Thursday, May 02, 2013

"What Communism Teaches Us"

Bruce Sterling in Wired HERE "What Communism Teaches Us"
This is a thoughtful piece on the aftermath of the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia and of interest to anyone who thinks that transitions from one status quo to another that they prefer is the end of society’s problems.
I note this opening paragraph summarising Havel's life:
What’s so interesting about this speech by a dead dissident? Well, he slew Communism and buried it, and then he looks around at Western politics and he sees a related slave morality. You dump historical materialism and you just transfer the whip to the Invisible Hand of the Market.”
No, I am not going to make my regular post on the “invisible hand”; I am simply noting how one version of “the system” people live under has its myopic visions of what’s going on which do not bear much relationship to the realities that all systems promote as an explanation of what their current experiences are and should be about.  Adam Smith, for one, was also a moralist with a far more realistic approach to analysing how society operated without making predictions for an unknowble future. Ideology trumps the daily experience of everyday life.  The ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ – was actually dictatorship by its resident Communist Party dictators and is as much an imaginary image of what communism was really about as is the soothing fatalistic balm of those who mouth the equally imaginary assurances of “invisible hands” at work in markets.  
Lusty renditions of the Internationale from middle-class activists, whose personal acquaintance with real poverty is limited to their tourism among the poor – for them but not of them – are unconvincing and quaint.  It is phoney for them to sing about “starvelings” awaking from their “slumbers” to arise as “prisoners of want” in 21st century Europe, as heard on May Day tv news, as if the “teeming masses” were or ought to be awaiting the call to join the barricades.  Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority in market economies live in relative affluence compared to the fate of the majorities in many parts of the world elsewhere.
I should make clear here that like many of my centre-right associates (including in the Adam Smith Institute), as well as many of my friends among centre-left fellow Scots, I welcome rich and poor immigrants into our country, seeking a better life - recall the enormous contribution made by the penniless Ugandian Asians who came here as refugees in the 70s. 
I also think tv footage of the dictator of Syria celebrating 'May Day' was somewhat nauseous – I trust everybody, except our own George Galloway, felt the same.
So follow the link above and this one too: HERE 


Blogger airth10 said...

One thing we know is that communism did not have anything like Smith's 'invisible hand'. Only a free and open society could experience such a phenomenon.

11:19 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Interesting that marxist/communists claimed that the state planners could run a complex economy as good as the fabled "invisible hand" -- Oscar Lange in 1938 (you can google it to get the full citation and quotes from it).
Of course, state planners for reasons discussed by Hayek, could do no such thing, anymore than state managers in market economies. The information required is beyond a single human's or group of planners, to design and manage a market economy.
There is not invisible hand; its an imaginary entity that does not exist.

7:55 pm  
Blogger airth10 said...

True, there is no invisible hand. We know it is a metaphor. But we use metaphors because otherwise we could not hope to understand or relate the real world and its phenomena.

Metaphors in a sense are real because they help describe a reality. Metaphors are facilitators of reality. So too, then, is the invisible hand, a facilitator of reality.

Under communism workers used to say "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work". That was not absolutely true. It was said metaphorically to give us a picture of a, reality that existed under communism, that things were not fine.

8:31 pm  

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