“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Sunday, December 8, 2013

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” ― Winston Churchill

The Russian Revolution is an interesting period of time.  People think there was a revolt, the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czar, and that's how communism came to Russia.

Actually, it's a lot more involved.  The Czar's government collapsed under the stress of involvement in World War I, and as the result of decades of social mismanagement and change. There had been a major revolt in 1905 that was quelled, but the root causes weren't addressed. In the intervening 12 years before the seizing of the Winter Palace, an inexorable chain of events led to the final cataclysm  that killed millions of Russians.

The Revolution that actually deposed the Czar was the result of inept government, food shortages, unemployment,  ethnic antagonisms, collapse of the social system, and separatism among the component states of the empire. All this was exacerbated by opportunism, corruption and a bloated bureaucracy on the part of the political establishment among other things.

Once the Bolsheviks overthrew the liberal government that replaced the Imperial regime,  a massive civil war broke out and lasted more than three years.  During that time, while the Bolsheviks stamped out all indigenous resistance, they also fought American, British, Japanese, Czech and French soldiers on three fronts. I'm interested in military history and this is a particularly fascinating book because of the detail it contains.  The most interesting part though, is in a chapter entitled The Struggle to Survive. This chapter deals with how the ordinarly Russian tried to keep alive as chaos spread.  As I read it, I thought how so much of what they went through, and how it came about, mirrors today.

One of the first things that  happened once the Communists had full power and began to try to rebuild the economy was massive unemployment.  Without managers who knew how to run the plants (the Reds killed them for being capitalists),  the workers collectives that tried to operate the factories soon ran them into the ground. Those people became unemployed, so the businesses that depended on them went under, and the ripples just spread outwards.  Then the Communists seized personal assets. They made an inventory of all the safety deposit boxes, and took any precious metal or jewels they found.  Gold climbed in value so rapidly compared to the paper ruble that one ruble in gold was worth thirty thousand in paper early on.

Every different Central Committee in every town and city printed rubles as fast as they could. They printed so much money that plain paper became one of the scarcest commodities in Russia. Since most of the Russian gold reserve had been sent out of the country as surety for Allied supplies of war material, nothing backed all this paper.  Inflation on a staggering scale began immediately, wiping out personal savings and making the salary of those who were lucky enough to retain jobs worthless.  People bartered for what they needed, and the chapter has detailed accounts of why the barter economy began to wind down as what could be traded, was traded. Soon the vast majority had nothing left to trade for food, firewood, or other necessities. One of the most highly sought after items was simple matches. Once the factories making them quit running, matches became as precious as gold.

The communists seized food supplies from the countryside, and any food that people had stored away was confiscated by the local party commissars. Firewood , coal, tools, and other personal possessions that individuals owned were confiscated.  Possession of firearms was prohibited.  To try to retain the support of the poorest segments of society, ever other level of society was plundered and the goods so obtained redistributed amongst the poor.  The immediate result was that even those factories still in operation, and services such as the rail lines, slid into chaos, because the workers realized that they would receive distributions whether they worked or not. Most of them quit coming to the job.

The dislocation all this caused to the Russian economy resulted in massive collapse of the agricultural system, and starvation killed hundreds of thousands of people in the second and third years after the fall of the Czar. The communists sent armed columns into the countryside to collect grain from the farmers without payment, with the result that the next planting season, no one bothered to plant a new crop.

The cities began to empty out into the countryside as more and more urban people left looking for food. Conflict between the people living in the country and these masses of wanderers saw whole villages destroyed as the hordes of starving people simply consumed everything in their path. Cannibalism on a large scale broke out. There are pictures in the book of people who were arrested for cannibalism and they are just families with kids who were at the end of their rope, not the monsters you'd expect.

It's impossible to describe everything in the chapter, let alone the book.  But as I read it, I thought over and over again, that the parallels between their situation and our own are certainly remarkable. Especially the progression of events that led up to all this chaos. There are some differences of course, but I noticed many more similarities.

It's always interesting to read post apocalyptic fiction to try to get an idea of what could happen in the future, but when you read what did happen in the past, you may be getting a more accurate picture of how events could unfold.

25 comments:

  1. You hit on the ultimate threat Harry. That is where redistribution get's us, what happened in Russia during the revolution. It is also what I fear most of happening here in the US and why everyone NEEDS to know there is no free money from the government. No matter how many promises you have been made when the government gives you something it is coming from someone else.

    Too many people just don't get that.

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    1. No not mad here, just blown away and dissppointed. The federal government is too big and bloated, but the term "federal employee" does not equal "living on stolen money"

      I'm sure if Dad knew he was a thief, then him and his buds would have just let those military pilots just take their chances during practice landings. What do you think about that, Harry? Did you ever have any federal thieves sitting out on the runway when you learned to fly in case your landing gear collapsed or you slid off the runway?

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    2. Ya know this is the problem when there is no more money who ya gonna get it from?

      I at least spent my time in the trenches, or more to the point standing with snow up to my ass in Germany but when they tell me there is no more money I am not going to expect them to take from others just to pay me off.

      The ultimate question will be who is going to be comfortable with what when the time comes?

      Seems some will be comfortable with just about anything.

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    3. Tell me then, just exactly where are you willing go draw the line, just what are you willing to do and just how far will you take things to stop this greviuos offense.

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    4. I know what I am NOT going to do. I am not going to support more taxes, I am not going to support the sale of public property, I am not going to support tax transfers from one geographical region to another, I am not going to support more bailouts for anything which are really just geographical transfers, I am not going scream for more taxes from one class to assure my own social security payments. The list goes on.

      When the time comes and I am told there is no money there to pay me I am going to roll with the punch because I saw well over a decade ago it was a sham and planned accordingly.

      There is still time for others to plan accordingly as well and I hope they do so. No I pray they do so or the only avenue left to pay the bills is going to require blood and more ripping of the Constitution.

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    5. And they will have to roll with it as well, they won't have a choice. And they can deal with it or die, and many will die because they didn't prepare.

      But I won't insult them in the meantime, just because they got suckered by the progressives.

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    6. When the government is taking and spending money against taxpayer will, that is theft. When they sell public assets to pay pensions that is theft. Calling a spade a spade should not insult anyone nor should it prompt insults in return.

      Apparently insulting people to try and give yourself a defender ego boost is acceptable though.

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    7. And lastly the entire value of the US, including business, property etc. is approximately 92 Trillion dollars. Long term expenses including all forms of government spending is estimated at being well over 200 trillion.

      Do the math. Once the artificial market bubble that is keeping pensions around 66% funded overall bursts there will be only one way to pay pensioners. Either in actual money or food etc. One way and that will be with a full blown property seizure just like Harry mentions about in this post.

      Unless these people who are on pensions, all pensions, are willing to say no the government will begin seizing property. There will be no other choice.

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    8. So calling hard working people thieves and crooks is calling a spade a spade, but when I disagree I'm insulting?

      OK then. Have it your way. Nothing either of us say will make a darn bit of difference anyway..... especially to each other.

      Go ahead, have the last word.

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    9. I said public pensions along with welfare was stolen money. I also said those who were getting them were understandably forced into it and never once even implied they should feel guilty for getting such payments or that such payments should be stopped before the ultimate ending comes.

      What I say is it's what they are doing with those payments now that is important and how far they are willing to allow the government to go to keep the money flowing when the SHTF so to speak.

      So go ahead make up a reason to be upset and justify your own personal attacks and insults for whatever actual reason you decided to jump. I have shown restraint in my own defense and stayed well within my own boundaries in this, just as I will when I don't get what I was promised from the government.

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  2. They better fork over my social security money. That's MY money. They took it without asking and I want it back. If they have to forgo building an aircraft carrier or a new fighter plan, too damned bad for them. >:-(

    Yeah, I saw you and Matt had a frank and open exchange of views about that. Hope nobody got too mad, just because of a disagreement.

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    1. They take many things without asking or bothering to approve how it is spent. What each of us have to ask ourselves is what are we going to approve the government do to get the money we feel they owe us? Where will we draw the line?

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    2. Once I get my social security and my wife gets hers, that's the time to draw the line. So they should wait until we are both getting ours, and then do away with social security and grandfather us in. Seriously. You know the old saying from the service "F**k you buddy, I got mine!" Or, as my brother the Cynic likes to say: "There is no us. There is only me."

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    3. The problem with that line is that it doesn't ever stop in the real world. You may in fact get social security but they may seize all our property to pay for it.

      Of course if you don't own property, or as in the case with Obummer care don't pay for insurance anyway, you don't care.

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    4. Harry, I am sorry but it is a "known" that your money was spent. SS is a transfer payment, not a savings plan.

      The only reason the system is "solvent" is because one side of the government writes I.O.U.s to another side.

      As a matter of fairness, you might want the government to make good on its promises, including the previously mentioned pension plans, but there are a lot of promises out there, including the promise to keep current services running.

      Calling the system "theft" however is using loaded words that aren't going to do anything to resolve the situation. "Foolish in the extreme" strikes me as a better choice of words.

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  3. Harry - it is one of the scariest books i have ever read and, although i make it a habit to re-read books many times if they have something to teach - i will never touch that book again. especially now. way too scary.

    we tend, as a people, to look at history as a series of events. for example, X happened in year 1. then Y happened in year two. then Z happened in year three. and we never really think about the fact that there are 12 months of stuff that happened in between each event.

    i can completely relate to a full down-grid situation where you would live off your stored preps...but what happens when your children are starving and you have run out of insulation for your oldest son? what do you do? preppers/survivalists/doomers can prepare, and think ahead, and watch shows like The Walking Dead, or read more serious survival fiction....but as you say - THIS has happened in other places on the earth and even good people, really and truly good people get pushed to their limits.

    Harry - if i were in the city, would i shoot someone in order to feed my family (cannibalism)? i think that i probably would. but here we have community and we are trying our best to fit in to this community so that in the event of what happened in Russia and former Yugoslavia - we could ban together and never do atrocious things to our souls in order to save our families.

    i kind of went off topic but it this is something that i have put many hours into thinking about. if and when things get crazy, i don't want to be pushed to the edge in order to feed my family. i want to already know how to grow and preserve food and be able to teach my community how to do it, too. THIS crap has happened in the world, many times through history, it's always ugly and unbelievable, and yet the majority of the world doesn't even consider it, think about it or care.

    sorry if i went off on a tangent. just got home from visiting our friends in fourchu...they lost their power at about noon. jamie helped get their generator going, we went and picked up some elderly folk who had no heat and brought them back to our friends house, made certain everyone was safe and then we had to leave to come home and make sure our cats were fed and safe and that our power was still on (we are on a different grid). we called them every hour and more people kept showing up at their place, and at other people's places who had generators. i'm happy to say that they just called to let us know that the power was back on - we were getting ready to go and pick up some people to bring them back here. but if the power goes out for good we need to ban together and this community is really good at that.

    i think i am still a little raw thinking about people not having heat. if i spend too much time thinking about people who will actually take the step to have to cannibalize someone in order to feed their children...i will cry for the rest of the night.

    thank you for these very informative posts. i am so glad that you are back Harry! sending much love to you and yours! your friend,
    kymber

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    1. teehee. woops that third paragraph should say "insulin" and not "insulation" - bahahahah! you can tell i have had a long day!

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    2. Kymber, I figured you folks were going to get some cold weather. Cincinnati has been Eastern Front stuff. My son was scrambling around all day today buying a heavy winter coat, gloves, a watch cap, and getting his antifreeze checked and a new battery. Last week the weather said it was going to be cold but nothing special there. Today they are calling for single digit lows and below zero on Tuesday. It must be something further North where you are.

      I haven't resolved the food issue, myself. Yes, I have a lot stored, but not enough for three years for the number of people that will be here if things go bad. I have never worried much about growing food because when we did try, the wild animals here at it or (in the case of hogs) ate it and then defecated on what they couldn't eat. But I am going to try this summer, because so many people (like you and J) raise potatoes and other good food on their own. I ought to be able to do that, even in this red clay.

      It was good of you to be out helping all those people. I am starting to think of all you Canadians in your little community like Munchkins, living in a little village and helping each other. Here it's more like sauve qui peut!

      I wouldn't worry about all the bad stuff that can happen until it starts to happen. Then watch out though because women are tenderer and the cannibals like to put them in the stew pot first! Anyway, with all the fish you catch, and the wild game there, and the food you grow, you will be ok come what may. You are all too far from a city to have to worry about the Golden Horde.

      J won't let the cannibals get you! ;-)

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    3. read a booklet from the library about raised bed gardens with one or two deep cement or cinder blocks. we have horrible clay and i got bursitis trying to mattock it into submission.
      get the black weed blocker-get the more expensive longer-lasting type-- and then i put down layers of cardboard over it.
      fill with the prescribed mix (a friend gives us sheep manure). ask people near you what can be raised on the clay. some crops on clay and others in the raised beds. also read about potatoes raised in leaf piles but haven't tried it yet. going to this spring, God willing.
      preparing is good common sense but thinking it will normalize in 3 years is unrealistic. we must depend upon God. but even then because this is a fallen world evil will continue to flourish.
      i am wondering if underground housing would be best in future because it is said to need little heating or cooling, like a cave.
      d h

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    4. d h
      I think the thing that stopped us in the past was more the issue of hogs and deer eating the garden. Nothing seemed to keep them out. But I haven't seen feral hogs near the place in some time now, and the deer seem to have fallen in number.

      I wasn't saying that everything would be "normal" again in three years. I used that figure in the context of the Russian Civil War. They had three years of total and complete societal disruption, but once the Bolsheviks triumphed over their internal and external challengers, Russian society began to reach what would be "normal " for them until the end of Russian communism. Not that it was a very pleasant or desirable "normal."

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  4. Harry Flashman,


    (captaincrunch)


    This subject matter is something I am very familiar with, ie collapse societies, etc.
    You guys already mentioned solutions, so I wont add to the same info. Ultimately I think our fate is already sealed. Our leaders are corrupt, incompetent, and many are just plain evil.
    I gave up on the national level once obamacare was passed despite public outcry. The only thing we can do is prepare for the demise of the United States and the eventually disorder that follows and hope we make it out alive on the other end. I am predicting the balkanization of the United States once the Federalist become so broke that the military can no longer keep things together as troops abandon their posts for the lack of being paid (or fed for that matter)

    I cite several books by Matthew Bracken. The Enemies, Foreign and Domestic Series. I recommend the final book (the blue one) if you were to read only one. My thought is that is the best and most thought out concept of the collapse I have read to date.

    On Kymbers Cannabalism craze, If I take a 62 grain green tip (bullet) I offer myself up to Kymber, her husband and their friends. Be Warned! I drink a large amount of caffeine (coffee) and I will keep 'my eaters' up for a week with no sleep. You may also find a large amount of undigested Peanut M&M's in my gullet that may be a bit 'ripe' but edible (I will include a recipe for Human Chili in my will)

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    1. CC: I think a lot of people subscribe to the same prognosis, in a number of different variables but still with the same theme.

      I think in the event of a starvation event, I will boil up my boots and saute my leather hat. After reading your musing on cannibalism, I may just go ahead and be a vegetarian now. ;-)

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    2. Captain Crunch, Sir, you are a true gentlemen and always thinking of others. a very giving man. we humbly thank you.

      bahahahahahahahaha! ya nutter!

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  5. On a personal note, my great grand parents dug all of their valuables into the garden wrapped in news paper and sack cloth. I think this is where I get all of my 'barter' skills from. And also don't forget they never ever forgot when the helped another. you really did owe your life to someone who gave you food. You had to reciprocate or the village ousted you. The children used to climb the trees in the copsed areas. and tie themselves on with any food they had so that the 'officials could not take it'.

    I will say one thing that is a very stark realisation, being that we are in the EU, people were very very worried about all the Poles coming. They are more worried now about the Bulgarians and Romanians but that is another comment for another time. But the Poles, just like the people who came from the West Indies in the 60's. They have come from somewhere worse than here.

    Communism and the teachings in the school (one that I know if being a book that has to be learnt), even now is Marx and hegeil (cant spell that). No one can deny that the Poles really do work. they work bloody hard. They do all the jobs Brits don't want to as they think they are above it. They band together. And they do what my nan used to call money bouncing in the community. They make the money and it passes between 4 and 15 times before it is spent in a place like Walmart or Tescos. That is how they become richer. Yes they send the money back to Poland and they live 6 or 7 people to one small house. I do not begrudge them the jobs. They work hard. and I think it is in them from an early age.

    the change to communism must have been so harsh and completely beyond anything I can comprehend. Like your picture says, we have to learn from the past to make the future better. We just have to pick the best bits of everything that has happened before and some how force it through.

    I can say at work I used to barter at least 3 times a week. kitchen scraps for eggs in winter, my surplus crops in summer for something I haven't been able to grow or even with someone who is the most excellent bread maker.

    The prices of food are already a problem here. That is why so many Brits are returning to growing food and keeping chickens. We can see it coming. We are digging in and trying the best we can. We just have to help each other the best we can.

    Transition towns are the way forward.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/9523903/Saudis-may-run-out-of-oil-to-export-by-2030.html

    we know the end of life as we know it is coming to an end.

    On a higher note, you could build something like a high fruit cage, digging the fence into the soil to stop pigs and foxes digging under. and then like the person above mentioned. Make raised beds, use the Lasagne treatment as mentioned with the card board. We cant keep up with eating it all in the summer and we have red clay like you.

    Good luck. (sorry about the massive comment)

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    1. Don't be sorry! Comments like this one make the work of blogging worth while. I am going to post your comment as it's own so people won't miss it. It's too good for just me to read.

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