The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersRussian Reaction Blog
Polish Perspective on Polish Reforms
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

I find the comments on extractive elites to be very plausible and they would form an interesting complement to viewing them in terms of Mancur Olson’s roving vs. stationary bandits theory, which is the main prism through which I view the differential development of institutions in the post-Soviet space.

Ages ago, I read Jeff Sach’s The End of Poverty, which had a long section on the history of Polish vs. Russian reform. That comports with PP’s account.

Poland had several key advantages:

  1. Poland already had its crisis in the 1980s;
  2. There was much greater social consensus for reform, which also rested on a geopolitical base (embedding itself within the Western system ASAP), so the Balcerowicz Plan passed smoothly and quickly;
  3. The Polish economy was nowhere near as structurally distorted as the Soviet-Russian one;
  4. No old elites scuttling reform, forcing the Yeltsin regime to push them through in the most hack-handed and retrogressive ways (e.g. giving away the crown jewels of the Russian economy to oligarchs to prevent the commies from coming to power in 1996);
  5. As I recall, but not 100% sure, Poland had something like 10x the aid per capita from the West.

Anyhow, here is Polish Perspective’s comment in full:

***

Yes, serfdom had a very depressing effect on economic development. Van Zanden (one of the main people running the Maddison Project these days, and a prominent Dutch economist) collaborated with a Polish development economist to produce an interesting paper on Poland’s place in the so-called “Little Divergence”, i.e. the initial divergence within Europe as NW Europe pulled ahead from both Southern and even more so Eastern Europe before the colonial empires started to form.

What Van Zanden found was that income equality was in fact greater in Poland than in Holland. The difference lay in the extraction rate, i.e. Poland had high rates of serfdom so this income equality didn’t do much. The urban-rural divide was also far stronger in Poland, due to the effects of the demesne economy which in turn was based on serfdom as well. There were few incentives to work hard as almost all that you earned was confiscated by an extractive elite through the serfdom system.

There’s a parallel here to modern economics. Economists differentiate between market income and post-tranfer income. Market income is what you get before taxes or any re-distributional effects kick in. Many relatively egalitarian countries in fact have very high market income inequality, such as Norway or Denmark. They would be no less unequal than Russia unless there were specific policies in place, which is shaped social norms and a broad societal consensus (i.e. the ‘Nordic model’). While there are high taxes, the people also get a lot back. That wasn’t the case with serfdom.

Serfdom was then social choice made by the elites in Poland, Russia and much of Eastern Europe. This is what political scientists refer to as extractive institutions. When elites don’t care about the welfare about the people at large, they can get rich in the short-term (i.e. the duration for their lives) but there will be long-term stagnation as a cost to such policies.

How can extractive institutions can be broken? Marcin Piatkowski has a recent book out on the Polish transformation in the post-89 period which tackles this question. He notes that the post-89 period was remarkable not just in terms of growth rates but also howthat growth was achieved.

Inequality was contained and has in fact been falling in recent years. There are no Polish oligarchs. Incomes have been rising faster for bottom half than for the upper half since 1989. Growth was not just rapid, it has also been inclusive.

What allowed Poland to develop along lines which had never happened before in its history, due to the norious “nobles” who instituted serfdom for so long and did everything in their power to block any reform?

He essentially makes the point that extractive elites are extremely hard to dislodge through peaceful means and essentially need to be violently purged either through a civil war or a foreign invasion that is very thorough in its destruction and essentially liquidates the old extractive elite comprehensively.

If you think about China, this happened in rapid succession. First the Japanese invasion and then the bloody civil war on top. Mao purged all and everything in his path. Had he gone in 1950, then China could well be on South Korean or Japanese levels today. Marcin’s point was that by the time Deng came to power, all the old elites had been swept away and it was much easier to form a social consensus.

In Poland, WWII had the same effect as in China and communism had the same effect as Mao. This is where it becomes somewhat controversial, because while communism was a bad system it did do what previous Polish elites failed: to educate the people properly and evenly. It also purged previous elites completely by dismantling the last vestiges of the “nobles”, which is their offspring who ran much of the country in the interwar period.

By the time the system collapsed, Poland had excellent human capital to start with, no extractive elites left (plus you had the ’68 purge of jews, but Marcin naturally wouldn’t touch that). Ukraine also had some of this, but the key difference was the internal divide between elites about whether to orient themselves to Russia or to the EU, this led to paralysis and made them easy to exploit for outsiders. Polish elites were unanimous about their direction. We had 17 prime ministers since 1989 yet virtually everyone basically held onto the same basic consensus, which has given us policy stability.

Another interesting book on this topic is Jeff Sachs’ book in his memoirs in Poland and Russia, given that he was deeply involved in both. Once again the striking thing that jumps out at you is how consistent Polish elites were in their consensus whereas there were much more internal divides in Russia. Sachs doesn’t speculate as to why this was the case, but I have my guess.

Poland was essentially bankrupt by 1989. It had defaulted in the early 1980s and couldn’t pay its interest. It was basically the Greece of the 1980s except much more poor and without a bailout piggy bank to draw funds from. Therefore, Poland basically had no real choice but to do rapid reform. Russia, on the other hand, was in a bad position but definitely not in default. Russia was also much richer in per capita income in 1990 than Poland was, so there was far more latitude being taken among various elites about the right path to take. In Poland, events had essentially forced our hand. We were poorer than both Ukraine and Bulgaria in the late 80s and in a state of ruin.

Why did Poland go bankrupt in the early 1980s? Bierut tried to import a lot of modern machinery in the 1970s without changing the basic system. The idea was alluringly simple: just modernise the factories without changing much of the rest. The modern machinery will increase production and exports and pay for themselves. It didn’t work, because pricing was still irrational. Polish exports didn’t increase much but all this expensive machinery had to be paid with something, so they borrowed. This reached the end of the road in the early 1980s and Poland defaulted on its sovereign debt. Gorbachev tried a similar tactic in the mid-80s in Russia. In a sense, Russia was a decade behind Poland in failed economic experiments. By the time the late 80s came about, we were under no delusions that you had to have rapid changes. In Russia, that realisation didn’t come about so naturally nearly as early and even when it did, it wasn’t anchored among elites as deeply. Had Gorbachev learned from the Polish 70s experience, it could very well have meant that Russia would perhaps at worst stagnated during the 1990s before the 2000s oil boom instead of seeing a rapid collapse. Another reason to be skeptical of Western praise for the man and remember Deng’s acidic remark about him being an idiot.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: China, Economic History, Economics, Guest, Poland, Russia 
Hide 110 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Meanwhile, the Open Thread 67 seems to have disappeared.

    AK: It has been unstickied, since it is time for a new OT, which will appear sometime today.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  2. In the case of Hungary, neither the world war nor communism was as thorough. Basically, “the war” here means the Nazis, and “communism” the Soviets.

    In Hungary the Nazis kept the elite mostly intact (except the financial-industrial entrepreneurial elite, who were mostly Jewish), so they had a much smaller impact. Then the total emigration of elites by, say, 1949 wasn’t higher in Hungary than in Poland, the Jews were destroyed in both, but in Hungary the targeted killings of the gentile elites by both the Nazis and the Soviets were entirely missing.

    Then came the revolution in 1956, and then there was a large scale emigration. Interestingly it mostly affected groups who were statistically also likely to be involved with the revolution, like university students and workers, so they weren’t as heavily drawn from the former elites as the earlier (post-1945) wave of emigration. Then the universities had so many empty slots that the regime decided to abolish the class requirements in admissions. This meant that the former elites were excluded from higher education for less than a decade. By the 1980s it led to many relatively high ranking communist officials being descended from the nobility.

    The post-1956 regime also became relatively mild by the 1960s, and did its best to raise living standards. This had a corrupting effect: unlike most of our neighbors, Hungarians started viewing the regime with less hostility than in places like Czechoslovakia, Romania or Poland.

    So we ended up with parts of the pre-1939 elite fused with the commies, the whole population corrupted by it, and the worst parts of the previous corrupt/extractive tradition amplified.

    At least alt-right westerners celebrate our government, which knows how to make deals with Netanyahu.

  3. Russia’s elite does seem to fit the definition of an extractive one. They ship off most of their companies’ profit directly to Cyprus and send their children to Western Schools instead of reinvesting their excess profits in the domestic economy.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  4. @reiner Tor

    It has been unstickied

    It’s also unavailable from your author page. It’s in between the TIL Russians Can’t Afford… and the Russia’s 13 Plans… posts. But it cannot be found there.

    AK: Very strange… the direct link (http://www.unz.com/akarlin/open-thread-67/) works fine. Probably a temporary caching issue. Thanks for pointing this issue out, I’ll contact Ron if it persists.

  5. @Swarthy Greek

    It’s not like Orbán’s people are much different.

    • Replies: @Swarthy Greek
  6. @reiner Tor

    The scale is much smaller. If you have ever been around “New Russians” ( You can easily bump into them in Cyprus) you’d understand how depraved the Russian elite (politicians, siloviks, businessmen) is. The only more or less respectable part of the elite seem to be the army (and i’m not even sure of it).

    • Replies: @AP
  7. Dmitry says:

    Apologies for offtopic, but since we lost the Open Thread.

    What is happening in Moldova with Ilan Shor – the Israeli man who when he was 26 years old, stole 13% of Moldova’s GDP.

    He convicted by the Moldova legal system, and had stolen $1 billion when he was 26 years old.

    But instead of paying back the money stolen or entering jail, he became mayor of Orgeev. Moldova seems to have even lower “state capacity” than Ukraine.

    He has now created a pro-Russian political party, called “Shor party”, which is going to enter the Moldovan national parliament next week.

    So, for his election campaign to the Moldovan parliament, he is going to save the children:

    And end taxes of old people:

    In the town he is Mayor of, he has built last year something called “Orheiland”: he hires international stars like Serduchka to perform there.

    1:50

    What is not reported is he has bought (“invested in”) only international airport of Kyrgyzstan for $350 million and runs duty free there. So probably a lot of the loot was moved to Kyrgyzstan.

    His wife is Jasmin – a Mountain Jewish pop singer from Derbent, who is 10 years older than him. So he has family no connection to Kyrgyzstan. But wife is part of the celebrities’ social circles.


    • LOL: AP
  8. @Dmitry

    Peskov never ends surprising us.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  9. This won’t be news to Polish Perspective, but Poland does have oligarchs. They just happen to live in Germany.

    The nice thing about this is that Poland’s foreign oligarchs have little influence over the Polish state.

    It’s difficult to imagine Poland’s recent nationalist political transformation if it had indigenous Western-oriented oligarchs.

    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
  10. Mr. Hack says:
    @Thorfinnsson

    It’s difficult to imagine Poland’s recent nationalist political transformation if it had indigenous Western-oriented oligarchs

    So who are they, from where and to whom do they launder their money, and if not oriented towards the West, then to whom do they tilt their hats?…

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
  11. inertial says:

    He essentially makes the point that extractive elites are extremely hard to dislodge through peaceful means and essentially need to be violently purged either through a civil war or a foreign invasion

    The implication is that the elite whose roots are in the Communist era will stick around for a long, long time. As in, for centuries.

    This is not too bad. A Communist-derived elite is not the worst possible one.

    If you think about China, this happened in rapid succession. First the Japanese invasion and then the bloody civil war on top.

    Correction. In China, it was first civil war, then civil war and Japanese invasion, and finally just civil war.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    , @songbird
  12. @Mr. Hack

    They’re Germans: https://www.paih.gov.pl/poland_in_figures/foreign_direct_investment (FDI from the Netherlands and especially Luxembourg is likely German in origin as well)

    They don’t launder their money because it’s legally obtained.

    Of course they’re Western oriented, but since they’re not Polish and don’t live in Poland they have limited means of influencing the Polish state.

    Foreign companies can threaten to pull out from Poland, but this is mostly an empty threat.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  13. AP says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    These are the post 90s elite, who arose out of a subset of the Sovok elite. Many of the 80s Soviet elite were much more civilized, and ironically get along rather well with the descendents of White exiles.

  14. @inertial

    This is not too bad. A Communist-derived elite is not the worst possible one.

    In what world is that the case?

    An aristocratic elite comes by its way through historic martial prowess, and is characterized by greater or lesser feelings of paternalism towards its inferiors.

    A bourgeois mercantile elite doesn’t hold much paternalism, but at least it comes by its way largely through meritocracy and talent, and tends to create institutions that make everyone richer.

    A Communist elite comes by its way through terrorism, looting, denunciations, and ethnic ressentiment; its only “positive” quality is a certain low cunning. Its children become a deracinated smattering of rootless cosmopolitans, criminals, and ideological zealots.

  15. songbird says:
    @inertial

    I think there is a distinction to be made in rhetoric. Communist rhetoric is easier to subvert or to repeat while doing something else. Reformers largely repeated it.

    Now, what if diversity is the rhetoric? Well, you signal your commitment to the ideology by using nonwhite or gay people as visual props for your rhetoric. Because of this visual signaling aspect, which involves physical people it is much harder to subvert.

    The West is caught in a political trap, with a system more pernicious and more fixedly dogmatic than communism.

  16. Dmitry says:
    @Dmitry

    But instead of paying back the money stolen or entering jail, he became mayor of Orgeev.

    He has now created a pro-Russian political party, called “Shor party”, which is going to enter the Moldovan national parliament next week.

    So, for his election campaign to the Moldovan parliament, he is going to save the children:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzurgpSu24U

    It needs to be summarized as points, because it is just a story for a comedy film.

    1. Israeli man had allegedly stole 13% of Moldova GDP when he was 26 years old.

    2. Moldova convicts him to jail and asks for money to be returned. He says he will not go to jail or return the money.

    3. He becomes mayor of Orgeev, a small town in Moldova. He spend money to improve the town. He builds “Moldova’s largest theme park” in the town, and he hires celebrities like Serduchka to perform for the locals.

    He also uses the money to modernize kindergartens of the town, to open shops for old people selling products 30% lower than the market price, and to modernize the roads, and rebuild the centre to resemble “the best European capital cities”.

    4. He creates a political party and campaigns for the national parliament, with the slogan “for the people” .

    His campaign promise is that if you vote for him, all Moldova will be like in the town, on which he (allegedly) has expended some of 13% of GDP he had allegedly (don’t sue me) stolen.

    Lol wtf

  17. Dmitry says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    If I remember looking at the Instagram of Peskov’s son. If I recall correctly, it is some annoying kid about 13 years old, just taking photos of Ferraris.

    The weird thing is there was almost no followers, but you could see his photos were only liked by famous celebrities.

    So (if I remember, and I looked a few years ago) this kid has posted some photo of a tree, and the photo was liked by Timati and GeeGun. And GeeGun writing comments about how cool photo is.

    I was wondering if famous celebrities are using some script to automatically “like” and comment on photos whenever they are uploaded by children of important officials.

    • Replies: @Swarthy Greek
  18. Russian rappers probably have community managers doing the boring stuff for them on social media.

  19. @Dmitry

    Rappers have community managers that take care of this stuff, like liking chinovniki children’s photos.

    AK: could you please erase my previous comment (n.19) ?

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  20. Dmitry says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    Of course, it makes sense. These days Timati is busy in the kitchen cooking hamburgers.

  21. Swedish cuckservative party to push for Orbán’s Fidesz to be kicked out of EPP.

    https://www.politico.eu/article/sweden-moderate-party-viktor-orban-fidesz-party-to-be-kicked-out-of-epp/

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  22. Mr. Hack says:
    @Dmitry

    Jamin, the ‘Mountain Jewish’ beauty to the left is 10 years older than the schmuck in the middle? To my eye, he looks at least 10 years older than she does. The marvels of modern medicine and chemistry?…

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  23. Dmitry says:
    @Mr. Hack

    In the middle photo, Peskov. Peskov is 10 years older than her.

    The clown husband who stole $1 billion (then 13% of Moldova’s GDP) is Shor:

    He was supposed to be 7 years in prison, and giving back the money.

    Celebrities of Moscow were unhappyhttp://newsru.md/upload/userfiles/images/shor1072016_00_04823500.jpg

    But what happened is more like a comedy film. Instead of prison (or to escape prison), he is mayor of a town, which he rules like his personal property, and now going to be a politician with a new party name after himself to enter the Moldova parliament.

  24. @Dmitry

    They probably received a large check from shor as a reward for their contribution to his liberation/S

  25. There’s a big brouhaha now in Hungary about the International Investment Bank in Budapest. The bank is the former bank of COMECON, resurrected by Putin a few years ago, and now moving to Budapest, where they will receive diplomatic immunity for their staff. This is criticized, because the staff members will receive their special visas pretty much automatically, and with diplomatic immunity it will be difficult to control their movements. The bank itself is relatively small, so it’s unclear what the benefits for Hungary will be.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  26. @reiner Tor

    Well, one redditor took the trouble of going to Wikipedia and reading up about that bank, which just happens to be majority owned by EU members…

    • LOL: reiner Tor
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  27. @Anatoly Karlin

    I just read the third Hungarian (liberal oppositionist) article (shared by Facebook friends) about this bank. Or whatever it is. Literally none of them said anything about it.

  28. inertial says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    An aristocratic elite got to the top through “martial prowess,” whereas the Communist elite through “terrorism and looting.” That’s totally different!

    The Communist elite was talented and meritocratic; you’d know that if you haven’t ingested so much anti-Commie propaganda. Early Communists leaders were genuinely impressive people Latter days elites were no slouches either, especially just below the top level. They quickly shed Communist ideology when it no longer served their interests and engineered a relatively painless (especially to themselves) transition to a different system where they were also on top.

    And paternalism? No aristocracy in the world history had been even 10% as paternalistic as the Commies. Communism is paternalism. Even now you can often troll the (post)Commie elites when they don’t live up to the ideal.

    “Its children become a deracinated, etc.” Do you mean literal children of some of them? That’s irrelevant.

    I am not saying that the Communist elite is the best possible thing. But in the long run it’s obviously better than any aristocracy. Is it better than the mercantile elite? This remains to be seen. Or not. Most likely, these two kinds of elites will merge.

    • Agree: Dmitry
    • Replies: @AP
    , @Anatoly Karlin
  29. Dmitry says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Children of wealthy people today, is on average slightly better looking and more intelligent than the normal population. It’s on average, cleverer men marrying women who are sometimes better looking. Many have connections from before, but this is still more eugenic.

    Whereas, historically, aristocracy was the opposite, although they had better educational access. Vertical mobility was constrained by landowning structure, and good looking lower class women did not ascend easily to marry intelligent men (intelligent men themselves generally blocked from ascending).

    aristocratic elite comes by its way through historic martial prowess, and is characterizedv

    Since 18th century, if not before, the majority had had merchant origins, but which then rigidified by land owning structure and lack of marriage choices.

    Segment of aristocracy which might be more eugenic was portion which were civil servants (and ennobled by civil servants). But even they can’t just marry their better looking maid, or ennoble the intelligent butler. And they are really more bourgeoisie anyway (and even bourgeoisie have constrained marriage choices then)

    So it is not like today, where there is a lot more mobility, and society to a greater extent sorting people by motivation and personal energy. Moreover, today there is much more open marriage choice for richer men than historically.

  30. AP says:
    @Dmitry

    Whereas, historically, aristocracy was the opposite, although they had better educational access. Vertical mobility was constrained by landowning structure, and good looking lower class women did not ascend easily to marry intelligent men (intelligent men themselves generally blocked from ascending).

    There still would have been girls from noble families who were poorer due to bad family fortune, but perhaps chosen for appearance, whereas less attractive ones under such circumstances were not. Also, since presumably being able to work hard on physical labor was important for peasants they were probably generally rougher in features.

    aristocratic elite comes by its way through historic martial prowess, and is characterizedv

    Since 18th century, if not before, the majority had had merchant origins, but which then rigidified by land owning structure and lack of marriage choices.

    Majority of new ones, sure, but they were still outnumbered by the many descendants of the older ennobled families who did come by their status mostly from war.

    • Replies: @Bukephalos
  31. AP says:
    @inertial

    An aristocratic elite got to the top through “martial prowess,” whereas the Communist elite through “terrorism and looting.” That’s totally different!

    Yes, there is a difference between success and bravery in a battle, and killing someone by stabbing them in the back and stealing their stuff. It’s the difference between military people and what one sees in the streets of Detroit.

    The Communist elite was talented and meritocratic

    Ture, but in the way that mafiosi are. Stalin was the master of that game.

    Early Communists leaders were genuinely impressive people

    Cruel and extremely successful manipulative psychopaths are indeed impressive but not something to celebrate. They seized total control of a major power, owned it so thoroughly that they murdered many millions of its people without being thrown out, derailed its otherwise inevitable ascent to the status of single global superpower, and when their heirs were done with it, they left a hulking, rusty mess that was a shadow of what had been hijacked.

    Impressive, indeed.

    Latter days elites were no slouches either, especially just below the top level.

    The best were well-educated and harmless, though somewhat clueless. The ones who made history were as below:

    They quickly shed Communist ideology when it no longer served their interests and engineered a relatively painless (especially to themselves) transition to a different system where they were also on top.

    Even more effective looting, and impoverishment of the country relative to everywhere else, than was accomplished under communism – without creating anything of value.

    The world is full of monuments and cultural treasures built by aristocracies. Mercantile elites have created unprecedented wealth spread out among the general population. Communism has provided only the Moscow subway; everything else has been second rate at best.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @anon
  32. Anon[237] • Disclaimer says:

    You kill the Aristocracy then you get mass cuckoldry to foreigners..

    Christcucks will never get it

  33. Svigor says:

    I find the comments on extractive elites to be very plausible and they would form an interesting complement to viewing them in terms of Mancur Olson’s roving vs. stationary bandits theory, which is the main prism through which I view the differential development of institutions in the post-Soviet space.

    Ages ago, I read Jeff Sach’s The End of Poverty, which had a long section on the history of Polish vs. Russian reform. That comports with PP’s account.

    What the fuck is “PP,” guy?

    There was much greater social consensus for reform, which also rested on a geopolitical base (embedding itself within the Western system ASAP), so the Balcerowicz Plan passed smoothly and quickly;

    How do you say that in English?

    Anyhow, here is Polish Perspective’s comment in full:

    K so that’s what “PP” is?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  34. @Dmitry

    intelligent men themselves generally blocked from ascending

    In Hungary they kept ennobling talented commoners. While downwards mobility was possible for nobles.

    The only Hungarian STEM Nobel laureate was a nobleman:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Szent-Gy%C3%B6rgyi?wprov=sfti1

    (The other ones were Ashkenazi Jews, but they were no longer Hungarian citizens when they had their results anyway.)

    In literature, off the top of my head, I estimate that at least half of the greatest poets and writers were of noble descent.

    But we’ve had this conversation before.

  35. @Svigor

    so that’s what “PP” is?

    Yes.

    There was much greater social consensus for reform, which also rested on a geopolitical base (embedding itself within the Western system ASAP), so the Balcerowicz Plan passed smoothly and quickly;

    How do you say that in English?

    What is it that you don’t understand?

    • Replies: @Svigor
    , @Svigor
  36. Svigor says:

    Yes, serfdom had a very depressing effect on economic development.

    Or maybe the arrow of causation is reversed here, and eastern Slavs only kept serfdom around so long because backward.

    What Van Zanden found was that income equality was in fact greater in Poland than in Holland. The difference lay in the extraction rate, i.e. Poland had high rates of serfdom so this income equality didn’t do much.

    It’s kinda obvious that low income inequality in pre-modern Europe could just be an obvious corrolary of backwardness. I.e., “you’re all peasants rutting on thatch,” or whatever the line is about Rohan.

    There were few incentives to work hard as almost all that you earned was confiscated by an extractive elite through the serfdom system.

    Citation? I ask because what little I know about serfdom suggests that the taxes confiscated were relatively low, by modern standards, simply because peasants had so little to give. E.g., IIRC, rates of 5% or less were typical.

    He essentially makes the point that extractive elites are extremely hard to dislodge through peaceful means and essentially need to be violently purged

    This is antisemitic.

    Mao purged all and everything in his path. Had he gone in 1950, then China could well be on South Korean or Japanese levels today.

    Yeah and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

    Chinese are to Europe as Japan and Korea are to individual European countries. When has the metric of Europe overall matched the best example nations therein? (China optimists, take note)

    In Poland, WWII had the same effect as in China and communism had the same effect as Mao. This is where it becomes somewhat controversial, because while communism was a bad system it did do what previous Polish elites failed: to educate the people properly and evenly. It also purged previous elites completely by dismantling the last vestiges of the “nobles”, which is their offspring who ran much of the country in the interwar period.

    Removed a lot of ye olde “(((extractive elites)))” too, mein freund.

    By the time the system collapsed, Poland had excellent human capital to start with, no extractive elites left (plus you had the ’68 purge of jews, but Marcin naturally wouldn’t touch that).

    You write “extractive elites” and “plus Jews,” as if there’s some distinction; citation needed.

    Ukraine also had some of this, but the key difference was the internal divide between elites about whether to orient themselves to Russia or to the EU, this led to paralysis and made them easy to exploit for outsiders.

    Maybe Ukraine just had less human capital. Holodomor wasn’t in Poland, IIRC (not that this is the only explanation, mind you – the further east you go, the lower the human capital, AFAICT).

    Polish elites were unanimous about their direction. We had 17 prime ministers since 1989 yet virtually everyone basically held onto the same basic consensus, which has given us policy stability.

    Care to elaborate (genuinely curious here)?

    Another interesting book on this topic is Jeff Sachs’ book in his memoirs in Poland and Russia

    Yeah I don’t want to hear a Jew’s take. Unless he’s one of those rare, famously “anti-semitic” Jews like Ron Unz (PBUH). Sorry, but I’m just way beyond fucking tired of hearing from them. I’d rather hear nothing.

    Bierut tried to import a lot of modern machinery in the 1970s without changing the basic system.

    And without changing, say, Beirut’s human capital.

    Lol.

    So, the impression I’m getting from all of this is that you’re a cultural determinist? Never seen a race-realist who writes like this.

  37. @Dmitry

    ‘…But even they can’t just marry their better looking maid, or ennoble the intelligent butler…’

    Well, not in theory. But in practice…look at Peter the Great’s Catherine, for example.

    • Replies: @Colin Wright
  38. Svigor says:

    Or maybe the arrow of causation is reversed here, and eastern Slavs only kept serfdom around so long because backward.

    P.S., I am entirely ready to acknowledge the possibility that the eastern Slavs’ role as a frontier people is at the forefront of their backwardness. My vague understanding is that the Mongols are only the most famous of the shitbird central Asian scumbag peoples that made advancement very difficult for the eastern Slavs, possibly for the better part of 2 millennia, if not more.

  39. Svigor says:
    @Svigor

    SINCE the site won’t fucking let me edit that post 1 second after making it…

    What is it that you don’t understand?

    All.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  40. Svigor says:
    @reiner Tor

    Forgive me, I’m very bad at keeping track of the personal aspects of commenters: are you Hungarian, or Romanian, or something? (Again, forgive me; I’m just very bad at tracking this stuff; I have very little of the Jungian anima, as it were; I’m genuinely interested, and not trying to suggest anything with the question; FWIW I do of course recognize your handle and remember you as an ally of long standing. Also, I’ve had too much to drink. 😀 )

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @reiner Tor
  41. @Colin Wright

    Well, not in theory. But in practice…look at Peter the Great’s Catherine, for example.

    Another example is the medieval Capetian dynasty. If I recall aright, Hugh Capet’s grandfather was a ‘forester.’ Perhaps not a peasant, but not exactly high nobility, either.

    Point is, things aren’t always as ossified as they’re supposed to be. See also the endless ennoblements of merchants, etc. I’d say people have always been able to move up and down the scale to a greater extent than is convenient to admit.

  42. Svigor says:
    @Dmitry

    Children of wealthy people today, is on average slightly better looking and more intelligent than the normal population. It’s on average, cleverer men marrying women who are sometimes better looking. Many have connections from before, but this is still more eugenic.

    IME, you can replace “slightly” with “substantially,” and “sometimes” with “usually.” But then, I live in the South, where the Jews are an old, small population long since assimilated, relatively speaking, so YMMV.

    Seriously though, the increases in looks and IQ as you go up the social ladder seem quite apparent to me, and not something that require statistics to suss out (I have a job that involves a lot of contact with the public), and the ugliness of Jews (and Italians?) isn’t much of a confounding factor.

  43. LondonBob says:
    @Thorfinnsson

    Stanislaw Gomulka told me in Poland they delayed privatisation because they were concerned Germans and Jews would buy up all the Polish industry on the cheap. He said the issue was Russia didn’t have any properly functioning institutions, privatisation was too rapid and that the economy had been even more distorted by the added years of Communism that Leyland type firms proliferated.

    • Replies: @inertial
  44. utu says:

    PP’s explanations are very unsatisfactory. He does not mention important political aspects. The Polish Deep State in 1980’s was reshuffled and became dominated by Polish equivalent of Soviet GRU and its counterespionage sector as the result of the 1981 martial law.The Ministry of Internal Affairs was “militarized” and the communist party was greatly weakened.

    There was a consensus in society that nobody wanted to save or even reform the communist system anymore. Reagan’s sections would make any reforms even harder. This was understood by the Deep State that began negotiating lifting Reagan sanctions and the transition to market economy already in 1985 during Jaruzelski-Rockefeller-Brzezinski meeting in New York. Poland’s debt to the Western banks due to Gierek (not Bierut!) borrowing was of no great importance.

    The Deep State knew that the system will be gone by the end of the decade and they decided that members of their nomenklatura will become the new propertarian class. To accomplish this they had to change some laws. This was accomplished in 1988 with the so-called Wilczek reforms

    see: https://www.obserwatorfinansowy.pl/tematyka/in-english/a-single-law-can-free-the-economy-not-for-long-though/

    But the law however went much further than anticipated because it allowed regular Poles (not just nomenklatura) to start businesses and it freed a lot of human capital and resources. With few exceptions related to state security enterprises and monopolies basically everything became legal in economic activities. If some business activity was not spelled out as illegal it became legal and no questions were asked.

    About 18 months after Wilczek’s law in 1989 the political power was transferred to the so called opposition which in 1980’s was tamed and defanged and thus it agreed to share the power with the Deep State. As a consequence of this no radical lustration was carried out in Poland unlike in Czechoslovakia.

    At the same time the strong Solidarity trade unions did not make it easy to proceed with fraudulent wild privatization schemes of state enterprises. The process of privatization via purchases by Western companies that lead to deindustrialization began later under the so-called Balcerowicz reforms. Also then new post-communist government began to limit the Wilczek reforms step by step until the unrestrained grass root free market could not pose a threat to Western companies frequently run by members of nomenklatura and their offsprings.

    I do not think that PP gets it when he tries to explain differences between transformations in Poland and in the USSR. He overlooks different psychology and axiology in Poland,, Hungary and Czechoslovakia comparing to the USSR. People were really happy to be liberated form USSR. They saw economic communism as primitive, oppressive and hostile Asiatic import. For USSR and for Russians the 1990’s were the times of defeat and regrets. The comment #29 by Inertial and concurred by Dmitri exemplify this difference. Nobody it Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary would spout with a strait face such a nonsense about communists’ alleged altruism and their noblesse oblige as they did it here.

    • Replies: @Polish Perspective
  45. @AP

    In France prior to the revolution nobles of the robe and of the clergy were numerous; also the evolution of warfare and the centralization of power devalued the military value of nobles of the sword. Seeing them with their powdered wigs, relishing the arts, and the soft, refined life at the court of absolute kings helped projected a negative image of their order and undermined their function in society. They more and more looked like a parasitic, extractive class enjoying a degenerate lifestyle.

    Of course we can’t even oppose them to the third-estate or bourgeois in any clear-cut manner, as many nobles were involved in the republic of letters , enlightenment and the dechristianisation and later on many played their part in the revolution, often bringing about their own immediate or delayed ruin

    • Agree: melanf
    • Replies: @AP
  46. @utu

    There’s a lot to go through here.

    the transition to market economy already in 1985

    This is narrowly correct but broadly misleading. These “reforms” didn’t touch pricing reform and most of them were concerned about making SOE’s more efficient. It was babysteps taken by a regime that tried to do the minimal legwork to stave off their collapse, rather than any earnest attempt at genuine reform.

    Poland’s debt to the Western banks due to borrowing was of no great importance.

    This is a truly extraordinary statement. Poland had 40 billion USD in foreign debt by 1989, which it had been failing to pay interest it since the early 1980s which compounded the problem year by year, and increased the debt as unpaid interest accumulated. On top of that, It had a significant current account deficit and a large fiscal deficit.

    The Balczerowicz plan had six pillars, one of which was foreign debt relief. It was very much a central tenet of reform from the getgo. And Poland did receive debt relief, though as Sachs concede in the book, much of this aid came too late and often reluctantly compared to what was needed for rapid recovery. Poland probably lost a year or two of growth for that alone.

    The Deep State knew that the system will be gone by the end of the decade and they decided that members of their nomenklatura will become the new propertarian class.

    This is horseshit. Nobody predicted the regime would fall until the very end, including senior regime officials. Many of the top leadership tried to stave off their removal until the very end. Both Sachs and Piatkowski detail this extensively in their books. Even Solidarity themselves, including the highest echelons which had frequent and deep contacts with the highest echelons of the regime, did not expect it to fall. When they won their election – 99 out of 100 seats – they were thunderstruck.

    In fact a great problem early on was that transition happened far faster than anyone had expected, including leading regime rulers. Many of them tried various intermediate solutions to cling onto power until the very end.

    Interestingly and tellingly, the key pillar of the communist party was, paradoxically, the SOE sector. In the final phases of 1989, key party functionaries went around on a tour to various SOE companies to plead with them to halt reform, or else their power would be stripped, too. That was a naked display of the true power relations in the country. Poland could easily have ended up like Ukraine had reforms not taken a different path here.

    At the same time the strong Solidarity trade unions did not make it easy to proceed with fraudulent wild privatization schemes of state enterprises.

    Indeed and this is something I left out and probably should not have had. Polish civil society deserves a greater role when the history of reforms are being written.

    The process of privatization via purchases by Western companies that lead to deindustrialization began later under the so-called Balcerowicz reforms

    Poland did see unnecessarily large deindustrialisation early on due to the extremely rapid pace of reforms, and heightened unemployment. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have done it differently. At the same time, a lot of it had to go. Poland has seen rising share of manufacturing as a percentage of GDP over the last 10 years, so “deindustrialisation” is a myth if you take a longer view, especially given how much of it was ancient stuff. We’re talking about a de facto bankrupt state here which had lower per capita income in 1989 than it had in 1979.

    Additionally, there is also a political-economy aspect to this. Many solidarity leaders were stunned not just by their own success but the rapid dissolution of the old regime. This presented them with a new problem. They did not have many capable technocrats to carry out the reforms. They had a few highly intelligent reformists, but you need “boots on the ground” to carry them out.

    This, in a sense, limited the prospects for incrementalism. Why? Because they did not trust the old guard, and rightfully so, to help implement the new reforms. This was partly why reforms also were so rapid. Instead of doing it piecemeal, let the market decide. That way, you cut out the bureaucrats and any potential for slow-walking reforms to suit the old guard becomes much less probable.

    He overlooks different psychology and axiology in Poland,, Hungary and Czechoslovakia comparing to the USSR. People were really happy to be liberated form USSR. They saw economic communism as primitive, oppressive and hostile Asiatic import. For USSR and for Russians the 1990’s were the times of defeat and regrets. The comment #29 by Inertial and concurred by Dmitri exemplify this difference. Nobody it Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary would spout with a strait face such a nonsense about communists’ alleged altruism and their noblesse oblige as they did it here.

    Russians look back with regret to the 1990s because of how those years turned out. Had the 1990s been either stagnation or slight upwards improvement, then it would likely have been seen in more mellow terms (though geographical nostalgia would still exist).

    I don’t think you understand the point made about communism’s role in creating the foundations for reform properly. It’s not that they – communists – were altruistic, it’s that they were useful. Polish “nobles” from previous eras were largely a disaster and prevented centuries of reform. Even when we regained the state, many of their offspring that ran the state did not rush to educate the people. The twin shocks of WWII and communism purged these old extractive elites from the apex heights of society largely permanently. Perhaps more importantly, mass education was instituted which opened the door for all bright Poles to prosper. This did not happen under communism because the system was flawed, but once the system collapsed, we had the right ingredients to make it happen.

    Marcin Piatkowski goes through in his book the explosion of new businesses being created in the 1990s and this was one of the key differences that Poland had vis-a-vis others. Many of these best and brightest did not come from connected families either through the old elites (“nobles”) or the recently disposed ones (“nomenklatura”). The people behind CDPR is a perfect example of this but there are many others. You should read these books instead of spouting old and outdated talking points disconnected from the data.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @AP
  47. songbird says:

    I’m not convinced China would have radically changed with the death of Mao in the ’50s.

    It is far from certain Deng would have won a power struggle at that time. When he ascended the Gang of Four had already been defeated, and his opposition was relatively old and weak. I think you have to also consider the Cultural Revolution. Did it come entirely from Mao, or did it come at least partly from a demographic trend involving youth cohort and education level?

    Krushchev was a pretty ruthless fellow, and he didn’t end up changing the system very much. Though, I guess we don’t know very much about Deng in that regard other than Tiananmen, but his early history is somewhat nebulous. The Chinese should fully open their archives.

    • Replies: @Swarthy Greek
    , @inertial
  48. @songbird

    Deng was a political commissar during the civil war. He probably executed a lot of « counter revolutionaries » and « reactionaries ».

    • Replies: @songbird
  49. utu says:
    @Polish Perspective

    You are very naive if you rely on the history written by World Bank economists like Sacks and Piatkowski. Their version is sanitized and saccharine. It is directed at chiefly foreign financial elites. I do not think you will find many people in Poland who actually would believe it except for young people from new growing native financial circles like traders who by nature are known more for opportunism than for their moral integrity. They know the color of money but they do not want to know the origin of money particularly if there are traces of blood on it. The saccharine history by Piatkowski suits them. You may argue that the legend created by Sacks and Piatkowski serves Poland well. John Reed and Walter Duranty painted a rosy and naive picture of Soviet Union for Western audiences that served the Bolsheviks very well by helping to bring more investments form the West. People in Poland are familiar with Balzac ‘s “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” and the sanitized histories by Sacks and Piatkowski will not make them forget it.

    How old are you? A year ago or so you claimed you were 20 but I think you are more like 28 and what is more important is that you are a British expat who is trying to be Polish in Poland. You have Polish roots probably via your mother, right? So how many years have you been living in Poland so far?

    • Replies: @Polish Perspective
  50. Nzn says:

    What do you call Polish cavalry charging into battle: a merry-go-round.

  51. songbird says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    The interesting aspect of it is that Deng probably wasn’t an ideological communist. I suppose that is not really an obstacle to killing people, but Mao himself was often said not to be much for firing squads.

    I’ve often questioned that idea about Mao though. After all, his death totals must be pretty high, and I’ve heard stories of gruesome executions during the Cultural Revolution. But it is hard to say whether they are true or not.

    • Replies: @Swarthy Greek
  52. inertial says:
    @LondonBob

    Russia didn’t have any properly functioning institutions

    This is not true. Russia had plenty of institutions that could slow down or moderate privatization. The problem was that these institutions had either been bought out with freely flowing Western money or suppressed with various degrees of violence (e.g. one of those institutions had been literally shelled by tanks.) You see, privatization in Russia was not done for any kind of economic reasons. No, the goals were purely political – to prevent Communists* from coming back to power.

    Another major reason for poor economic performance of the post-Soviet space that I never, ever, EVER see mentioned anywhere is the breakup of the USSR. I mean, when it comes to Brexit or some other -exit neoliberalism.txt can’t shut up about potentially horrible economic consequences. They are not wrong about that (but it’s probably worth it anyway.)

    Now think about an economy, orders of magnitude more integrated than the EU, breaking up along artificial borders. Do you think it might have had some bad effects? Of course it did. Plenty of them.

    So why is it taboo to mention it? Because once people realize that breakup of the USSR was bad for economy they may think that economic reintegration may make sense. And we cannot have that.

    * Defined as anyone who was unhappy with what was going on.

    • Agree: reiner Tor
    • Replies: @songbird
    , @LondonBob
  53. inertial says:
    @songbird

    Actually, Khrushchev changed the system quite radically. For one thing, he nearly destroyed the Soviet private sector.

  54. Mitleser says:
    @reiner Tor

    First, these losers managed to split their political alliance in Sweden.
    Now, they want to split the EPP too.

  55. @Svigor

    In Russia there was no great consensus about moving the economic system to a market economy, whereas in Poland it was very strong. This was further reinforced by the fact that there was a consensus in Poland about moving the country away from the Russian sphere of influence and into the western world (loosely speaking the orbit of the US and to a lesser extent the Western European powers). This resulted in the Polish economic reform program being passed smoothly and quickly.

  56. @songbird

    Mao wasn’t a Stalin type of guy if that’s what you’re talking about. Most of the deaths caused by his policies weren’t planned like during Stalin’s great purge. Mao didn’t think that the 100 flowers campaign would turn sour or that the great leap forward would cause a giant famine. Mao strikes me as someone who was a good intellectual, politician and leader of men that had little understanding of practical matters. The guy was just really good at staying in power and didn’t like at all being criticized which is why he managed to do so many mistakes.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  57. songbird says:
    @inertial

    The Western Bloc was pretty economically integrated too, by design, to discourage realignment. No doubt, EU planners and globalists (but I repeat myself) have devised a similar strategy.

  58. AP says:
    @Bukephalos

    Seeing them with their powdered wigs, relishing the arts, and the soft, refined life at the court of absolute kings helped projected a negative image of their order and undermined their function in society. They more and more looked like a parasitic, extractive class enjoying a degenerate lifestyle.

    I’m not deeply familiar with western noble class but I suspect that a lot of his is modern propaganda. It certainly wasn’t true of the nobility in central and eastern Europe which has been similarly slurred. In central and eastern Europe the nobility were a service class – lower nobility served as junior officers or civil administrators, higher ones as generals, governors, etc. They had many perks (as do modern elected officials) but also worked hard and had responsibilities. Early 20th century Moscow was modernized by the prince who worked tirelessly as its mayor, old Franz Josef was working 60+ hours weekly well into his 80s. The difference was that they were more or less born into their positions, rather then schemed their way into them/obtained them through “marketing” of themselves to voters (as in the West) or obtained them through violent seizure of power (in the East). Their replacements were motivated to paint a bad picture of those whom they replaced.

    • Replies: @songbird
    , @Thorfinnsson
  59. Dmitry says:

    No analysis on the blog today of the parliament elections in Moldova?

    Party of Socialists (pro-Russia, anti-NATO – or “neutrality” as they write) is winning. (Dodon from their party is already president, and was in conflict with the parliament until now). Probably implication of Moldova will reject the trade agreement with the EU, and progress with agreements with Eurasian economic union.


    Party of Socialists’ election propositions:

    Increase salaries and pensions, free education, healthcare, evenly balanced foreign policy, “neutrality” (anti-NATO), unification, “Traditional values”

    • Replies: @Swarthy Greek
    , @Gerard2
  60. @Dmitry

    It will be interesting to see what happens to ousted oligarchs (Poroshenko, Plahotniuk) after the eletions in Moldavia and the Ukraine. I hope the US will start showing again its affection for tinpot dictators, their “sons of bitches” as FDR put it.

    • Replies: @AP
  61. AP says:
    @Polish Perspective

    It’s not that they – communists – were altruistic, it’s that they were useful. Polish “nobles” from previous eras were largely a disaster and prevented centuries of reform. Even when we regained the state, many of their offspring that ran the state did not rush to educate the people.

    When Soviets grabbed Lwow they found it to be a civilized wonderland compared to what they had themselves. So the Polish interwar state could not have been too bad. In 1929 Poland’s per capita GDP was slightly lower than Finland’s and 30% higher than that of the USSR and Portugal.

    My take is that pre-Commie Eastern Europe was like Latin America with a higher IQ. So maybe another southern Europe but with higher birth rates. Had interwar Poland with its noble elite continued on, it would have been something akin to Spain in terms of per capita wealth, but probably more industrialized. Communism didn’t help Poland.

    An interesting aspect – in Poland many of the Communist leaders were also nobles and crypto-nationalists. Jaruzelski, for example. The people I know from those circles were similar.

  62. @Swarthy Greek

    I basically agree, it just doesn’t feel right to be so mild on a guy who, with the best intentions, caused the deaths of millions and probably tens of millions. He was narcissistic enough that he used violence when he felt that he was about to lose power or that he was undeservedly criticized, and boy, he always felt the latter. He never showed the slightest pity for his victims or the slightest regret or remorse after the disasters he personally caused. During the Great Leap Forward, which caused the vast majority of the unnatural deaths during his reign, it became clear relatively early on that the policy was a disaster. The majority of the victims could easily have been saved at that point by simply abandoning the failed policy. But Mao felt that he was being disrespected and so doubled down during the Lushan Conference, so basically he knowingly pushed for a policy leading to untold suffering and a vast famine, while destroying much of the capital stock and industrial or even military capacity of his country. I don’t think that a supreme leader can use the excuse that “he meant well.”

  63. AP says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    Poroshenko is polling in 2nd place, it is not guaranteed that he will lose.

  64. LondonBob says:
    @inertial

    Institutions refers more to law and order, property rights, banking infrastructure, not so much political institutions.

    • Replies: @inertial
  65. @utu

    You have done nothing but present sweeping and conspiratorial statements in this “debate” with no sources backing you up at any point. You’re free to take a contrary line if you want to, but you should at the very least have some data/primary sources to back you up. I’m willing to listen, but only if you have evidence/statistics/facts. You have none of this.

    You have evidently and repeatedly failed to do produce this and as such, you cannot be surprised when your ignorant rants are dismissed with disdain.

  66. @reiner Tor

    I don’t want to act as an apologist of Maoism (a retarded ideology) or be considered a “Maozuo”. I just believe that it’s necessary to understand that Mao differed in many ways from Stalin, who was calculating in almost all circumstances. Mao was a more strong headed and deluded version of Lenin (who also happened to be a son of a bitch). Still, its morbidly fascinating how a single person can bring his country to the brink of collapse twice (Cultural Revolution, Great leap forward) .

    • Replies: @songbird
  67. songbird says:
    @AP

    You can be born into your position. The problem is that the genes are shuffled and then there are the risks of the birthing process. You might be born a hemophiliac or perhaps slightly off your rocker, like some believed Wilhelm II was.

    There is also another obvious problem, putting aside the question of utility. That is, virtually every king in existence has been removed from power. Most of the ones that still have some power, have parliaments, very much like Russia and Germany, when their monarchies were in the beginning process of being sidelined.

    All this means is that you can’t go back to monarchies, even if you wanted to – at least not as they existed. Because general political ambition seems to mean that they will never be able to retain power in a modern economy. Maybe, they can be reinvented to work better. Monarchy 2.0, or the term I prefer: techno-monarchy.

    Such a system would have to solve a lot of problems in theory, before it could be put into practice, like preventing your royals from miscegenation, ex: Prince Harry.

  68. @AP

    There were communists who were nationalists deep down, Gomułka being perhaps the most prominent example. Such a person and with that background would unlikely have made it to the top under an aristocratic system. Communism did help Poland in the sense that it purged the old extractive elites, together with WWII. But that is far as I’m willing to go. Other than that, it was largely an economic disaster. It was nevertheless socially useful to set the conditions for rapid growth, it just overstayed for 30 years. The job had largely been done by the late 50s.

    Polish interwar performance was mediocre. It had hyperinflation in the early 1920s and by 1938 it had a lower per capita income than in 1929. Finland was by 1938 already 30% richer rather than just 5-10% richer as in 1929.

    BTW, what’s your view on the upcoming Ukrainians elections? I’d be interested in seeing Mr. Hack’s view as well. What’s your preferred candidate, if you have any, and I’d be interesting in reading some of your general thoughts on the election overall.

  69. songbird says:
    @Swarthy Greek

    On the one hand, the political model of great personalities would seem to invalidate the idea that elites are an intractable block with irresistible momentum, but then again, maybe there is one exception – if you are a crazy bastard that has won a power struggle, with your political peers.

    And perhaps, that is really only a movement towards one direction, as a function of the general group will.

  70. @AP

    Hungary in the 1930s had a national income just slightly lower than Austria. Admittedly the Austrian GDP was more depressed than the Hungarian. It’s pretty clear that, from a purely economic perspective, communism did enormous damage in each of the countries where it came to power. The only possible positive is the lack of race replacement, unlike in the West. It’s a pretty big positive, even if it was almost accidental.

    • Replies: @songbird
  71. songbird says:
    @reiner Tor

    The 1940 movie “Shop Around the Corner” , which starred Jimmy Stewart was set in Budapest. Of course, it was based on a play by a Hungarian Jew, who had emigrated. Still, I don’t think it would have been filmed, unless Hungary was seen as being in the Western economic sphere, with a similar lifestyle.

  72. @Polish Perspective

    Polish interwar performance was mediocre. It had hyperinflation in the early 1920s and by 1938 it had a lower per capita income than in 1929. Finland was by 1938 already 30% richer rather than just 5-10% richer as in 1929.

    That’s not very useful data. Finland had very high human capital in a homogeneous country, it was very likely to get richer than Poland. The hyperinflation was just a function of the war with each of your neighbors, the aftermath of the world war. Also, the Great Depression was very tricky for most countries. The same German political elite which managed the disaster in the early 1930s two decades later managed the West German economic miracle.

    I also don’t think the Polish elite was still quite extractive at that point.

    But it was obviously a failure in the 17th-18th centuries.

    • Replies: @Thorfinnsson
    , @utu
  73. @reiner Tor

    I read parts of Chang’s infamous biography of Mao, and – even adjusting for the bias that some people have alleged on her part – if half the things written there are true, he was thoroughly atrocious person.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  74. @inertial

    AP has answered this very well, but just to add my own take in addition:

    An aristocratic elite got to the top through “martial prowess,” whereas the Communist elite through “terrorism and looting.” That’s totally different!

    Let’s take an example. One of my ancestors acquiring a hereditary title under Alexander III for a lifetime of military service in the Russian Army vs. a black leather coated Chekist compiling death lists, organizing the looting icons and gold from churches and bank vaults, and raping former Russian noblewoman (one sick fuck, otherwise a respected Soviet writer, even wrote a poem about it).

    So yes, I do think that they are “totally different.”

    The Communist elite was talented and meritocratic; you’d know that if you haven’t ingested so much anti-Commie propaganda.

    LOL. From the country of Lysenko. From the country where not a single Minister of Defense had a proper military education until 1949. From the country where both Gorbachev and Likhachev were at a complete loss to explain how New York managed to supply itself with food with nobody overseeing it.

    They quickly shed Communist ideology when it no longer served their interests and engineered a relatively painless (especially to themselves) transition to a different system where they were also on top.

    So they were also parasites in the most direct sense of the word. I am glad you agree.

    • Agree: utu, reiner Tor, AP
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @inertial
  75. Gerard2 says:
    @Dmitry

    Party of Socialists (pro-Russia, anti-NATO – or “neutrality” as they write) is winning.

    DO NOT spread false hope Dmitry! – the ruling authorities have played every dirty trick in the book ( as they did for the previous parliamentary election) – and “winning” is not the same as being able to gather a 50%+ of votes or seats ( or form a coalition)
    It’s not just to voters from Priednistroviye where elections are restricted ( though that I can understand), but Gagauzia too and numerous other tricks.

    But IF they are able to form a majority government, and when anybody but Poroshenko wins the ukrop fraud election…..then it will have been very nice month for Russia

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  76. @Anatoly Karlin

    I read Dikötter’s books, and he’s not very kind to him either. Interestingly they let him into some provincial archives, apparently because they wanted him to write a negative book about Mao and its contents leaking back into China, so as to weaken the Maoist wing of the Party leadership…

  77. @Anatoly Karlin

    one sick fuck, otherwise a respected Soviet writer, even wrote a poem about it

    Who was it?

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  78. @Polish Perspective

    It had hyperinflation in the early 1920s and by 1938 it had a lower per capita income than in 1929. Finland was by 1938 already 30% richer rather than just 5-10% richer as in 1929.

    Finland also had a literacy of 76% by 1897, versus 31% for Russian Poland (though higher in Germany and AH). All else equal, Finland should have grown faster (considering their per capita levels were similar in 1929, as AP points out).

    In general, I am not sure much can be deduced from this period, due to the numerous shocks within it. E.g., initially, nobody really had a good idea about how to go about dealing with the Great Depression. Britain did much better than France because it figured out the correct policies to pursue much earlier, but does this mean the British social order was definitely superior to the French one? Possibly, but not on account of this in particular.

    • Agree: reiner Tor
    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  79. @AP

    Late ancien regime France is something of a special case.

    Nobles were numerous in France owing to the absence of primogeniture (English saying about France: “Everyone’s a count and no one counts for much”) and the fact that nobility could be purchased. Unlike the situation in contemporary England, nobles were still exempt from taxation. The reason for their exemption of taxation, compulsory military service without pay, had long since faded away.

    It was an unsustainable and combustible situation. Without the fiscal problems of the French state, or a less pig-headed monarch, France probably would have successfully reformed.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  80. @reiner Tor

    Eduard Bagritsky. In fact, I might just translate that poem, as – rather predictably – it doesn’t seem to be available in English (despite being quite short).

  81. @Anatoly Karlin

    An aristocratic elite comes by its way through historic martial prowess, and is characterized by greater or lesser feelings of paternalism towards its inferiors.

    That is very true. We never officially recognized such elites here in America, but there is a reason why to this very day, historically-inclined people from working class backgrounds – such as myself – have (mostly) nothing but love for General Andrew Jackson. He knew what it was to be treated poorly by superiors, which is why he fought the bank. John Adams referred to this class as the “natural aristocracy” and showed how it would emerge in a healthy democratic republic. Of course our democracy is anything but healthy now and Andrew Jackson types get co-opted and corrupted very early.

  82. @Anatoly Karlin

    Please do!

    I know it’s a lot of work for your already full plate, but some of us ignorant, young fans of Slavic culture* are filled with joy whenever something new comes to us from your languages.

    * If someone who doesn’t speak Slavic languages can really be a Slavophile

  83. @Dmitry

    Do all Russian idiot celebrities dress like the greasy entertainers one would expect to find at Mafia-owned night clubs in New York?

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  84. utu says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    https://web.stanford.edu/~gfreidin/Publications/Freidin_bagritskyfin.pdf

    The “deciphered” February is a first-person verse narrative about a middle-class young man—an Odessa Jew and a World War I soldier—who is deeply offended when an upper-class gymnasium girl rejects his clumsy advances. A year later (1917), the two meet again. Now a police commissar of the Provisional Government (hence the title), the nar- rator is raiding a brothel and recognizes his old flame in one of the prostitutes. She is ashamed, begs for pity, and refuses money. He throws money at her and jumps into bed, “without taking off the jack boots or the gun holster.” An internal monologue of the narrator follows, delivered in flagrante delicto: the act, apparently, is meant “to make up for” not only the slight he experienced from her a year earlier but also other, general slights and outrages suffered throughout history by the Jewish people. As if this were not enough, the narrator imagines that his “night seed” will also fertilize her “desert,” and then “storms will follow, the southern wind will blow / swans will trumpet their love song.”

  85. @reiner Tor

    Finland isn’t actually homogeneous. Finland Swedes form about one-twentieth of the population and are more numerous at the higher echelons of society. Mannerheim learned how to speak Russian before Finnish. They’re not a parasitic or harmful type of high performing minority fortunately.

    There’s also the Lapps in northern Finland, though they’re close to irrelevant.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  86. Dmitry says:
    @John Burns, Gettysburg Partisan

    Lol those are Nikolai Baskov and Philipp Kirkorov.

    These two are not small night club singers, but the well-dressed, dignified, award-winning, multiple “People’s artists of Russia”.

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  87. Dmitry says:
    @Gerard2

    They are winning in all the polls, even the Belsat channel was admitting this. Obviously the result is not yet available, as they are still counting votes.

    And I guess if Shor’s party receives enough votes to go into parliament, this will at least finally scare and horrify away the EU from wanting to accept Moldova.

  88. @Anatoly Karlin

    In fact, I might just translate that poem, as – rather predictably – it doesn’t seem to be available in English

    From Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century regarding Bagritsky’s poem February:

    As a young man, he falls in love with a girl with golden hair, a green dress, and “a nightingale quiver” in her eyes, “all of her as if flung wide open to the coolness of the sea, the sun, and the birds.” Every day, as she walks home from school, he follows her “like a murderer, stumbling over benches and bumping into people and trees,” thinking of her “as a fabulous bird who had fluttered off the pages of a picture book” and wondering how he, “born of a Hebrew and circumcised on the seventh [sic] day,” has become a bird catcher. Finally, he gathers up his courage and runs toward her.

    All those books I’d read in the evenings—
    Hungry and sick, my shirt unbuttoned—
    About birds from exotic places,
    About people from distant planets,
    About worlds where rich men play tennis,
    Drink lemonade, and kiss languid women,—
    All those things were moving before me,
    Wearing a dress and swinging a satchel . . . .
    He runs beside her “like a beggar, bowing deferentially” and “mumbling some nonsense.” She stops and tells him to leave her alone . . .

    Then comes the February Revolution, and he becomes a deputy commissar, a catcher of horse thieves and burglars, “an angel of death with a flashlight and a revolver, surrounded by four sailors from a battleship.” … One night, he is sent to arrest some gangsters, and there, in a suffocating brothel reeking of face powder, semen, and sweet liqueur, he finds her—“the one who had tormented me with her nightingale gaze.” She is bare-shouldered and bare-legged, half asleep and smoking a cigarette. He asks her if she recognizes him, and offers her money.

    Without opening her mouth, she whispered softly,
    “Please have some pity! I don’t need the money!”
    Throwing her the money,
    I barged into—
    Without pulling off my high boots, or my holster,
    Without taking off my regulation trench coat—
    The abysmal softness of the blanket
    Under which so many men had sighed,
    Flung about, and throbbed, into the darkness
    Of the swirling stream of fuzzy visions,
    Sudden screams and unencumbered movements,
    Blackness, and ferocious, blinding light . . .
    I am taking you because so timid
    Have I always been, and to take vengeance
    For the shame of my exiled forefathers
    And the twitter of an unknown fledgling!
    I am taking you to wreak my vengeance
    On the world I could not get away from!
    Welcome me into your barren vastness,
    In which grass cannot take root and sprout,
    And perhaps my night seed may succeed in
    Fertilizing your forbidding desert.
    There’ll be rainfalls, southern winds will bluster,
    Swans will make their calls of tender passion.

    • Replies: @Bies Podkrakowski
  89. Dmitry says:
    @Dmitry

    Ok they had some even better style and dislike records than normal in recent months.

    • LOL: Swarthy Greek
  90. @Thorfinnsson

    nobles were still exempt from taxation

    A history professor in Hungary told me that it was not the case. Taxation was premodern, which means that it was cut through and through with exemptions. Some provinces didn’t have to pay salt tax (I’m not sure what it was, just this one example stuck in my head), others were exempt from something else, while the core provinces (Ile-de-France, I guess) had to pay everything. At least in theory. Noble lands were exempt from taxes, but nobles could sell noble lands to commoners anyway, and then the commoner owner could enjoy the tax exempt status. Or, conversely, a nobleman could purchase some commoner land, and then he’d have to pay taxes on those. Nobility could be purchased, so anyway it could not have been a big difference between a rich commoner and a rich nobleman. The big issue was that any type of tax was only paid by at most half of the country, and taxation was uneven, heavier for lower income people and for the core provinces.

    However, interestingly, and unsurprisingly, the revolution resulted in a huge tax increase for much of the country, and especially for the loosely attached (not very French) non-core provinces, which then started a rebellion, and were suppressed in a bloody civil war with genocidal violence.

  91. @Thorfinnsson

    It was homogeneous relative to Poland.

    • Replies: @Jaakko Raipala
  92. @Svigor

    Hungarian, or Romanian

    By the way, I don’t really care for such things online (and IRL is a different world anyway), especially not from ignorant Americans, but mistaking a Hungarian for a Romanian is probably among the greatest insults possible. Mistaking Budapest for Bucharest is the proverbial version of it.

    Maybe it’s the same the other way around, though perhaps a more typical situation for Romanians is being mistaken for Gypsies (Roma).

  93. @Anatoly Karlin

    I agree, I wrote something similar above.

    Britain did much better than France because it figured out the correct policies to pursue much earlier

    Britain also did way worse in the 1920s. So it did better, but only from a lower base.

  94. Gerard2 says:
    @Dmitry

    Although on the other side you have Plahotniuc – a criminal oligarch cementing Moldova’s EU side, and like all these parasites – still probably has a Russian passport.

    Investigative Committee opened another case against him on Friday – no doubt convenient – but also no doubt true and no doubt provoked . In addition, before that, Russian journalists weren’t allowed in to cover the election or interview Dodon in Moldova

    • Replies: @Dmitry
  95. Dmitry says:
    @Gerard2

    Reports of results after 22% ballots counted:

    30,4% Party of Socialists
    29% Democratic Party
    20% ACUM bloc
    11% Shor Party

    Other electoral candidates have not yet reached 6% threshold for passing to parliament. (Electoral threshold is high at 6%).

    Pro-Russia bloc is 41,4% (Party of Socialists + Shor Party)

    Pro-EU bloc 49% (Democratic Party + ACUM)

    So probably neither side will reach parliamentary majority, but will rely on independents.

    Democratic Party reportedly active in massive election fraud.

  96. inertial says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    One of my ancestors acquiring a hereditary title under Alexander III for a lifetime of military service in the Russian Army vs. a black leather coated Chekist compiling death lists, organizing the looting icons and gold from churches and bank vaults, and raping former Russian noblewoman

    I could come up with an exactly as valid story about a parasite landowner in 1800 who horsewhipped his serfs for entertainment and raped the serving girls. And a descendant of one of those serfs who had become a respected Soviet general and had got a hereditary title as a member of nomenklatura.

    That story, just like yours, would be nothing but a low grade propaganda.

    From the country of Lysenko.

    Yeah, it’s always Lysenko. Never Mikhail Gerasimov, Vladimir Demikhov, Anatoly Vlasov, Pavel Cherenkov, Yakov Frenkel, Oleg Losev, Boris Grabovsky, and so on, and so forth. Off the top of my head, just some of important Soviet scientists who were active during the Stalin period (and educated in the 1920s or 1930s.)

    From the country where not a single Minister of Defense had a proper military education until 1949.

    LOL. How many Western defense ministers have military education? The current acting US Secretary of Defense has…let’s see…an MS in mechanical engineering and an MBA. Must be a total incompetent.

    From the country where both Gorbachev and Likhachev were at a complete loss to explain how New York managed to supply itself with food with nobody overseeing it.

    Gorbachev and Ligachev were not the sharpest tools in the box but at least they understood how their own system worked. As I pointed out before, you know as much about the USSR as these Soviet leaders knew about the New York food supply.

    You swallowed too much of crude anti-Soviet propaganda. Seek out balancing information. That is, if you truly want to understand the past. If not – carry on.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  97. inertial says:
    @LondonBob

    It’s a familiar line but it’s only somewhat true. And it’s not like Poland was great shakes in this respect.

  98. inertial says:
    @AP

    When Soviets grabbed Lwow they found it to be a civilized wonderland compared to what they had themselves.

    It’s a favorite fable of Galician nationalist but it’s not true. From what I’ve seen the most common impression the Soviets had of the newly acquired Galicia was “backward place.” By this they could mean anything from the lack of heavy industry to low “class consciousness” of the population.

    • Replies: @AP
  99. inertial says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Ah, Bagritsky. Does anyone still remember him? I hated him as a kid because in school they made us memorize his Death of a Pioneer. And yet, his Bird Catcher is wonderful (a poem about an autist, BTW.)

    I’ve never heard about February, so I read it just now. No, it’s not short. In fact, it’s quite long for a poem(the wiki says only a third of it is usually presented)

    http://pitzmann.ru/bagritsky-february.htm

    The hero becomes a “deputy Commissar,” which predictably causes knee jerk in some people. But he works for the Provisional Government and his job is to catch common criminals. He and his team of sailors raids a brothel and busts a gang of robbers. The gang is Jewish (“Semka Rabinovich, Pet’ka Kambala, and Monya Brilliantshik”) so the redheaded girl is probably Jewish as well.

    And yeah, he rapes her in the end. But the poem is unfinished. Bagritsky died before he could finish it. Who knows where he intended to take the story.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
  100. AP says:
    @inertial

    “When Soviets grabbed Lwow they found it to be a civilized wonderland compared to what they had themselves.”

    It’s a favorite fable of Galician nationalist but it’s not true.

    It’s very true, one of my grandparents moved there from Kharkiv and viewed it that way. When Lwow was annexed a lot of the students in the Kharkiv universities and institutes were desperate to transfer to the newly acquired wonderland city (which wasn’t even that rich by western standards). The Soviets wanted to present a Ukrainian face to the locals (they still hoped to win some hearts and minds in 1939) so those who were fluent in Ukrainian got first choice. Compared to the squalor of Kharkiv, Lviv was a civilized wonderland.

    The locals viewed the Soviets as some half-fed poor ape-like creatures who were also scary because they were often drunk and committed crimes such as rape. Soviet officers were looting everywhere. Their wives wore stolen nightgowns around town because they thought they were fancy dresses.
    Many of the Soviets did not know how to use toilets. They was a source of embarrassment for Galician Ukrainian nationalists in front of their Polish rivals – many of those Soviets were of their own ethnicity and it was painful to hear these “apes” speak the same language. Local writing by both Poles and Ukrainians when encountering Soviets for the first time reveals their impressions – Ukrainian theologian Havril Kostelnyk – “unintelligent, uncultured faces and simple-minded movements.” Lviv mathemetician Hugo Steinhaus was told that mathematics was a “class science.” Stanislaw Lem, who was 17 in Lwow when the Soviets invaded, stated “the Germans evoked only fear, at the Soviets you could also laugh.” He described them as “a terrible, gigantic ape.”

    Soviet filmmaker Dovzhenko had similar impressions, expressed in private of course, worrying about “our boorishness, our tactlessness, our lack of culture” and hoping that one day the Easterners would stop despising the Galicians for being “better and more cultivated.”

    From what I’ve seen the most common impression the Soviets had of the newly acquired Galicia was “backward place.”

    This is probably the same propaganda that showed Soviet peasants as happy and well fed in the early 1930s. Or perhaps they were “backward” because they did things like go to church and believe in nationalism (relic of the 19th century) rather than socialism.

    I will add: when Russians occupied Galicia in 1915 the impressions were not so negative. Yes, the Russian troops were less educated and more backward, but they were basically viewed as decent peasants. There was some pity, but no disgust towards them. My great-grandfather saw Nicholas II when he visited and the impression he made was a positive one. One would not say the same thing about Soviet officials.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  101. @reiner Tor

    Finland was over 10 % ethnic Swedish around the revolution so it had a minority that was a larger share than any of the ones in Poland. Finns were a higher share of the population, but then, Finns are pretty diverse and genetic, linguistic and historical gaps between Häme, Savo etc are a lot bigger than the differences between most Slavic groups so it’s not really “fair” that Ukrainians, Czechs etc count as “diversity” in Poland but Finland is “homogeneous”…

    It doesn’t get noticed because Finland is so small but Finns aren’t a single ethnic group and that’s why it has always been a nightmare to get us politically organized. Actually, genetically, gaps between “Finnish” groups are bigger than anything in any other European country (except Russia).

    The Grand Duchy of Finland was 25 % ethnic Swedish at the peak. It has been one relentless decline for Swedes since the Russians slowly started emancipating Finns. Foreign trade used to be an exclusive privilege of ethnic Swedes and the Russian conquest immediately canceled this, Alexander I started industrialization which allowed a source of income not controlled by Swedes, Alexander II allowed Finnish schools and the use of Finnish in universities etc – all these moves sparked waves of Swedish emigration. Finland is one country that has indeed transitioned from purely extractive elites to, well, less extractive ones.

    If the Reds had won the Civil War or if Finland had been taken by the communists after WWII, they would have hastened the decline, but then, there’s little point in getting rid of extractive elites if it means not having anything to extract…

    Finland post-revolution was highly unusual though in that even though aristocracy led the White movement that won the Civil War, they very quickly lost power and Finland adopted extremely egalitarian republican laws. I think it’s because St Petersburg was very close and the aristocracy had become so tied to Russian elites that the revolution still took them down and partly because maintaining the country as just a Germanic colony would have been impossible next to the USSR that was always ready to promise equality for ethnic Finns.

  102. utu says:
    @Polish Perspective

    Communism did help Poland in the sense that it purged the old extractive elites, together with WWII.

    Scratch a neoliberal, find a Bolshevik.

  103. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    Why did you assume that PP was correct?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(PPP)

    GNP 1925 vs 1938
    Finland 1,910 3,339 (+74%)
    Poland 7,325 12,885 (+75%)

  104. @for-the-record

    That is fucked-up in this special way that only October and French Revolution could manage.

    What is with poets and revolutions?

  105. @AP

    The writer John Scott – probably a couple S.D.’s higher in terms of Sovietophilia than the American average – wrote about train stations getting progressively cleaner and passengers better dressed as his train trundled west out of the Soviet Union to Paris.

  106. @inertial

    I could come up with an exactly as valid story about a parasite landowner in 1800 who horsewhipped his serfs for entertainment and raped the serving girls.

    We were talking about how they reached nobility, not what nobles engaged in later on.

    Getting nobility for military service is way more honorable than getting into the nomenklatura for being a secret policeman.

  107. anon[227] • Disclaimer says:
    @AP

    …[Russia’s] otherwise inevitable ascent to the status of single global superpower…

    I’ve not heard that before. Could you elaborate?

    • Replies: @AP
  108. AP says:
    @anon

    Russia was on its way to being the globally dominant superpower, given its population expansion, territory, natural resources, and industrialization. Even in seriously hobbled and mutilated form, damaged by the Civil War, collectivization and World war II, it managed to be a close #2 to the USA for a few decades. Remove those negative factors and it becomes unstoppable.

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - If you are new to my work, *start here*. If you liked this post, and want me to produce more such content, consider *donating*.


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Anatoly Karlin Comments via RSS