What was communism and how was its rule established?


Workers were to have “no country”.  No country and no religion.  For a people, like the Polish, who identified so strongly with both, its a wonder socialism was successful at all.  Notice I used the word “socialism” instead of “communism”.  Whats the difference?

Communism remained this ideal, for all but Khrushchev apparently, that would only be realized in the far far future.  It would only be much later the individuals would really receive from society based on their need.  In socialism your needs are provided for but in part based upon the work that you do.

What resonates most in these chapters with the people I think is that claim of no exploitation.  No landlords.  No stock traders.  No one making money off of others money, no billionaires, but no paupers (homeless) either.  This would seem a powerful promise after decades of depression and World War.

A nice perspective is also here from White, of the relative isolation of the USSR.   Completely isolated until WWII but then again largely so by the 1960s when not only were Hungary and Poland feeling a bit independent, we also know that China was clearly out on its own.

Both chapters for tomorrow.  1&2.

15 Responses to “What was communism and how was its rule established?”

  1. Tallulah says:

    Oh man, am I FIRST? (Jason’s gonna be pissed…)

    Ok, so I thought it was really interesting to see how, although Lenin started the era of Communism, it’s typically Stalin that comes to mind when we think of Communist dictators. So it was interesting to see all of the ways in which Lenin started to takeover and gain support- through ways that nefarious dictators had been known to. The whole creation of the “Little Octobrists” program that continued into adulthood was incredibly similar to that of Hitler Youth (though obviously the messages of working together and for each other are a bit better than the messages of killing everyone not belonging to the aryan race). According to White, it was primarily and educational system designed to “reinforce collective and cooperative forms of activity”. Another “dictator’y” like quality (one that, realistically, is used by most governments to some degree) was the idea of spreading propaganda, or as Lenin described it, as a way to “educate, agitate and organize” . In many ways this makes me think of the Cultural Revolution that took place under Mao (although again, propaganda is/was pretty regularly used by most governments to some degree). The same way that basically all art (and therefore general public opinion) came under the control of Mao’s wife, so too did all forms of media (and therefore public opinion) come under the control of “one of the departments of the party’s central apparatus”. So yes, just some interesting comparisons I drew.

  2. Ja$oN AmBeRg says:

    So that chronology, right? That might help later.

    According to White, in 1977, there was extra attention paid to the young generation of Russians who were taught “in the communist spirit.” I find this interesting because it shows how much the Soviet Union wanted to remain a powerful communist nation. A.T.W, classes taught the children about “the official ideology” and about how excellent communism is. What I find most intriguing is how White never says that the children ever learned about a government with a democracy, or multiple political parties, or simply just not-communism. Perhaps it is my American upbringing that leads me to say that, but one would think that in order to understand how the rest of the world operates, life outside communism would be taught to the children as well.

  3. Henry McCarthy says:

    What stood out to me in these two chapters is how tempting yet twisted communism is. I’m not entirely sure if twisted is the right word… To have everyone be equal, employment for all, benefits for all, would certainly be a tempting thing for many nations. However, as White writes, then the question arises of what is public and private, who owns what? These beliefs seem so enticing from the outside but once part of one of these societies, how do people differentiate themselves from others? Maybe going a little TOK on this…

    I’m not sure what I think about White so far. These chapters seemed to be a departure from the opinionated Kissinger and Ambrose. Here White seems to mainly lay out a bunch of facts about transitioning from a socialist society to a true communist society (nobody could do it!) as well as facts about the different states and their stories within the Soviet bloc. I don’t think straight fact is bad, but it is certainly a bit of a change.

  4. Emily Reeves says:

    Similarly to henry, I also found whites reading a bit of a bore because he only states facts. Kissingers and Ambrose opinions kept the reading interesting, luckily, whites chapters are only about 10 pages. I thought it was interesting how white is already discussing China’s socialist (“communist”) revolution. I also thought it was interesting that white states Stalin went on to establish not just a personal ascendancy but a regime based on repression and terror with millions of labour camps etc. (12).

  5. Joselyne Soto says:

    “…paraphrasing the bible, the Programme made clear that “he who does not work, neither shall he eat’…” The Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union rewording the Bible, even though though communism claims to be an atheist practice. I find it curious that the Programme praises communism so much that it would make anyone believe it to be great and grandiose, however, as we’ve been told multiple times, it’s good in theory. Not so much realistically. Along those lines, Trotsky says so himself something about “he who distributes never forgets himself” which sets reality. White describes communism as a goal, a utopian dream, that perfect society and loses the state. An interesting concept, truly.

  6. Pierluca Dallarda says:

    I never thought someone could make 20 pages feel like 100 pages. White jumps from point to point, one sentence talking about one thing and the following sentence talking about other things. He throws terms down that he just expects the reader to know like it is common knowledge. Unfortunately I don’t like the way he writes. In fact, I have no idea what could possibly be a quiz question because there are so many dates and facts that they all seem equally as important. He doesn’t really say “ok this is the big picture”. Instead he breaks everything down into tiny facts and expects the reader to understand how they all relate to each other. All I understood was that communism was the ultimate goal and the USSR was better described as a socialist country.

  7. Brilly Gonzalez says:

    Although, I have to agree with Pier on how White seems to jump from point to point, he is able provide us with a lot of facts and a substantial amount of information on the USSR and Europe during that time. It’s interesting to read in depth about communism and I thought it was kind of funny how he mentions Churchill for a brief moment stating that he was only interested in knowing about who was killing the most Nazis’. In addition, I thought it was interesting how White states that communist states based themselves off ideology of Marxism – Leninism (which is common) but describes how it was derived from the theories of Engles ,Stalin and Mao Zedong, which I have never heard of before.

  8. Noah says:

    Something I thought was interesting was the term Sovietisation, White uses it in the context that Eastern Europe was transforming, and because of these changes the power of “domestic support for a change of regime” and the liberation of certain countries from Nazi rule was noticeable. Another thing I found intriguing was how the 1947 elections were drastically altered by the authorities. Due to the authorities’ influence, a striking communist majority was produced. For many, the Red Army was “the agency” that freed all the countries from Nazi control. I found this chapter very interesting because we get to learn the exact effects comunism had on people, other gov’ts, etc., however like Emily said I did find the reading much less engaging but more informative. Not sure if that’s a bad thing, but nonetheless I am still looking forward to where White is headed with the next chapter.

  9. Nicolas Irving says:

    Something i found interesting was the paragraph about citizens in the communist countries. They make it seem so great. Everyone has equal rights (the small amount of rights they had), freedom of speech was guaranteed, untill it pisses of the government, etc. I just thought this was funny. You always read how communism is opressing and just god awful. I also think white is quit boring. Although his readings are short and i appreciate that, his style of writing is just so boring and full of way too much factual crapola. Overall, interesting, boring, funny reading.

  10. Mara Cook says:

    I’m really enjoying White so far. I found it interesting that nationalism was described as a problem here for the USSR, while in the US it is an asset. I found the whole description of the perfect communist society to be like a colony of ants – so hard working and focused on one main goal.

    Another point of interest to me was the use of the word “agitate” (7). When it was first used, “visual agitation” was said to be party policy, which was in essence, propaganda. The word agitation typically has a negative connotation, and conjures unease or concern about a topic. The word was used again two paragraphs later in the description of what a newspaper should do: “educate, agitate, and organise” (7). The word agitate again seems off, since the goal of society seems to be cooperation and working towards a common goal, not “agitation.” One of the dictionary definitions of the word is to “campaign to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action,” so I guess that definition is more fitting, but it still has a weird connotation that I find intriguing.

  11. Elias Atienza says:

    Man…this makes me miss Kissinger. Even Spence to a degree. Off to the chapter(s).

    The part that struck me the most was the freedom of the press. Lenin wanted the newspapers to organize, agitate, and inform. And yet, all forms of mass media were under the control of the Communist Party. Everything had to be approved by the party and were censored (also interesting to note in which the particular detail of censorship system not being referenced…). Another part of interest was White’s claim about the Russian Revolution. Did the Russian Revolution truly export the idea in which there would be social justice and equality? And what about the French revolution? I think he’s biased against America; it was the American revolution that inspired the French one; and the Revolutions of 1848 and other events (the Woman’s Rights Movement of the 19th and early 20th century, and women such as Susan B. Anthony ?) who forwarded the charge for equality among women and social justice.

    I don’t know about the factual part in White’s writing. He seems to be leaning towards communism or at least the ideal. Though he does acknowledge some of the war crimes of the USSR and communism such as the mass executions in Bulgaria and the gradual overpowering of Eastern European countries through intimidation and political maneuvering; he completely ignores the Czechoslovakian coup of 1948. However, I do like his description of Tito. The Yugoslavia liberation was a mass supported and Tito is often regarded as the most successful resistance leader of WWII.

    And what’s with the WTO acronym? Couldn’t he just call it the Warsaw Pact?

  12. Lauren Cook says:

    Communism, socialism, and anarchy (and other related models of government) seem _ on paper, but too idealist to be practical or functional when put into effect. This is especially true on a large scale — China and the Soviet Union demonstrate that. However, it is more effective on a smaller scale. For example, in Israel, there are several small communal farms called kibbutzim, which are based on anarchist ideas of shared property, contributing to society based on ability and receiving what is needed, etc. These kibbutzim are not the traditional Marxist model of communism and are by no means the only system in Israel. The reason that the kibbutzim work is because they are not the only system, and one is neither forced to participate nor confined to their kibbutz.

  13. Ida Khachaturyants says:

    I find this chapter extremely interesting, and am kind of proud that what he was saying about the Soviet Youth during the 1970s-1980s was the same thing that I said in my essay. I talked to my mom a little bit about the reading, and she right away started talking about the Programme. Its story is sort of hilarious.

    Another interesting thing is that when White began describing how sovietisation was established in Eastern Europe, he essentially describes the same thing, and it can be summarized by the next subheading: “The Pattern of Communist Rule.” These chapters were quick reads, and there are many possible Terms incoming. I feel that people in this class find this slightly boring because we already have been over the Communist takeover, however, these chapters are simply predecessors to further ones that describe Soviet life in the 1970s-80s and I, frankly, am excited to see whether what I learned from Soviet film, and my mother is consistent with what the book says… so far it has been.

  14. Jesus Ayala says:

    I enjoyed this reading, not as much as Spence but it was decent nonetheless. The most impressive part about Stalin’s dictatorship was the revision of history, art, and culture in general in Soviet Russia. I laughed when White mentioned the doctrine of “socialist realism,” because all I could think about was magical realism and realized that the both contains things that only work in our imaginations. For some reason, Russians seem to really love latin culture (generally Mexican culture though). Renaming their propaganda genre after the magical realism, the child of latin american culture, only further proves this. Although magical realism became an international phenomena, I would compare it to hip-hop, in the sense that both became popular worldwide and transcend all cultures however, both belong to distinct cultures whose identities incorporate these genres.

  15. Tyffanie Aguayo says:

    It was a nice simple reading. One thing that i observed throughout the reading was how White doesn’t make it seem as if what the Soviets were doing was bad. He more stated facts and didn’t give us much insight on his thought towards it. One thing i found intresting about the Soviets whats how they quotes the bible when it communism is an Atheist thing. &to conclude i must agree with Pier, White does jumo around from fact to fact.

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