Saturday, June 19, 2010

Libertarians for Stalin

A few years back, my model for libertarians was that they were my brethren (that is, basically nerds) who had just happened, through some hitch in their intellectual or emotional development, to latch onto an oversimplified ideology, an ideology that channeled a perfectly normal and even admirable adolescent ant-iauthoritarianism into political stupidity. That this geeky ideology was twisted and used by truly appalling real-world politician to gain power and strip society of its ability to function was not the nerds' fault, exactly.

But I keep learning more creepy things about this movement. Patron saint Ayn Rand was a fan of mudering sociopaths. More recent patron saint Ron Paul is in bed with racists and antisemites. Etc. It's no longer possible to think of them as just people who appreciate the elegance of distributed systems.

Now, here's something new: the Koch family, who bankrolls an amazingly wide swath of libertarian institutions (ie, the Cato Institute, Reason, the George Mason economics department...pretty much the entire brain trust of the movement) as well as the tea party and many other questionable things, turns out to have made their money by contracting for Stalin's USSR. (and later, skimming off government contracts while ripping off Indian tribes, but that seems pretty vanilla under the circumstances).
In 1929, after hosting a delegation of Soviet planners in Wichita, Kansas, Winkler and Koch signed a $5 million contract to build 15 refineries in the Soviet Union. According to Oil of Russia, a Russian oil industry trade magazine, the deal made Winkler-Koch into Comrade Stalin’s number-one refinery builder. It provided equipment and oversaw construction...At the time, the Soviet Union’s oil industry was a total mess. Equipment built by Western engineering firms was always breaking down or didn’t work at all. Western engineers were constantly being accused of espionage or sabotage, real or imagined, and booted out of the country. Soviet workers suspected of colluding with the foreigners were simply taken out back and shot. Winkler-Koch made sure it was running a tight, efficient operation. Unlike his Western competitors, Koch pleased his Soviet clients by ensuring top quality and helping the cause of socialism.
I am truly in awe. As I mentioned in the last post, no matter how cynical I get, the weird corruption of the real world manages to trump my imagination.

It's now safe to fuck with Stalin!

Is all this just a trivial sideshow? Not hardly. If the belief system of these nerds had not been so successfully employed to weaken the regulatory functions of government, we wouldn't have had an entirely preventable oil spill in the Gulf. This bullshit just killed an ocean. Doesn't get more real than that.

The Kochs also fund a good chunk of the climate-change denial machine. Of course.


hoyhoy said...

This Libertarian rhetoric is getting tired. I say, if Tea Partiers and Ron Paul acolytes want to go all market-fundamentalist, then Citibank, BofA, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, the FDIC, GM, and the Federal Reserve should immediately be declared as bankrupt and dissolved. House prices should recede to their true market value. And, the most efficient health insurance system i.e. Medicare/Medicaid should win in the market.

What's scary is that this isn't what Libertarianism has come to mean. It seems to have been co-opted by corporatocracy to mean "poor people and unions are killing the economy".

Yeah, if only we could have a few decades where the government would keep their hands off the economy. Oh, wait, that's what we just fucking had since the early 70's and most Americans ended up as debt slaves to financial institutions.

In 1775, 75% of the population of the colonies were indentured serfs to banks and land holders. In 2010, nothing has changed. The Revolutionary War, both World Wars, and the most recent cavalcade of cold and hot wars were all for nothing. We're right back to 1775. And, technically, we're back to 1679 because habeus corpus is still suspended.

The Libertarians are just as intellectually and politically bankrupt as the Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, we're just exchanging one mendacious bunch of nitwits for another. The situation is maddening because there is no clear solution other than to stop participating in the economy. Maybe we should just concede that our ideology is a failed experiment just like every other one that has ever existed.

"There is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong." - H.L. Mencken

Anonymous said...

Koch was hardly alone as an American company doing business with the Soviet Union in the 'twenties and 'thirties. Anthony Sutton, before he went off the deep end, wrote several good books about this subject: "Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development 1930-1945" (1971); "Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution" (1981); and "The Best Enemy Money Can Buy" (1986). He also documented the dealings of American businesses with the Nazis. It is in the nature of capitalism to sell to all possible buyers, even if they are ultimately hostile to it. Did not Lenin say something about capitalists selling him the rope he would use to hang them?

At least these capitalists had a quantifiable incentive to deal with the Bolsheviks. What comparable motivate had the American liberal intelligentsia of the day to embrace them so uncritically? How could Lincoln Steffens have been so deluded as to say after one of his Potemkin-village tours of the Soviet Union that "I've been over into the future and it works"? What prompted Jane Addams to praise the Bolshevik revolution as "the greatest social experiment in history"? Why did John Dewey gush that it was "a release of human powers on such an unprecedented scale that it is of incalculable significance for the world"? How could the labor economist and future U.S. Senator from Illinous, Paul Douglas, describe what he saw in Russia as "a new religion" that "strengthened his faith in socialism"? There are many more such effusions on record from similar sources.

If you want to pick on today's Koch for the folly of its management 80 years ago pursuing short-term profit by dealing with a ruler we now know to have been a bloodthirsty tyrant, and a regime that oppressed and impoverished its people right up to its dying day, how can you ignore the much greater folly of the American liberal intelligentsia, and its journals such as the New Republic and the Nation - like Koch, still going concerns - that published their voluminous apologia for Bolshevism?

Anonymous said...

Sorry - in the previous comment, the 2nd sentence, 2nd para., should read "What comparable motivation had..."

mtraven said...

Well, my concern is really not with whatever the ancestors of the present-day Koch's did, but what they are doing now. The history of their money provides some piquant context (or what the kids today call "ironic") but, I admit, is not really very important, no more (and no less) than the alleged Nazi dealings of Prescott Bush or the smuggling activities of Joseph Kennedy.

Never heard of Anthony Sutton, but googling him led to this very interesting publisher of his and other conspiracy theory books.

Well, my concern is really not with whatever the ancestors of the present-day Koch's did, but what they are doing now. The history of their money provides some piquant context (or what the kids today call "ironic") but, I admit, is not really very important, no more (and no less) than the alleged Nazi dealings of Prescott Bush or the smuggling activities of Joseph Kennedy.

Never heard of Anthony Sutton, but googling him led to this very interesting publisher of his and other conspiracy theory books.

David Xavier said...

BP wants to drill (way) off shore. Gives gifts/donations to the Government hoping to grease the wheels. Wheels are greased and BP starts to drill. An accident occurs... OK accidents can occur , what safe guards and contingencies were mandated? I see fault all around. But you claim immoral deeds from the past by companies like Koch , spring from the same well as the actions of those 'nerds' which acted to weaken/corrupt the government regulatory function. By using Stalin as a tar baby, you infer a greater culpability to the corporations who immorally undermine, through political donations , the gate keepers of public welfare. My take is that the Government should not have been so quick to deliver quid pro quo and betray the public's trust.

Prior to WW2 there were a lot of people who thought the USSR was the future , ( in the same way some people still think Cuba holds lessons for the US)...what Koch did was unremarkable in that context,they did business. They probably prevented several USSR environmental disasters in the process. This was before WW2 so Koch efforts, in modernising refining capability probably saved the USSR ( an USA ally ) from Hitler. You could think of it as a small deposit compared to the massive aid given to Stalin by the US in WW2. There again the more help to Stalin, the more people he was able to grind I dont have any answers.

A better angle :Why not ask yourself who was doing business with the Nazis. Texaco I think was thats a better fit for corporate mendacity.

So why is Koch being singled out...because of the tea party connections (irony of the Stalin connection ) and because of climate change. Yawn!

Yes Koch throws in 25 million here and there and next thing you know there's entire disinformation movement with the goal of global warming ( opps...climate change) denialism.

I guess only Climate Change believers can be funded ( usually by governments to the tune of billions). Climate change deniers or sceptics who question global warming are hacks who need marginalisation because they are in it for the money....more Stalinist Gold perhaps!

Anonymous said...

I can't call them b y their chosen name without putting quotes around it. These 115 IQ assholes took the beautiful word Libertarian and turned it into the name applied to useful idiots of the rich.

Rand's Hickman appreciation is actually far closer to a proper understanding of the term than is blathering on behalf of "Free-ddddooooommm!!!!!" in order to help the super wealthy buy another island. The "Libertarians" we all have the misfortune of interacting with however are not Hickmans or Waltons but dumbass lower middle-class nerds who suck Walton cock with their battle cries. God, what morons.

sth_txs said...

It is pretty clear that the poster and from the comments posted that you have no idea what libertarianism is about.

Cato is not a libertarian insitute and neither are other DC 'think tanks' that claim to be so. All were hijacked years ago by establishment hacks.

We have a uniparty system and freedom dwindles into oblivion by the day.

Take a look a sometime at Aaron Russo's from Freedom to Fascism to begin getting the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. I can show where the Bush family funded Adolf Hitler , and the Democrats are well known whores.

Cherry picking your facts and allegations proves; not much . Also, you fail to follow to conclusion your assertations that Libertarian ( what kind, what segment, what branch one asks .. as if it is a monolith walking in lockstep ) ideals impel failure in action.

Would Libertarians have bailed out the big banksters? I'll sit back and wait for your answer to that one .. or will it be avoidance and obfustication?
I can of course go through a whole host of counter charges like the above.

The fact is, those in power allowed the the BP blowout, the indebtiness, the money printing, the lobbying for obscenities, and the cultural funding of the decline.

And these people were ???

mtraven said...

You can crudely divide libertarians into two groups: those that are part of the Establishment (to revive that dusty term), and essentially function (at best) as useful idiots for plutocracy. That would include Cato, Reason, and the like. Then there are the outsiders, the gibbering consipiracy freaks, the gold bugs, the seasteaders, the hopeless nerds, the never-advanced-past-adolescence, the my-gun-is-my-penis-and-you'll-never-pry-it-from-my-fingers types...I guess I have slightly more fondness for the latter group, they aren't the ones doing deals with Stalin after all.

Anonymous said...

How kind of you.

I assume you're sufficiently self aware to recognize that you yourself are a member of the establishment in pretty acceptible standing. Oh, you may want the "suits" to lose, and the blacks to win but you also want the big bad government to protect what money, estate and security you have from being distributed among the Have Nots, now don't you. You can intellectually "feel" for the forcibly celibate inner city male with a hrd on who finally snaps and rapes because evolution made him do it but you sure as hell want to make sure that it isn't YOUR daughter he ravishes. Same with your car and house. The starving demeaned ones need SOMEONE'S hoarded obscene posessions, just not yours.

The establishment works for you and deep in your core you pray for it's well being, overything else is a cheap pose for drive-by thrills.

mtraven said...

I assume you're sufficiently self aware to recognize that you yourself are a member of the establishment in pretty acceptible standing.

Not really. I have no political power and nobody with my views has the slightest chance of getting any political power at the national level (I guess Alan Grayson may be an exception, but part of his appeal is that he comes from outside the normal establishment circles).

I guess I'll cop to being a member of the intelligentsia (in not very good standing) but that's hardly the same thing. Is Noam Chomsky a member of the establishment? He may be a tenured academic and highly influential in some circles, but he can't even get an op-ed in the New York Times.

The rest of your comment is drivel I'm afraid. "forcibly celibate inner city males"? You seem to be getting your racist stereotypes mixed up.

Anonymous said...

What a magnificent commentary on the tenacity of the ego! Here we have a comment that you yourself might have written not too many years ago (minus the disposable racial recognitions perhaps) and yet, because it's directed at you, you so utterly fail to even comprehend the comment! Marrvelous.

M, I'm speaking here to your posessions, sexual opportunity and family, not to whether you're a Rotarian Mensan or card carrying member of some "Super Anti-Imperialist Green Brigade". That ought to have been obvious.

mtraven said...

mnuez, is that you?

If your point is that I have an interest in the established order and ought to prefer some sort of stable society rather than an armed anarchy of violence, well, duh.

Anonymous said...

My point - I being the anonymous with a fourth followup comment here, and yes I ought to have picked a nic for the thread - is that you prefer a particular form of established society, precisely the form that where you class among the winners, a.k.a. the present form. This makes you a member of the establishment. Their whiny self-proclaimed "dissident" to be sure, but still, a supporter who prays for its welfare lest it be replaced by a form (be it Africanized, anarcho-capitalist, or some other form for which your particular suitability would render you in the bottom percentile) that sees you suffer.

THIS seems to colour your deeper prejudices against various forms of libertarianism that has you deride them with pleasure, rather than any built-in faults on their own part.

mtraven said...

Well, I'm glad to hear that you know what my particular preferred form of society is, because I've had a hell of a time figuring it out for myself lately. Can you please tell me what it is?

You seem to be accusing me of preferring a society where I come out a winner. Even if that was accurate, that would hardly make me very unique, would it? In fact, if I am fantasizing utopias, I prefer societies where everyone is a winner, or at least where nobody is too much of a loser.

Anonymous said...

Past that comment I can only violently agree. My own preferences are much the same. Some earlier comments of yours however appeared to...oh, whatever. This is a blog conversation between two guys who don't even know each other. I think there's probably no point here in continuing the argument about what one or the other said, implied or intended. If we ever meet in meatspace we'll pick up the argument then, it'd be more fun and only slightly less futile.