Tag Archives: communism

New Chinese emperor, will famine not follow

For most of its 2300 year history, the Chinese empire has rattled between strong leaders who brought famine, and weak leaders who brought temporary reprieve. Mao, a strong leader, killed his associates plus over 100 million by his “great leap forward” famine. Since then, 30+ years, we’ve had some weaker leaders, semi-democracy, and some personal wealth, plus the occasional massacre, e.g. at Tiananmen square, and a growing demographic problem. And now a new strongman is establishing himself with hopes of solving China’s problems. I hope for the best, but fear the repeat of the worse parts of Chinese history.

Two weeks ago, Chairman Xi amended the Chinese constitution to make himself emperor for life, essentially. He’s already in charge of the government, the party, and the military. Yesterday (Tuesday), he consolidated his power further by replacing the head of the banks. The legal system is, in theory, is the last independent part of government, but there is hardly any legal system in the sense of a balance of power. If history is any guide, “Emperor” Xi will weaken the courts further before the year is out. He will also likely remove many or all of his close associates and relatives. It is not for nothing that Nero, Stalin, and Mao killed their relatives and friends — generally for “corruption” following a show trial.

China's Imperial past is never is quite out of sight. Picture from the Economist.

China’s past is never is quite out of sight. Picture from the Economist.

Xi might be different, but he faces a looming demographic problem that makes it likely he will follow the president of the stronger emperors. China’s growth was fueled in part by a one child policy. Left behind is an aging, rural population with no children to take care of the elderly. As top-down societies do not tolerate “useless workers,” I can expect a killing famine within the next 10 years. This would shed the rural burden while providing a warning to potential critics. “Burn the chicken to scare the monkey,” is a Chinese Imperial aphorism. Besides, who needs dirt farmers when we have modern machines.

Lazy beds (feannagan) use only half the soil are for planting. The English experts were sure this was inefficient and land-wasting. Plowing was imposed on Ireland, and famine followed

“Lazy beds” of potatoes were used in Ireland for a century until experts forced their abandonment in the mid 1800s. The experts saw the beds, and the Irish as lazy, inefficient, and land-wasting. Famine followed.

Currently about 40% of the country is rural, about 560 million people spread out over a country the size of Canada or the US. The rest, 60% or 830 million, live concentrated in a few cities. The cities are rich, industrial, and young. The countryside is old, agricultural and poor, salaries are about 1/3 those of the cities. The countryside holds about 2/3 of those over 65, about 100 million elderly with no social safety net. The demographic imbalance is likely to become worse — a lot worse — within the next decade.

What is likely to happen, I fear, is that the party leaders — all of whom live in the cities — will decide that the countryside is full of non-productive, uneducated whiners. They will demand that more food should be produced, and will help them achieve this by misguided science and severe punishments. Mao’s experts, like Stalin’s and Queen Victoria’s, demanded unachievable quotas and academic-based advice that neither the leaders nor the academics had ever tried to make work. Mao’s experts told peasants to kill the birds that were stealing their grain. It worked for a while until the insects multiplied. As for the quotas, the party took grain as if the quotas were being met. If the peasants starved, they starved.

I expect that China’s experts will propose machine-based modern agriculture, perhaps imported from the US or Israel: Whatever is in style at the time. The expert attitude exists everywhere to this day, and the results are always the same. See potato famine picture above. When the famine comes, the old will request food and healthcare, but the city leaders will provide none, or just opioids as they did to ailing Elvis. When the complaining stops the doctor is happy.

China's population pyramid as of 2016. Notice the bulge of 40-55 year olds.

China’s population pyramid as of 2016. Notice the bulge of 40-55 year olds. Note too that there are millions more males (blue) than females (pink).

In single leader societies, newspapers do not report bad news. Rather, they like to show happy, well-fed peasants singing the leaders’ praise. When there’s a riot too big to ignore, rioters are presented as lazy malcontents and counter-revolutionaries. Sympathizers are sent to work in the fields. American academia will sing the praises of the autocratic leader, or will be silent. We never see the peasants, but often see the experts. And we live in a society where newspapers report only the bad, and where we only believe when there pictures. No pictures, no story. As with Stalin’s Gulags, Mao’s famine, or North Korea today, there are likely to be few pictures released to the press. Eventually, a census will reveal that tens of million aged have vanished, and we’ll have to guess where they went.

I can expect China to continue its military buildup over the next decade. The military will be necessary to put down riots, and keep young men occupied, and to protect China from foreign intervention. China will especially need to protect its ill-gotten, new oil-assets. Oil is needed if China is to replace its farmers with machines. It will be a challenge for a wise American leader to avoid being drawn into war with China, while protecting some of our interests: Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. As with Theodore Roosevelt, he should offer support and non-biassed mediation. Is Trump up to this?  Hu Knows?

Robert Buxbaum, March 21, 2018. The above might be Xi-nephobia, Then again, this just in: Chairman Xi announces that Taiwan will face punishment if it attempts to break free. Doesn’t sound good.

A Masculinist History of the Modern World, pt. 1: Beards

Most people who’ve been in university are familiar with feminist historical analysis: the history of the world as a long process of women’s empowerment. I thought there was a need for a masculinist history of the world, too, and as this was no-shave November, I thought it should focus on the importance of face hair in the modern world. I’d like to focus this post on the importance of beards, particularly in the rise of communism and of the Republican party. I note that all the early communists and Republicans were bearded. More-so, the only bearded US presidents have been Republicans, and that their main enemies from Boss Tweed, to Castro to Ho Chi Minh, have all been bearded too. I note too, that communism and the Republican party have flourished and stagnated along with the size of their beards, with a mustache interlude of the early to mid 20th century. I’ll shave that for my next post.

Marxism and the Republican Party started at about the same time, bearded. They then grew in parallel, with each presenting a face of bold, rugged, machismo, fighting the smooth tongues and chins of the Democrats and of Victorian society,and both favoring extending the franchise to women and the oppressed through the 1800s against opposition from weak-wristed, feminine liberalism.

Marx and Engles (middle) wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the same year that Lincoln joined the new Republican Party, and the same year that saw Louis Napoleon (right) elected in France. The communists both wear full bards, but there is something not-quite sincere in the face hair at right and left.

Marx and Engels (middle) wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, the same year that Lincoln joined the new Republican Party, and the same year that saw Louis Napoleon (right) elected in France. The communists both wear full bards, but there is something not-quite sincere in the face hair at right and left.

Karl Marx (above, center left, not Groucho, left) founded the Communist League with Friedrich Engels, center right, in 1847 and wrote the communist manifesto a year later, in 1848. In 1848, too, Louis Napoleon would be elected, and the same year 1848 the anti-slavery free-soil party formed, made up of Whigs and Democrats who opposed extending slavery to the free soil of the western US. By 1856 the Free soils party had collapsed, along with the communist league. The core of the free soils formed the anti-slavery Republican party and chose as their candidate, bearded explorer John C. Fremont under the motto, “Free soil, free silver, free men.” For the next century, virtually all Republican presidential candidates would have face hair.

Lincoln the Whig had no beard -- he was the western representative of the party of Eastern elites. Lincoln the Republican grew whiskers. He was a log-cabin frontiersman, rail -splitter.

Lincoln, the Whig, had no beard — he was the western representative of the party of eastern elites. Lincoln, the Republican, grew whiskers. He was now a log-cabin frontiersman, rail-splitter.

In Europe, revolution was in the air: the battle of the barricades against clean-chined, Louis Napoleon. Marx (Karl) writes his first political economic work, the Critique of Political Economy, in 1857 presenting a theory of freedom by work value. The political economic solution of slavery: abolish property. Lincoln debates Douglas and begins a run for president while still clean-shaven. While Mr. Lincoln did not know about Karl Marx, Marx knew about Lincoln. In the 1850s and 60s he was employed as a correspondent  for the International Herald Tribune, writing about American politics, in particular about the American struggle with slavery and inflation/ deflation cycles.

William Jennings Bryan, 3 time Democrat presidential candidate, opponent of alcohol, evolution, and face hair.

William Jennings Bryan was three-times the Democratic presidential candidate; more often than anyone else. He opposed alcohol, gambling, big banks, intervention abroad, monopoly business, teaching evolution, and gold — but he supported the KKK, and unlike most Democrats, women’s suffrage.

As time passed, bearded frontier Republicans would fight against the corruption of Tammany Hall, and the offense to freedom presented by prohibition, anti industry sentiment, and anti gambling laws. Against them, clean-shaven Democrat elites could claim they were only trying to take care of a weak-willed population that needed their help. The Communists would gain power in Russia, China, and Vietnam fighting against elites too, not only in their own countries but American and British elites who (they felt) were keeping them down by a sort of mommy imperialism.

In the US, moderate Republicans (with mustaches) would try to show a gentler side to this imperialism, while fighting against Democrat isolationism. Mustached Communists would also present a gentler imperialism by helping communist candidates in Europe, Cuba, and the far east. But each was heading toward a synthesis of ideas. The republicans embraced (eventually) the minimum wage and social security. Communists embraced (eventually) some limited amount of capitalism as a way to fight starvation. In my life-time, the Republicans could win elections by claiming to fight communism, and communists could brand Republicans as “crazy war-mongers”, but the bureaucrats running things were more alike than different. When the bureaucrats sat down together, it was as in Animal Farm, you could look from one to the other and hardly see any difference.

The history of Communism seen as a decline in face hair. The long march from the beard to the bare.

The history of Communism seen as a decline in face hair. The long march from the beard to the bare. From rugged individualism to mommy state socialism. Where do we go from here?

Today both movements provide just the barest opposition to the Democratic Party in the US, and to bureaucratic socialism in China and the former Soviet Union. All politicians oppose alcohol, drugs, and gambling, at least officially; all oppose laser faire, monopoly business and the gold standard in favor of government created competition and (semi-controlled) inflation. All oppose wide-open immigration, and interventionism (the Republicans and Communists a little less). Whoever is in power, it seems the beardless, mommy conservatism of William Jennings Bryan has won. Most people are happy with the state providing our needs, and protecting our morals. is this to be the permanent state of the world? There is no obvious opposition to the mommy state. But without opposition won’t these socialist elites become more and more oppressive? I propose a bold answer, not one cut from the old cloth; the old paradigms are dead. The new opposition must sprout from the bare chin that is the new normal. Behold the new breed of beard.

The future opposition must grow from the barren ground of the new normal.

The future opposition must grow from the barren ground of the new normal. Another random thought on the political implications of no-shave November.

by Robert E. Buxbaum, No Shave, November 15, 2013. Keep watch for part 2 in this horrible (tongue in) cheek series: World War 2: Big mustache vs little mustache. See also: Roosevelt: a man, a moose, a mustache, and The surrealism of Salvador: man on a mustache.