A book by Roger Boyes.
Hardback, 322 pages. Published by Secker & Warburg, price £17.99 How could Communism, its control seemingly complete and comprehensive, collapse so suddenly? The general reaction was one of relief, amazement and jubilation; but it was also thus when Chamberlain returned from Munich. Among Social Credit followers and others of similar philosophy, there has been suspicion… Was this the next to last move of a Chess-Master making an offer his opponent cannot refuse? The late Hamish Frazer said that the Communists were lucky rather than masterly. Those who fear that the communist strategy of “two steps back, one step forward” makes its victory inevitable have, in part, accepted Marxist Hegelian dialectic. Why should we suppose that Communism cannot be prevented from taking its step forward? We have also accepted Communism’s assessment of itself. The people believed that the Marxist formation of its apparatchniks was too thorough, the Party technique of “criticism and self-criticism” too searching, and the sanction of the State and party terror too pervasive for there to be organised opposition in Communist States, much less for there to be corrupt policemen and party-members. The ball-carriers for Communism throughout our mass-media reinforced this belief. One ‘expert’ on Communism, a News Chronicle columnist, returned from a grand tour of the “Iron Curtain” countries in August 1956 to assert that there was no petty crime or prostitution in Moscow, and that life in Budapest was care-free and cultured. A few weeks later the Hungarian uprising began.
Still, even taking into account the popular over-estimation of Communist control we are left with the need for an explanation. How could some, so seemingly monolithic, so buttressed against opposition, collapse so suddenly? Roger Boyes book offers an economist’s explanation. Boyes is a Social Democrat in the European sense. He hopes that something of socialism – “Market Socialism” – may be saved from the wreck, though the evidence he presents ought not to make him optimistic. His book, subtitled Gorbachev, The Underworld and the Rebirth of Capitalism, is not an academic treatise; it is a journalist’s book, in journalist’s prose. He presents his argument in the first part and then supports it with a series of pen-portraits of people he has met as a correspondent in the Soviet Bloc for the past ten years. There is the honest policeman who is threatened by his fellow policemen for trying to end bribery and then arrested by his superiors and sent to prison for not heeding the warning. There is the ruthless ‘Godfather’ who first organised the mob among the criminal elements of the Gulag and upon his release transplanted his organisation into the world outside. There are the pitiful prostitutes and an interesting sidelight upon the U.N.O. — Soviet Bloc countries having signed the U.N.O. Abolition Act of 1952, which bans “the penalization or compulsory control of prostitution”, are unable to ban them from hotel foyers. One wonders whether the U.N.O.worshipers in the Catholic ‘Justice and Peace Commissions’ know about this? It also transpires that our gallant little ally, Kuwait, has been the centre of the Arab Tourist Industry to Eastern Europe. Boeing 727s flew rich Arabs, sixty at a time, into Eastern Europe for organised “sex tourism”. As these rich parasites are hardly deprived at home, it can only be concluded that their added incentives are racial and ideological triumphalism in the degradation of European womanhood.
Boye’s explanation of the sudden collapse of Communist Power may be summarised thus. The collapse was not sudden, its seeds lay within Communism from the start. For the Communist State, The Plan is important, but the Plan cannot work. The market responds to and is served by the myriad free decisions and arbitrary choices of countless individual. It is true that the general trends and effects of these choices, given a sufficient mass can be plotted by actuarial sciences, but they cannot be planned for in advance and no central plan can replicate them. In effect the Plan creates shortages of everything. First, impossibly high targets are set. Factory and Farm Management falsify their returns to show that they have over-fulfilled their quotas. Factory Managers hoard components against possible future need, so the next stage of manufacture is disrupted for lack of the components. Goods which the Plan asserts are in the shops have not ever been made. The breakdown would have come even sooner if it were not for that epiphenomenon of planning and socialism – the spiv. The tolkachi knows where things are being hoarded. He travels between factories bribing their release, and where that fails he visits the black market which satisfies the demand by stealing the supply, either from the factories or from the transport system. In short, the Plan, the essence of Communism, criminalizes society. The necessary corruption of the production and distribution networks is only a fragment of the picture. The Plan criminalizes the Consumer, and does so from the cradle to the grave. Neither maternity wards nor crematoria are exempt from the shortages created by the Plan, and people must bribe or be bribed to give birth or dispose of their dead on time! Even in the one case where the Plan appears successful, the production of tractors, the law that people will always do what is easiest defeats Communism. The USSR produces 4.5 times as many tractors as the USA., although it has less tillable land, but with state subsidy the collective farms find it easier to buy new tractors than to repair the old. Consequently, there is always a waiting list for tractors.
Communism has criminalized the whole of society, but particularly the party and the police. The black market may provide the things people need to live, and therefore be tolerated, but ultimately the creation of an economy outside the control of the Party results in a loss of authority. By the 1980’s the Party had lost control, but still bore responsibility in mass perception.
The ‘New’ Left and the Trotskyites made strenuous efforts to distinguish Marxism and what they call Stalinism or State Capitalism. The truth, however, is that the alternative market which Communism makes necessary and which has undermined the Communist creed, antedates Stalin. It is at least arguable that it was only the Stalinist terror which shored up the fallacies of Marxism for so long. In the same misleading fashion the press here asserted that Gorbachev was now invested with more power than any previous Communist leader. More power than Stalin? It is difficult to believe, but there is a difference. Stalin’s absolute power was derived from his office of General Secretary of the Communist Party. Gorbachev’s new powers derived from his investiture as Head of State. It is a constitutionally based authority, and this is the theoretical culmination of the revolution against Communism.
Yet Boyes’ book only supplies the contemporary evidence for the truth of what we already knew. Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle in his criticism of Plato’s Republic, made the point :-
There is further drawback to common ownership; the greater the number of owners, the less respect for the property….. they exercise care over public property only in so far as they are personally affected. Other reasons apart, the thought that someone else is looking after it tends to make them careless of it. (The Politics : Bk.II, Chap.3.)
A point amply borne out by the case of the collective farms and their equipment. C.H. Douglas, however, has provided a more recent critique, and it is the more germane as it is directed at ‘The Plan’. Douglas’ defence of genuine market economics against those who favour a planned economy is best understood from his vivid illustration of the golden sovereign. When a man entered a shop and requested an item from the shelf, proffering a sovereign as effective demand, he immediately set in motion an order for the item to be replaced on the shelf. On receipt of that order (or in anticipation of it), cartels carted, factory workers set machines in motion, ships sailed, farmers sowed and reaped, miners mined and quarrymen quarried. The only weakness in the system was that not enough people had sovereigns with which to command, and for that Social Credit proposed a remedy. No centralised Marxist or Fabian plan can provide for all the free actions necessary to replace the item on the shelf. As Douglas argued in Social Credit, plans are static – Platonic Abstractions – whilst Society is dynamic. By the time the minutiae of ‘The Plan’ have been gathered, society has moved on to new situations; a fact which defeated Labour’s National Plan in 1969. The Plan is an ideal form so that, even in Platonic terms, actuality can never be identical to it.
The entire argument of Boye’s book may indeed be summarised by a quotation from Douglas’ monograph, The Big Idea :
The idea so skilfully inculcated that confiscation of property will assist in the distribution of wealth is, of course, completely without foundation. Socialism is a restriction system and it has two well defined fundamental principles – centralisation of power and espionage… (Page 9)
It has no chance whatever of success, but it has a real chance of setting back the clock of human happiness by hundreds of years… (Page 62)
(The Big Idea : C.H. Douglas, 1983 Edition, Bloomfield Books, Sudbury).
In The Hard Road To Market, Boyes’ effectively confirms that C.H. Douglas was correct.