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Mon Sep 3, 2012, 03:49 PM

CBC: And old book, The New Class, describes the 1% in the USSR and Yugoslavia -

members of a greedy elite that, while paying lip service to greater equality, became the owners of everything. Their share of wealth increased, they ate well while others starved, and they controlled the media and justice system to maintain their grip on power.

Why elites will always try to protect their wealth

The author, Milovan Djilas, was next in line to Yugoslav leader Josip Tito before writing this book. A member of Europe's most successful anti-Nazi underground during WWII, Djilas was a loyal communist and propagandist. He had meetings with Stalin. But in the early 1950s, Djilas discovered something about the communist revolution he didn't like. Djilas noticed the formation of a "new class" with fleets of cars and country houses at their disposal.

What was especially interesting about them, he writes, is that they truly believed they deserved these advantages for their efforts on behalf of the working classes. At the same time, Djilas noticed that the large majority outside this new class lived in virtual poverty. Instead of pursuing the original, idealistic goal of the revolution, which had become politically dangerous, this new class focused single-mindedly on crushing dissent and maintaining its wealth and power.

Ten years later, bushy-browed Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev became famous for his fleet of foreign cars, leading to the one-liner, "Comrade Brezhnev, what will you do when the revolution comes?" As Djilas discovered, reversing inequality, even in the midst of a Communist revolution, was an almost impossible task. The new elite had replaced the old and they weren't inclined to let go.

...gross inequality is established, it is really difficult to fix. As with the Communist Party bureaucrats, the rich in the West become convinced they deserve every penny. And like those bureaucrats, they stoutly maintain that their continued wealth is in everyone's interest.


I don't see the author as an apologist for the excess of capitalism and the current horrendous state of economic inequality, but as someone pointing out that there is a 1% in every system that has to be rooted out.

He certainly makes no attempt to deny that our current 1% needs to have that done to them. Rather he believes that the desire of the 1%, in any society, is to hold onto power at all costs.

Not sure what this teaches us about how to reign in our 1% in the capitalist US. He notes that the impoverished populations in the book eventually led to the collapse of those national economies, just as will happen in capitalist economies if the 99% are not empowered and rewarded. "A)n economy where everyone has a substantial stake will be richer, healthier and more productive than one where all the economic activity is concentrated among a small elite."

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Reply CBC: And old book, The New Class, describes the 1% in the USSR and Yugoslavia - (Original post)
pampango Sep 2012 OP
DBoon Sep 2012 #1

Response to pampango (Original post)

Mon Sep 3, 2012, 03:56 PM

1. Be wary of those who believe elites are inevitable

Fascism has been built on this.

The classical elite theorists Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca agued that whereas liberal and socialist analyses of societies were ideological and therefore based upon faith and belief rather than the scientific collection and analysis of empirical data, they themselves had discovered the fundamental scientific law that all societies, even those which appear to be democratic are ruled by small political elites which therefore rule over the "masses" in societies. Pareto distinguished between a small political elite which ruled over society as a result of its superior personal qualities and/or superior organisational skills and the mass of society which was made up of large numbers of unintelligent , irrational, apathetic and poorly organised individuals who could be easily manipulated by political propaganda carefully used by the political elite. In this respect we can see connections between elite theories and Sorel's emphasis on the importance of political myths and Le Bon's ideas on the irrationality of crowds as factors influencing mass behaviour. It is clear also that Pareto rejected completely the optimistic Marxist view of the revolutionary potential of the proletariat: for Pareto the working class was itself incapable of organising socialist revolution and any allegedly "socialist" revolution would result only in the rise to power of a new elite which would rule in its own interests rather than in the interests of the working class which it claimed disingenuously to represent. For Pareto real socialism was impossible while elite rule was inevitable.

Pareto believed that historical change involved the replacement of one elite by another elite, a process which Pareto called "the circulation of elites". In this process Pareto distinguished between political elites dominated by "foxes" who ruled primarily by manipulation and propaganda and "lions" who were prepared to use force to achieve and retain political power. As he became increasingly disillusioned with Italy's liberal political elite[ which he would have described as foxes] he was apparently to some extent drawn to the idea of a government dominated by "lions" and to support for Mussolini and the early fascist movement. Mussolini appointed Pareto a senator in 1923 [shortly before his death] but the historian James Joll argues that if he had lived longer Pareto would soon have criticised "the emptiness of Mussolini's political ideas.


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