Systems Matter Part 4: Marx, Communism, and Cultural Economics

Before we move forward, I would like for us to realistically consider the radical transformation that took place in Russia as a result of Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution. In previous articles we have made the statement that all transformation takes place at the intersection of culture and economics.

It is difficult for us to comprehend what actually happened when Lenin uncompromisingly pushed for the communist agenda of totally smashing the entire culture of Russia. It was total revolution, the destruction of all systems, a declaration of complete and new ownership of all assets, all accumulation, and all wealth and value. It was an unchallenged authority with full power that would determine what each individual would access, consume, possess, or utilize. That power would determine where the individuals would live, what they would eat, the clothes they would wear, what they would read, and even what they would think or talk about.

In prior discussions we have addressed the economic components of land, labor, capital, and the entrepreneur. All of the land and production of Russia was no longer allowed to be held or even influenced by any such things as market factors or individuals. All actions of labor and work would be directed ultimately by the politburo. All capital, including personal property, all livestock, all machinery, all furniture or utensils of work would be owned, possessed, and managed by the elite politburo. As for the entrepreneur . . . there would be no such thing.

On the cultural side of the matrix, traditions would be abolished. Those institutionsthat carried forward those traditions would no longer legally exist. The family would be restructured and the individual would be melded into the seamless whole of the communist party.

When I think about the profound and primal transformation that took place at the very announcement of Lenin– when he declared that the Soviet government under the direction of himself, the politburo, and the enforcing management of the soldiers, the peasants and the workers– I am reminded of the scene from the film Dr. Zhivago.

When Dr. Zhivago returned to his home in Moscow, from having been conscripted to treat the wounded and medically needy of the Red Army, he was met by a houseful of newly entitled citizens who now had equal possession and management of what had formerly been his family’s home. Zhivago, his wife, and her parents had been relegated to a very small area for their living quarters. The new inhabitants were even going to hold court when they discovered that the doctor was going to use some of the wood that he had formerly owned to burn in the small stove. No longer was the wood his, neither was the stove his, nor the house!

I have tried to picture in my mind and vicariously experience with my emotions the impact of that day of announcement. The Russian economy and culture bear the stripes of inefficiency, shortage, and lost opportunity to this day.

The Chinese, in the aftermath of their Cultural Revolution and bout with communism, have been forging ahead trying to rediscover the secrets to efficiency and abundance. Russia continues to reject the phenomenon of efficient production and abundance. When it runs out of the supply it has taken from the czars, stolen from its close neighbors, or pillaged from all the old members of the former Soviet Federation, President Putin can only resort to the one strategy Russia knows for accumulation of wealth: theft by appropriation, or simply, theft.

When you don’t produce things then you must resort to taking wealth by stealing. Russia is once more embarking on the old strategy of stealing through the practice of expansionism. They must now have, again, the wealth of Ukraine.

I recall riding in an automobile near Sinuiju City on one of my trips to North Korea. As I viewed the countryside quilted with rice paddies and rectangular concrete communist housing units, I was plagued by a menacing thought. Finally, I decided to risk asking one of the communist leaders in the car this probing question:

“This is beautiful land for agriculture. I would suppose that before the Marxist revolution it had been owned continuously by four or five generations of families in succession. What was the response of the families who had owned the land for so long when Great Leader Kim Il Sung announced that they no longer owned the land, tore down their homes and dwellings, and insisted that everyone move into the rectangular concrete buildings?”

“Oh, it was a wonderful day,” was their scripted reply. “Dr. Jackson, there is no way you can understand how eager everyone was to respond to Great Leader’s glorious announcement that now no one owned anything, but everyone owned everything. From that day on Great Leader Kim Il Sung would personally take care of all of our needs. No one would be in want of anything. They were all so happy to move into their new homes with others who would be tending the communal rice fields together with them.”

I quietly continued my research over the years and discovered that the problem of surrendering the family inheritance was simply solved by graciously allowing the family members to hint at an attitude of protest only once. They were murdered. At that point the rice production strangely fed a higher percentage of the population than before. As the years have gone by the sad truth is that the population has decreased but the production has dwindled until there is not enough rice produced to even feed the hungry population, to say nothing of having any excess to sell to eager international buyers. Systems matter!

Next Week: SYSTEMS MATTER Part 5: Investigating Free Enterprise.

(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson’s new writing project on Cultural Economics)

© Dr. James W. Jackson   

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