Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Food For Thought: Bolsheviks And Billionaires

I just got around to reading a post at ZeroHedge that republishes and article that first appeared at The Mises Institute. I don't normally follow Libertarian sites, but I do try to keep an open mind. I've read various Libertarian authors--Hayek in particular--and freely acknowledge that I agree with much of what he has to say. It's simply that I disagree with Libertarianism as a global explanatory theory, or theory of everything.

Anyway, the piece has a title that's sure to attract the interest of people like me: 

Why America's Oligarchs Are Moving Left

As usual, you don't need to agree with everything the author says to derive some benefit from the article. The subject is Oligarchs, the ueber wealthy, the kind of people who turn up when the conversation turns to the Global Elite, the Great Reset, the ruling elite. You can get a pretty good idea of who these people are by looking at lists of donors to either major political party, or simply following the news to see who are the most influential people in the world. Of course, some fly under the radar, but for government work--so to speak--for the rough idea that forms the basis of the article, that will suffice.

What I'm reproducing here is the middle section of the article, which is what I found most insightful. No doubt many will find this old news, but the point is that the author expresses these insights well, in a readily digestible way. Obviously these insights can be extended greatly:

Bolsheviks and Billionaires

Although the Left has changed in its overall strategy, going from class-reductionist conflicts toward an identity politics focus over the course of the past century, there exist several commonalities between the contemporary left and its past iterations. Foremost of these is its elitist origins.

In his polemical work, Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, economic historian Antony Sutton uncovered the oligarchical backing of Bolshevism—the twentieth century’s most destructive political movement in terms of the body count and economic mayhem it unleashed in countries that embraced its precepts.

Contrary to the mythology that leftist historians have created, Bolshevism was no spontaneous uprising of workers, but rather a movement of elite aspirants. Lenin himself counted on a law degree and worked as a writer and political activist during his time in exile while living in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. Similar to Karl Marx, who relied on industrialist Friedrich Engels’s lavish patronage to subsidize his daily activities, prominent financiers such as Swedish banker Olof Aschberg helped bankroll Lenin and his revolutionary compatriots, Sutton’s work revealed.

It’s perhaps counterintuitive for financial heavyweights to throw their weight behind an individual and a movement advocating for the destruction of private property, but it makes sense when analyzing how rent-seeking economic actors behave in the context of state centralization.

The inherently centralist nature of socialist systems, even when policymakers make deviations around the margins, as seen with Lenin’s New Economic Policy, remains attractive to unscrupulous financial actors, who seek to exploit these features for the sake of easy profits while not facing any serious competition. Sutton observed how economic radicals and big financial interests can become strange bedfellows:

Bolshevists and bankers have then this significant common ground—internationalism. Revolution and international finance are not at all inconsistent if the result of revolution is to establish more centralized authority. International finance prefers to deal with central governments. The last thing the banking community wants is laissez-faire economy and decentralized power because these would disperse power.

Likewise, Ludwig von Mises acknowledged in Omnipotent Government how the salt of the earth are not the ones responsible for making collectivist political movements mainstream:

It is not true that the dangers to the maintenance of peace, democracy, freedom, and capitalism are a result of a “revolt of the masses.” They are an achievement of scholars and intellectuals, of sons of the well-to-do, of writers and artists pampered by the best society. In every country of the world dynasties and aristocrats have worked with the socialists and interventionists against freedom.

I see that I've bolded or highlighted virtually the entire section.


  1. Mark I appreciate your point on "you don't need to agree with everything the author says to derive some benefit"

    That is true with many things and something we should all do better with especially in our disagreements in political "sides".

    IMHO Libertarianism holds many merits within its philosophies, partially in it's economic and decentralization theory. They however loose me in the live and let live while pretending every threat can be met with pacification.

    1. Right. That's what I meant by saying that it doesn't offer a "theory of everything".

  2. No need to publish this, Mark, just letting you know you've got "ueber," "Obvoiusly," & "extennded" in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs.

    1. Thanks. Actually "ueber" is not a typo--it was intended. Adding an "e" is an alternative way to type the German umlaut. So, ae, oe, ue = ä ö ü. It's easier for me. Good examples for proper names: Goethe, Goering, etc.

  3. "They are an achievement of scholars and intellectuals, of sons of the well-to-do, of writers and artists pampered...."

    The "great insight" of Lenin was, to stress that the proletariat would *need* a Vanguard (the intelligentsia), to lead the charge toward the dictatorship of the proletariat, which would of course actually be a *dictatorship of the intelligentsia*, in the name of the proletariat.

    Once the intelligentsia faced, that most of the proletariat had become too smart/ content to fall for this scam, the intelligentsia sought and found greener pastures, amongst the Grievance Groups in the Western world, principally amongst embittered racial and Lifestyle minorities, and upper-middle class, "well educated" Professional women.

    And, the current oligarchic crowd has far less loyalty to their country of birth, than had the tycoons of old.
    The fall of the House of Krupp was a milestone in this process.
    A tycoon like Klaus Schwab would've been a gross anomaly in the Krupp's heyday.

  4. I'd say he's hit the nail on the head with his assessment re: rent-seeking economic actors behave in the context of state centralization.

    Inflationary pressure on housing costs, reduced access to credit, etc etc doesn't help the middle class. Lack of savings doesn't help the lower class. Throw in a pandemic where people lose jobs and homes due to politically induced lock downs doesn't help either.

    Then factor in the large amounts of capital sitting doing little or nothing. No wonder hedge funds and pension funds are going outside traditional investment instruments and buying up real estate (below is an example)

  5. Assuming by "Bolsheviks" we mean Soviet-style communists (Stalinist USSR, Maoist PRC, Kim'ist North Korea, etc.) as opposed to Western-European-style social-democrats, this theory is garbage.

    The is a reason why communists systems are dictatorships - they tolerate no competition. First thing (real) communists do when they get to power is eliminate any and all competition. If you are a Russian JP Morgan and it is Nov 1917, you should run like hell. Because the first thing the communists do is put all the financiers to the wall. Stalin had no use for (Russian) JP Morgan.

    1. Tell that to the Cadets, who purported to lean social-democrat, but who covered for the Reds, 'til it was far too late to matter.

    2. @anon

      Perhaps this is where labels like bolshevik do more to obscure than to reveal. I think we all understand what is conveyed-- that the apparent contradiction between big banks/big corp and marxist/socialist agitators is no contradiction afterall. In fact, it makes perfect sense (which may be one reason these malefactors use terms to cloud and disguise their alliances).

      What really seems to be happening is a rebranding of fascism a la China where the government uses and controls Big Corp and Big Tech but doesn't own them. This is exactly what we see in the US with ever greater chunks of the economy in the hands of the Bigs who happily do the bidding of the feds in return for concessions.


  6. It would change a lot faster if "many Americans" would speak out about the Marxist ambitions of the first black president who's still residing in DC not far from the White House and sitting in the board of NetFlix. It's sort of like the first boy at the dance to walk up to a girl and invite her to the dance floor. You're going to get smeared as a racist. It's going to happen. But you do it anyway. As it is I fear "it" will change so slowly as not to change at all. (Too late, too late, too late).
    Mark A