It’s unfortunate that we even have to spend so much time refuting these lies, but as I’ve noted previously, under US capitalism, we essentially live in as propagandistic a state as the USSR. Sure, there’s stuff that violates the Elite – Ruling Class line, but you really have to dig around to get it, as you will never hear or see it in any large newspaper or major newsmagazine. You will also not hear it on 99% of the radio frequency. And you won’t hear it all on TV. Never! Not even one time.
So the capitalist Elite – Ruling Class has the propaganda thing pretty well locked down. They’ve got all of the large papers and newsmagazines, 99% of the radio dial and 100% of the TV channels. Even with cable and 600 channels, I still think they would have 100% of the frequency.
Sure, there are other places to find this stuff, but it’s outside the MSM, so it’s very hard to find. There are small magazines that are anti-US Ruling Class, but they have small circulations, are hard to find, and you often need to pay for a subscription, which hardly anyone will do. There is public radio, pretty progressive around here, but it’s only one station on the dial. There are no alternatives for TV and a daily newspaper.
The rare and hard to find anti-Ruling Class voices are similar to the underground press in the USSR. Back then, keep in mind that there were samizdat presses all through the East Bloc, but like a copy of The Nation, they were hard to come across most people hardly ever read one.
One of the lies that almost all of us, believe, including yours truly, a Leftist, is that Communism was an economic disaster. After all, why has the whole world abandoned it in favor of capitalism?
Like so many things that everyone believes to be true, this statement is, in a general way, false. Via Entitled To An Opinion, a link to the Less Wrong blog (great title by the way) which proves that actually, Communism was not an economic disaster at all. Nor was it a miracle. On the contrary, economic growth in the Communist Bloc during the period covered by the surveys was right around the global average, nothing special, nothing too bad. Just typical.
The problem with Eastern Europe was that they were comparing themselves to Western Europe. From 1945-1990, Western Europe grew at a rate faster than the global average, while Eastern Europe grew at the global average. It become apparent that Western Europe was beating the Communists, but only because the Communists could not excel in the same way that the West did. When one excels and another is average, the one who excels wins. But in no way can the East Bloc be said to an economic failure.
Looking specifically at West Germany and East Germany, it is hard to make the case that West Germany had a better economy. They started out better, and at the end, they were still better, but it was all due to boost at the starting line.
In 1950 West Germany to East Germany GDP per capita ratio was 2.04:1.00. In 1989 it was almost identical – 2.14:1.00. So 40 years of capitalism hardly widened the gap. It did widen it a tiny bit – by 10% over 40 years, but that’s not much to crow about.
The capitalists like to throw in North Korea, but North Korea appears to be an outlier even among Communist countries. Up until 1980, they had a bigger economy than South Korea. Then South Korea started beating them. After 1990, the price of oil went up 10X overnight. Imagine if that happened here in the US. Gas would go from $2.90/gallon to $29/gallon overnight. How would the US economy handle that? How would you handle that? Would you still be able to drive your car?
Anyway, that price shock was unaffordable, and North Korea just ran out of oil. Oil was needed to run the factories and the heavily mechanized agricultural economy, so the whole thing collapsed. Not only that, but the entire capitalist world would not lift one finger to help them, as the West has been embargoing North Korea from Day One.
In addition to Western Europe, East Asia was the big winner. They grew even faster than Western Europe. So the two prizes of the capitalist system, East Asia and Western Europe, have actually been performing abnormally well for decades now. Holding these champs up as representing world capitalism in praxis is most dishonest.
The big losers in economic growth over the period were all capitalist countries – India, Indonesia, Peru and most of Latin America, Argentina, Chile, the UK and New Zealand – going from poorest to richest. It’s interesting that we never think of these economies as being economic failures, but they have been.
One can argue that Communism failed not in terms of economic growth per se, which was quite average, but in terms of supplying good products for its citizens. Surely one should not have to wait in line 5 years to buy a refrigerator or 10 years to buy a car in an economy with decent economic growth. There were also long-term problems with housing – most Communist housing was small and cramped, and there were chronic housing shortages. There were also chronic shortages of many to most of the items one buys in a store, even foodstuffs, though in general folks had plenty to eat.