Monday, March 31, 2003

Echoes of past spin, part 1
By March 1932 Soviet agriculture was in chaos. Forced collectivization and de-kulakization had thoroughly disrupted the federation's black earth heartland. Successful peasants, denounced as kulak enemies-of-the-people, were the first to be subjected to the new policies. Many responded by destroying their grain and animals and fleeing to the woods. The party responded by encouraging pogroms and by deporting whole villages to Siberia. Enraged at the resistance, Stalin ordered the rate of collectivization speeded up. While the leaders in Moscow warned that there was not enough machinery to equip the new collective farms local party leaders herded all peasants, regardless of their official class status, into collectives. Ten million families were uprooted in six weeks, often a bayonet point. Another million were deported. Most never returned. Two thirds of the sheep and goats in the country were killed and half of the cattle, pigs, and horses. The last was especially tragic as their loss deprived many of the surviving farmers of their only means to plow the fields. The violence and chaos fell especially hard on the non-Russian areas in the south: the Ukrainians and Kazhaks. Eventually around fourteen million would die from famine, labor camp abuses, or execution (the exact number is unknown and highly debated). In March, through the medium of a letter to Pravda, Stalin called a halt to collectivization. He shifted the blame for problems to overzealous local officials. Still, his overall tone was positive about collectivization. The letter was entitled, "Dizzy with Success."

Last week it became apparent that the administration had seriously underestimated the Iraqi government and people. The war was not going to be the "cakewalk" we were assured it would be. The happily liberated crowds failed to turn up. The Republican Guard hung on to Basra. Guerrillas began to harass our extended supply lines. Generals began to murmur about the lack of heavy infantry and cite civilian meddling in the planning process for their beginning the invasion with insufficient numbers. The lack of a second front in the North began to look like a major problem, not the it-would-be-nice-to-have but ultimately expendable detail we were assured it was. But yesterday and today, everyone in the administration is back on the same page in their hymnals. Everything is going just dandy, they assure us. General Franks says what we have accomplished so far is "remarkable." Sec. Rumsfeld, while denying responsibility for the problems the army isn't having, says they are "doing a really, truly outstanding job." The leader of the free world says we are "moving closer to victory."

What made me think of "Dizzy with Success" this morning? I dunno, it was just one of those things.

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