Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Socialism for Kids

It’s extraordinary to see the 1931 English-language version of Russian’s five-year plan primer. It’s old fashioned propaganda but seems innocuous, the kind of thing American school kids get exposed to every day. It’s got pictures and neatly explains the advantages of central planning. The book seems mild, gently tolerant of capitalist logic. It argues that Russia is making enormous strides, harnessing nature, employing centralized planning to eliminate the chaos associated with private enterprise, competition, and the unpredictable market.

The book celebrates science, technology, innovation, and engineering. Its heroes are scientists and engineers and technocrats, as well as committed workers. It describes dams and canals and mining projects of unprecedented scale and daring. It promises a better future soon. It’s hard to believe that the book is a mask for Stalin’s increasingly brutal tyranny, or that terms like planning and centralization are code for slavery, expropriation, forced migrations, prison camps, secret police, and political oppression.

No comments:

Post a Comment