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Stefan

Lenin and 'State Capitalism'

On several occasions Lenin wrote or spoke about a phenomenon that he called 'state capitalism'. He took a favourable view of this phenomenon, regarding it as progressive. State capitalism, he argued, was not socialism but it was (or would be) a step forward toward socialism, especially for backward Russia.

Lenin first expressed this view in September 1917, the month before the Bolsheviks seized power, in a pamphlet entitled The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It. He reiterated it in March 1918 in an article on the 'Brest Peace' with Germany. He asserted the same view repeatedly during the last three years of his life (1921–24) –for example, in January 1923 in an article for a Russian émigrénewspaper ('To the Russian Colony in North America').  

Whatever Happened to 'The Vietcong'?

In the 1960s leftwing demonstrators used to chant 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh' and 'Victory to the Vietcong'. We look at what sort of society emerged following their victory in 1976.

In 1956, during a brief relaxation of censorship, a Vietnamese literary journal published a story by Tran Duy entitled The Giants. The giants in the story are created by God to help mankind fight the devils, but they end up trampling and killing more people than devils. The allegory was readily deciphered: the giants were the 'communist' party leaders, while the devils were the hated French colonialists, recently defeated at Dien Bien Phu (1954).
The history of the 'communist' movement in Vietnam cannot be summarised in a short article, but the timeline will help the reader place events in context.

Top-down organisation
    

"Better I die of radiation than my children of hunger..."

In the village of Orlovka, in the Chui region of Kyrgyzstan in post-Soviet Central Asia, there used to be a uranium mine. Its closure in the early 1990s led to massive unemployment in the area. But now the desperately poor local residents have found a new way to survive.

They sift through the waste dumped near the disused mine ­– "a moonscape of grey slag" – in search of material that they can sell to scrap merchants. There is iron and other metals, and graphite, but most valuable is silicon, which fetches $10 per kilo and ends up at electronics plants in neighbouring China. About a third of the diggers are children. Some of their teachers are there too, for they can't get by on the pittance called a salary. Injuries are frequent. Some people get buried alive when the holes they are digging cave in.

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