For all the talk about Trump being a fascist, a quick reading of 20th-Century history shows that he is much more in line with the mentality of Joseph Stalin, who managed to do a pretty good job of eliminating people he didn’t agree with before and after World War II.
When the Bolsheviks seized state power in 1917, it was as big a surprise to them as to anyone else. In that respect, their rise to power was as unexpected as the 2016 electoral victory of Donald Trump.
The moment that the Bolsheviks – Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin – took over Russia and turned it into the Soviet Union, they began to talk about a worldwide movement that would spread Socialism throughout the globe.
Trump did exactly the same thing in 2016. He claimed that MAGA was going to be the future of American politics, that he had won a ‘tremendous’ victory and that his inauguration attracted the largest crowd ever to come to D.C. for any political event.
Things didn’t work out the way the Bolsheviks thought they would work after World War I. Communist parties in several countries like Germany and Poland tried to create worker-led, mass revolts, but they failed. In the Soviet Union, the farmers withheld grain from the urban markets to drive up the price and the urban working population began to drift away from the Bolshevik cause, the most serious resistance coming in the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921.
For that matter, things didn’t exactly work out for Trump as well. He lost the 2020 election and he lost big. And now he’s almost a caricature of himself by showing up at rallies that attract a small fraction of the number who used to show up.
When Stalin began to consolidate his authority within the Bolshevik Party and the political regime in general, the biggest problem he faced was building an industrial base in a country whose economy was still largely tied to production on farms. Without industry there would be no working class, without a working class how do you justify a proletarian state?
Stalin dealt with this problem by launching a nationwide program known as ‘collectivization,’ which basically meant that the government would forcibly seize foodstuffs, ship this food to the cities and sell it to the working class at an artificially-cheap price.
This strategy completely reversed the program issued by Lenin in 1920, which was called the New Economic Policy (NEP) and set relatively modest grain deliveries to the cities, but also encouraged the Ukrainian peasants to sell the rest of their harvest on the open market. In other words, the world’s first Socialist regime was promoting capitalism in Ukraine.
What was the social cost of collectivization? Somewhere around three million rural dwellers died in the first phase of this effort between 1932 and 1933, most of them peasants who lived - ready? – in Ukraine. Many were shot resisting the seizure of their food, many also starved to death from the famine that broke out in 1933.
Recall that last month Trump said that Putin was “very smart” in deciding to invade Ukraine, and even though he’s backed off somewhat by admitting that maybe the Russian invasion was a ‘mistake.’ he keeps saying that Putin’s a smart guy.
My parents were teenagers in the 1930’s and they used to tell me and my children what it was like back in those Depression days. But nobody in my family starved and certainly nobody was shot by some military unit coming through The Bronx. On the other hand, I can’t imagine there’s a single adult living today in Ukraine who doesn’t harbor some degree of animosity towards the Russian government, even if they now call themselves the Russian Federation or whatever name they use.
In many respects, Putin is trying to behave in Ukraine the way Stalin behaved. The difference is that Ukrainian farmers were seen as a threat to the Soviet state, now the threat coming from Ukraine has to do with the country tilting towards the West which is seen by Putin as a threat to the Russian state. How do you react to a threat? Send in the troops. It’s as simple as that.
The reason that Trump likes Putin is because Putin is doing what Stalin did and what Trump would love to do except that the only troops he has at his disposal are members of the Proud Boys who weren’t indicted for how they behaved on January 6th.