Let's talk about: The Soviet Union


#1

How “good” or “bad” was it really? Here’s a few links to start.

“good” argument:

“bad” argument:


#2

I will post this here as well

The reason why I would exclude Russia, and the other countries cited is that we were discussing countries that had been under fascist rule during WW2 and their outcomes after the war. This covers the eastern bloc and not the ones you cited.

I am happy to join the conversation elsewhere.

I won’t respond till after the Bombcast though


#3

Hey, let’s open this discussion up for other people to weigh in on. As it stands the OP is little impenetrable for someone new to engage in the conversation without a large amount of pre-reading for the previous thread.

We appreciate you avoiding taking over another thread with this discussion however making an entire thread to continue it directly isn’t the best either. We want to encourage other people to be part of the discussion.

But if you feel like this something just the two of you need to discuss then take it privately to DM and we’ll close this thread.


#4

I was trying to open this up to any/everyone, without having to repost links. Sorry if I messed up the transition somewhere down the line. I’ll revise the OP to (hopefully) make it more open.


#5

I’ll say this. I spent several years in Lithuania & have several personal & family friends in the Baltic’s. The relationship between the Baltic’s & Russia has been rough to say the least which is why a lot of people during WWII allied with Nazi Germany despite the massive Jewish population in Vilnius. The USSR defeating the Nazi’s was good but what they did to the citizens of the Baltic’s was terrible. I have heard various tragic personal stories from Lithuanians and Latvians about friends & family who were murdered by the KGB or deported to Siberia and struggled to survive and were refused education and resources because they were not Russian. Conditions in the Baltic’s in general are better because they no longer are second class citizens. However like every capitalist society there are undeniably the haves and have nots. In addition Jewish community in Vilnius is a shell of it’s former self and the relationship with the government is understandably contentious. A lot of older generations have nostalgia for the soviet days where certain resources were guaranteed however a lot of younger people still remember losing friends who spoke out. The recent economic crash also didn’t do any favors for the Baltic’s either.

My understanding for the quality of life of the average Russian did drop significantly while the Baltic’s were able to improve with the help of the United States and other European nations and for vast the vast majority of people they are happy to be independent and Russian militarization makes them very nervous for understandable reasons. Estonia & Latvia have a significantly larger Russian population that Lithuania who moved there when they belonged to the USSR which is where a lot of modern Pro-Russian sentiments in the area come from.

I’m not a citizen of any Baltic country & a lot of this information comes from my personal interactions with people while I lived in Vilnius as a kid and people I know who come from that area so I apologize if I glossed over large significant details.

TLDR; Baltic’s don’t like Russia. Nazi’s bad. USSR bad to the Baltic people. Baltic’s now mostly capitalist & have a lot of help from the US & Europe. Capitalism isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Travel to the Baltic’s if you can it’ts beautiful.


#6

Not trying to deter certain types of comments, or anything like that. But let’s try to move away from the Russia Vs. Baltic states section of the argument.

Because (to nobody’s surprise, I’d hope) the US-backed Baltic’s hate(d) the USSR. And the US-Opposed Russians have a rather fond view of it.

I only ask that this direction be avoided because there’s not much elaboration that can be done to this aspect of the conversation. And it’s more than likely going to turn into a “Baltic’s Vs. Russia” argument. And I don’t think anyone wants that.


#8

I find as time goes on, many of my views of the world and its issues had been shared by the USSR at many different periods. Of course, I’m not a fan of invading Afghanistan but from what I understand neither was any Soviet whos name wasn’t Brezhnev. I believe when analyzing the violence and atrocities committed by Washington vs. Moscow during the cold war, Washington far outnumbers Moscow. I think the world would view the Bloc differently if Stalin let eastern European nations accept the marshall plan however. And if we go down the rabbit hole of what ifs, FDR would of been much more friendly with the USSR than Truman aka the only person in the world who has ever nuked human beings.


#9

It was terrible and that’s pretty much the end of it?

Like, I have friends whose families had to flee for their lives, leaving everything they owned behind. I know people who tell stories of family members that moved there, hoping for a better life. And then, after things went south, they simply “disappeared”.


#10

There’s a joke that goes: everything Lenin said about communism was false and everything he said about capitalism was true.

Life for the average Russian since the fall of the Soviet Union hasn’t been great. The county has declined in political and economic power, there’s incredible wealth inequality, and a repressive autocrat has taken charge. The Soviet Union had massive inequality and few political freedoms but at the very least guaranteed a certain living standard for Russians. It also was one of the major players on the world stage and made significant scientific advances.

However this prosperity and power came at the expense of eastern europeans and central asian nations. Like other empires it was sustain by wealth funneled from client states. We don’t mourn the fall of the great European overseas empires. If Russia had made a successful transition to a fairly equitable liberal democracy the way Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States have those who wish for the return of the Soviet Union would be an odd fringe.


#11

What constitutes it being “terrible” though? In comparison to what?

Not actually being Communist, and instead just being authoritarian and Socialist? Massive inequality (not unlike the US at the time, and the US now; an ultra-wealthy nation that can’t even provide healthcare for it’s citizens, or even provide them with clean drinking water and non-failing infrastructure).

Having a literal Cult of Intelligence that did horrible things to citizens of the USSR? The CIA has a much longer, much worse track record of that sort of thing than the KGB; which isn’t a defense of the KGB or an excuse for their crimes against humanity; just acknowledgment that the KGB’s crimes pale in comparison to the CIA’s.

And if we’re talking about people going missing, almost a million people go missing annually in the US.

So, I ask you. Is the United State of America just “terrible, and that’s pretty much the end of it.” Or, more importantly. When the US is gone, will this be how it’s remembered?


#12

Erm, the ones continued to this day under global capitalism that enriches those same empires but now under “free” trade deals and not at all significant interference in the lives of those at the bottom of the poverty chains? Like, most of us grew up with this fictional account (propaganda) of how capitalism was raising everyone else out of poverty when in fact it was an organised theft of resources and borderline enslavement of huge numbers of people who mainly profit White Europeans (and descendants in the US) while working under conditions that are violations of human rights we claim to hold as universal.


#13

I agree, (not about the Lenin joke, because in reality the USSR wasn’t Communist. Only Authoritarian-Socialist). But this begs the question (for me at least, a US citizen), is this how the US will be remembered; An empire that funneled wealth from conquered lands?


#14

I thought this was a thread about the Soviet Union, and not the US?
And when I say go missing, I mean that the state probably murdered them when they were no longer welcome.


#15

You can’t really talk about one without the other. Nobody talks about Carthage without talking about Rome. Nobody talks about Sumer without talking about Akkad.


#16

I find it productive to consider how your domestic news might be covered if it was considered to be far away, “exotic” nations (which are not “just like here”). It seems to be a necessary perspective to cut through at least some of the propaganda. This may also be used to recontextualise the history of a nation and how the history of other nations is described.

For example, authoritarian leader of a failed coup last year announces return to bloodsports to sure up base while threatening war abroad. This report was written by journalists whose coverage was monitored, under threat of jail and prescreened by the supreme leader.


#17

Uhm, it’s really, really complicated. McCarthyism and dramatic anecdotes about the conditions in the USSR have significantly impacted the ability to rationally critique Lenin, Uncle Joe, et. al. here in the States.

Stuff like the “communism killed 100 thousand billion million people” meme is total nonsense, and is produced from an ahistorical/amaterialist analysis of what causes famines (and a gross trivialization of body counts). That isn’t to say Holodomor wasn’t an atrocity. Where the McCarthyism comes in is in the hypocritical nature of (rightly) critiquing Soviet policy that led to famine, and completely ignoring, whitewashing, etc. abhorrent and preventable Hell-on-Earth tier conditions documented during the Irish Famine and multiple famines during the Late Victorian era, both secondary to colonialism and explicitly Western economic policies of laissez-faire orthodoxy.


#18

I almost wish that I’d named this thread something else now, because this feels sort of disingenuous.

This started with an argument in completely different thread where someone claimed “Centrism is the only thing that can beat Fascism.” To which I responded with several links to every possible way that’s completely and utterly wrong, entirely.Fast-forward a little,this thread get’s made and revised. And I’m left feeling like this was some sort of bait-and-switch to show people how terrible the US is or something like that. So here’s my attempt at fixing this a little.

First, I’m no fan of the USSR, at all. I’m also no Communist (I do recommend reading the Manifesto, and other writings by Marx though). I am however a fan of looking at the reality of the world around us. And you can’t really talk about “reality” without first addressing how the most powerful actors on the world stage have dedicated insane amounts of wealth towards trying to subvert facts with their own narratives. So let’s step back, try and ignore the propaganda narratives that have been ingrained in many us from birth; and look at the facts.

So this can’t be about the USSR alone, because if we pretend that it existed in some vacuum, we completely ignore all propaganda against it. Basically, there’s no way for this thread to just be about the Soviets; they’re gone. They’ve been gone for 22 years now, and more than likely will never come back. Is Socialism still a thing? Of course, it’s even experiencing a resurgence right now. Are there still Communists? Of course, plenty are currently in power, others are fighting wars, other (like the Japanese Communist Party) are quickly on the path to any sort of power. If you ask these modern Communist what they think of the USSR, they’d probably tell you it wasn’t Communist, and they have no strong feelings for or against the it.

And far more importantly, the Soviet Union’s Significant Other is still around. The United States is still around. The Rome to the USSR’s Carthage. So when we talk about the evil’s of the Soviets, we NEED to talk about the parallel evils of the US. Because one is gone, one can’t commit those horrors anymore. The other is still here and is actively doing many of the same crimes.

So I guess a better thread title would be something like “What made the USSR evil, and is the US also evil?” or something like that. Anyway, hope this helped clear things up.


#19

And you can certainly keep walking forward from the Victorian era. 2.1 million murdered in 1943, not by war. Literally tens of millions of Indian people died of starvation under the British Empire, with the final kicker being the drawing of the India/Pakistan border and corresponding violence of relocation. When The Beatles were forming in Liverpool, concentration camps in Kenya were operating. And that’s just some of the highlights of the late British Empire in action.


#20

I feel like other people are much more knowledgeable about the Soviet Union than I am, but as a German I also think that I have to chime in and just mention the GDR, which was supposed to be the grand, shining example of “real Socialism” to stand literally up and next to the FRG as the shining example of capitalism in the form of a social market economy. While the GDR’s problems are certainly complex and while many (East) Germans still romanticize the GDR, with so many people fleeing the country that they had to literally build a wall to keep them in, I think it’s pretty clear that the GDR’s economic and political system did not work out well. It would seem reasonable to say that this also has to do with the decline of economic power of the USSR, which probably could not back the GDR to the extent that the FRG was propped up by the US, but that does not change the basic facts about the methods the regime used to stay in power. I am not saying that the FRG has no issues whatsoever, there is plenty of dirt, especially in the early period (and still today). But it did not create a surveillance system that pit neighbors and families against each other, it did not build “death strips” along its borders with orders to shoot anyone trying to cross, and it did not leave a large part of the country in economic shambles.

The East has still not recovered economically and structurally. The worst part, to me, however was that, right after WWII, there was yet another German state that fundamentally disregarded human dignity. There is this powerful song by a German singer/songwriter that is just about the bolts they used on the last fence that was part of the border. These bolts were specifically designed to be impossible to open again, once they were fastened. There is only one reason that these bolts were used on that fence and that was to make it impossible to escape the soldiers who had orders to shoot and kill (Schießbefehl). The last lines in the song question who would be willing to design and manufacture such a ruthless device, who ordered them to be created and who installed them on the border, but “whatever the answer may be, one thing is clear, it was another master from Germany.”

Both countries were not great about dealing with the German past in the beginning, by the way. The GDR was much better at first (getting rid of Nazis in government, which took decades in the West), but as they soon resorted to authoritarian power moves, education and research on these issues were obviously not helpful for the regime. Anyway, just my two cents and just to be clear, I am not an expert on these issues. The GDR is just still very much present in German politics and society.


#21