Lex Fridman Podcast #303 – Lex Fridman & Steve Keen
Topics Discussed: Introduction, Defining economics, Schools of economics, Karl Marx, Labor theory of value, Socialism, Soviet Union, China, Climate change, Economics vs Politics, Minsky’s model, Financial crisis, Inflation, Marxism, Space and AI, Advice for young people, Depression, Love, Mortality.
Steve Keen is an Australian economist and author. He considers himself a post-Keynesian, criticizing neoclassical economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported. The major influences on Keen's thinking about economics include John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Hyman Minsky, Piero Sraffa, Augusto Graziani, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, Thorstein Veblen, and François Quesnay. Hyman Minsky's financial instability hypothesis forms the main basis of his major contribution to economics which mainly concentrates on mathematical modelling and simulation of financial instability. He is a notable critic of the Australian property bubble, as he sees it.
Books Mentioned in this Podcast with Lex Fridman & Steve Keen:
The Bolshevik Revolution and the Emergence of Stalinism: A Departure from Marx's Vision
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 marked a turning point in history, with the rise of the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. The revolution aimed to establish a socialist society in Russia, but it ultimately gave birth to a unique system known as Stalinism. In this article, we explore the complex relationship between Marxism, the Bolsheviks, and the emergence of Stalinism, highlighting the departure from Karl Marx’s original vision.
The Bolshevik Revolution and Revolutionary Ideals
The Bolsheviks, a faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, believed in a revolutionary path to socialism. Unlike Marx’s idea of a gradual transition through capitalism, the Bolsheviks saw Russia’s unique circumstances as ripe for a direct leap to socialism. This revolutionary fervor led to the October Revolution of 1917, toppling the Provisional Government established earlier that year.
The Russian Civil War and Chaotic Environment
Following the Bolshevik seizure of power, Russia plunged into a period of chaos and violence. The Russian Civil War erupted, pitting the Bolshevik Red Army against various anti-Bolshevik groups known as the White Army. This civil war, combined with the aftermath of World War I and economic challenges, created a highly tumultuous environment.
Bolshevik Policies: War Communism
The Bolshevik government, under Lenin’s leadership, introduced policies collectively known as War Communism. These measures involved centralizing economic control, requisitioning grain from peasants, and nationalizing industry. While these policies were intended to support the war effort and consolidate power, they had significant economic and social repercussions.
The Rise of Joseph Stalin
Upon Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin emerged as the leader of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s leadership would come to define the era and the system that bore his name—Stalinism. Stalin’s consolidation of power, marked by purges and a cult of personality, departed from the principles of Marxism.
Rapid Industrialization and Collectivization
One of the defining features of Stalinism was the rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture through the implementation of Five-Year Plans. These ambitious economic programs aimed to transform the Soviet Union into an industrial and military superpower. However, they came at a great human cost, with widespread famine and repression.
Stalinism's Departure from Marx
The connection between Marxism and Stalinism lies in the Bolsheviks’ interpretation of Marxist theory. They saw Marxism as providing a framework for revolutionary change, adapting it to their specific goals. However, the concentration of power, lack of political pluralism, and the exigencies of civil war led to authoritarianism and repression. Stalinism, characterized by a planned economy and totalitarian rule, diverged significantly from Marx’s vision of a classless, stateless society.
The Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent emergence of Stalinism illustrate the complex interplay between revolutionary ideals, historical circumstances, and political leadership. While the Bolsheviks sought to realize a socialist society, their interpretation of Marxism, combined with unique challenges, led to the establishment of a system that deviated from Marx’s original vision. Understanding this historical trajectory helps shed light on the development of the Soviet Union and its impact on the 20th century.