Capitalism vs. Altruism and the “Achievements” of the Soviet Empire

by | Jun 27, 2001 | Philosophy

The eminent philosopher Ayn Rand once observed that the really major battle in our time is not between capitalism and Communism. The really major battle is between capitalism and altruism.

The eminent philosopher Ayn Rand once observed that the really major battle in our time is not between capitalism and Communism. The really major battle is between capitalism and altruism.

Altruism is the moral doctrine that one should sacrifice oneself for the sake of others as the highest moral principle. As long as westerners accept the altruist ethics they will play into the hands of freedom’s enemies. As long as they accept the idea that self-sacrifice for others is an ideal they will be unable to mount a principled resistance to socialism — since socialism is the political means to bring about the ethics of self-sacrifice.

The history of the Soviet Union shows this clearly. It is because of the influence of altruism that the West’s politicians and capitalists have repeatedly saved the Soviet empire from collapse.

In 1921, just a few years after the Russian Revolution, production had almost ceased in the Soviet Union. The “masses” were starving. Quoting from East Minus West Equals Zero:

“When H.G. Wells travelled by train through Russia in 1920 he saw from his compartment window a miserable landscape of untilled fields and idle factories…’ Russia in 1920′ he wrote ‘presented an unparalleled example of civilization in a state of complete collapse; the railway tracks were rusting and becoming gradually unusable, the cities were falling into ruin’ ” (East Minus West Equals Zero, 195)

If the trend had continued the Communist state would have fallen. But the Western, semi-Capitalist countries came to the rescue.

Herbert Hoover, who later became the U.S.A.’s president, built up an international organization for providing the Soviet Union with food. The U.S.A. alone sent 700,000 tons of food. Other Western countries sent food also. The food from the West prevented the Soviet Union from collapsing in a nationwide famine.

It was the morality of altruism that caused the food aid. Many leaders in the West felt sorry for the Russians. After all, it was not the ordinary Russian workers’ and farmers’ fault that the Communists had taken over the country. So why should they starve to death just because Lenin’s policies were insane? So reasoned the altruistic leaders in the U.S.A. and Western Europe.

Countless millions of people around the world have paid with their lives for the altruists’ rescue of the Soviet Union. That the Communist regime survived has namely enabled it to cause even more devastation.

If the course of events had been allowed to proceed in a natural way then several tens of millions of Russians probably would have starved to death in the first years of the 1920s. That would have had two positive effects.

For one thing the Communists would have lost their power in Russia.

For another the opponents of socialism around the world would have been able to point at the Soviet Union and say — “See there, they instituted socialism in Russia and the Russians starved to death!”. But because of the food aid the world’s socialists were instead able to point at the Soviet Union and say — “See there, they instituted socialism in Russia and the Russians did NOT starve to death!”. Thereby socialism’s reputation was saved — and the socialists could later institute slavery and mass murder in dozens of other countries in the world also.

The Soviet Union’s parasitism on the West has continued for the entire entity’s history. During the 1920s and the 1930s the Moscow regime fooled Western business firms and capitalists into industrializing the Soviet Union. These business firms and capitalists were obliged to form joint ventures with the Soviet government. The former contributed the knowledge and the capital — the latter contributed only cheap labor (not seldom literal slave labor).

The American automobile industry’s creator Henry Ford was lured into building up the Soviet Union’s automobile industry. The great American dam builder Hugh Cooper led the construction of the giant hydroelectric plant at Dnieprostroi in Ukraine. The Swedish S.K.F. corporation built up the Soviet Union’s ball bearings industry. And so forth. The American Arthur G. Mackee Company built the famous steel works at Magnitogorsk. Quoting again, from East Minus West Equals Zero about the building of the steelworks at Magnitogorsk by the Arthur Mackee Company:

“The biggest blast-furnace installations in the world were going up on another part of the site, a job undertaken and completed entirely by the Americans. Eight blast-furnaces were built, each over sixty feet high, with a capacity of 1,500 cubic yards and generating 1,000 tons of iron per day. At that time there were only eight such giants in the whole United States.”

“The Bolsheviks had been far-sighted. The Mackee Company would only have fulfilled their part of the contract when Magnitogorsk was in full production, with Russian personnel, and running smoothly. The Americans were to run training courses for Russian technical personnel and, furthermore, were to send the workers and specialists whom they had thus trained to the United States for further specialized technical instruction.” (East Minus West Equals Zero, 212)

All these “socialist achievements” were created by Western businessmen. But the Moscow regime, thanks in part to the Western media, succeeded at keeping that fact unknown to most of the world’s public. Which made socialism still more attractive to envious mediocrities around the world who had daydreams that they did not need the capitalists.

The pragmatic Western businessmen who industrialized the Soviet Union hoped to make money by it. I think they were motivated by pragmatism, and a disregard for moral and political principles. To them, trading with a slave state was no different then trading with a free country. The Western businessmen who industrialized the Soviet Union hoped to make money from it, while the morality of altruism provided the justification for easing their consciences when they made their deals with a brutal dictatorship — they probably told themselves that they were doing a good deed of self-sacrifice.

In 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The German armies cut through the Russian defenses like a warm knife through butter. The Soviet Union was about to lose the war against the Nazis. But once again the U.S.A. saved the Soviet state. The U.S.A. instituted the “Lend-Lease” program — which meant that America shipped copious amounts of weapons, machinery, raw materials and food to the Soviet Union. Because of the U.S.A.’s aid the Soviet state not only survived but also managed to repel the Nazi armies and conquered Eastern Europe. Then the Moscow regime managed, with the help of the West’s intellectuals, to establish the myth that it was primarily due to the Soviet Union that Nazi Germany was defeated in the Second World War. Socialism’s reputation was inflated still more, and still more countries were taken over by socialists during the postwar period. It is important to bear in mind that Nazi, or National Socialism, was socialism under the fascist method, or socialism by a facade of deceit, whereas the socialism under communism is simply naked socialism.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. The Western countries could not prop up the Communist regime forever. But what a price humanity has had to pay for the aid to the Soviet Union that altruism has caused! It is estimated that in the Soviet Union alone 70 million people were killed by the Communists. In addition something like 100 million people have been murdered by the Communists in other countries — such as China, Cuba and Cambodia. In addition the Nazis might perhaps not have been able to come to power in Germany if the Soviet state had collapsed in a famine in the 1920s. Socialism’s reputation might have gotten such a bad reputation that Hitler’s National Socialist party would not have had a chance to win the support of the Germans.

But it is still not too late to save the world’s survivors from altruism. There are promising signs of the rise of individualism. More and more young people believe that they have a right to live for their own sake and to pursue their own happiness. People are learning to recognize that life is not a zero sum game, and that someone’s gain is not at someone loss, but a win-win situation is possible under the trader principle where individual’s voluntary trade for their mutual benefit.

Today, successful entrepreneurs and capitalists are viewed by growing numbers of young people as heroes and not as villains. The clearest example of this are polls of Americans who oppose the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft and look up to its prime mover, billionaire Bill Gates. More and more of the young think that it is virtuous to make money the American way: by producing values and earning it.

These signs of improvement in our culture are probably a result of the indirect influence of Objectivism. Most Swedes have not yet ever heard of this philosophy and its creator. But Ayn Rand’s books have been read by millions of people around the world. Rand’s ideas have spread through the culture like rings on water. The world’s best hope today is that more people discover Objectivism by means of for example reading such books as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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