aRTICLES

ALTERNATIVE PASTS, FUTURE ALTERNATIVES?

(excerpt)

 

(...) The Bolshevik opportunity arrived quite contrary to the Marxist expectation of mounting contradictions within the capitalist mode of production. The breakthrough theories of Barrington Moore and Theda Skocpol explain what provided this revolutionary opportunity in Russia. This opportunity was itself strongly predetermined by the emergence of modern bureaucratic institutions, nations, and classes that had spread from the west to the semiperiphery like Russia, Spain, Japan, and the Ottoman empire by the early twentieth century. Not only were governments and capitalist organizations actively learning from each other, but so were the various revolutionary circles, whose reach, through emigration and the dissemination of translated literature, became no less global.

This progressive diffusionary process was followed by the apocalyptic collapse of the international order in 1914. Memoirists and historians have traditionally explained the outbreak of pan-European slaughter in 1914 as a grotesquely tragic juxtaposition of chance, patriotic madness, and folly. But this explanation focuses on the events while disregarding less evident and slower moving structures-and here Fernand Braudel's famous disdain for the conventional histoire evenementielle seems particularly justified. To appreciate the world-historical factors that coalesced in the Bolshevik revolution, one has to turn to Karl Polanyi's classical commentary on the nineteenth-century "Great Transformation" of world markets as well as the more recent scholarly achievements of Giovanni Arrighi, and also to Michael Mann's intricate neo-Weberian pursuit of the causes and forces leading to August 1914.

 

1919

 

The nodal point of 1919 remains largely ignored, yet, it was in the crucible of the civil war through which the key features in the peculiar taxonomy of the Soviet state emerged, in large part-for example, the national republics- completely unanticipated by the Bolsheviks themselves. The bout of revolutionary organizational inventiveness performed under colossal pressure and during a compressed formative period is what really made the Soviet Union. It is also what has undone the even likelier historical alternative at the time-Russian fascism.

What is really surprising is not that the Bolsheviks seized power but that they were still in power two years later. Far more likely was a reactionary dictatorship led by a general from the old regime like Anton Denikin. This outcome had numerous analogies across Europe (think of Jozef Pilsudski in Poland, Gustaf Mannerheim in Finland, or Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Spain). One may doubt that a more progressive military modernizer, perhaps Aleksandr Kolchak or Nikolai Iudenich, could have become the Russian Atatiirk-Russian peasant nationalism was inadequately developed to carry such a project. Even less warranted seemed retrospective hopes for a liberal parliamentarian Russia. The proponents of such a hypothesis would have difficulty explaining how Russia could have become the exception to the contemporary authoritarian trends and how its putative liberal government could have dealt with the worker, peasant, and national revolts while keeping at bay the militaristic "saviors of the Motherland." Furthermore, given Denikin's abysmal political record in dealing with the same challenges, a purely militaristic regime of restoration probably would not have lasted very long. Through an internal mutation or coup, a more activist fascist movement would have sought to correct the failure. In embryonic form, such movements were present in the White armies and later in emigration.

Fascism carried its own coercive solution to the agrarian problems and was one possible program for rapid state-led industrialization centered on armaments production, such as occurred in Benito Mussolini 's Italy or the contemporary Japan. But given that fascist revolutions from above bred virulent aggressiveness, one must wonder what might have been the consequences of attempted conquests of former imperial borderlands, possibly including the renewed pursuit of pan-Slavism or the Eurasianist project.

A fascist Russia would not have necessarily welcomed Nazi and Japanese expansionism. Geopolitical rivalry takes precedence over ideology at the level of world-historical causality. Besides, the Nazis themselves were none too eager to spread their ideological model. But could a nonBolshevik Russia have survived a direct clash with such an enemy? Could it have gathered the requisite industrial potential, organization, and popular enthusiasm? Perhaps, a key difference would have been American willingness to pour resources into a continental state opposing the Nazi bid for world power. An American-Russian alliance in World War II was strongly determined by the historical pattern of capitalist balance of power. Medieval Venice, the early modern Netherlands, Britain during the Napoleonic challenge, and America facing the German quest to replace the declining British empire consistently chose the same strategy: direct naval domination over the commercially important seas combined with the acquisition of allies for the ultimately murderous land warfare.

But if this model had prevailed, would scholars still be discussing, by the late twentieth century, whether Russia was reformable? It might prove difficult because, although geopolitically successful conquerors become more relaxed in their imperial grandeur, they also become resistant to change due to the conservative effects of what Max Weber called Machtprestige (the power-prestige). This resistance to change, of course, applies equally to communist-ruled Russia after 1945. But no less likely seems the possibility that the question of democratization would not have arisen at all in the alternative world that might have ended a Nazi worldempire or a dichotomous Nazi-American cold war secured by the nuclear deterrent. I would remind those whose ideological preferences might lead them to intensely dislike this line of reasoning that, for all the actual horrors of the twentieth century and Stalinism as its part (of which I, the descendant of both Armenian refugees from Turkey and the starved and deported Kuban Cossacks, do not need to be reminded), we may still have missed the worst.

And that is because the Bolsheviks won the civil war. Through a combination of ferocious determination to escape the fate of the Paris commune and the adoption of bureaucratic wartime economic measures, they achieved victory. Taking their political discourse from Karl Marx, the Bolsheviks followed other Germans in their organizational practice: Chancellor Walther Rathenau and General Erich Lüdendorf. The combination of a strong collectivist ethos with a future orientation and the centralized bureaucratic expropriation of Russia's vast resources made possible the Bolsheviks' glories as well as their infamies. The architecture of the Soviet state was determined in the main by the three institutions that had most contributed to the Bolshevik victory in the civil war: the centralized and all-encompassing nomenklatura system of political-bureaucratic appointment that helped to harness the segments of the former imperial bureaucracy, army, and industry; the forced mobilization of economic resources and manpower for the war effort that saved Soviet rule at least twice, in 1919 and again in 1942, before running it down toward the 1980s; and the establishment of national republics to tame the peripheral nationalisms, though only at an accumulating cost that would explode after 1989.

 

1929

 

Despite my admiration for Cohen, I fail to see how a Bukharinist regime could have differed substantially from the Stalinist one. If Bukharin had proven less murderous than Stalin, this might have saved many lives, yet it is doubtful that Soviet industrialization could ever have been less despotic, because its character seems fully determined by the war-economic configuration of the Soviet state, its antagonistic relation to the peasantry, and the contemporary geopolitical context. Perhaps a less terroristic regime might have later facilitated a less oppressive political climate in the USSR. Could this have led to a more democratic and orderly overcoming of the Soviet developmental dictatorship? "Possibly" seems the only reasonable answer.

Much confusion derives from the optimist misreading of the New Economic Policy (NEP) experiment. Although NEP resembled the Chinese "four modernizations" after the death of Mao, the world-historical context was entirely different. The Bolsheviks' embrace of the gold standard during the 1920s flowed from the same revolutionary combination of bureaucratic pragmatism and messianic expectation. In the 1920s the belief in the modernizing power of free markets was experiencing a worldwide renaissance before the Great Slump. By 1929 the hope for foreign investment and domestic peasant-driven market revival had been exhausted. In the 1930s the Soviet state embarked on a quest to build a modern industrial base without capitalists, whether domestic or foreign. A major factor in this decision was the expectation of another world war. Soviet developmentalism thus became fundamentally military-industrial in character rather than export-oriented as it could be in China in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the words of Stephen Hanson, the Bolsheviks managed something that Max Weber himself could not have imagined-a charismatic bureaucracy that negated the dichotomy between "utopia" and "development". This major innovation had its roots in three western organizational breakthroughs: bureaucratic government, bureaucratic economic trust, and the bureaucratically directed mass political party. Yet the Bolshevik innovation itself was nothing exceptional. Taking their cues from Wilhelmine Germany (rather than from the peculiar Anglo-American pattern of capitalism under a minimal state), both Soviet Russia and Japan in the 1920s discovered the model of state-led industrial modernization or a "developmental state." After 1945 the model proliferated around the "developing" world periphery in a variety of Marxist, anti-imperial nationalist, and hybrid forms that are summarized in Immanuel Wallerstein's expression "Leninism with Marxism or without". The organizational diffusion of the model that, on the merits of its industrial, military, and educational achievements was regarded a great success during the 1950s and 1960s, induced the ideological impression of socialism's progressive march around the planet.

To restate it as a positive theoretical proposition, the purges and personality cult did not grow out of Stalin's head but rather from the newly achieved centralization of political, military, economic, and ideological structures. Such a degree of centralization-usually achievable only in the aftermath of revolutions, wars, or similar upheavals-in turn produced its charismatic embodiment in great hero/villain figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte in one historical situation or Mustafa Kemal Atatiirk, Mussolini, Juan Peron, Mao,Josip Broz Tito, Fidel Castro, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Ruhollah Khomeini in their different but broadly comparable situations. It remains to be investigated whether there may also exist a special receptiveness to such national-statist rituals in predominantly agrarian populations during periods of rapid socioeconomic restructuring. The terroristic and "totalitarian" tendencies of twentieth-century developmentalism flowed from the same conditions: the unusually high autonomy of a state apparatus forged in the brutal ordeals of revolutionary struggle; the tremendous concentration of all powers in the same apparatus; and the burning desire to validate the developmental project and past sacrifices by delivering at a historically unprecedented rate modernizing victories without concern for the costs. (...)

oN THE TOPIC

Պետք է բացահայտել այս խնդիրների ճնշող մեծամասնության քաղաքական էությունը, ցույց տալ, որ քաղաքականը անհնար է հանգեցնել սոցիալականին, տնտեսականին, մշակութայինին, բարոյականին և անհնար է ոչ մի բանով փոխարինել: Մյուս կողմից, ամեն ինչը կարող է քաղաքական չափում ունենալ և որպես կանոն` ունի:

Դառնալ քաղաքական սուբյեկտ՝ նշանակում է ռիսկի դիմել քաղաքական օբյեկտի կախված և խոցելի կարգավիճակից դուրս գալու համար, պայքարի մեջ մտնել՝ գերագույն իշխանության ձևավորման ու վերհսկողության ևպատակով:

 Триада «система универсальных сверхценностей – транснациональная «партия» - Центр/метрополия» держится на постоянной вербовке человеческого ресурса. При этом всякая такая триада оправдывает свое существование борьбой против другой транснациональной триады, желающей «подчинить мир», «поработить человечество». И под этим предлогом успешно привлекает к коллаборационизму ...