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Old 08-01-2012, 11:58 PM
 
Location: interior Alaska
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
so perhaps if Lenin had just focused on Russia only, and let the outlying states have independence, it may have worked?

Perhaps just hung on to Russia, Ukraine and the productive regions etc?
No, the problem in my opinion was not the size, it was the message sent to the peoples. In the US there has historically been this message to the have-nots (who were disenfranchised either due to poverty or due to being the "wrong" ethnicity) "if you save up/assimilate/work hard/be a loyal American/etc. you may someday be accepted, your children may have a better life, you may one day live the American dream. Hang in there!" Whereas in the USSR there was this message to the disenfranchised people "You are the true people of this country! Learn your language in the school! Have pride in your state!" Of course then there is the dissonance between what the government is telling you and the reality of the situation, which is that neither you nor your state have any control. You feel you should already have power and respect and a comfortable life. But you do not have it and there is no pathway (real or illusory) to get it. How then can the central government hold these states without resorting to force? And if the central government cannot resort to force anymore, either from "going soft" or from lack of resources, then what is there to keep them?

And unscrupulous climbers will certainly take advantage of the opportunities provided by this discontent.

Last edited by Frostnip; 08-02-2012 at 12:18 AM..
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:17 AM
 
Location: interior Alaska
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
Ok, just to change tack for a minute.

how do you think life was for the average citizen in say the 70's, 80's and 90's?

I mean, what were the wages like, and how about the healthcare, education, leisure, shopping, housing, crime , and general happiness of the people?

I've found it very hard to find unbiased books, info on these things.
Clearly people of different backgrounds and in different locations would have had different experiences, but speaking from an urban Leningrad/Petersburg point of view, I don't think for an average person there is such a big change in happiness or access between, say, the 80s and now. Then you had to be more careful about staying under the radar of authorities but crime was not so frightening. Nowadays, vice versa, so it's a trade-off. Then you might feel personally insecure because of fears of war and of censure, but now you may feel personally insecure because there is no more economic safety net for an ordinary person. Of course there are more foreign products and consumer goods, but prices are very high compared to wages, so while things may be legally available now they are not exactly accessible. I would say health care was more available for the non-wealthy before the fall of the USSR (not taking into account medical advances, of course). Education was also more accessible for ordinary people, but schools were very political, so again, a trade-off. Being able to travel freely now is a great thing, as is the free press (well, not the TV and radio, which are not free at all, but the internet is amazing and print publishing is much better). I don't know what to say about general happiness...most Slavic peoples are bad at happiness no matter what the circumstances

I will say it is easier to be poor when the people around you are also poor. It is more difficult to be poor when you are regularly seeing New Russians all over the place and you constantly see in the media this other life.

Many elderly people really miss the pride of the USSR days.

Last edited by Frostnip; 08-02-2012 at 12:39 AM..
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:24 AM
 
5,931 posts, read 5,607,902 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frostnip View Post
No, the problem in my opinion was not the size, it was the message sent to the peoples. In the US there has historically been this message to the have-nots (who were disenfranchised either due to poverty or due to being the "wrong" ethnicity) "if you save up/assimilate/work hard/be a loyal American/etc. you may someday be accepted, your children may have a better life, you may one day live the American dream. Hang in there!" Whereas in the USSR there was this message to the disenfranchised people "You are the true people of this country! Learn your language in the school! Have pride in your state!" Of course then there is the dissonance between what the government is telling you and the reality of the situation, which is that neither you nor your state have any control. You feel you should already have power and respect and a comfortable life. But you do not have it and there is no pathway (real or illusory) to get it. How then can the central government hold these states without resorting to force? And if the central government cannot resort to force anymore, either from "going soft" or from lack of resources, then what is there to keep them?
That's quite interesting view considering that official income inequality in USSR was 10 to 1 max. That's another very important reason why USSR fell. Communist party bosses had power but they had laughable (by post soviet standards) wealth, at some point lack of sizable wealth became intolerable. Soviet "elites" wanted power, money, and property just like their "civilized" western counterparts. They got it after USSR fell. Cui bono? Even Gorby made some dough on Pizza Hut ads in addition to the undisclosed money transfers, totally shameless.

In USSR everybody was "efranchised". Unlike USA, every Soviet citizen had the right (Not an opportunity) to work i.e. exist provided keeping mouth shut on some political & ideological issues, of course. Maybe it wasn't a fancy two car garage existence but nevertheless your basics were covered. Since you had the right to work, i.e. exist, you had the freedom to be who you are on the personal level (there were no self-help, Ritalin, Prosac, self-adjustment, etc., etc., industries in USSR). That's the striking difference between the "West" (or Modern post-Soviet countries) and USSR. Soviet citizenry had limited number of styles of clothing to choose from, for example, but there were millions of Non Prosaced styles of personalities wearing those limited number of styles. They could afford their personalities, they had the right to exist. In the West it's "little" bit different, the number of clothing styles is staggering, so is uniformity of personalities and human behavior. There is ongoing convergence to a generic averaged "corporate" personality. Theoretically everybody is "free" to be who they are but alarming uniformity suggests that people try to adjust themselves (in public, at least) to please the invisible hands selectively distributing meal tickets to the well adjusted. Bubble gum or human genuinity? What would you choose? Soviet citizens chose bubble gum as we know.

Last edited by RememberMee; 08-02-2012 at 12:58 AM..
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:50 AM
 
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all interesting stuff, thanks for the replies so far
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Old 08-02-2012, 11:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
Ok, just to change tack for a minute.

how do you think life was for the average citizen in say the 70's, 80's and 90's?

I mean, what were the wages like, and how about the healthcare, education, leisure, shopping, housing, crime , and general happiness of the people?

I've found it very hard to find unbiased books, info on these things.
My impressions of "life for the average citizen" in that era are based upon my contact with Russian immigrants to the USA in the 1990's ....

I hired a couple of them when they first came here. They'd been working on their English in preparation for the move, and while language was still a bit of a problem they were able to communicate reasonably well.

One couple ... she a singer/dancer/waitress was hired in an old chain pizza restaurant converted to a bar/restaurant catering to the Russian immigrant community here, and he, a mechanic who came here because an uncle had come over and established an auto shop a few years previously.

Working with the young man, it was interesting to see what impressed them the most here. They were absolutely dumbfounded over the ready availability of consumer goods. Their first trip to a supermarket was overwhelming, they took over a hundred pictures of the goods and fruits and vege's that were in abundance and reasonably priced. They were sending those pictures back home to all their friends and relatives, proving that the USA couldn't be the big bad monster that they'd been told we were all their lives. That alone was cause to justify coming here.

Similarly, they were dumbfounded over how affordable and nice housing was here. For a reasonable rent, they were able to have a 2-bedroom apartment, about 1,100 sq ft, with an updated kitchen/bathroom, all the modern built-in appliances, and so forth. None of which they had back home, nor could they afford.

Recreationally, they were astounded at the ready and affordable access to so many things to do ... they took up snow skiing, bought a 2nd hand 10' aluminum boat with a small outboard motor, and were able to go fishing and camping in the public lands around here.

What staggered them the most, however, was the ready availability and affordability of cars. Back home, the wife was telling me ... the reason she was attracted to her husband was because he was a go-getter and actually owned a car! Some POS Fiat knock-off built under license, it was forever breaking down and getting parts for it was a hassle. Here, in 6 months of working for those tips ... the wife was able to buy a MercedesBenz! yes, it was a slightly long in the tooth 190E, but that she was able to buy it on her own and afford it and learn to drive was staggering to them. He'd already bought a Toyota pick-up truck ... not the nicest, but driveable and reliable ... which thrilled them to no end and took them on so many adventures.

With the young man working in my shop, I noticed several habits which didn't fit into my work ethic and I fired him shortly thereafter. He had access to my shop tools, since he owned so very few of his own. But I started noticing that my open company toolbox, intended to help the new guys with tools that they might not yet have ... was rapidly missing tools. Yup, the guy was a thief. Cagey enough to realize that I'd notice my tools gone, what he was doing was taking the marked/etched company tools to a flea market, selling them, and using the money to buy used similar replacements (all Snap-On pro tools), which stayed in his toolbox. I caught him one day searching through my personal tool box, which was "off-limits" to my techs; he found that I had THREE 10 mm long and extra long box-open end wrenches there. He was astounded: "You've got THREE of those and I have none. You give me one!". It wasn't a question, it was a demand in light of the fact that it was an "unfair" distribution of the tools in my shop, never mind that I'd bought and paid for them ... and I was his employer who signed his paychecks.

What the fellow didn't realize was that I'd marked the company toolbox years ago, lined it with foam and made a resting place for each and every wrench and socket and tool in the collection. The point was that you could go through the box at the end of a job and see if you had any empty slots, which told you that you hadn't put the tool away. Perhaps it was left on the job, or it dropped to the floor, but you needed to look for it and put it back.

The final straw for me was having a come-back car that he'd worked on where I was the one to check out the problem under the hood. There was a couple of my 10 mm long wrenches he'd "borrowed" to do the job, left there. You see, he had no investment in those tools and it didn't matter to him that he didn't bother to return them to my toolbox, it was nothing to him and he couldn't understand why I was upset about finding them. If the car had gotten much further down the road then what it did, those wrenches most likely would have dropped out onto the road and been totally lost.

So I told him he was fired, and directed him to go through his toolbox and return to me any of my tools that had "found" their way there. He did so, and then I asked to look through his toolbox. Only I rolled up with my company toolbox next to his and we proceeded to fill all the empty slots there with the corresponding tool ... other used Snap-On tools that were identical to what he'd taken. I knew that he hadn't been spending any money with our route salesman at the shop, these were tools he was buying that were most likely stolen tools. Some were marked with other ID's, some were clean and almost new. While I didn't fill all of the empty slots, I got most of my tools back. His reaction: just shrugged his shoulders. He knew that he'd been caught and that it was my right to get my stuff back ... and he still got the benefit of a bunch of stuff which I couldn't be sure about, so that was still a net gain to him for nothing. And it meant nothing to him, either. Easy come ... easy go.

His uncle called me later to chew me out for firing the fellow, claiming he was worth the stolen tools because he was such a good worker for me and I'd underpayed him. So be it, I told him to hire the fellow and we'd see. Uncle hired him and he lasted for a month before Uncle fired him for not being very productive. Uncle had figured out that you've got to pay your way here in the USA or he wasn't keeping you around like he would have in Russia. The fellow went on to work in several other shops that I knew of, and one of the owners fired him the first time he caught the fellow doing the same trick with exchanging tools ... only it was other techs toolboxes in that shop that were being raided. Word got around and the fellow didn't get hired in another shop. Last I heard, he'd bought some lawn equipment and was going around the neighborhoods with a lawn service ... staffed by a couple of Russian immigrant friends his wife had met at the bar ... but they were a one-stop operation. Here today, but not back next week, not much of a work/business ethic; but that appeared to be what they were used to back home. With enough money coming in to keep a roof over their heads, anything else was not needed to be happy. In the winter months, they took housekeeping jobs in the ski resorts ... paid piece-work for each bedroom and bathroom they cleaned and changed linens in. They were astounded ... it was the easiest money they'd ever made and then they got to go skiing for the rest of the day ... better than working for a living, and besides ... the wives were working at the bar and making plenty with all the tips. Why work?

Last edited by sunsprit; 08-02-2012 at 11:25 AM..
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Old 08-02-2012, 06:17 PM
 
Location: interior Alaska
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It is quite impressive how you can generalize about Russia based on this particular fellow and his family.

That silliness aside I think it is not a good idea in general to judge the views of a country based on emigrants from that country, at least not uncritically. People who are choosing to leave often have quite a different outlook and different priorities than people who are choosing to stay.
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Old 08-02-2012, 11:55 PM
 
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yes, I agree - there are always the good and the bad.

A person could be a thief of any nationality - but thanks for the tale Sunsprit, it's all interesting
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Old 08-03-2012, 09:10 AM
 
Location: Plymouth, MN
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Soviet Union collapsed due to three major things:

1) Inherent major economic inefficiencies (due to lack of supply-demand price setting mechanisms, etc) and horrible slide in labor productivity ever since end 1960s. It was absolutely unsustainable and it was doomed to fail.

2) Inability to face the problems head on and introduce market reforms like they did it in China.

3) Extraordinary low world oil prices in the end 80s that made Soviet government essentially bankrupt.

honorable mentioning: Gorbachev's glasnost policy, that allowed people to express their opinions without getting prosecuted. probably a major catalyst for the collapse.
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Old 08-03-2012, 11:29 AM
 
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The Soviet Union failed because of....
1. The caustic self destructive militant politics of greed and revenge.
2. Utterly unsustainable top-down centrally "managed" economies that gave no heed to natural economic forces for more balanced efficient and sustainable growth. The Soviet Union is the classic example of waste and environmental degradation with ZERO accountability of those responsible. There was NO all-powerful "EPA" in the Soviet Union.
3. Blind and pointless debauching of moral standards that are the cornerstone of vibrant economies where there is greater trust in the system(s) and greater responsibility and accountability. If "leaders" habitually get away with all manner of malfeasance because they're ranking "party" members then there is no chance for improved leadership to move up changing the countries direction for the better and of course the people watching all this will quickly lose faith in the perceived value of the "revolution".
4. Hopelessly corrupt and moribund leadership with no term limits developing into little more than dynastic and blood thirsty dictatorships.
5. A completely subverted court and legal system that did nothing to support individual rights and liberties, the very basis of personal freedom.
6. A pathologically aggressive and very expensive foreign policy that was little more than a tit-for-tat with the "west" with little or no chance of producing any mutual long-term or meaningful economic ties for the Soviet Union.
7. Squashed individual enterprise generating a backward looking society endlessly glorifying past "victories" while giving little to no thought for long-term development. Large-scale projects nearly always had military / defense needs as their impetus and benefits to society were secondary at best.
8. The horrid devaluation of humanity and human life. The state directed nearly every aspect of people’s lives with forced communal housing, endless leadership cult worship, brainwashing, military conscription and brutality toward conscripts (that continues even today), arbitrary imprisonment without trial, abortion, and employment that was guaranteed without regard to the qualities of the worker, their individual skills or initiative or the quality of the work they produced.
9. Extreme state secrecy and mistrust by the state of the citizenry. Clearly this cut both ways as the Russians (and others in the Soviet Union) quickly developed sub-cultures and sub-economies simply to make ends meet. A blithe attitude toward the state and a "going through the motions" posture became survival instincts while subterfuge and refusal-ism became the norm at nearly all other levels. The more forced the "communal" surface veneer became, the more time people spent subverting it adding to the titanic waste of manpower, brainpower and natural resources.
10. The Soviet Union was a murderous dictatorship. All such political systems that commit democide and genocide are clearly doomed to fail as they've completely abrogated any and all claims to moral and cultural superiority.
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Old 08-05-2012, 12:57 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
I'm just trying to figure out the real causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is surprisingly hard to do due to everyone's own political viewpoint etc.

And I'm not just interested in the dry historical stuff - more the ideology/philosophy and economic sides of the issue.

Ok, for sure, I can see that Communism could be inefficient, but didn't the Soviets do rather well in the 50's and 60's?

and The Cold War - didn't the arms race bankrupt the country; but what if it had never occured?

any ideas?
Kenneth

The main reason is philosophical and pertains to communism as ideology. There were many secondary reasons but all directly resulting from failure of communism as socio-economical Utopia.

Last edited by rebel12; 08-05-2012 at 01:06 PM..
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