Good excuse

I haven’t seen a lot of apologetic histories of the Soviet Union ( ” the gallant Lost Cause “): not yet anyhow. So far, just random garbage from the New York Times, about how sex was better under socialism.

But look at this map.  It shows the sex ratio ( males per 100 females)  of the population aged 25-49 in a number of European countries in 1950 –  the adult men that do most of the world’s work. Those that produce more than they consume. In Russia, that number was 62, likely lower than anywhere else in the world.

I think one could truthfully say that one reason for the failure of Communism in the Soviet Union was that the heart of the country had been torn out.  Something similar happened in France, in the 1920s and 1930s. People would talk about some problem that need to be solved, or some desirable innovation, and explain that it never happened, because the guy that should have done it died at Verdun.  But it was worse in Russia. And it’s not just the dead: a lot of guys were crippled –  so many that they made Moscow look bad, and therefore were exiled to Central Asia for appearances’ sake.

In part, the Soviet Union failed because  ” an assegai had been thrust into the belly of the nation”. This makes a half-decent excuse: but it would be a better excuse if the Soviets hadn’t done so much of it to themselves.

Still: look at what Khrushchev had to work with .  He had released most of the zeks, wasn’t running show trials, undoubtedly wanted to make Russia great again: but the young, strong, independent-minded men he needed were scarce. Some had died of typhus or famine in the Revolution, some had been shot and buried in Kuropaty Forest. More had died at Vyazma,Stalingrad, Kursk, and Berlin.

Back in the 1950s, Russia was a lot weaker than it looked. I wonder how many people understood that. Ike, certainly.










This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to Good excuse

  1. magusjanus says:

    How did France have this problem in the 20s and 30s but Germany mostly didn’t (I don’t think)? Germans lost more men and had the fun post war occupation, famine, quasi civil-war, then hyperinflation. Yet to my knowledge they, while certainly going a bit batty, didn’t have the ennui one percevies in France in 20s/30s nor Soviet Union 50s/60s.

    • gcochran9 says:

      France is a smaller country – the percentage loss was greater. And France had a low birth rate, had been so for a long time.

      • magusjanus says:

        huh, I didn’t realize French had lost that many. But it’s not too big a difference though:
        Germany was very close behind on the % casualties.

        Spitballing here, it’s possible there are some psychological/ideological backdrops to that as well: in a weird way being on the losing side makes it easier to cope with the hardship perhaps, whereas the ‘winning’ side ‘wins’ and then …. ennui. No big huge boom or golden age, just masses of wounded or dead people, and not much to show for it other than “yeah we won!”. It’s like the curse of getting what you want, or thought you wanted.

        The Germans lost and got angry (or well, angrier), the French won and became despondent.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Another possible factor: there was a certain tendency for German units to be thrown in and used up, while French ntis were rotated through, at Verdun for example. If you use up a unit, get most of its members killed – no bad memories.

          But mostly low birth rate.

          • Lower-Lords says:

            Another explanation, imo a very probable one, is that the war was set on French soil. The cost of the damages to France were much bigger than were covered by the German’s retributions – most of which weren’t completed anyway. Taking into account the military spendings, and you really have quite a difference in economic well-being in France compared to Germany.

      • akarlin says:

        In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson points out that the percentage of German men in the 15-45 age bracket peaked around 1925 (23.5%, up from 22.8% in 1910).

    • gyddyn says:

      Different stages of demographic transition. Germany was much more “barbarian” in that case.

    • Bob says:

      France had the largest communist party in Western Europe at the time, which demoralized conservatives and nationalists like Petain and inhibited their ability to reverse what they viewed as the moral decline of France. And Petain was fairly moderate; many French military leaders were Catholic monarchist types.

      Whereas in Weimar Germany, there were uprisings and attempted takeovers by violent, armed communists that required right wingers like the Freikorps to put down. This sort of inoculated Germany from the malaise and demoralization that beset France.

  2. Frau Katze says:

    The Soviets killed many of more intelligent farmers. The Commies needed allies so they encouraged the village drunks and losers to turn on these modestly prosperous farmers, although they couldn’t have been what we’d call prosperous.

    (I read a book written about the role of the Serbian rebels in unknowingly starting WW 1. The author, a Yugoslav, quoted as background material an Englishman’s description of the extreme poverty of the Balkan farmers compared to English farmers. Date was the late 1800s).

    “Kulaks!” Off the Siberian gulags, there to die.

    Might have lowered the mean IQ.

    They were also intensively suspicious of people like engineers or other professionals who had trained abroad. Stalin was extremely paranoid.

  3. I thought Germany has hit about as hard as Russia — itsn’t that in end, Germans had to put senior men and teen to fight?
    Mots of German losses were soldiers and most of USSR losses were civilians so I expected gender ratio be more even in USSR…

  4. reiner Tor says:

    Germany was hit almost as hard. Yet they had the Wirtschaftswunder during the same period.

    • gcochran9 says:

      77, rather than 62. And hey weren’t trying to build a superpower military, after the war.

      • J says:

        … and the Marshall Plan, massive infusion of capital.

        • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

          The Germans didnt get a lot of aid fron the Marshall Plan on a per capita basis to begin with.
          An whatever the Germans got, it was barely enough to compensate from what the allies were taking from them as “physical” war reparations.

          If you add to that the “in-material” too, the value of all the intellectual property taken from German companies. The allies took a lot more from Germany, than what the US loaned to them from the Marshall Plan.

          And finally, the Soviets got their own “aid plan”… They took whatever they wanted from Eastern Europe. At least during the early years of occupation.

    • akarlin says:

      Ages ago I did a comparative graph of the male distribution by age in the RSFSR, FRG, and GDR based on postwar census results. It was around 1959 iirc so immigrants to Germany shouldn’t have made any difference yet. (Did not make a blog post out of it, but maybe I should).

      The GDR was about as hard hit as the RSFSR (amongst the young cohorts – 40% lost); the FRG did somewhat better (30% lost). However, that’s amongst the young cohorts. The RSFSR had a lot more men born around 1895-1905 missing relative to Germany.

      Possible explanations:
      (1) The scale of the Red Terror or Civil War casualties has been underestimated.
      (2) Stalinist terror (that’s around 1 million men)
      (3) The 1920s Russian cohorts were all pretty much smashed in 1941-42. This left the oldies born in the 1900s-10s to do the fighting in 1943-45. I suspect this is the strongest effect.

  5. John Engelman says:

    During the Cold War the U.S. government, and the American people greatly overestimated the danger of Communism. There never was a remote chance of a Communist dictatorship in the United States. The danger was of a nuclear war, for which the United States may have been primarily responsible.

    In the United States conservatives exploited the fear of Communism in order to discredit the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the anti war movement during the War in Vietnam, and the democratic left in general.

    • dearieme says:

      The New Deal was well worth discrediting: it was a foolish, incoherent mess, both under its originator, Hoover, and even more under its principal propagandist, FDR.

      The anti-war movement might have flourished more quickly if it had not adopted the utter stupidity of supporting that nice old man Ho Chi Minh.

      As for civil rights, the objection to those came historically from the Democrats, a fact that you are perhaps trying to bury by using the term “conservatives”.

      Nuclear war: as far as I know the nearest approach was brought about by that dud JFK, whom most people would probably not class as “conservative”.

      • Godfrey says:

        “As for civil rights, the objection to those came historically from the Democrats, a fact that you are perhaps trying to bury by using the term “conservatives”.”

        Is there any doubt that the alignment of the parties is such that a significant part of those who were considered Democrats prior to that era would now not be found in the Republican party? There wouldn’t be anything wrong by calling them “conservatives” since those against the civil rights movement largely sought to preserve the status quo.

    • Ivan says:

      “Democratic left” is rather an oxymoronic description of the modern left in this country and elsewhere. I doubt that their religious proclivities were any different in the past.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      I agree, the danger of a Communist Dictatorship in the United States is far greater now than it ever was during the Cold War.

    • False dichotomy. Communist influence and movement in that direction, having allies and trade partners become dominated by the Soviets, or having to be engaged in a follow-on serious war with the USSR was the concern. Not a communist dictatorship here. I’m not sure if you didn’t know that, or knew it but said it anyway. Also, we did have a communist as vice-president for a spell. That might be a cause for concern. (He did sort of apologise later.)

      Do tell me how it is that it would have been the US that was primarily responsible for nuclear war. Explain that to a Martian who has just landed and sees two sides with the capability to wage nuclear war.

      As for your last paragraph, one might frame it in reverse. Why did many New Dealers, Civil Rights advocates, and antiwar groups say such nice things about communists? And of those who didn’t, why did they tolerate such comments from their associates so easily? I was one of them, BTW, and my memory is pretty good.

    • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

      The US enjoyed almost a constant superiority over the Soviets on nuclear capabilities during the Cold War. At times, big enough to warranty and assured victory without even getting their hair mussed.

      And if you ask me, Im with Von Neumann. They were stupid not to use that advantage.

  6. gyddyn says:

    Really, you’re right, most of the time. Main counter-argument is that “There’s no end of history”.

    As was written before, State-run crisises and wars lowers the population quality by killing the best.

    We get rid of “evil top 10% who know how to read” several times. Revolution-purges-war-emigration (which continues now, thanks for our Genious and Strong Leader (sarcasm 😦 ) ).

  7. akarlin says:

    Seems pretty far fetched to ascribe the events of the late 1980s to the demographic catastrophe of the early 1940s. While I am mostly a quantifying materialist on history, if I had to add a “spiritual” reason to why the USSR collapsed, I’d say it had to do with the fact that Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader not to have been born in the Russian Empire. He was the Soviet history’s “last man.”

    That said, I agree with the idea that the USSR was much weaker than it looked in the decade after WW2. Most of the divisions that invaded Germany were severely undermanned, unlike their fresh and often replenished Western Allies counterparts. Combined with its atomic lead, this is why I have myself argued that it was the one time in world history that a single power (the US) had the means to become a world-dominating singleton.

    • The Z Blog says:

      A better question to ponder is how did the Soviet empire survive the 1950’s? The devastation of the war flattened her human capital. Stalin’s rule wiped out most of the social capital. The Cold War added even more pressure on a system that was running on fumes. Yet, she staggered on and slowly righted herself for a period in the 60’s and 70’s.

      As far as the end, I’ve always been partial to more mundane reasons. The cost of maintaining the Soviet Empire exceeded the benefit of maintaining it. Because there was no ideological room for an orderly retreat from empire, they simply went broke like a company running out of cash.

      • Lelle says:

        The Turning Point: Revitalizing the Soviet Economy a book by Shmelov and Popov two Russian economists will give you the answer to why communism didn´t work.

      • akarlin says:

        There’s a lot of ruin in a nation and the USSR was the ultimate proof of that.

        The Russian Empire endowed it with 80% school enrolment rates (hence ensuring universal literacy in a few more decades; not a Soviet achievement), the world’s most rapidly industrializing industrial economy, and 180 million people (of which 90 million Russians) with an TFR of 6 children per woman. It was going to expand its imprint regardless of what happened; it’s just that thanks to Communism, that footprint turned out to be a lot smaller than it would have been otherwise.

        • If you compare year 1913 Russian Empire still was lagging behind USA both in GDP and life expectancy. So it can’t be just communists.

          • Frau Katze says:

            The whole Eastern Europe was lagging. I made a comment above about it. They were well behind the UK in the late 1800s. The houses were primitive, it wasn’t just the farming equipment.

            And the UK in the late 1800’s would have been primitive by modern standards. But they had, for example, 2 story houses.

            If you look at modern photos of Eastern Europe you can’t tell if a “rustic” village in the Balkans is a preserved museum of the old days or just the way they currently live.

          • akarlin says:

            You are attacking a straw man. Where exactly did I claim that the Russian Empire was not lagging the US and Western Europe?

            The issue is one of derivatives, second derivatives, and potentials.

            The USSR grew at a slower pace than it would have done under a continuation of free markets, and the peak level it reached relative to the developed world was much lower than it would have been otherwise. Whereas it should have converged or nearly converged, as befits its relatively high average IQ (high 90s), and which “peripheral” European nations which were in a similar relative position to Russia in 1913, such as Spain, had managed to do by the 1980s.

            RF – 150 million people, GDP as in Korea (nominal) or as in Germany (PPP-adjusted).

            Russia without Communism (even assuming it still loses Ukraine, Belorussia, etc) – 270 million people, GDP per capita as in France, total GDP close to that of the US.

  8. JoachimStrobel says:

    And Poland had a ratio of 88 and Germany of 77? And that shows what?

  9. Henry Scrope says:

    Ike was underrated, calling out the M.I.C., Operation Wetback, not crawling to your greatest ally, or indeed anyone.

    I don’t think Britain ever fully recovered from WW1.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Agreed about Eisenhower – he had his faults, but he was possibly the greatest President of the 20th Century.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      If you follow Cochran’s point that young men do most of the work and produce more than they consume than you should be a supporter of Operation Welcome Wetback. Lock up the kids and the child bearing women, better yet dump them back deep into their country of origin, but let the young migrant men in

      That’s assuming we are logical and believe in economics, rather than hose shit ideology, but of course we don’t.

      • gcochran9 says:

        If you believed in economics, you’d never let them in at all.

        • Lelle says:

          The problem with communism is to be found in economics.

          In the 1980-ties the Soviet Union produced about 24 million various products, all of them should be priced by bureaucrats, which also had to decide how many of each would be manufactured. Needless to say such a system could not work, end of story.

      • Irate eye rater says:

        You can follow any point off a cliff.

      • M. M. says:

        Dave, you can’t really believe that third world illiterates from the most corrupt and authoritarian societies are our equal.

        • David Chamberlin says:

          What Cochran said and I quoted him on it was that if young men are net contributors to a societies well being then we could employ young immigrants for our benefit. Which we do.

          Now will government screw that up a hundred different ways. Of course. Our government can’t do anything right. Forget the emotional issues. Who cares if Jose can read or if he comes from a shithole country. If he comes here and he works hard and obeys the law and he preforms a service our lazy citizens won’t do than give that man a permit to work here. Just don’t let him bring his family along with him. Punish employers who hire illegal aliens and we won’t need a stupid wall.

          Now that all assumes that people in government can actually use their brains but they can’t so Cochran is probably right, we would be better served by a policy like Japan at this point.

          • TuffLuv says:

            Your logic assumes there is a higher demand for that kind of work than we could fill with a few simple kicks in the ass of our own youngers, and completely ignores where the true demand is (high IQ jobs). Your solution is to allow capable young men in this country to continue making excuses for not doing the dirty work. Does it occur that a shortage of labor increases the pay for the dirtiest jobs, and that the effect of that is that the lower classes can actually survive, get by, raise a family and even prosper in their own country? For many, that is all they want and they are happy to dig ditches.. as long as it pays the bills and affords them a little fun on the side. It’s like the foundation for all the ‘solutions’ du jour is that our own just ‘can’t do it’ forget them, eh.. just a lost cause. forget about sending the the right messages for a change. All of this began when my generation was dubbed Gen X. Thank God most of us rose above that subtle backhanded vote of no confidence. The Millenial.. shit they never stood a chance against the message of how broken they supposedly were when they were born. That’s what they’ve dealt with since their adolescent years.. no solutions.. no real direction.. no help.. not even proper tough love, and an assumed vote of no confidence. It’s soul destroying narrative for the young men especially, and more powerful than ever today, and still growing. You would just replace them, instead of simply giving our own practically no choice but to do those jobs. It’s healthy, and it fosters a desire in some to do more, move up to the IQ jobs, live the dream. Without paying their dues, they are lacking much in the way of holding down any job or producing more than they consume.

            • David Chamberlin says:

              You and I can sink into our lazy boy chairs and further discuss how and why the kids don’t work as hard as Mexicans. It won’t make any difference and it will lead to nothing. Meanwhile who is going to continue to mow our lawns, work in the restaurants, and do the dirty hard boring work. Soul destroying narratives put aside we both know the answer. It’s been that way and it’s going to stay that way.

              I live in a nation comprised mostly of pissed off people. They are rarely honest with themselves. They can’t see the forest through the trees. Their place on the bell shaped curve of human intelligence was preordained before they were born. If they are bright then the world can be their oyster. If they aren’t, well then they are pissed off their lives are not as good as their parents was. Somebody is to blame in their foggy thinking and it isn’t them. It’s because we have too many damned Mexicans taking all the jobs! Get em out! And the country will once again be great again!

              The time of high paying factory jobs has come and gone. The rich roll their money into Real Estate Investment Trusts that increase in value 10 to 20 percent a year. And here we are in an obscure blog forgetting all that and pointing to how we can solve the problem of too many damned stupid people. We can’t, we won’t, and world will go on.

              • Henry Scrope says:

                Too many stupid people, Indian and Pakistan may be about to reduce the scale of this problem.

              • JerryC says:

                It’s interesting, I see this a lot, the idea that only Central Americans will take jobs landscaping or working in fast food restaurants or whatever. But where I live, there aren’t many Central Americans and somehow all that stuff still gets done.

          • caethan says:

            Timescale, dipshit. Timescale. A twenty-year old might be a net benefit right now but they have to be a net benefit over their whole lifespan in this country. Unless your plan is to deport your migrant labor as soon as their knees go out, anyway.

      • lhtness says:

        It’s my understanding that two of the main motivators for young men to be productive are a) to provide for a wife and children, and (before that) b) to impress women (with one’s ability to provide for a wife and children).

        • krakonos says:

          c) To pay as much in taxes as possible to feed all the slackers, single mothers, , and the whole world if needed.

          • Woof says:

            The old saying about buying cows vs. free milk is what’s happening. Showing a bit of wit and style can get you laid by a bar slut, no job required. Its as if there is a campaign to demotivate young men. Marriage is becoming so unfair to men that more are opting out altogether, with the added bonus being that if you’re unemployed, women and the state can’t extort support payments from of you.

    • Glengarry says:

      Yeah, don’t forget Eisenhower also desegregated the South by turning the armed forces on them. Great job there, Ike?

  10. sam57l0 says:

    Independent-minded men were BAD communists, and could not be trusted to OBEY their masters.

  11. Lelle says:

    Eisenhower is mentioned in this tread, surely the most qualified president US has ever had.

    In his last speech to the nation he mentioned and coined the phrase military-industry complex, any thoughts on that issue Greg? Your article on the Iraq debacle would be an introduction, am I wrong?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Iraq was not caused by anything resembling the military-industrial complex. The Joint chiefs thought it was silly.

    • dearieme says:

      “surely the most qualified president US has ever had.” Hoover might have been better qualified, certainly if you take the common but unconstitutional view that the President is Grand Poobah. If you take the constitutional view that his main duties lie with foreign policy and the armed forces then Ike was probably better qualified. And very underrated I’d say.

  12. Weltanschauung says:

    Typo: most of the world’s work may be done by men aged 25-49, as in your referenced source; but saying 25-29 is giving those youngsters too much credit.

  13. Craken says:

    Soviet economic growth was fast for the 25 years after the war (while the sex imbalance remained). Then, around 1970, it slowed dramatically (just as the sex imbalance naturally corrected)–and it stayed slow until the end. Given the structurally inefficiency of their command economy, more young men would have done little more than cause them to reach their stagnation point a bit sooner. Had the war never happened, they might have achieved relative economic stagnation as early as 1955 or 1960.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s