"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
In 1991, while a Communist counter-coup was being repressed in Moscow, jubilant crowds pulled down a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky which had stood in front of the KGB headquarters building, the Lubyanka. Despite his nickname, it had been made of bronze, lest a Hero of the Revolution turn rusty. Note that it was a spontaneous demolition by plain people, not by the tanks of an invading army as in Baghdad twelve years later.
Four years after Lenin and his Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, Russia was still an economic basket case; agriculture and industry had been ruined by one government under Tsar Nicholas II, and the ruin was kept in place by the new one by its suppression of a free market. Starvation had continued, and when food was stolen on Lenin's orders, the peasants who had grown it naturally protested.
With his “people's” revolution on the point of unraveling, Lenin's Politburo responded with two decisions: to crush the rebels, and to implement a “New Economic Policy.” The NEP was in essence a confession of failure of Marxist economics, that collectivism doesn't work. It didn't work in Plymouth in 1621, it didn't work in China in the 1970s, and it will never work anywhere--for it attempts to flout human nature, part of which is to enjoy the fruits of one's own labor. The NEP was announced sotto voce, at the end of the 10th Party Congress, as if the delegates knew of that failure full well. From then on, peasants were allowed to sell their produce on the open market, and be subject to taxation rather than outright confiscation of the produce. It is of course the same difference, but it looked better to hand property over to a bureaucrat rather than have cart loads of wheat removed at gunpoint from the farm yard.
Apparently the NEP did cause a big increase in harvests – but not immediately. The problem was that, anticipating confiscation of their produce, much less seed had been sown; why bother? So the NEP was too little, too late, for 1921. It did produce food for the rest of the 1920s, then in 1929 it was replaced by a series of fictional works called “Five Year Plans.” Those didn't work either, and led to Stalin's holocaust, in which seven million peasants died.
Lenin's other decision – to crush the peasant rebellions – is expressed in his memo to Felix Dzerzhinsky, who had been appointed the first boss of Cheka, the Homeland Security department which later morphed into the NKVD and then the KGB. Lenin wrote:
“It is vital that this movement be crushed as swiftly as possible in the most exemplary fashion: we must be more energetic than this.”
Stalin concurred, and Dzerzhinsky announced, in an eerie echo of Robespierre's infamous “Terror without virtue is fatal; virtue without terror is impotent”:
"We will make our hearts cruel, hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them . . . . For the blood of Lenin [who had been wounded in an attempted assassination by the Menshevik Dora Kaplan] and Uritsky, Zinovief and Volodarski, let there be floods of the blood of the bourgeois--more blood, as much as possible."
He wasn't kidding. The most vigorous resistance had come from peasants in the Tambov province, where 5,000 government troops had been largely excluded – so the force was enlarged to 100,000 and Iron Felix got to work. His general, Tuchachevsky, issued the following orders:*
- Shoot on sight any citizens who refuse to give their names
- Commissions are hereby authorized to pronounce sentence on any village where arms are being hidden, and to arrest hostages and shoot them if the whereabouts of the arms are not revealed
- Wherever arms are found, execute immediately the eldest son in the family
- Any family that has harbored a bandit is to be arrested and deported from the province, their possessions are to be seized, and the eldest son is to be executed immediately.
- Any families sheltering other families who have harbored bandits are to be punished in the same manner, and their eldest son is to be shot
- In the event that bandit families have fled, their possessions are to be redistributed among peasants who are loyal to the Soviet regime, and their houses are to be burned or demolished
- These orders are to be carried out vigorously and without mercy.
We can notice that #1 above makes the German Gestapo look benevolent, #2 makes the British raiders on Concord seem gentlemanly, and that they all clearly indicate where “gun control” will eventually lead if any government is resolved to monopolize the ownership of firearms. The seven can readily be typed on a single sheet, and I know of no page that more clearly expresses and summarizes the true nature of government. This is the iron fist, inside the velvet glove. This is what American governments will do, if push were to come to shove. Power admits no limit.
So it is, of course, all about gaining and preserving power. This is the kind of savagery to which any government will certainly resort, if its grip on power is violently challenged. Even if violent resistance to government were not on its face a betrayal of libertarian principles, a shameful use of the enemy's own primary weapon, it would eventually draw out this kind and degree of brutality – and then fail anyway. There is only one way to terminate government, and that's peacefully to undermine it by persuading its employees to leave their jobs.
* Source: The Black Book of Communism. Strongly recommended . . . with Dramamine.