A Note on Anticommunism

David Schweickart, After Capitalism (2002).

            Looking back over the twentieth century, we cannot fail to notice how deeply the ideology of anticommunism shaped Western foreign policy. From the beginning, communism has triggered hostile passions among the upper classes. Long before the Russian Revolution, long before the Soviet Union had any sort of serious military capability, fear of communism was promoted by the dominant political, educational, economic, and religious institutions of society. Communism came to be hated with far greater intensity than fascism or Nazism or any other sort of non-democratic rule. Indeed the polyarchical Western powers not only did not intervene when democratic institutions disappeared in Italy, Germany, and Spain during the inter-war years but were also quite "tolerant" of the new governments. After all, Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany and Franco's Spain were all vehemently and murderously anticommunist.
            But why has capitalism been so profoundly opposed to communism, while tolerating all other kinds of repressive anti-democratic regimes?  At first sight the answer would seem to be straightforwardly economic: capitalism needs access to cheap raw materials, foreign markets, and cheap labor. Communism denies them all that. The problem with this answer, so plausible on the surface, is that communism has not denied capitalist corporations these things. Communist regimes have always wanted to trade with the West and have often been eager for foreign investment. It is the West, led by the United States, that has imposed trade sanctions, embargoes and blockades.[1]
            It is true that capitalist enterprises, when allowed to operate in Communist countries, have been more closely regulated than they would doubtless have preferred, but foreign corporations have been tightly regulated in other capitalist countries as well (in Japan, for example) without provoking a hostile response, let alone a Cold War that a slight miscalculation could have turned annihilatorily hot.
            In my judgment, the real motivation behind anticommunism runs deeper.  It's the profound worry on the part of the capitalist class that the communists could in fact be right: that capitalism is not the end of history, that there is a brighter future beyond capitalism, and that sooner or later their own workers (i.e., the vast majority of their fellow citizens) will come to realize this and take appropriate action.  Recall the dominant metaphor. Communism is a disease. It spreads. Infected countries must be quarantined. No country is safe from the deadly germ, no matter how healthy and prosperous. It must be mercilessly fought at home and abroad.
            Which it has been. To grasp the magnitude of this relentless war, try to imagine what the history of the twentieth century might have been like had Western foreign policy been guided by the ideals of democracy instead of anticommunism. To confine ourselves only to the most important player, let us suppose that the United States had been truly committed to democracy. Then:

It would not have sent troops into Russia in 1918 to oppose that revolution.

n         It would not have looked so kindly on Mussolini's seizure of power in Italy, or supported so readily a policy of "economic appeasement" of Hitler.

n         It would not have endorsed the coming to power in the 1930s of the patriarchal dictatorships in Central America and the Caribbean (Hernandez Martinez in El Salvador, Somoza in Nicaragua, Ubico in Guatemala, Carias in Honduras, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Batista in Cuba).

n         It might have aided Republican Spain in its fight against Franco's antidemocratic revolt (which was supported materially and with personnel by both Hitler and Mussolini).

n         It would not have supported the brutal, corrupt rule of Chiang Kai-shek in China, supplying his government with some $6 billion in aid during its civil war with a Communist insurgency that eventually triumphed.

n         It would not have supported the efforts of the French to regain control over Indochina after World War II.

n         It would not have insisted on partitioning Korea after World War II, or supported the installation of a brutal right-wing dictatorship in the South (and hence would have avoided the Korean War).

n         It would not have engineered the overthrow of the Iranian government and the installation of the Shah in 1953 (and hence would not be regarded today as The Great Satan by the government that drove the Shah from power a quarter of a century later).

n         It would not have orchestrated the destruction of democracy in Guatemala in 1954, nor encouraged the spread of military rule (with death squad supplements) there and elsewhere in Central America.

n         It would have recognized the right of the Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese people to choose their own future, and hence avoided the war that claimed some fifty thousand American lives and as many as four million Indochinese.

n         It would not have opposed until the very last moment the black liberation struggles in southern Africa.

n         It would not have looked the other way (to put the best face on the matter) when the Indonesian military seized power in 1965 and massacred a million "communists."

n         It would not have aided and abetted the establishment of military rule of monumental savagery throughout most of Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, among other places in Chile, where it deliberately undermined Latin America's most deeply established democracy.

n         It would not have embraced the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines from its onset in 1972 until its next-to-the-last moment in 1986.

n         It would not have bankrolled murderous armed struggle against the popular governments that came to power in the 1970s after overthrowing a hated dictator or a colonial power in Angola, Mozambique, and Nicaragua.

n         It would not have given the green light to our trusted anticommunist ally, General Suharto of Indonesia, to invade newly independent East Timor and begin a reign of terror that has claimed the lives of a third of the population.

n         It would not have worked ceaselessly, to this very day, to destroy the one society in Latin America that has eliminated starvation and homelessness, namely "communist" Cuba.

            This is by no means an exhaustive list. The United States has backed many more anti- democratic regimes than enumerated here. Nor has the United States stood alone in its anticommunist crusade. Most of the major European countries have backed most of these policies. Body-count comparisons have an obscene feel about them, but still it should be noted: the wars, coups, killings, terror, and torture that have been justified in the name of anticommunism have destroyed at least as many people as did Hitler or Stalin.


Livscykelanalys och externkostnadsanalys på olika elkraftslag

Av de svenska koldioxidutsläppen kom ungefär 4,1 miljoner ton från elproduktion under 2010. Detta motsvarar cirka åtta procent av de totala utsläppen av koldioxid. Under ett normalår släpper den svenska elproduktionen ut cirka 20 gram koldioxidekvivalenter (gCO2e) per kilowattimme (kWh) [1].

Vattenfall har utfört livscykelanalyser (LCA) på de elkraftslag som företaget arbetar med, d.v.s. kärnkraft, vattenkraft, kolkraft, vindkraft, biomassa, gas och torv [2]. LCA innebär att man tittar på produktionens fullständiga värdekedja, från produktion av bränslen och konstruktion av anläggningar, till hantering av avfall. Resultatet redovisas i gram koldioxidekvivalenter (gCO2e) per kilowattimme (kWh). T.ex. så bidrar kärnkraft med 5 gCO2e/kWh, vattenkraft 9 gCO2e/kWh och vindkraft 15 gCO2e/kWh. Tyvärr så inkluderas inte elproduktion av solceller i Vattenfalls analys, eftersom man inte har satsat på det.

LCA ger information om utsläpp under normal drift, vilket innebär att hänsyn inte tagits till haverier eller olyckor. Istället får man då titta på den så kallade externkostnaden. Då sammanställer och prissätter man de samhällsskadliga effekterna av en verksamhet. Analysgruppen för Kärnkraftsäkerhet och Utbildning AB (KSU) gav ut tre relaterade publikationer runt sekelskiftet, där man presenterade resultat från ett EU-projekt vid namn ExternE [3,4,5]. Resultaten presenteras i Eurocent/kWh, alternativt i dödsfall/TWh. För vattenkraft (kärnkraft) så blev resultatet 0,10 (0,002) dödsfall/TWh för hela världen under tiden 1969 till 1996. Tyvärr slutade KSU ge ut publikationer i ämnet 2001. Istället får man gå direkt till EU-publikationer [6]. Där kan man se att externkostnaden för kärnkraft, vattenkraft respektive solcellskraft blir cirka 0,6, 0,3 respektive 1 Eurocent/kWh (2005 års siffror). I denna Forbes-artikel [7] kan man hitta följande tabell.
Energy Source            Mortality Rate (deaths/trillionkWhr)
Coal – global average        170,000    (50% global electricity)
Coal – China            280,000    (75% China’s electricity)
Coal – U.S.            15,000        (44% U.S. electricity)
Oil                36,000        (36% of energy, 8% of electricity)
Natural Gas            4,000        (20% global electricity)
Biofuel/Biomass        24,000        (21% global energy)
Solar (rooftop)            440        (< 1% global electricity)
Wind                150        (~ 1% global electricity)
Hydro – global average        1,400        (15% global electricity)
Nuclear – global average    90        (17%  global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)

Ur hälsoperspektiv visar kärnkraften alltså sig vara en gynnsam aktör relativt alla andra elkraftslag. Vad som å andra sidan talar emot kärnkraften som en framtidens elkraftkälla är att kostnaden per kWh antagligen kommer att justeras upp p.g.a. ökade försäkringspremier för en olycka [8] och finansiering av hanteringen av kärnavfallet [9]. En brasklapp i sammanhanget är att inte heller vattenkraften är försäkrad fullt ut för ett eventuellt dammbrott vid t.ex. Lule älv.


Fact Check: Reflections on Viewing the Video of the Debate Market Socialism vs Randism

Political philosopher David Schweickart has allowed me to publish the following, which he wrote after this debate with the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, Dr. Yaron Brook.

As I noted in my earlier reflection, I’d never been in a debate like this before.  I’ve been on many academic panels, where there have been serious disagreements, but the panelists try to be careful about the facts.  (Presented papers are invariably footnoted.)  I’d never before debated someone who, with great rhetorical flourish, simply disregards the data.  I’d thought, mistakenly as it turns out, that an “Objectivist,” with his commitment to “reason,” would strive to make his claims conform to reality. (I guess I haven’t watched enough Fox News.)

In my earlier reflection I cited Brook’s most egregious example of flamboyant falsehood: “1998 was the warmest year on record,” he said (to us and in many of his other presentations, also available on YouTube).  Now, I knew this wasn’t right, but I didn’t have the facts on hand, so I didn’t challenge him.  But a quick Google search the next morning brought up the NASA website data: “2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1800. With the exception of 1998 the nine warmest years in the 132 year record have occurred since 2000 with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the highest on record.”

Here’s more data, just recently published: 
Confirming "unprecedented" global warming, the new study published in the latest issue of the journal Science shows that the earth's temperatures catapulted in just the last century at a rate that had previously taken 4,000 years.
"In 100 years, we've gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum," said climatologist Shaun Marcott, lead author of the study. "We've never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly."
"The climate changes to come are going to be larger than anything that human civilization and agriculture has seen in its entire existence," says Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "And that is quite a sobering thought."
You might wonder why Brook would just lie about this matter. (This has to be a lie, not just a mistake, since reports of record temperatures have been coming in regularly throughout the last decade.)  The answer, I think, is obvious.  If we are facing a serious climate problem, it cannot be solved by Brook’s beloved laissez-faire “true” capitalism.  It’s an article of faith among the Objectivists that all problems, apart from protecting property from force or fraud, can be resolved by the free market.  Brook alluded to this dogma in his rather quick response to my opening charge that unregulated capitalism cannot deal with “externalities, i.e., third-party effects of private transactions.  He said that externalities would be dealt with by privatizing everything—roads, water, beaches.  Private owners would take care of things better than inefficient government.  (Nice thought, huh.  The Chicago lakefront would be sold off to private developers, who would keep the beaches clean.)

And to solve global warming?  Well, think about it.  Since the problem is emitting greenhouse gases into the air, we’d have to privatize the air.  Of course he didn’t say that.  You’re not going to score debate points by saying that out loud.  But that’s what an Objectivist would have to say—which is why it’s far better just to deny that we’re facing global warming—or at least to pretend to be agnostic, make up data, and get a laugh by telling us how all those people now warning about global warming were warning us before about global cooling.  (It’s a distracting move, and also—fact check again—patently false.  It’s true that there is one prominent figure—Paul Erlich—who shifted from warning about global cooling to warming about global warming.  But no one else, so far as I can tell.  Very few climatologists supported the global cooling hypothesis.  Virtually all say that we are experiencing global warming.)

The “1998 as the hottest year on record” was the most blatant falsehood, but here are some others.  All asserted with great confidence:

“The Soviet Union was the most unequal country ever!”  No—not according to a very careful study by Abram Bergson, one of the leading experts on the Soviet economy, in an article published in The Journal of Economic Literature on “Income Inequality under Soviet Socialism,” (September 1984).  It’s true that in the mid-seventies, Soviet inequality surpassed that of Great Britain.  It was by no means an egalitarian society.  But, according to Bergson, it was significantly more equal than the United States—and it should be remembered that both Great Britain and the United States in the 1970s, before the Thatcher/Reagan revolutions, were vastly more egalitarian than they are today.  (Let’s be clear.  I am not a defender of the Soviet economic or political system, but I do care about facts.)

France has had double-digit unemployment for decades.”  Fact check: No—France had eight years of double digit unemployment in the 1990s—perhaps the last time Brooks bothered to check-- and one year since then. During the 34 years between 1978 and 2012, it had eight years of double-digit unemployment, not “decades.”

Sweden, with business and government so intertwined, is far more corrupt than U.S.  No, not according to Transparency International, the most prominent organization to keep track of such things.  In 2012 three countries (of 176 surveyed) were tied for the top position, “least corrupt”: Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.  Sweden was next in line.  The United States?  Nineteenth.

“Wages have not been flat since the 1970s; they’ve been rising.”  According to the Census Bureau, the average hourly earnings, adjusted for inflation, was $16.20 in 1979.  By 2013 it had risen to--$16.40.  (Okay, technically Brook was right; wages did go up—by 20 cents over a 34 year period.)  It’s true that household income has gone up, but that’s because far more married women are in the labor force now than they were back then.  As Paul Krugman (Nobel laureate in economics) has pointed out, “For men ages 35-44—men who would, a generation ago, been supporting stay-at-home wives—we find that inflation-adjusted wages were 12 percent higher in 1973 than they are now.”

“We understand the mechanisms by which technology creates ever more jobs.”  This was asserted with great vehemence in response to my claim that there is no “invisible hand” mechanism one can point to that guarantees the technology always creates more jobs than it destroys.  Of course he didn’t tell us what that mechanism was.  Because he can’t.  No (serious) economist thinks s/he can.

“Taxing the rich is economic suicide” Variations on this claim were made repeatedly during the debate, to the delight of much of the audience, including, no doubt, the “donors” present—who also clapped and cheered as Brook proclaimed over and over how happy he is when he sees someone “really, really rich.”  (No doubt he is. The Ayn Rand Institute, which pays his salary, relies on private funding by those “really rich.” More on this below.) 

But consider that graduated income tax he finds so loathsome.  In the post-war period until the mid-seventies, American capitalism’s “Golden Age”--when growth was high, wages were rising, and nearly everyone noted how much better off they were than their parents had been, and how much better off than they themselves their children would surely be--what were the tax rates?  During this period the marginal tax rate for those making the most money was 92% in 1953 coming down to 70% by the 70s.  Since then, as the top rate came down to 35% (brought down in steps by Reagan and Bush), growth has slowed, income inequality has surged and economic insecurity has risen.  Given the state of the current economy (alarming to Brook and me both), one might say that not taxing the rich is economic suicide.  (I know, I know—remember what happened in Atlas Shrugged. But shouldn’t we base our policy prescriptions on data rather than a novel.)

So much for facts.  Let me say just a few words about some of Brook’s more bizarre claims:

The closest we’ve come to pure capitalism is the late 19th century.  Actually, this claim isn’t false.  What’s bizarre is Brook’s celebration of this period.  It was indeed a period when there was virtually no governmental regulation of industry and no welfare, unemployment insurance or other safety nets.  Government was small, and local governments did little but protect property rights. 

But what was it like back then?  As it happens, I’ve just finished teaching a segment in one of my courses on Chicago during the last thirty years of the 19th century—the period following the great Chicago fire of 1871--so I’ve been looking at the data:  At that time 10,000 were rendered homeless by the fire, and there were no safety nets.  Moreover, the privately-collected donations were badly mismanaged by the businessmen charged by the mayor with distributing them, resulting in massive protests, which resulted in the police herding demonstrator into the tunnel that ran under the Chicago river, then beating many and killing a few.  Then followed the “Panic of 1873-79,” which  swept the whole country, the worst depression ever to hit the United States up until that time, leading to massive unemployment, homelessness, many starving in the cities.  Workers began to organize, staging the “Great Railroad Strike” of 1877.  Again, protecting the sacred rights of property, the police and militia waded in, killing over 100 nationwide, 20-25 in Chicago.  Then, after a reprieve of a couple of years, the Depression of 1883-86 struck, throwing 30,000 out of work in Chicago.  The wealthy funneled large sums of money to the police, just to make sure their interests were well protected.  (Here’s the headline from the Chicago Tribune, January 4, 1992, announcing the these funds had accomplished their purpose and were no longer needed: “Will Bleed No More—Moneyed Men Tie Their Purses: Policemen Given $487,000 in Five Years for Wiping Out Reds—the Supply Cut Off—Financial Reasons.”

It was a good time for the wealthy—a little scary with all those riled-up workers living so close to their mansions—but plenty comfortable. That’s “pure” capitalism.

“No, I do not think that capitalists have an advantage over workers.  Workers quit all the time to accept higher-paying jobs.  I’ve lost employees that way.  It’s that way in every industry.”  We are in Fantasyland, are we not?  Companies are making record profits these days, getting more work than ever before out of their workforce without increasing pay, since workers in almost every industry are terrified about losing their jobs.  For they know full well that, given current unemployment rates, their chance of finding a comparable job, indeed, any job at all, is slim.  Of course Brook will say, “We don’t have real capitalism these days.  Under “real” capitalism, there would be no involuntary unemployment.”  (At this point, one should make the sign of the cross and bow one’s head.  An article of solemn faith has been invoked.)

In my earlier reflection I commented on “The blood of everyone who died is on the hands of whoever starts a war,” juxtaposed with “We should have turned Falluja to dust.” Brook made both claims, apparently oblivious to the fact that we invaded Iraq, and not vice-versa.  He seems not to have noticed what follows logically from his position: the blood of all those dead Americans and dead Iraqis—among them the dead of Falluja—is on our hands (at least on those of us who did not vigorously oppose the war).  Certainly on the hands of those who urged publicly that Falluja be turned to dust.

Perhaps strangest of all were Brook’s political pronouncements, made at different times during the debate.  The U.S, is closer today to fascism than to capitalism!” but—this was said several times, “We have too much democracy in this country! 

Hmmm.  What would be an Objectivist’s ideal state?  Not fascism (although one might note that the fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany were bankrolled by the “really rich”-- for these parties were committed to exterminating communists.)  Not democracy, at least not “too much.”  Presumably not a divine-right monarch, since Objectivists don’t believe in God.  Perhaps one ruled by a true Objectivist, who will keep government small, keep the masses in check, and let the rich get as rich as they possibly can—so long as they don’t violate the property rights of others.

Sounds like fun.

Concluding thoughts:

Sixteen years ago I wrote an article critiquing “libertarian conservatism”—of which Objectivism is the most extreme version (“Dr. Pangloss Goes to Market,” Critical Review, Spring 1996). “Libertarian conservatism” holds that existing economic evils in the world cannot be mitigated by conscious political actions that alter institutions in such a way as to impede free economic exchange among consenting adults.  Any such interference, it is claimed, will always do more harm than good.

“This,” I wrote, “is a comforting doctrine, at least if one is in the comfortable class.  It also provides one with an effective debating strategy. . . . If anyone tries to blame some real-world economic evil on capitalism, just point to the ways in which the existing market isn’t wholly free.  One need not concern oneself with empirical data or complicated comparisons.”

This strategy was on full display in this debate.  To be sure, not all libertarian conservatives play so fast and loose with the facts as did Yaron Brook, but all make the libertarian-conservative moves:  A problem?  Blame the government.  Assure us (no evidence required) that things would be so much better if we just let the free market work its magic.

--David Schweickart

Postscript on ARI funding:

Doing a little fact-checking about ARI funding, I came across an article by Pam Martins and Russ Martens, published in Counterpunch (February 28, 2012), entitled, “A Corporate Coup on Campus: Resurrecting Ayn Rand: Hedge Fund Money Teams Up with Koch and BB&T.”  (BB&T is a banking giant, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.)  I’ll attach the whole article, but below are some relevant excerpts.

I must say, I was puzzled by Brook’s vociferous defense of hedge fund managers, since it’s not at all obvious what entrepreneurial feats of Roarking (or Steve Jobs-ian) heroism these guys-- who only have to pay 15% taxes on their stupendous earnings, less than the bottom 20% and virtually everyone else--have been performing lately.  They’ve certainly been making a lot of money during these—for most Americans—hard times. In 2009, only a year after the financial crash, the top twenty-five hedge managers in the U.S. had an average income of $1 billion. (New York Times, March 31, 2010).

Now I understand.  This from an article, “A Corporate Coup on Campus: Resurrecting Ayn Rand,” Counterpunch, (January 2012):
What happened at the September 15, 2011 gala fundraiser for the Ayn Rand Institute, advertised as “The Atlas Shrugged Revolution”?  The hedgies were fully in control of the event, dominating the podium and raising a little more than a cool $1 million, besting the prior year’s take by $600,000.
The key speakers included Dmitry Balyasny of the hedge fund, Balyasny Asset Management, as well as Colvin, also from this hedge fund and creator of the New York chapter of the Ayn Rand Institute.  Another key speaker was Scott Schweighauser, partner and chief investment officer of Aurora Investment Management, L.L.C., a fund of hedge funds managing approximately $10 billion.
The biggest donors at the event who would allow their names to be published, included the following:
$50,000: Balyasny Asset Management
$25,000: Christopher (Chris) Asness, managing principal and co-founder of hedge fund AQR Capital Management.  Asness is a former managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Co.
$25,000: Eric Brooks and Jeff Yass of hedge fund and private equity firm Susquehanna International Group.
$25,000: Jim Brown of hedge fund, Brandes Investment Partners.
$25,000: Scott Schweighauser of fund of hedge funds, Aurora Investment Management, L.L.C.
Enough said.