Saturday, October 8, 2011

Could the USA Come Unraveled As the Soviet Union Did?

A few short weeks ago I would have considered that concept preposterous. Now I'm not so sure.  Let's look at some of the similarities and some of the differences.

The USSR was a top-down political and economic system in which all major decisions, economic, political, and military, were made at the top. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) had gained the broad consent of the Russian people through its promise of better pay and better working conditions than Russians had enjoyed under the older czarist regime, and for a time after the Bolshevik Revolution and the massive industrialization which took place afterward, seemed to have kept its promises. The lives of ordinary Russians did improve in measurable terms. There was work for all, and the vast majority of the working class, at least, did feel that their government was now working for them, not the other way around.

Then the dictator Josef Stalin came along. Although Stalin was very careful never to present any public appearance of opulence, he began ruthlessly to crush what dissent existed, nearly exterminating the peasant, farming class in the Soviet Union, confiscating their farms for the State, purging the Red Army of all officers who he suspected of being disloyal (or whom, in his warped, paranoid fantasies he imagined might even be disloyal at some point in the future). The end result were the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens long before the first shots of World War II were ever fired, and the virtual extinction of the officer corps of the Red Army. One direct result of the latter was that when National Socialist Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the spring of 1941, the Red Army was hurled back on all fronts, and the German Army was able to proceed as far as the suburbs of Moscow itself. The Soviet Union did manage to recover and, with enormous help in terms of materiel sent from the UK and the USA, push the Germans back at the same time British, American, and Canadian forces were landing in Western Europe, all of which led to the complete, utter collapse of the German National Socialist state.

After Stalin's death, those at the top of the Soviet hierarchy, having learned the price of dictatorship, were careful never to let too much power get into the hands of one man again, but the many of the same excesses which had characterized the old czarist regime began to grow within Soviet society. More and more, as time went on, it became apparent to the Soviet people that all power and privileges were concentrated into the hands of their ruling elite, namely the members of the CPSU and their sons and daughters. Ordinary Soviet citizens began more and more to lose faith in their system, and eventually that system, even though it still possessed massive powers of repression, collapsed virtually overnight without a shot ever being fired in its defense. Indeed, at the very last, realizing that its power was evaporating even in the city of Moscow, when the leaders of the Soviet Union called in the Red Army to help restore order, the rank-and-file of the Soviet military joined forces with the Soviet people, and the once-mighty Soviet system ended not with a bang, but with barely even a whimper.

If a single mantra might be safely attributed to those participating in the various Occupy movements spreading like wildfire across the USA today, that mantra might well be: "We are the 99%!" The movement has spread in a matter of mere days throughout the entire country, from virtually every major city in the country down to and including many small, even tiny in some cases, towns and communities which are located in both "red states" and "blue states," areas which traditionally have espoused wildly divergent political views. All of them are saying that the compact between the rulers and the ruled has been broken here too, that the wealthy, powerful elites of banking and industry have co-opted the American political system to the extent that it now serves only the needs of those wealthy, powerful elites, and not the needs or will of ordinary Americans.

One thing which has struck me almost from the beginning is that the protesters seem to have no "end-game." There are no identifiable leaders, there is no identifiable political program, and it has appeared throughout that the protesters' objective, if any, has been the protests themselves. Could it be that this is the end-game which has so far eluded me? Are they betting that, with tens of thousands of Americans protesting in the streets from coast to coast, and with more people joining their numbers almost by the minute, they believe that the American system of government will also come crashing down, as unable to defend itself as were its Soviet counterparts two decades ago?

Make no mistake about it. The US government does possess the means to defend itself. We have had in this country for a decade now a massive "national security" establishment on a scale never seen in the United States prior to the former Bush administration, an establishment which has, under President Obama, been granted even more power, with the President of the United States himself now able, supposedly legally, even to order the assassination of American citizens without charges and without trial. Any American can now be labeled as a "suspected terrorist" and "detained" indefinitely without any of the traditional due processes of law ever coming into play.

Then there is the US military to consider. Yes, it seems that some, perhaps more than a few, former military personnel have joined the protesters in at least a few places, but that is a far cry from actively serving men and women in the armed forces. Were the government in Washington to begin to feel itself really threatened, what would their reaction be?

I have no idea where it is all leading or how it will all end any more than anyone else does at this point, but I don't think it is any exaggeration to observe that, insofar as what is taking place throughout the United States at this juncture is concerned, no one has ever seen anything like it before.

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