Did the Bolsheviks jump the gun?

Owen Bailey
Owen Bailey

Without computerization and automation, reaching communism is impossible. As such, didn't the Bolsheviks jump the gun and do nothing but give capitalists a chance to spin lies about a country doomed to collapse? The revisionism that brought the USSR down could have been prevented by using computers that didn't exist at the time to track party members, and the economic stagnation that the USSR faced in the 70's and 80's could have been avoided if computers were implemented to design the increasingly complex (with each plan the economy became more connected and intricate as the volume of goods produced and people fed grew with population) and increasingly ignored (due to revisionism).

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Aaron Butler
Aaron Butler

I've been thinking about this myself too recently after discovering cockshot it started making me think that a lot of the problems of the USSR could have been solved with computers replacing Beuracrats I feel like the Trotskyist argument that the "Stalinist Buearchcy" was a huge problem in the USSR has some credibility to it (although they were not some separate class or anything like that, nor does that make the USSR state capitalist or anything like they say) when creating a state apparatus corruption is inevitable and giving the power to help plan the economy to a computer (while of course making the software free for everyone to verify while also making the final plan a result of direct democracy) I think can minimize this weakness of state power.

Jonathan Jenkins
Jonathan Jenkins

No. The revolution was historically inevitable; if you had the chance, would you tell the Russian workers and peasants of 1917 not to seize power "because we don't have computers yet?" Lenin addressed this type of thinking in State and Revolution, which I sincerely hope you've read given the flag:
It is well known that in the autumn of 1870, a few months before the Commune, Marx warned the Paris workers that any attempt to overthrow the government would be the folly of despair. But when, in March 1871, a decisive battle was forced upon the workers and they accepted it, when the uprising had become a fact, Marx greeted the proletarian revolution with the greatest enthusiasm, in spite of unfavorable auguries. Marx did not persist in the pedantic attitude of condemning an “untimely” movement as did the ill-famed Russian renegade from marxism, Plekhanov, who in November 1905 wrote encouragingly about the workers' and peasants' struggle, but after December 1905 cried, liberal fashion: "They should not have taken up arms."

Marx, however, was not only enthusiastic about the heroism of the Communards, who, as he expressed it, "stormed heaven". Although the mass revolutionary movement did not achieve its aim, he regarded it as a historic experience of enormous importance, as a certain advance of the world proletarian revolution, as a practical step that was more important than hundreds of programmes and arguments. Marx endeavored to analyze this experiment, to draw tactical lessons from it and re-examine his theory in the light of it.
Even if full communism was materially impossible at the current level of development - why on earth would a so-called communist shy away from the seizure of state power by the working class, given the alternative is the continuation of capitalism, the continuation of exploitation?

David Phillips
David Phillips

No. The problems that occurred in the USSR was due to them not going far enough, especially when the technology that could have simplified planning emerged under Brezhnev. If the USSR never existed, all of countries that would have been in it would have also lagged in development regardless and not even have the opportunity to utilize such technology.

Landon Carter
Landon Carter

My thinking here was that the USSR's materially inevitable failure did nothing but give capitalists a chance to spin credible lies about the inevitable failure and misery of communism, which of course makes the revolutions to come far harder to orchestrate. If the USSR hadn't existed, the capitalists would have to keep relying on far less credible religious and moral arguments; they wouldn't be able to make up events and statistics about a country that didn't exist.

Austin Scott
Austin Scott

There's the problem though. Brezhnev was already a revisionist who didn't care a bit about communism. With computerization, opportunists such as him would have been rooted out and technology would have been embraced. As for these countries not being able to utilize computers, take a look at Russia in 1917: it was far behind the rest of Europe, but was still able to catch up under communism. Being behind doesn't make catching up impossible

Leo Davis
Leo Davis

You understand that you're basically saying that the Russian proletariat and peasantry should not have taken their only chance at salvation due to factors that they could not have foreseen, correct? It's an absolute non-argument in the historical sense. Should the Communards not have established the Commune, then? I ask again, even knowing that full communism is impossible, why is the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat something that should just be "put off"? Why should the workers and peasants have continued to suffer under brutal exploitation, just so that the capitalist class could have a few less sources for propaganda? Just saying that the nonexistence of the USSR would have left a lot less avenues for propagandising ignores the real material factors that led to the creation of the USSR in the first place. What's your alternative for the people of Russia? If you were to be shuttled back to 1917, on the eve of the October revolution, and given a face-to-face with, say, a starving Russian worker whose son was killed fighting in the war - what would you tell him?

Liam Sanders
Liam Sanders

a few less sources
Almost all anticommunist propaganda today is based on the USSR and PRC, with third place probably going to North Korea

If I could communicate with him, I would tell him of how the USSR crumbled and fell and how a revolution that would actually achieve communism was set back decades, if not centuries, because of the fertile source for propaganda the USSR became. I would tell him about how many billions were left to be enslaved in the third world for longer for no reason but that communism had been stopped in its tracks by a lack of technology. I would tell him how his and the suffering of millions like him would, over time, create a movement so great and all encompassing that when the time was right, there would be nothing the bourgeoisie and all their weapons of war could do to stop it. I would tell him of the horrors of fascism, and how he would probably die a painful and lonely death on the field of battle for nothing, for a country beautiful in its goals but doomed to failure.

Liam Reyes
Liam Reyes

I suggest that you read this article by Lenin titled "Our Revolution". In it, he addresses the argument that the Russian Revolution was premature.
"The development of the productive forces of Russia has not yet attained the level that makes socialism possible." All the heroes of the Second International, including, of course, Sukhanov, beat the drums about this proposition. They keep harping on this incontrovertible proposition in a thousand different keys, and think that it is decisive criterion of our revolution.
But what if the situation, which drew Russia into the imperialist world war that involved every more or less influential West European country and made her a witness of the eve of the revolutions maturing or partly already begun in the East, gave rise to circumstances that put Russia and her development in a position which enabled us to achieve precisely that combination of a "peasant war" with the working-class movement suggested in 1856 by no less a Marxist than Marx himself as a possible prospect for Prussia?
What if the complete hopelessness of the situation, by stimulating the efforts of the workers and peasants tenfold, offered us the opportunity to create the fundamental requisites of civilization in a different way from that of the West European countries? Has that altered the general line of development of world history? Has that altered the basic relations between the basic classes of all the countries that are being, or have been, drawn into the general course of world history?
If a definite level of culture is required for the building of socialism (although nobody can say just what that definite "level of culture" is, for it differs in every Western European country), why cannot we began by first achieving the prerequisites for that definite level of culture in a revolutionary way, and then, with the aid of the workers' and peasants' government and Soviet system, proceed to overtake the other nations?

It is important to note that the failure of the Soviet Union was not inevitable. Just because they did fail in the end does not mean that it wasn't worth trying. As to your point about propaganda, they would simply find a different way to propagandize against us. Anticommunist propaganda existed before the Soviet Union existed, and if it were never formed, we would still likely get as much of it. What really matters is the level of organization of the working class and the contradictions within capitalism. The reason why the communist movement isn't strong right now is because of the lack of an organized working class, it is not because of anti Soviet propaganda. Think about it, despite all the anti Soviet propaganda in the Cold War, communism was still more popular in non Soviet countries than it is now. Why? Because the working class was more organized back then, that's why.

Joseph Morales
Joseph Morales

They didn't jump the gun. What they did fail in, and this was the case for nearly all of the Marxist-Leninist movements of the 20th century, was having a proper rule of law and a handle on the bureaucracy. If OGAS hadn't been shelved due to bureaucratic shenanigans, the USSR would exist today as a modern industrial nation on par with every Western country.

Logan Powell
Logan Powell

Cybernetics was most popular in the USSR in the Khrushchev period, when the CPSU was claiming that Soviet citizens would be experiencing communism in 20 years' time, colonizing planets, etc. But supporters of cybernetics had opposition from both "the establishment" (government ministries didn't want to replace existing planning methods and were concerned about issues like unemployment if so much human labor was no longer necessary) and from supporters of a more market-based approach (who argued that cybernetics was a waste of time and resources which would only result in a further centralization of the economy to the detriment of its efficiency.)

There's a book about the subject titled From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics, which can be found here: b-ok.xyz/book/899907/0135f4

Here's an excerpt from page 273:

Economic cyberneticians quickly realized that it was impossible to centralize all economic decision making in Moscow: the mathematical optimization of a large-scale system was simply not feasible. CEMI researchers estimated that complete optimization of the Soviet economy required solving a gargantuan system of equations with 50 million variables and 5 million constraints. They admitted that even a computer performing 1 million operations per second, which was much faster than any available Soviet computers, would require one month to solve a system a billionth as large. Besides, economic cyberneticians realized that there were some serious conceptual difficulties: linear programming was suited for the problem of resource distribution, but it did not work well for prospective planning, there were different views on what constituted an economic optimum, and it was difficult to agree on a single criterion for optimization. In 1967 Fedorenko unequivocally stated that "the full formalization of the functioning of an economic system and the creation of a fully automated centralized system of planning and management of the economy is unwarranted.

With issues like that, it isn't surprising that cybernetics was criticized as impractical. Soviet planners and Party leaders did constantly talk about the need to implement the "scientific and technological revolution," but they envisioned it as assisting current methods to plan the economy rather than anything drastic.

James Clark
James Clark

I would tell him how his and the suffering of millions like him would, over time, create a movement so great and all encompassing that when the time was right, there would be nothing the bourgeoisie and all their weapons of war could do to stop it.
And then I bet he'd just be like "huh" and he'd go back home, get up in the morning for a 12-hour shift in the factory and go home to an empty table, content that he might be starving and exploited, but at least he isn't providing material for massively overblown propaganda, right? Get fucking real. This is more or less the exact same argument that was used to justify feudal exploitation - "yeah shit sucks and you'll die at 30, but then you'll go to heaven, so don't try to improve your living conditions or anything."
Almost all anticommunist propaganda today is based on the USSR and PRC, with third place probably going to North Korea
And almost all of it is demonstrably bullshit, and even then, when push comes to shove and people are fucking sick of capitalism - sick enough to fight for something else - people aren't going to care too much about whether or not the Ukrainian famine was man-made or how many sparrows Mao personally killed when they can grasp by experience that nothing short of the dictatorship of the proletariat is in their own self-interest.

Again - what should the workers and peasants of Russia, of China, of Korea have done instead? Even at the time, nobody expected full communism to be right around the corner; Marx and Engels had already said that the higher stage of communism would be reached given further societal development and technological advances, as did Lenin in State and Revolution. This idea that "the material conditions for full communism didn't exist, so they shouldn't have made revolution" is ridiculous, since it was never expected that the material conditions for full communism would exist at the time of revolution in the first place.

Brayden Carter
Brayden Carter

I feel like the Trotskyist argument that the "Stalinist Buearchcy" was a huge problem in the USSR has some credibility to it
How can you manage such a complex pre-computers state without a massive bureaucracy?

If Trotsky were to have taken power, he would have created the same kind of apparatus. Stalin would have been exiled to Mexico and wrote polemics about "Trotskyist Bureaucracy". There was no real difference between the two ideologically - just personal grudges.

Brandon Garcia
Brandon Garcia

What number of operations per second can a computer perform today?

Aaron Cruz
Aaron Cruz

No.
The Stalin-era planning system was fantastic for its time. If revisionists hadn't taken over, they could have transitioned into full communism by continually revolutionizing their economic system.

Luke Sullivan
Luke Sullivan

we can all thank corn man for delaying full communism

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Easton Harris
Easton Harris

I am very very skeptical of this idea that communism is perfect and easy now that we have the right technology or that all or most historical missteps of the left were just due to not having access to the magic bean.

Kayden Wright
Kayden Wright

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLOPS
A top of the line commercially available Intel can do 700 GFLOPS,
In 1997 a Supercomputer hit 1 Teraflops.
Supercomputers now are hitting 50+ Petaflops
Which is 50 thousand trillion a second.

check out the table at the bottom of the wiki page to see how much cheaper a GFLOP and TFLOP is now too.

Ian Ramirez
Ian Ramirez

Strictly speaking, no. Manual planning techniques, in the USSR and the rest of the Eastern Block, proved perfectly sufficient for expanding primary industry (mining, heavy industry, chemical industry, military industry, etc.). The types of inputs are not terribly varied, and there aren't an enormous amount of potential outputs for that sort of industry.

The problem is that manual planning of the Stalinist kind, while effective in kickstarting industrialization, is insufficient for managing either the consumer economy or a tertiary industry like advanced electronics. The USSR didn't have the resources to provide the same level of consumer goods as the West, but they exacerbated the gap by not embracing and advancing cybernetic planning.

As points out, in some ways it was the cyberneticists who jumped the gun. They saw the potential of computing for planning, but the technology wasn't quite there yet for the sort of macro-scale planning necessary. That being said, computer technology by the 1980's was advanced enough to implement a cybernetics-based reform of the planning system. That this did not happen is largely down to revisionist tendencies and some instrinstic failings of the structure of the Soviet government.

Jaxon Price
Jaxon Price

Technology only goes the way the political system and economic model go. Just look at modern products and technologies today, we could have achieved total environmental sustainability and complete automation by this point (just look at Cuba for instance, total sustainability even when their agricultural equipment are far behind the capitalist world), but doing that will also mean capitalists in imperialist countries can’t maximize their profits. So instead we get phones with better spying equipment for selling information to advertisers, beauty products, expensive as shit self driving cars, and sweat shops in China.

Capitalists will never push technology toward serving the masses but just for serving themselves. Also don’t forget all of the technological achievements the Soviet Union made, without the space race I doubt that space exploration would even be a thing since it’s not profitable enough.

If we don’t get a global revolution in the next 20 years or so and if human civilization don’t collapse by global warming then expect a future where everything is automated but everyone will still have to wage slave away to keep the rotting corpse of capitalism going, but this time any resistance will be detected the minute they’re thought up and crushed under the steel boot of drones and robots

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Brody Ortiz
Brody Ortiz

I agree like most left communist arguments Trotsky wouldn't have fixed the problem I just agree it is something to take into account especially if we can fix it in the modern day

Ayden Nelson
Ayden Nelson

They admitted that even a computer performing 1 million operations per second, which was much faster than any available Soviet computers, would require one month to solve a system a billionth as large.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLOPS
Alright, so FLOPS is floating-point operations per second, megaFLOP is million of these, and gigaFLOP is a thousand megaFLOPs. According to Wikipedia, the approximate cost per gFLOP as of 2017 is $0.3. So that's what we need if we want to do the calculation mentioned above, and do it a thousand times faster than in a whole month? Either way, that is not interesting, the issue is "a billionth as large". I doubt this give us a proper multiplier to get to the real economy since the complexity probably is not something that grows in a linear fashion with problem size.

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