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How Herbert Hoover Saved Communism
February 11, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Neither Left Nor Right Wants You to Know

In American history President Herbert Hoover is known for only one thing: being President when the Great Depression began in 1929.

Democrats blame Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression, even though the party's own financial policies were nearly identical to the Republican policies of the 1920s. I believe that if Al Smith had won the 1928 election, the depression would have happened all the same.

Smart-ass leftists probably think Hoover saved communism by showing how free market capitalism is dysfunctional. True, the Communist Party USA did better during the depression, and since the Russian economy chugged along at its prior low level without collapsing, many in that era concluded that communism or socialism was the better economic system.

But I want you to consider what Herbert Hoover and the U.S. did in 1922. Recall the Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the socialist government of Russia in 1917, in the midst of World War I. The Soviet economy was a mess when Lenin, Trotsky & their tiny party seized power. Russians were almost universally opposed to Lenin's rule, so he raised an army and fought a long and brutal civil war, which also did not help the economy.

The Civil War ended in 1922, but in defeating the peasants (and most workers, and almost all of the former middle class) the communist government had created a famine. Not just food shortages: Russia was used to them. No, it was a people dying in the street, reports of cannibalism famine.

Herbert Hoover had headed the relief effort for Europe at the end of World War I (then called the Great War, or the War to End All War). "The Bolshevik regime . . . appealed to Herbert Hoover to save the children of Russia as he had once saved the people of Belgium." [George Seldes, Witness to a Century, p. 181]

Some negotiating ensued. Lenin did not want the relief effort to bring in the poison of American capitalist ideas or free elections. But soon the free food flowed, and millions of lives were saved. By 1924 the regime felt it could do without the American food.

True, American farmers had been suffering because prices for food had dropped after the war ended. In 1920 America had a population of only 106 million, and so had to export a lot of corn and wheat in order to use up what its farms could produce. The agriculture sector fell apart in the late 1920s, and it was a much larger part of the American economy back then. The failure of the rural economy was a contributing factor to the stock market crash that began the Depression.

Given that the communists won a civil war against all comers, it is possible that they would have survived the famine as well. Then again, maybe not. Lenin did declare a "New Economic Policy" that was less authoritarian and more free market oriented. That also ended the forced grain requisitions that had so upset the farmers, replacing it with the ancient standard: a tax payable in grain.

Of course Lenin did not blame the famine on his own brutality or mismanagement of the economy, but on the civil war and the backwardness of peasants. Russian farmers had never had the enlightening experience of standing in a factory doing the exact same thing over and over every day like the industrial proletariat had, or of sipping coffee and reading papers in exile like the top Bolsheviks had.

We'll never know how long the famine would have lasted, or the Communist government, if it had not been for the intervention of the Republican Party in Russia in 1922.

My conclusion, based on an admittedly small sample set:

If you want to fix a capitalist economic catastrophe, call in some socialists to run things for a while.

If you want to fix a socialist economic catastrophe, call in some free-market capitalists to run things for a while.

If you want to keep things on an even keel, find the appropriate level of balance between socialism and free markets.




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