconcile this with opposition to the policy of non-intervention in Spain, with its implication that France and Britain should send military aid to the republican government.

World War II: His finest hour. The Great Man among the conquering troops, eastern bank of the Rhine.

Churchill was in no real sense an anti-fascist. In the later 1930s, unlike most members of his class and political persuasion, he came to see that the Nazi regime, despite its pathological anti-bolshevism with which he sympathised, also posed a real and imminent threat to the Empire and to Britain itself. He believed  that German imperialism was determined to conquer the whole of continental Europe and extend its power base to expand its territory eastwards, to destroy the Soviet Union and bring the vast oil resources of the Caucasus and the Middle East under its control. To imagine that Hitler would stop there and be content to allow Britain and the far-flung British Empire to escape his clutches was wishful thinking in the extreme. Those were the judgements that led him to temper his deeply held sentiments against every form of socialism. As so many of his statements make clear, he was a thorough-going opportunist in this respect. But such was his determination to resist the German threat at all costs that he was prepared for as long as necessary to enter into alliances with any and every power that was prepared to take the same stand.

June 1940. Churchill’s heroic reputation dates from June 4th 1940. Following the evacuation of the British expeditionary force and some of the beleaguered French army from Dunkirk, it was clear that France would fall to the Nazis and that Britain would face the very real prospect of a German invasion alone.  Whatever difficulties a sea-born invasion might have posed for the Nazis, few could have been confident that the country could have long withstood a massive onslaught from sea and air against untested defences. Pressure from the still influential appeasement lobby favoured seeking a compromise. Some still claim that Hitler held back from annihilating the expeditionary force on the beaches in expectation that Churchill might be ousted from power by them. These were the circumstances in which he issued his unequivocal rallying call for uncompromising resistance. Well-known though it is, it bears repeating here to place it in its historic context:

“We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be:  we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”

It is no exaggeration to say that this struck a chord among wide sections of the British people who were deeply anxious about what lay ahead for them. It helped to tip the balance away from appeasement and compromise in favour of resistance come what may. In truth the pledge issued in the name of the British people (“We shall defend our Island”) was rash in the extreme. It would have been easy at the time to say that it was delusional, but it didn’t really matter. If he was to reject political compromise he had no choice but to make a collective pledge to fight “whatever the cost may be”. He needed to persuade himself, however foolhardy his words might appear, if he was going to persuade the nation as a whole. Many of his subsequent speeches contained similar hyperbolic flourishes, delivered in a style of English that even then sounded somewhat antiquated, suggestive of a pre-modern Shakespearean delivery.

British resistance rallied and strengthened during the Battle of Britain between August and and October 1940 and weathered the worst of the “Blitz” which lasted from September 1940 to mid 1941. This ended the year in which Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. It  was a year that Ed Murrow, the European chief of CBS, who was reporting from London at the time, described as one of Grim Glory. But in 1941 British isolation ended. On the 22. June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union in violation of the non-aggression pact of August 1939. An Anglo-Soviet military agreement was concluded in July and a full Anglo-Soviet Treaty was signed in May of 1942. Following the signing of the Atlantic Charter by Churchill and Roosevelt in August 1941 the United States entered the war against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbour in December. Hitler and Mussolini then both declared war on the United States, saving Roosevelt the trouble of declaring war on them. The European war had now become a world war.

Churchill in Historical Perspective

Long before the art of governing by professional manipulation was well established, Churchill had crafted an idiosyncratic image using every good photo op that came his way. Here he is testing a Thompson machine gun.

By the end of 1941 Britain’s isolation was over. Thereafter British and U.S. forces were active in military operations in the Far East and North Africa. The only really effective resistance to Japanese imperialism in China was being waged by the communist led People’s Liberation Army. The full weight of the Nazi war machine was directed between 1941 and 1945 at the Soviet Union and ultimately it was the Red Army that broke the back of the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad in 1943. Stalin had had to wait three long years for the promised opening of a second front in Europe, which came eventually in 1944 when Soviet forces were already driving the Nazis back into the Reich. After the war, when he was asked to assess the relative roles of Britain, the USA and the Soviet union in the defeat of Germany and the Axis powers Stalin is reported to have said: “Britain gave time, the USA gave money and we gave blood.” Both Roosevelt and Churchill recognized this at the time, but it is rarely mentioned today.

To leave our consideration of Churchill’s role in history, having dealt only with the Second World War, would amount to accepting the “Great man” myth. We can recognize and pay tribute to the crucial part he played during the war, but to understand what motivated him to act as he did we must consider his world outlook which took shape much earlier in his life.  He was born into the wealthy, privileged aristocracy whose representatives had ruled Britain for much of the nineteenth century. He had grown to manhood during the heyday of the British Empire and he identified with its military caste and their world role. We may get a sense of his mode of thought by letting him speak for himself, so in conclusion there follows a brief reference to some highlights of his political career between 1897 and the early 1930s, accompanied by expressions of opinion in his own words from articles and speeches.

1897 At the age of 22 Churchill first saw military action as a junior cavalry officer in Afghanistan. After being shot at by Pashtun tribesmen he wrote in a news report: “After today we begin to burn villages. Every one. And all who resist will be killed withut quarter. The Mohmands need a lesson and there is no doubt we are a very evil people.” He went on to say that the Pashtuns “recognize sovereignty of race….It is difficult to imagine a lower type of beings or a more dreadful BarbarismIn.” 1898 he took part in the last cavalry charge of the Victorian era at the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan under the command of Lord Kitchener. In 1899 He was employed as a war correspondent for the conservative newspaper The Morning Post. While covering the Boer War he was captured by the Boers and imprisoned. He escaped and managed to walk over 300 miles into Portuguese Mozambique, later writing about it in his memoir From London to Ladysmith via Pretoria.

Churchill with de Gaulle in Morocco. There was no love lost between them.

His political career started as a Tory MP but he switched to the Liberals in 1908. He served first as president of teh Board of Trade and then, from 1911, as First lord of the Admiralty. He resigned from the government during the First World War over the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and briefly returned to military service in command of the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front. While he served as Colonial Secretary (1919 – 1922) under Lloyd George , He ordered air powr to be used against Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq and even suggested that poison gas be used against them.

When the Tories returned to power after the defeat of the short-lived first Labour government in 1924 Churchill rejoined them. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he returned Britain to the gold standard with disastrous economic consequences. He took a hard line against the General Strike of 1926, launching and editing the anti-strike broadsheet the British Gazette. He was not appointed to office following the collapse of the second Labour government in 1931. He was bitterly opposed to the Indian National Congress and rejected out of hand any possibility of Indian independence. His attitude to Gandhi was expressed forcefully in a speech to a Conservative meeting in Essex: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace….to parley on equal terms with the representatives of the King-Emperor.” He called the Indian National Congress leaders “Brahmins who mouth and patter principles of Western liberalism.”

Churchill with Montgomery.

He regarded Bolshevism as a pestilence. He had sanctioned British military intervention to crush the Russian Revolution during the civil war. His views in 1919 and the early 1920s have echoes of the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an English translation of which had been published by the Morning Post, a conservative newspaper for which he had written earlier. In a 1920 article, Zionism versus Bolshevism he wrote “This movement among the Jews is not new – this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality has been steadily growing.” He went on to contrast supporters of the Zionist movement, namely “assimilated Jews who were true to their religion and loyal to Britain” with those who had “forsaken the faith of their forefathers and play an influential role in the Bolshevik movement.” In this connection it is interesting to read what he has to say about Trotsky. In an article written in 1935 titled Trotsky, Alias Bronstein, which he included in his book Great Contemporaries in 1939 he gave vent to his feelings about Jews who opposed Zionism and “had forsaken the faith of their forefathers”, among whom Trotsky for him epitomised Bolshevism; “He possessed in his nature all the qualities requisite for the art of civic destruction – the organizing command of a Carnot, the cold detached intelligence of a Machiavelli, the mob oratory of a Cleon, the toughness of Titus Oates. No trace of compassion, no sense of human kinship, no apprehension of the spiritual, weakened his capacity for action.”  In the same set of essays he has this to say at the conclusion of his assessment of Hitler: “Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism….”Thus, the world lives on hopes that the worst is over, and that we may yet live to see Hitler a gentler figure in a happier age,”

Five years after expressing his hopes that Hitler may perhaps show his gentler side to the world, Churchill had this to say in a speech to the House of Commons on the 22. February 1944: “I have an intense sympathy with the Poles, that heroic race whose national spirit centuries of misfortune cannot quench, but I also have sympathy with the Russian standpoint. Twice in our lifetime Russia has been violently assaulted by Germany. Many millions of Russians have been slain and vast tracts of Russian soil devastated as a result of repeated German aggression. Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West, and we are going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms, but by the approval and assent of the United Nations.”

“Operation Unthinkable”: The curious incident of the missing telegram. 

Finally, concerning Churchill during the last decade of his life, there is an intriguing piece of information that very rarely gets an airing. In 1954 at the time of his 80th birthday celebrations, he made a rather rambling speech at his parliamentary constituency in Woodford, on the outskirts of London. He revealed that at the very end of the war in May 1945, just days before Germany surrendered, he had “telegraphed Field Marshal Montgomery directing him to be careful in collecting German arms to stack them so that they could easily be issued again to the German soldiers whom we should have to work with if the Soviet advance continued.” This admission led to a furore in the British press and had a negative effect on the birthday celebrations. [Today, such admission would probably been suppressed.—Ed] Some Labour MPs refused to sign a birthday book honouring him. He was accused of preparing to “use Nazi soldiers against our wartime allies.” The admission was deeply embarrassing for the Tory government and immediate steps were taken to shut the story down. Montgomery admitted receiving the telegram but said he couldn’t find it is his papers. Churchill claimed that he must have been confused about it. It was rumoured in some quarters that he may have been drunk when he made the speech. Attempts were obviously being made to blur the whole episode in the hope that it would go away. Montgomery later claimed that he had flown to London on the 14th of May 1945 to meet the prime minister. Churchill had told him that all surrendered German weapons must be kept as they might need to be returned to the Germans to fight against the Russians. The available he evidence suggests that this story is true. It was also claimed that the decision to stack the German weapons was taken together with the U.S. military commanders.    

About the Author

Mike Faulkner is a Senior Contributing Editor and our London Correspondent. He is a British citizen living in London. For  many years he taught history and political science at Barnet College, until his retirement in 2002. He has written a two-weekly column,  Letter from the UK, for The Political Junkies Magazine since 2008. Over the years his articles have appeared in such publications as Marxism Today, Monthly Review and China Now. He is a regular visitor to the United States where he has friends and family in New York City. Contact Mike at

The Diner Pantry / SNAP Card Gourmet: Steak Edition
« on: June 10, 2018, 02:30:47 AM »

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Published on the Doomstead Diner Dlog & YouTube Channel on June 10, 2018

Discuss this article & video in The Pantry inside the Diner

The SNAP Card Gourmet is BACK!

It was touch and go as to whether I would get back to doing these vids, but after getting out of hospital a couple of weeks ago I worked up the energy to get going with it again.  Before you get on my case about the poor lighting in this vid, I AM working on it!  Anyhow, you don't really want to see my Grim Reaper ghoulish appearance these days anyhow.

One thing I do want to address today is the criticism I periodically get inside the Diner for my food obsession in a thread I maintain daily called "The Diner Menu".  In that thread daily I feature different recipes for Diners to drool over while they are contemplating doom.  "What does this have to do with collapse?" the critics bellow!  To me the reasons are obvious, but some Doomers are so focused on their own interests in Collapse they can't fathom them, and then make a nuisance of themselves by complaining about it.

To begin with, Food is probably the #1 concern of people who see Collapse coming down the pipe.  "Where will I get it when the shelves go empty at Safeway?"  You have your Doomsteaders and Permies all trying to create subsistence farms they can feed themselves with.  Then you have your Survivalists who are going to go out into the bush and hunt and fish up their sustenance.  At least if they are doing this on their own, both groups are doomed to failure.  You can't produce or gather enough food on your own, it takes at least a small tribe to do it.  A FEW really expert survivalists like Cody Lundin can make it for a while, but even they would eventually succumb without a tribe working together.

Related image The next reason is it demonstrates many of the things we take for granted, primarily JIT delivery of food from around the world.  You can't walk in a food superstore and shop without being overwhelmed by produce from Mexico, Fish from Thailand, Olive Oil from Spain and Wine & Cheese from France.  It's going to be mighty hard in the post-SHTF Day world to be cooking up a Gourmet Meal without these goodies.  So enjoy them now while they are there, because it won't last forever.

Third, it provides a respite from the constant stream of Doom Newz we are inundated with on the Diner every day.  "The World will go up in a Nuclear Fireball on July 19th!  The Chinese will take over the world and Amerikans will be their Slaves!  The Dollar will crash and the Petro-Yuan will be the Reserve Currency of the World!"  etc, etc, etc.  I doubt any of these predictions are accurate, but that doesn't stop Diners from pasting in articles every day to justify their POV.  It's nice (at least for me and other Diners who enjoy the thread) to get away from that constant stream of Apocalyptic Predictions and  enjoy reminiscing about great meals we have eaten or cooked up.

Finally, I am a lifelong "foodie" who has been frequenting various types of eateries my entire life, from cheap recent Greek immigrant street vendors of Souvlaki to the best restaurants in NY Shity..  Besides eating in them, I worked as a chef for a while also.  I love to cook for family and friends.  I also have great concern for the homeless and for those who are trying to get by on a tight budget provided currently in the FSoA by SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), so I created the SNAP Card Gourmet to demonstrate how you can eat very well on the current SNAP Card allowance, if you shop carefully and watch your pennies.  You can even afford to eat Gourmet Meals with Premium Foods a couple of times a month, even once a week if you scrimp the rest of the week.

With that in  mind, in this installment of the SNAP Card Gourmet we go over a couple of ways to prepare PRIME Ribeye Steaks. 😋

Image result for prime ribeye steak Anyhow, all that being said, the Steak Edition of the SNAP Card Gourmet premiering today on the Diner is a Premium Foods meal which was inspired by a great find of Prime Ribeye Steaks at my nearby food superstore of 3 Bears, which has the best meat department around here, far superior to Walmart, Safeway or Kroger.  Well, a small butcher Matanuska Meats has better meat sometimes, but never at the prices that 3 Bears offers up periodically.  Prime is the top designation by the USDA on meat, signifying extensive marbling of fat and tenderness of the meat.  Prime Ribeyes from online purveyors of top quality meat like Chicago Steaks or Omaha Steaks can run $30-40/lb, I got these two little beauties for $12/lb.  So one of them got cooked up as I generally most like a Ribeye done, over the fire on an open grill, and the other one I did as an indoor cooking method braising the meat in a pan and then slow roasting in an oven.  There are several episodes in this series to come which include not just the cooking but the preparation aspects as well and the importance of your cooking tools, especially for the homeless or near homeless person.  A simple question to consider here is where are you going to get your high-carbon stainless steel cooking knives from after SHTF Day arrives?  They won't be arriving on a Bunker Fuel powered container ship, that is for sure.  Pretty hard to do any decent cooking of anything without a good knife.  If you don't have some good ones in your preps along with some backups, now would be a good time to stock up.  A good Barter Item as well.

Intro done, now have fun watching the vid!  Again, apologies for the poor lighting.  This will be fixed!

Medicine & Health / 💀 The Suicide Epidemic
« on: June 08, 2018, 12:14:16 AM »

Suicide rates are up 30 percent since 1999, CDC says
Only half of people who died by suicide had diagnosed mental health conditions.
by Maggie Fox / Jun.07.2018 / 9:00 AM ET / Updated 2:45 PM ET

Suicide rates rose across the U.S. from 1999 to 2016.CDC

Suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, federal health officials reported Thursday.

And only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, even though depression had been thought to be the major cause of suicide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While many cases of mental illness may have been diagnosed, the CDC also noted that relationship stress, financial troubles and substance abuse were contributing to the trends.

“From 1999 to 2015, suicide rates increased among both sexes, all racial/ethnic groups, and all urbanization levels,” the CDC researchers wrote in their report.
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The suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, who died this week at age 55, is capturing headlines and making people wonder if certain groups, such as middle-age women, may be more at risk.

"Middle-aged adults had the largest number of suicides and a particularly high increase in suicide rates. These findings are disturbing," said CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat.

But the CDC team found almost no group is exempt from the rise in suicide rates, except people over age 75.
Suicide rates show disturbing rise

Nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, the CDC team found.

“What we tried to do in this study was look at the state level at trends over time,” Schuchat said.

“Unfortunately, the suicide rates went up more than 30 percent in half of the states.”

Suicide rates have increased in every state since 1999 with the exception of Nevada — but Nevada has already long had one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

“A key thing that we focused on was looking at individuals who committed suicide, comparing those with mental health diagnoses with those who didn’t,” Schuchat told NBC News.
More teens are attempting suicide. It's not clear why

“More than half of all the individuals who committed suicide had no mental health diagnoses.”

That may be in part because it’s so difficult to get mental health care, said Dr. Jack Rozel, medical director of the Allegheny crisis services facility in Pittsburgh and president-elect of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry.

“I run a major crisis center. We have 150 staff. We provide almost 150,000 services every year,” Rozel, also a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said.

Yet even his team sometimes has problems finding help for people.

“I think I am reasonably well-connected. About a year ago a friend of mine reached out to me. He was feeling more sad, more anxious, than usual," Rozel said.

"It took me days to get him an appointment with someone. It’s a problem.”
Suicide rate in teen girls hits 40-year high

Even when people do have treatment, Rozel said, it may be difficult to find the right approach and to find the time and money to continue.

“The first medication doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to find a second or a third. Or a therapist — for whatever reason you don’t connect, you don’t link. It puts people in a very tough spot," he said.

But there’s more to the trends than simply mental health issues, said Schuchat.
Designer Kate Spade's death sparks national conversation on suicide

“I have been learning as a nation we have seen increases and decreases over time in suicide,” she said. “Increases mostly seem to correlate with economic downturns.”

Suicide rates increased the most in some Western and Midwestern states, including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North and South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as Kansas and Oklahoma.
Suicide rate rises with quick repeat deployments

“Those are generally rural states,” Schuchat noted. “We know the economic downturn hit rural states hard and the recovery sometimes takes longer in some of those rural communities. We also know in rural states that access to care may be harder.”

Firearms were the most common method used. They were used in nearly half of all suicides and in 55 percent of the cases where there was no known mental health condition.

The CDC team dug into more details in 27 states. When details were available on what may have been factors in suicides, the CDC team found:

    42 percent had a relationship problem
    28 percent had substance abuse issues
    16 percent had job or financial problems
    29 percent had some kind of crisis
    22 percent had a physical health issue
    9 percent had a criminal legal problem

The CDC had policy advice for ways to help.

    States can help ease unemployment and housing stress by providing temporary help.
    Health care systems can offer treatment options by phone or online where services are not widely available.
    Communities can offer programs and events to increase a sense of belonging among residents.
    Schools can teach students skills to manage challenges like relationship and school problems.

“I have learned that it is important to talk about survivor stories. We know that suicide is preventable," Schuchat said.

The advice from CDC and other experts: If you see someone who may be struggling, ask them about it and stay with them.

“We are in a different era right now, with social media increased and also social isolation is high,” Schuchat said.

“We think helping overcome the isolation can improve the connectedness.”

Editor's note: If you are looking for help, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

History / 🗳️ The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was
« on: June 07, 2018, 12:12:15 AM »

The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was
June 6, 2018 Posted by Addison dePitt


One of the most steadfast beliefs regarding the United States is that it is a democracy. Whenever this conviction waivers slightly, it is almost always to point out detrimental exceptions to core American values or foundational principles. For instance, aspiring critics frequently bemoan a “loss of democracy” due to the election of clownish autocrats, draconian measures on the part of the state, the revelation of extraordinary malfeasance or corruption, deadly foreign interventions, or other such activities that are considered undemocratic exceptions. The same is true for those whose critical framework consists in always juxtaposing the actions of the U.S. government to its founding principles, highlighting the contradiction between the two and clearly placing hope in its potential resolution.

The problem, however, is that there is no contradiction or supposed loss of democracy because the United States simply never was one. This is a difficult reality for many people to confront, and they are likely more inclined to immediately dismiss such a claim as preposterous rather than take the time to scrutinize the material historical record in order to see for themselves. Such a dismissive reaction is due in large part to what is perhaps the most successful public relations campaign in modern history. What will be seen, however, if this record is soberly and methodically inspected, is that a country founded on elite, colonial rule based on the power of wealth—a plutocratic colonial oligarchy, in short—has succeeded not only in buying the label of “democracy” to market itself to the masses, but in having its citizenry, and many others, so socially and psychologically invested in its nationalist origin myth that they refuse to hear lucid and well-documented arguments to the contrary.

To begin to peel the scales from our eyes, let us outline in the restricted space of this article, five patent reasons why the United States has never been a democracy (a more sustained and developed argument is available in my book, Counter-History of the Present). To begin with, British colonial expansion into the Americas did not occur in the name of the freedom and equality of the general population, or the conferral of power to the people. Those who settled on the shores of the “new world,” with few exceptions, did not respect the fact that it was a very old world indeed, and that a vast indigenous population had been living there for centuries. As soon as Columbus set foot, Europeans began robbing, enslaving and killing the native inhabitants. The trans-Atlantic slave trade commenced almost immediately thereafter, adding a countless number of Africans to the ongoing genocidal assault against the indigenous population. Moreover, it is estimated that over half of the colonists who came to North America from Europe during the colonial period were poor indentured servants, and women were generally trapped in roles of domestic servitude. Rather than the land of the free and equal, then, European colonial expansion to the Americas imposed a land of the colonizer and the colonized, the master and the slave, the rich and the poor, the free and the un-free. The former constituted, moreover, an infinitesimally small minority of the population, whereas the overwhelming majority, meaning “the people,” was subjected to death, slavery, servitude, and unremitting socio-economic oppression.

Founding Fathers: as plutocratic oligarchs, they harbored deep reservations if not outright hostility to the idea of genuine democratic rule.

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

Ruling class collaborator Obama: a master public relations stroke—pure symbol and no substance— when the oppressors needed to recharge their legitimacy.

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

In spite of certain minor changes over time, the U.S. republic has doggedly preserved its oligarchic structure, and this is readily apparent in the two major selling points of its contemporary “democratic” publicity campaign. The Establishment and its propagandists regularly insist that a structural aristocracy is a “democracy” because the latter is defined by the guarantee of certain fundamental rights (legal definition) and the holding of regular elections (procedural definition). This is, of course, a purely formal, abstract and largely negative understanding of democracy, which says nothing whatsoever about people having real, sustained power over the governing of their lives. However, even this hollow definition dissimulates the extent to which, to begin with, the supposed equality before the law in the United States presupposes an inequality before the law by excluding major sectors of the population: those judged not to have the right to rights, and those considered to have lost their right to rights (Native Americans, African-Americans and women for most of the country’s history, and still today in certain aspects, as well as immigrants, “criminals,” minors, the “clinically insane,” political dissidents, and so forth). Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite. The general population, the majority of whom do not have the right to vote or decide not to exercise it, are given the “choice”—overseen by an undemocratic electoral college and embedded in a non-proportional representation scheme—regarding which member of the aristocratic elite they would like to have rule over and oppress them for the next four years. “Multivariate analysis indicates,” according to an important recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination […], but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.”

G. Washington overseeing slaves. A routine task of all white colonial masters.

To take but a final example of the myriad ways in which the U.S. is not, and has never been, a democracy, it is worth highlighting its consistent assault on movements of people power. Since WWII, it has endeavored to overthrow some 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected. It has also, according the meticulous calculations by William Blum in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, grossly interfered in the elections of at least 30 countries, attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, dropped bombs on more than 30 countries, and attempted to suppress populist movements in 20 countries. The record on the home front is just as brutal. To take but one significant parallel example, there is ample evidence that the FBI has been invested in a covert war against democracy. Beginning at least in the 1960s, and likely continuing up to the present, the Bureau “extended its earlier clandestine operations against the Communist party, committing its resources to undermining the Puerto Rico independence movement, the Socialist Workers party, the civil rights movement, Black nationalist movements, the Ku Klux Klan, segments of the peace movement, the student movement, and the ‘New Left’ in general” (Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, p. 22-23). Consider, for instance, Judi Bari’s summary of its assault on the Socialist Workers Party: “From 1943-63, the federal civil rights case Socialist Workers Party v. Attorney General documents decades of illegal FBI break-ins and 10 million pages of surveillance records. The FBI paid an estimated 1,600 informants $1,680,592 and used 20,000 days of wiretaps to undermine legitimate political organizing.” In the case of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (AIM)—which were both important attempts to mobilize people power to dismantle the structural oppression of white supremacy and top-down class warfare—the FBI not only infiltrated them and launched hideous smear and destabilization campaigns against them, but they assassinated 27 Black Panthers and 69 members of AIM (and subjected countless others to the slow death of incarceration). If it be abroad or on the home front, the American secret police has been extremely proactive in beating down the movements of people rising up, thereby protecting and preserving the main pillars of white supremacist, capitalist aristocracy.
Elections are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite. The general population, many of whom do not have the right to vote or decide not to exercise it, are given the “choice”—overseen by an undemocratic electoral college and embedded in a non-proportional representation scheme…

 Rather than blindly believing in a golden age of democracy in order to remain at all costs within the gilded cage of an ideology produced specifically for us by the well-paid spin-doctors of a plutocratic oligarchy, we should unlock the gates of history and meticulously scrutinize the founding and evolution of the American imperial republic. This will not only allow us to take leave of its jingoist and self-congratulatory origin myths, but it will also provide us with the opportunity to resuscitate and reactivate so much of what they have sought to obliterate. In particular, there is a radical America just below the surface of these nationalist narratives, an America in which the population autonomously organizes itself in indigenous and ecological activism, black radical resistance, anti-capitalist mobilization, anti-patriarchal struggles, and so forth. It is this America that the corporate republic has sought to eradicate, while simultaneously investing in an expansive public relations campaign to cover over its crimes with the fig leaf of “democracy” (which has sometimes required integrating a few token individuals, who appear to be from below, into the elite ruling class in order to perpetuate the all-powerful myth of meritocracy). If we are astute and perspicacious enough to recognize that the U.S. is undemocratic today, let us not be so indolent or ill-informed that we let ourselves be lulled to sleep by lullabies praising its halcyon past. Indeed, if the United States is not a democracy today, it is in large part due to the fact that it never was one. Far from being a pessimistic conclusion, however, it is precisely by cracking open the hard shell of ideological encasement that we can tap into the radical forces that have been suppressed by it. These forces—not those that have been deployed to destroy them—should be the ultimate source of our pride in the power of the people.

 Gabriel Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and cultural critic. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and founding Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. Follow on twitter: @GabrielRockhill 

Diner TV / 💀 Pain, Freedom & Death
« on: June 03, 2018, 03:11:31 AM »

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 3, 2018

Discuss this Video at the Diner TV Table inside the Diner

I shot the picture above from the threshhold of my Back Porch.  It was a beautiful day here on the Last Great Frontier in early summer/late spring.  Rain in the morning and then lots of warmth and sunshine through the afternoon.  The farmers in Palmer I am sure loved this day, more like it through the summer and we will see new records set at the Alaska State Fair for Giant Vegetables.  For me though, it was a day of realization that I am finished, done, kaput.  I have nothing new I wish to write about Collapse, and I am tired of arguing the fine points with morons.  I did what I am going to do with my life, which certainly could have been better but could have been worse too.  I did manage to stay out of prison.  The time has come for me to make my trip across the Great Divide, only cowardice stops me now from pulling the plug on myself.  I am a worthless heap of meat flesh and should be dead many times over already.

Today I am sharing with my readers a video I made last week while in Hospital.  It is a video of the pain I was undergoing prior to getting a morphine infusion via my IV lines put in place to get drugs into my system without poking me full of holes every 4 hours or so.  I still got numerous holes poked though for extracting blood from my system for daily testing.  Those worked up nice Black & Blue spots.

I have experienced many sorts of pain over the years, I skied off a cliff in my youth and broke both legs and I have had numerous issues of tooth pain as well as various of my teeth went bad after being destroyed by incompetent dentists.  I have had more than 20 teeth pulled at one sitting.  I have had my arteries rotor-rootered without a general anaesthetic so I could watch the proceedure.  However, nothing including the toothaches ever compared with this pain.  Toothaches are constant but a kind of dull pain, not the kind of sharp and repeated pain I experienced with these episodes, which came once or twice a day for 3 days until the problems were brought somewhat under control, although they are still not resolved.  Without the Morphine, I do not know how I would have maintained my sanity through this period, so the Anti-Opiod crawd can go straight to HELL.  Absolutely NOTHING can knock down pain like Morphine, except probably Heroin which is a derivative of Morphine.  I wish they had Heroin available in Hospital when I was there.  Even the Morphine did not do the whole trick.

To try and imagine what it is like, imagine your leg as a really BIG tooth that needs to be extracted, except it comes in with pain thrusts that are sharp and powerful, not dull and continuous.  If a surgeon had showed up in my hospital room while undergoing this and offered to amputate my leg to relieve the pain, I would have enthusiastically agreed to the surgery.  Unfortunately, no surgeon showed up volunteering to do this job and I remained stuck with the offending leg connected to the rest of my body.  Not that it does much good there these days anyhow, the fucking piece of my meat package can't even lift me to my feet anymore without tons of help.

The progress here of my deterioration in many respects mirrors that of the civilization I inhabit.  I am now somewhat free from the extreme pain I was undergoing last week, but with each passing day I beome still more debilitated.  I have just about no reason to live anymore, but I am too big a coward to pull the trigger on myself.  The only thing left is my self-made project of my Tombstone, but that will get done by my executors whether I make it through the next few months or not.  Everything else in my life is all tied up and packaged now, for all it was worth in the end.  I wrote a few words and I taught a few kids.  That sums up the reasonably significant things I did with the 60 or so years I had walking the earth.  Otherwise, I never lived up to my own goals and expectations of myself.

As I make my way to the Great Beyond in this excruciatingly slow process, one of my own thoughts and also suggested to me by other Diners was it was time to check myself in to an Assisted Care Facility, aka a Nursing Home of sorts for Cripples where there is staff around 24/7 to pick your carcass up if you fall down and help you get in and out of bed or onto the throne.  I can't bring myself to do this anymore than I can put a gun to my head and pull the trigger.  It would be giving up the last vestige of FREEDOM I have, which is not much really but it's what I have.  I love my little digs and my space here, which is MY SPACE and nobody tells me how I should live here or dictates what I can eat either.  I want to die here, in my space in my way.  I want to leave this world as I lived in it, by my own rules with nobody telling me what to do or how to do it.  I have nobody left I need to satisfy besides God, and believe you me he will get a piece of my mind when I cross the Great Divide.

The space of our Industrial Civilization is also going Bye-Bye, although not quite so fast as my personal space, and many people will suffer pain similar to what I did as they also make their way across the Great Divide.  Most won't even understand why they are expiring and go down blaming stupid politicians they themselves voted for.  They will cling to stupid religions and stupid political viewpoints and go straight to HELL, where they belong.  These are the people who cannot be saved, and we have them here on the Diner as they also exist throughout the real world.  They will burn in everlasting damnation, so will their parents and their children and grandchildren, all the acolytes of Satan.  I will take everlasting pleasure in watching them burn from my perch in the Great Beyond.  A few days of pain was a small price to pay for this Eternal Schaudenfrede.


Doomsteading / Parents Sue 30-Year-Old Son for Refusing to Move Out
« on: May 23, 2018, 04:46:56 AM »
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