NPR ran a very interesting story a couple days ago about Moscow, Russia, celebrating the 80th anniversary of its world-class subway system. The pitch was how this “a crowning achievement of the Soviet Union’s unprecedented forced industrialization in the 1930s” is so great and wonderful, yet “has dark connections to the repressions of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.” After listening, I realized that in reality, it had dark connections to something much broader and more relevant to us than the rogue actions of one 1930s dictator.
What really caught my attention was this connection: the State literally stole from and starved millions of poor people in order to fund this project. The article relates,
The thousands of workers who dug the first subway needed to be fed, along with the tens of thousands who built massive steel plants and tractor factories during the same time. And the Soviets needed hard currency to buy foreign-built machinery for their new industries.
That meant taking the Soviet Union’s grain harvest from the farming regions and leaving the people on the farms to starve. . . .
“Kaganovich, like Stalin, bears direct responsibility for the famine,” [Hoover Institute Fellow Stephen] Kotkin says. “Probably 5 [million] to 7 million people died from the famine, across the Soviet Union.“
Putting all of this together, you have something of a poster child for Statism (this includes all state-funded, state-run endeavors). While the State strikes up the band to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its great achievement, it is trumpeting the truth about Socialism and Statism: it’s a huge, proud, gaudy, valuted, art-lined, bustling monument built on 5 million dead bodies of its own people.
And that can stand as a monument for all Statism and Socialism. For in truth, we are doing the same thing. We may not be directly forcing mass starvation like Stalin did, but we are certain impoverishing ourselves in terms of debts and burdens which will be pushed, inevitably, onto our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We are robbing from their mouths and futures.
Sure, it may not be about a metro for us (though for some, public transportation is certain one part of it). But we do the same thing in terms of countless aspects of our lives: public education, health care, Medicare, Social Security, defense, policing the world, wars on fill-in-the-blank (poverty, drugs, terror, obesity. . . .), farm programs, food stamps, conservation, banking, regulations, corporate welfare, ad infinitum. In all these endeavors and a thousand more, our own Stalins (voters and politicians alike) steal food from one people and give it for another State-run cause.
And that’s the great problem: this evil is not Stalin. This evil is theft by the State, and the redistribution of that loot for the will and glory of the State.
Look, it’s got murals and marble columns! Strike up the band!
And meanwhile, there are millions of victims. And millions more admire the artwork as they whistle past the political graveyard of millions of victims.
With great irony—enraging, but perhaps fitting—some of those murals depict idealized Russian farmers and laborers. Even NPR has to admit they’re “an ironic reminder of the ruthless means that were employed to build it.”
Once you get past the “blame it on Stalin” game, you’ll realize that these “ruthless means” are not only with us today, they dominate virtually every area of our lives through the State. We may not be “communists” as the Soviets then were, but we still have the State deeply intruded into our lives and fortunes. It is so far in that you can hardly name an area of life in which the State cannot claim and legally extract some part of your wealth.
Is there a piece of your life untaxed? Name it. You can’t. And yet we are so far better than those communists were right? At least we have the illusions of liberty and property. At least we have the phrase “life, liberty, and property” buried deeply in our history somewhere. We haven’t forgotten how to say it yet.
The Truth About the Moscow Metro
This celebration is also a good (and again, ironic) monument to the utter inability of Socialism as an economic system. The truth is, if it weren’t for western capitalism, that metro would never have gotten built. The admission is right there in NPR story itself:
“The construction of the first line of this Moscow subway is very basic, because they really didn’t have much mechanization,” [tour guide] Bagautdinov says. “It was a big experiment. They didn’t know how to construct the Metro; they didn’t know what methods to choose.”
At the beginning the builders of the Moscow subway had help from engineers who had worked on the London subway. . . .
But the truth goes even deeper. Former Hoover Institute scholar Antony C. Sutton compiled three volumes relating in amazing detail the transfer of western entrepreneurship and technology to the Soviet state in scores of areas and projects. His work shows that the Soviet state was literally propped up and built by technology imported from the west.
Even in this case, it was not just a few engineers who had worked on the London subway; there was help from persons and whole companies in New York, London, Paris, and Berlin. Plans were shared and extensive studies of western technology undertaken by Russian commissions in the U.S. and other places.1 The vast majority of the project’s design and technology was imported from capitalist countries. The Soviet socialized masses contributed little more than the bodies.
What we see here are two systems: private property (Bible) versus Socialism. This is not to say that the Western governments were that much better—for as I said, we have our Socialism, too. What this vignette gives us, however, is a clear image of the mass theft and ultimately death that Statism and Socialism represent. What we can see here is that whatever good came in both of these societies came as a result of free enterprise and private property.
In the West, this was much more easily attained—though still, then as now, it was hampered by interventions. The Soviet project, however, demonstrates a clear contrast with its overt mass thefts and starvation, its overt glorification of the State, and yet the hidden truth that it was utterly incapable of planning and developing the project without western capitalism propping it up.
We need to draw a stark lesson from this. What is so easy to see looking back at these 5 million dead is not so easy to see as we live out the exact same type of government intervention I our lives today, because we are the ones who get to ride the Metro, so to speak. We perceive that we benefit from the government projects—be they education, foreign policy, corporate welfare for “business” and “jobs,” banking and fiat money, old age insurance, government-run health care, etc. Every time you cash in your “benefit”—whatever it may be and in whatever form it may come—you need to remember those 5 million dead souls.
For the truth is, our State socialisms are no different in principle at all: we are robbing from one party, through the force of government, to benefit ourselves in some way. Every time we “benefit” like this, we are admiring the fine art while we whistle past the graves of those who are forced to pay—and who will be paying for generations to come.
We all agree that Stalin’s legacy is one of evil. Unless we stand for biblical principle, our great grandchildren will have every right to pass the same judgment on us.
- See Antony C. Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development, 1930 to 1945 (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1971), 203, 205.(↩)