Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bolshevism and the West, Nearing's Rebuttal

Affirmative Refutation (pages 57-65), by Scott Nearing

Mr. Russell labels my ideas Marxian [notes Mr. Nearing] – a term I didn’t use but will accept – and then pummels Karl Marx. I didn’t claim that my analysis was correct because Marx said so, but because there is evidence: history shows us that a society’s governmental form reflects its stage of development.

Mr. Russell examines the Communist party dictatorship in the Soviet Union, pointing out its similarities to other dictatorships. He does not cite the novel features of economic organization in the USSR, which do not have such parallels.

Russia is agricultural while Bolshevik ideas are drawn from thinking about industrial societies. These ideas were not a perfect fit for Russia – and hence we have the NEP. In the West, we will still need a NEP when we apply these ideas. [My rendering seems to catch the literal interpretation of the text, but the logic suggests that the text is mistaken: perhaps Nearing said that the original ideas, without the amendment of a NEP, would fit the West. -- RBR]

Mr. Russell's writings from 1920 indicate that he is opposed to Bolshevik methods. But when the Western crisis comes, what form of transitional arrangements will arise, if not Bolshevik ones? A committee on public safety will emerge once again, as it did in Russia in 1917 and as it did in Cromwell’s 17th century England. If Mr. Russell disagrees, he should indicate what alternative arrangement he imagines in the wake of a Western crisis. Russell assumes that barbarism is the only available path, but the infeasibility of a Bolshevik-style path to socialism cannot simply be assumed. “And if the Russians haven’t found the right way, it is up to Mr. Russell and me to help Americans find the right way [p. 63].”

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