Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by GI Jim, Sep 8, 2018.
he's no longer an optimist I think
That's a bit of "tallest dwarf in the circus" as praise.
If the economy or more importantly the living standards are going great then often there is little problem for the rulers staying in power, this is true in both democratic and non-democratic societies. This was clearly not the case in the USSR, the economy was going down and people standard of living was dropping. In such environments, downward mobility pushes people to the extremes. Demagogues who offer up outsider scapegoats rise because they have someone to blame for the problems. In the USSR because so much was the state, the state rules unlike in the West could not convincingly blame others eg the big multinationals. As the decline was long, starting from the 1970s
and the state was seen as being the cause of the decline the complaints were turbocharged.
A Russian Federation still exists, an example might be that different nationalities exist quite happily in the EU too.
There was a nationality problem it was though under control by the state police. Once the fear of the police stopped the nationality situation rapidly went south.
See (a) above
Walter Laqueur a well-known expert on the USSR in the late 1970s was talking of the rise of police communism which would be the glue to replace the decline in communism as an ideal to keep the USSR together, I think here you are agreeing with him.
The problem with this argument is that the overthrow of the USSR never occurred due to popular revolution, it was a coup d'etat by Yeltsin against Gorbachev: with the vast majority of the people sitting on the sidelines. At the same time, even in 1985 the Soviet standards of living remained well above global average. Furthermore, 1990s Russia saw economic collapse and contraction in standards of living, life expectancy and GDP unmatched during Soviet times resulting in millions of pre-mature death and old people literally selling the last of their possessions on the streets and yet there was no revolution against Yeltsin (who had what a 3% approval in the late 90s)?
What this suggests is that the economy inspiring a popular resistance was never the key factor, it was the actions of political elites taking advantage of Gorbachev's reforms to grab power.
this got mentioned like 3-4 times itt already, there was never a nationalist separatist movement even under perestroika in like 95% of the ussr
it was a problem in Armenia, Georgia, the Baltics and Moldava but those were like 2-3% of the USSR's territory/population, it was a manageable problem.
Well if you aren't going to accept the reality that 1989-1991 was the period of the freest elections in the entire history of the USSR (and probably also in Russia from 1989-present), why bother to discuss? It seems no evidence will sway your opinion so what's the point?
It doesn't even seem as if you were remotely aware of these elections and events (or even the existence of the Congress of People's Deputies and Sakharov being a deputy), so how then are you able to dismiss the 1989-1991 elections like "the tallest dwarf in the circus"?
I'm not sure that source means what you think it means unless I'm misinterpreting what you are saying. Nothing in that source seems to suggest RousseauX is wrong. RousseauX was saying that in the 1980s the USSR had a living standard well above global average and that the consumer economy isn't necessarily a good indicator of living standards. The source you provided suggests using height and infant mortality as a proxy for measuring living standards and economic growth. However height and infant mortality relate more to medical care (and note that RousseuX said "But money going to the state doesn't go down a blackhole either, in the USSR the state provided you with vacations/medical treatment/housing etc in form of vouchers/guarantees"). That actually agrees with RousseauX's statement. The article itself notes in the conclusion:
The article essentially agrees that 1945 to 1969 saw significant improvements in economic conditions followed by a period of stagnation, with declines in economic conditions happening in some regions. And most of the graphs seems to suggest that sporadic growth occurred again after the 1970s but it wasn't nearly as good as before.
If the USSR's economic conditions improved significantly up to 1969 and the 1970s were a decade of stagnation followed by sporadic growth in the 1980s the USSR could (and was) still be well above the global average in terms of living standards as RousseauX suggested.
Okay, slightly confusing here. Your first sentence suggests agreement with what we have been saying. The second sentence suggests you disagree. Which is it?
I think we might actually be saying the same thing here, but you seem to be stressing the nationality problem in a few republics while the rest of us were discussing the USSR as a whole. Certainly there was a nationality problem in the Baltics (but there was always likely to be such a problem since they were annexed in 1941/1945) and in the Caucasus (Georgia itself; Georgians v Abkhaz; Georgians and South Ossetians; North Ossetians and Ingush; Ingush and Chechens; Armenians v Azeris) but as RousseauX has noted, the Baltics, Caucasus and Moldova together accounted for a very small percentage of the USSR's population (and even initially it was Azerbaijan that intended to remain in a renewed federation). However the Baltics, Moldova and Georgia and Armenia were not necessary for the survival of the USSR as a non-communist federation (as the Union of Sovereign Soviet Republics or something like that) and without glasnost, the state police would continue to keep a lid on the problems in the Baltics, Moldova and the Caucasus for a communist USSR that underwent any kind of economic reforms (from Kosygin inspired or Andropovist to Deng-like) that kept the communist party as the sole legal party.
What is saying is that there was an overall decline from the 1970s, which is what I am saying.
I am also saying that there was a refusal by the authorities to do such a thing in the OTL, as the ideological justification was dropping now in an ATL, this may not be true.
Where does it say that? It said there was stagnation and a decline in some regions in the 1970s. That's not the same as an overall decline from the 1970s onwards.
Absence of growth =/= decline.
I'm aware of them.
Yes, they seem to have been less tightly controlled than previous Soviet "elections."
I confess I have a deep and special loathing for what I regard as the most murderous regime in history, some of which is personal; I rejoiced greatly in its collapse (not least for being so bloodless), no matter how troubled what came after. I've conceded the point that it could have survived longer with a very modest point of departure. But I'll bow out of the discussion now, as I don't care for the turn it has taken.
Bottom of page 107 "slowdown or halting of growth for individuals born in the 1970s."
Middle of page 109, "and stopped improving or began to deteriorate between 1970 and 1979."
Middle of page 112 "The decline in male life expectancy was largest in the Russian republic, but a similar pattern of deterioration occurred in the other republics as well. The unfavorable trends in mortality and life expectancy in the Soviet Union in this period have long been known and, as Nicholas Eberstadt has argued, should have been taken as the first signal that the impressive rates of economic growth in the USSR either were exaggerated or failed to translate into an improved standard of living for the population in the 1970s and 1980s.58"
Bottom of page 112 "also corroborate the evidence of some deterioration in living conditions beginning around 1970, when infant and adult mortality were rising and child and adult 58 height stopped increasing and in some regions began to decline."
This I believe was a very important cause of the USSR collapse in the OTL. Stalin or Lenin faced with these protests would have called in the army and done mass arrests and they would have been ideologically committed to the task. In the late 1980s, Gorbachev would not order such a thing and I doubt the police or soldiers if ordered by then would obey such orders.
Slowdown or halting of growth =/= reversal of growth (decline). That indicates stagnation.
Well that quote is talking about infant mortality rate.
Firstly note it says "stopped improving or began to deteriorate" which is quite consistent with the conclusions:
Secondly, let's look at the entire paragraph in context, including the graph to which the author was making reference to when writing that paragraph you quoted from:
So the author states, that living conditions improved "dramatically" from 1940 to 1969. And then stopped improving or began to deteriorate between 1970 and 1979. Are we to take from that the idea that living conditions then dropped below the world average? It certainly doesn't suggest that and reading it together with the graph, we see that infant mortality once again began trending down in the 1980s (but at a slower rate than in the period prior to 1970). Are we to make from this that living conditions continued to deteriorate throughout the 1980s if the basis of the entire study is that we can use infant mortality to help determine how living conditions relate to economic conditions? If so, then it means all the conclusions drawn about living conditions (and thus economic growth) from 1940-1979 are invalid. If not, then how does it not support what RousseauX was contending, which is that, to wit, the USSR's standard of living was above the world average in the 1980s?
So the decline in male life expectancy (which is likely attributable to high rates of alcohol consumption as opposed to poor healthcare in the country, otherwise both males and females would be affected) and the fact that the author agrees that Soviet published figures of "impressive" rates of economic growth for the 1970s and 1980s were "exaggerated" and/or "failed to translate into improved standard of living" for the 1970s and 1980s is supposed to be equate to living standards being.....below the world average in the 1980s? How?
Because the author notes that female life expectancy stagnated after 1965 but that male and female life expectancy increased "substantially" from 1940 to 1965.
1. it is quite possible the increase in life expectancy (and thus economic conditions) from 1940-1965 was so substantial that even stagnation from 1965-1989 could mean that by the 1980s the standard of living was still above the world average.
2. The bit you quoted conforms to the accepted fact that there was stagnation in the 1970s in the USSR (impressive rates of economic growth being exaggerated does not itself indicate that the true figures were a decline, but can well mean that there was simply no growth, i.e. stagnation; also note he refers to a failure to "translate into improved standard of living", which does not mean the standard of living necessarily declined as it could have simply remained unchanged for the most part and thus again refer to stagnation).
Note the qualifier I bolded: "some". Compare that to the previous qualifiers in referring to the 1940-1965/1970 period: "substantial", "impressive", "dramatic".
Again, this is completely consistent with the author's conclusions:
Actually to clear things up, do you suggest that RousseauX is incorrect and that in fact the USSR's average standard of living in the 1980s was below the world average?
If you wish to bow out then that's fine, but none of us have to love a particular regime/state/ideology to be able to objectively discuss the possibilities around it surviving longer. I'm sure almost nobody on the forum loves the idea of slavery, Jim Crow, apartheid, Nazism/Fascism, Hutu Power ideology or colonialism. However that doesn't stop persons from being able to objectively discuss just how those ideologies/systems/governments (like the CSA, British colonial empire, French colonial empire, apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Jim Crow USA, Nazi Germany, Francoism in Spain, Salazarism in Portugal, MRND-led Rwanda with the Interahamwe, etc) might have survived longer (or even indefinitely God forbid!) without letting any personal feelings getting in the way of discussing presented facts and dismissing others arguments out of hand or accepting them begrudgingly. The fact that these horrible systems or ideologies could have lasted longer is even more reason why I'm thankful for the world we live in and not the world we could be living in.
I challenge the assertion that a lot of this discussion - including by you - has been "objective." Some of it has been frankly pro-Soviet.
But I said I'd bow out, and I will. I'd like to avoid the banhammer.
I haven't seen a pro-Soviet attitude, all of them stating facts aren't actually expressing interest in the survival of the Soviet Union as they are recognizing the lack of respect towards the "sacred" values of liberalism and all of that.
They are just trying to present facts about the country before it just died out.
Well I suppose in that case it is best to bow out since you can't seem to view anything other than the idea that there could never be competitive elections in the Soviet Union in 1989-1991 as being "pro-Soviet" or not "objective". Means there can't be a constructive discussion based on actual facts (however much those facts are uncomfortable). Pity really.
So what if it was below world average? Would an American or European be pleased if someone said to them that their standard of living was above the world average? This seems to me to be a straw man argument.
I'm sorry if it appears so, but it's just that at different times, different aspects of your argument have been emphasized, which then appear confusing.
So to get back on track, initially GI Jim noted that there the Soviet economic model was not doomed to fail as has been popular contended. RousseauX noted that this popular contention is often based on Western standards, but that the Soviet standard of living was not going to reach US levels but was well above the global average. You then suggested that per capita income may not be that useful when dealing with a state dominated economy with not much left for consumers and that in any case the Russian people were comparing themselves against Eastern European and Western European standard and did not see themselves as economically successful.
Up to that point it was fairly cogent and could easily be followed.
However after that RousseauX noted in response to you that firstly, in a state dominated economy the money doesn't disappear but goes into things that maintain living standards (healthcare and housing for instance) and that in contrast consumerism isn't necessarily a good indicator of living standards. Secondly he noted that (in response to what you noted about the Russian people comparing themselves to other Europeans and their standard of living) and that as a result they didn't consider themselves economically successful that "The American people today don't see themselves as economically successful either, that's not necessarily indicative of anything".
Now relate that to what you just said above:
"So what if it was below world average? Would an American or European be pleased if someone said to them that their standard of living was above the world average? This seems to me to be a straw man argument."
You've essentially repeated RousseauX's point.
Certainly Americans and Europeans would not be pleased if someone said to them that their standard of living is above the world average. However as RousseauX noted, some Americans even today don't see themselves as economically successful. And this despite the fact that overall a lot of Americans are well above the world average in terms of standards of living. However as he noted, that sentiment isn't indicative of anything in particular (though it may be indicative of a general human tendency to skew towards negative views about personal circumstances).
As RousseauX later noted, economic conditions in post-Soviet Russia slumped to terrible conditions (which is corroborated by the increase in infant mortality, declining birth rate, increasing death rate and lowering of life expectancy) during the Yeltsin era (such that things were even worse according to those measures than under Brezhnev, though thankfully there was more freedom of expression). Yet, this did not lead to Yeltsin being overthrown in a popular revolution, despite how weak the state had become. Thus reinforcing the point that whether people see themselves as economically successful or not isn't a particularly strong predictor for the survival of a government.
And indeed, the USSR collapsed following a failed coup against Gorbachev, which brought further instability to his government. It is highly debatable if the Ukrainian independence referendum would have even proceeded in December 1991 had the August 1991 coup not occurred (Ukraine's government might well have ratified the new union treaty if they figured it allowed sufficient local political control). Prior to the August 1991 coup the only SSRs to hold independence referenda were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia (all held in February/March 1991). After the August coup, Armenia held a referendum on independence in September, followed by Turkmenistan and then Ukraine in December. After that the leaders of Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia met in secret and signed an agreement which declared the end of the USSR and invited the other republics to join in a loose Commonwealth. The USSR then officially ceased to exist by December 25, 1991. Only after the USSR was already dead and buried for a few days did Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan hold their independence referenda (December 29th). To the best of my knowledge, no independence referenda were held in the other republics. Save for the Baltics and Caucasus, the dissolution of the USSR as a federation (as opposed to end of communist party power) was directed by the local elite in the republics and not by popular revolt (where popular protests varied widely from wanting democratization to wanting independence; only in the Baltics and some of the Caucasus were those two goals completely intertwined). The local elite used popular protests for democracy as a tool to gain the independence they desired but which was not necessarily the goal of the population. Something similar happened in Czechoslovakia, except there the politicians didn't even use (or have) popular protests as a tool (by the Czechoslovakia was already a democracy), but effected separation despite separation having only the support of just around a third of the population in both Czechia and Slovakia (according to a poll at the time).
So as both RousseauX and yourself have noted, what the people thought in terms of how economically successful or not they were wasn't particularly indicative of anything. That said, the living standards of the USSR had increased substantially through the 1945-1965 period.
But in response to RousseauX noting that in a state dominated economy like the USSR publicly provided healthcare and housing were used to maintain living standards and that even Americans do not necessarily view themselves as economically successful you refer to that article you referenced earlier in your post, wherein you said:
"If the economy or more importantly the living standards are going great then often there is little problem for the rulers staying in power, this is true in both democratic and non-democratic societies. This was clearly not the case in the USSR, the economy was going down and people standard of living was dropping. In such environments, downward mobility pushes people to the extremes. Demagogues who offer up outsider scapegoats rise because they have someone to blame for the problems. In the USSR because so much was the state, the state rules unlike in the West could not convincingly blame others eg the big multinationals. As the decline was long, starting from the 1970s
and the state was seen as being the cause of the decline the complaints were turbocharged."
However the paper:
1. supports RousseauX's argument about healthcare as a measure of standard of living
2. suggests that overall people's standard of living was stagnating rather than declining, except in some regions (and decline in male life expectancy which was due to widespread alcoholism leading to earlier deaths and poorer health among males).
So this is where it gets confusing for me. Because living standards declined (very noticeably!) under Yeltsin, yet he had less trouble staying in power than Gorbachev.
In Yeltsin's Russia the privatization was incomplete (so there were still a lot of state domination of the economy) and when privatization was done, a lot of it ended up in the hands of robber-baronesque oligarchs who were very cozy with the state (and some were seen as essentially extensions of Yeltsin's circle).
Why then was Yeltsin not overthrown in a popular revolt that either aimed to restore communism (Zyuganov) or institute true democracy and market-liberalism (aimed at the oligarchs and forceful re-privatization that would have ended the power of the oligarchs)?
Only because Gorbachev created alternatives to Communist power rule by allowing free elections in Russia so in 1991 you had divided loyalties among the political elites
There are ways of finding soldiers who are willing to open fire: Poland found them in 1981, the CCP found them in 1989, Assad found them in 2013, the list goes on and on, vast majority of the time soldiers will open fire as long as their officers stay in line
Your explanation of what was said was is fair enough but I am not sure what you are trying to say.
One point I will say is that the tearing of the USSR apart was on nationalistic divides as was Czechoslovakia which you mentioned. All the military conflicts since are on such divides too.
Under Yeltsin, after a while he had a very low approval rate, Yelstin actually joked that he had a negative approval rate. I would say things were different, firstly as Russia had left the USSR so the nationality problem that tore USSR apart was greatly reduced and the Russians had a democracy.
Yes, what I find interesting was that the public in the late 1980s while it attacked the communist party and its ideology, the republics, the army, the KGB, the police etc all theoretically under party control stood aside and then watched the USSR fall.
It does not always work, some examples would be in the French revolution, the start of the Russian revolution in 1917, in Czechoslovakia mentioned above in its Velvet revolution and in Romania the communist armies refused to fire and soon joined the protesters, in East Germany, the soldier did not refuse as such but did not do it either when given the chance.
Separate names with a comma.