Monday, January 11, 2021

The Great Reset: The Western Path to Dekulakization


One of the Soviet propaganda posters promoting the collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. On the lower right, you can see a small man opposing the line of the marching peasants, He is recognizable as a "Kulak," one of the local independent farmers who were dispossessed and partly exterminated to leave space for collectivized farms, considered more efficient. There exist several similarities between the fall of the Kulaki and the current "Great Reset" that sees the destruction of a number of economic activities, such as retail commerce, seen as inefficient in comparison to modern electronic commerce.


In the 1930s, the Soviet Union carried out the "dekulakization" (раскулачивание) of Ukraine. It was the term given to the removal of the relatively wealthy, independent farmers ("kulaki"), to be replaced by collective farms. Their properties were confiscated, many of them were relocated to remote regions, and some were exterminated. We don't know the exact numbers, but surely we are in the range of a few million people. The transition to collectivized farms may have been one of the causes of the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, known as the "Holodomor," 

The reasons for the dekulakization are several. In part, they were related to the belief that large-scale, centrally planned enterprises were the most efficient way to organize production. Then, the Kulaki were seen as a potential enemy for the Soviet Government, while the region they occupied was a strategic asset in terms of food production in an age when famines were an effective war weapon

But these considerations are not enough to explain why the Kulaki were so ruthlessly destroyed in just a few years. It was, rather, just a simple power game: the Soviet Government aimed at controlling all the means of production of the state. It couldn't tolerate that an important section of the economy, food production in Ukraine, was independently managed. And so it intervened with all the might it could muster.

The most interesting part of this story is how the removal/extermination was an early example of a successful propaganda-based demonization campaign. The Kulaki were consistently portrayed as inefficient and unreliable "enemies of the people." Once it was established that an independent farmer was an enemy of the people, then any attempt to defend the Kulaki would automatically turn defenders into enemies of the people. So, the Kulaki were completely overwhelmed, unable to organize any kind of collective resistance. The best they could do was some degree of passive resistance, for instance by hiding food rather than delivering it to the Soviet authorities. Of course, propaganda exploited that to reinforce the message that they were, indeed, enemies of the people. This is the way propaganda works.

At this point, I guess you understand the point I am making: the similarity of the current situation with the dekulakization of nearly a century ago. Also this time, an entire sector of the economy (actually more than one) is being crushed to leave space for different economic entities, believed to be more efficient with providing the same services: mainly the "new economy" of the Silicon Valley companies. This shift is sometimes called "The Great Reset." An appropriate name that could also be applied to the dekulakization. 

The first victim of the Great Reset has been retail commerce. Mom and pop shops everywhere are the modern Kulaki, replaced by the onward marching militias of virtual commerce under the Amazon banner. But also franchises and shopping malls have been badly hit. It is impressive how nobody in the field dared to oppose the destruction of the source of their livelihood -- they were overwhelmed by propaganda, just like the Kulaki. 

Other victims are waiting for the axe: Universities and schools are going to be defunded, obsolete against the onrush of e-learning. Public transport has become nearly useless with the triumph of virtual work and the fear of boarding a crowded bus: it will be replaced by the smart cars and using AI software. Mass tourism and mass air travel are already relics of the past, resources that can be saved and used for other purposes. And the pervasive control of everyone is advancing: now just as at the time of the Soviet Union, those who control the message control everything. In comparison with Soviet times, the modern propaganda effort is similar. Most propaganda is based on demonizing someone and, today, those opposing the Great Reset are labeled as "deniers" (the equivalent of the "enemies of the people" of Soviet times). 

All that doesn't mean that the Great Reset was planned in advance, nor that the virus was manufactured on purpose. It simply means that the various actors in the economic arena saw how they could gain an advantage by acting in a certain way, and they did. These large organizations do not really plan in advance, they have no "brain," but -- like amoebas -- they move in the direction of the food they need. And they act on the principle that says, "never let a good crisis go wasted."

Of course, the Silicon Valley Companies of our times are not the same thing as the Soviet Government of the 1930s. But there are similarities. Those companies that dominate the management of information on the Web operate very much Soviet-style: they are large, pyramidal organizations, often dominated by a charismatic leader (Zuckerberg, Gates, Bezos, etc.). In terms of size and planning style, they are not different from the People's Commissariat for Agriculture (Народный комиссариат земледелия) (Narkomzem), established in 1917, the entity that carried out the dekulakization. And they reason mainly in terms of power balance: they don't like and they don't tolerate competition. 

The difference is that the Narkomzem was part of the state, whereas the Silicon Valley companies are not. They do control large swats of the American government but, on the whole, they are best seen as feudal lords. You can call them "Web Barons."

The current situation looks not unlike when King John of England signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, forced to do so by England's Barons. Right now, the US government seems to be overwhelmed by the Barons of the Web, not unlike King John of England was. At least, when you hear that Twitter can cancel the account of the President of the United States, then you understand who is the boss

And here we stand: we are seeing a classic situation in history: a central government being challenged by feudal lords. It is typical of when a state starts its downward path toward collapse, it is what's happening with the Western Empire. So, what's going to happen, now? Can history serve as a guide for us?

History, we know, always rhymes, but never repeats itself. In the 1930s, the Kulaki were destroyed by superior powers and that was the end of the story. Today, the situation is much more fluid. 

For one thing, there is not a single, monolithic entity involved. We have several Barons who temporarily found a common goal, but which are potentially in conflict with each other. Then, the US government is not so weak yet. It still controls (and is controlled by) the military, and that's the crucial element that may change many things. 

It is not clear what the military think of the current situation. Probably they don't have special objections about the elimination of retail commerce and other obsolete economic activities. But they also understand who is paying them: they get their money not from the Web Barons, but from the Government. And they may decide to do something to avoid going the same way as mom and pop shops. A few tanks in front of the Capitol Building would send a much clearer message to the Web Barons than that conveyed by a half-naked, horned shaman. 

If the government is backed by a credible military force, then it would be possible to reduce the power of the monopolies of the Web: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the others could be nationalized and/or broken down into less powerful entities. On the other hand, nothing prevents the Web Barons from building up their own military forces. Fluid situation, indeed. 

The only sure thing is that the decline of the West is ongoing. There is little that can be done about that.

After publishing this post, I discovered that the same concept had been developed by another Cassandra, on the "The Cassandra Times" blog. That post came before mine, and it has therefore the honor of being the first having noted that the modern small business owners are the equivalent of the Kulaks of Soviet times.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)