Anti-Communist Lie: There Was No Reward for Working Harder under Communism

Epgah writes:

And don’t forget in Communism, there was no reward for working hard vs. hardly working. Look up the old joke, “We Pretend To Work, They Pretend To Pay Us”.

Obviously there is quite a bit of truth to this, and Cuba is experiencing this at this very moment. The old joke was made up by Russian workers in the USSR. However, I have also read interviews with the same workers who said “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us,” and those workers also said, “Look, we don’t have to worry about a thing. We can’t get fired and there’s no unemployment. We will always have a place to live, food to eat, access to transportation, medical care and cultural activities no matter what.” They no longer had to worry about basic survival.

However, it was never 100% true, and it is certainly not true anymore. Material incentives were introduced early on even in Maoist China, appearing as early as the 1950’s. Those who worked harder than others received monetary bonuses. This was one of the things Mao was trying to get rid of with his Cultural Revolution.

Further, from the very start of Mao’s revolution, the peasants were organized into cooperatives, not communal farms. The excessively rapid effort to turn cooperatives into communal farms resulted in the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward. However, in only one year of GLF was the death rate even a bit higher than it was in 1949. So even during the GLF famine, the death rate was considerably lower than it was pre-revolution. If you want to know why so many Chinese peasants have Mao portraits in their homes, that’s your reason right there. Yes, people died, but even more people would have died if they kept the pre-revolutionary system, so people did not see it as such a bad thing.

The GLF was so catastrophic that reformists in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tried to switch a lot of communal farms back to cooperatives. Even under Mao, peasants had to turn over a certain amount of the harvest to the state – the quota. Anything above that quota, they could keep to eat or even to sell.

Under the present Chinese system, even in the state enterprises, your check depends on how much you produce. Most state firms are actually run by small municipalities, and all state firms are still formally owned by the workers who work in them (a Maoist achievement). So the more money your enterprise makes, the bigger your check. The state gives each worker a slice of 100% of the proceeds from the enterprise, but then it deducts 95% of that for running the enterprise and as income for the state to be distributed all around. So you get back a slice of 5% of what the enterprise earned.

The state enterprises that are the most successful build sort of “company towns” where workers are provided with housing, education, health care, etc. for free simply for working for the enterprise. The more successful enterprises are able to build nicer housing and provide more amenities for their workers, so workers tend to move around looking to work at the most successful enterprises. And I believe state firms even compete against each other.

In Cuba, there were eight different levels of pay grades even under the hardcore Communist system. At the moment, the differences are even more stark. Your average Cuban takes home only ~$20/month, but it doesn’t really matter because everyone owns their home free and clear, and everything is so cheap. For instance, a bowl of ice cream at a state shop costs maybe 2 cents, and it’s not bad.

Even during hardcore Communism, only 12% of Cuban farms were state farms. Most were cooperatives and many of these now operate for a profit I think. And Cuba has always allowed maybe 20% of the total farms as private farms where the farmers either owned or rented the land. These private farms were also the most productive of all. However, they were limited in size to 150 acres.

In Cuba now, although the average wage is $20/month, the state pays IT workers an incredible $1,500-2,000/month, which is almost 100X the average wage. Furthermore, many people are running their little restaurants and food stands or selling this, that or whatever, and they can make however much money they are able to make. However, as they start making more and more money, the tax rate rises. Nevertheless, owners of small restaurants say it is still worth it to bring in more money even as the tax rate goes up.


Filed under Agricutlure, Asia, China, Cuba, Economics, Government, History, Labor, Latin America, Left, Maoism, Marxism, Modern, Regional, Socialism

15 responses to “Anti-Communist Lie: There Was No Reward for Working Harder under Communism

  1. Actually Pretty Funny

    “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us,” and those workers also said, “Look, we don’t have to worry about a thing. We can’t get fired and there’s no unemployment. We will always have a place to live, food to eat, access to transportation, medical care and cultural activities no matter what.” They no longer had to worry about basic survival.

    That’s exactly the problem. Communism lacks Economies of scale.

    It’s a system based on FAITH. For an example, in my father work team, there were 10 people, and only 3 actually did the working. The BRAIN(electronics) work was almost entirely done by him.
    The three who did work was paid slightly better than the rest, but just slightly. Base salary is the same.
    That is something quite visible as electronics products, more abstract stuffs like arts were often judged by the mood of Dear Leader. Which ranged from jail, execution to public praising, awards and honors.
    My father has never had FAITH, but he has Aspergers, he hasn’t know that but that’s why the system somewhat worked for him. I think he enjoyed solving electronics problems. The other seven were the ones who created such jokes. They had nothing better to do in working time. In Russia workers drank vodka while on work.
    Now if the three working ones had all fled to somewhere else, that would’ve been funny. In fact the two others had quit their jobs every two or three years, after learning enough knowledge to work better paid jobs outside the system, and another two came.
    The seven left would’ve been mourning the USSR if they had been Russians.
    That mindset also infected the whole system. It also explains Chernobyl.
    In Chernobyl, up to that point everyone had been pretending to work, and perhaps some actually’d been working. That night, everyone decided to return home, and left the reactor to two inexperienced technicians. It exploded.
    A more serious problem is that managerial positions were distributed based on FAITH.
    The bulk of the workers would never vote, in case they do have the right to vote, for someone in the minority, the ones who actually work. They would vote for their “friends”, the ones who have devised better ways to cheat the system.

    At the end FAITH dwindles. The system collapses.

    Of course people would come to Venezuela and enjoy some of the social benefits there, as much as the workers cited above. But the problem is people who do make the place habitable have mostly quit.

    The Bolivarianists has cheated the Vietcong once. That year Vietnam was on the rise, oil and all, and the Venezuelans came and discuss “friendly business plans.” They showed an area to their guests and proposed: “There are oil in that place. We will sell you the right to extract for an reasonable price for we need money.”
    Of course there was no oil in the area.

    • EPGAH

      What? A system where electronic experts and drunk slackers are treated equally might lead to disaster when they find out the equivalent of Kum&Go Clerks can’t run a nuclear plant?

      I didn’t even THINK about the Economy of Scale angle, but to me, the system rewards doing as little as you can to get by, which INHERENTLY punishes the hard workers or those who EARNED the title of “expert”! I.e., those who know what they’re doing!

      It’s not an accident that it’s Adam Smith’s name on the quote “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent”!

  2. Johnny

    This was the initial Marx POV that morphed into social democrats and so on. Western Marxists evolved into the success stories of Western Europe so it’s kind of a moot point ultimately. Crony capitalism fails to address the other extreme of income inequality and pretends that this isn’t a problem even if wages stagnate and decline. How can one not see a correlation between the decline of unions as part of collective bargaining as well as a livable minimum wage and what American CEOs and other execs are paid? American CEOs are paid significantly more than their German and Japanese counterparts for example:

    Has this led to better corporate outcomes? Highly dubious. Would that money they receive be better served distributed to workers? Yes it would. They would actually spend it and stimulate the economy. This is really basic stuff frankly.

    And let’s add a few things here. Socialism is not communism which is also not social liberal democracy. These ideologies share a space in the political spectrum (or quadrant scale) just as conservatism shares similarities to fascism, but they aren’t the same thing. Wanting more people to take part and succeed and for there to a be a balance between individuals and society is what most democracies espouse. Thus, when policy positions pushback on this, then that’s when a discussion of policy is relevant and not labels used to simply end the discussion.

    • EPGAH

      How can one not see a correlation between letting in more of the Third World and the stagation/decline of wages?

      Wanting more people to take part is a good thing, but giving them money if they don’t, just ensures they don’t have to, so they won’t!
      Read “Actually Pretty Funny” above!

      • Johnny

        You assume that poor immigrants never improve their lot. Did the Italians who came here as poor labor stay that way at the turn of the 20th century? Did the Chinese, Koreans, Germans remain as they were? You’re repeating the mistake people made during the early 20th century and assuming everything is static and nothing changes. And they’re only coming because companies want their cheap labor (or promise them jobs). Do you want to work in the fields under a hot sun for less than minimum wage? Or be a dishwasher or mow lawns? The recent Central American refugees are fleeing the drug wars and the Obama administration has actually turned many of them away:

  3. Jason Y

    Why, of course you get a reward for doing well under Communism. For instance, I know of this Soviet doctor who earned a Special Olympics medal. 😆 See, everybody is a winner.

    • Johnny

      The party faithful lived quite well actually, especially those at the top. I’d label the Soviets Totalitarian Communists (since they never enacted a system that empowered workers but instead put their party officials at the top) rather than say the Communists of say some parts of India:

      Turns out it depends upon how democratic communism is and other factors. Communists in India have worked in a social democratic fashion that mirrors that of Europe and it has worked to reduce all the most adverse social indicators for decades. Add to this, the shift China has made and we see that it’s not about strict ideology, but rather adaptation and problem-solving. I would say that capitalist societies can come at solving social issues as well IF they take a democratic public responsible approach (as with Singapore et al). Here in the US, we have done well when we’ve struck a balance between the public good and individuals. There’s a definite convergence here that leads back to assessing the problems and looking for solutions minus blind allegiance to ideology.

      • EPGAH

        Thing is, in America, and increasingly Europe, THE public is not OUR people, so we don’t care about their well-being.

        Make them their own country’s problem again, and you’ll see a sudden resurgence in caring about the poor when they’re OUR poor–or when the poverty is NOT caused by being replaced by Third World scabs!

        The Moslem Cult invaders are doing a great job of overtaxing the social safety nets, and making them regret erecting them, and America has Moslems AND Mexicans mooching off ours!

        Where’s the adaptation and problem-solving about that, OTHER THAN TRUMP?
        In order for Libs to look for a solution to Third World invasion, they’d have to admit it was a problem. Right now, the Left’s discourse is “Aww, the poor little Third World invaders! How can we make them more comfortable, no matter what the cost to our people?”
        That is neither responsible nor democratic!

        • Johnny

          Muslims in the US are 0.9% of the population:

          They are also economically on par and doing better than most demographic groups in the US.

          What Mexican invasion are you talking about? Are you also conflating US-born Latinos with all illegal immigrants (Mexicans comprise about half of them) and assuming they’re all Mexicans? That’s incorrect and Mexican immigration to the US is now in reverse:

          Trump has no real solutions. We don’t need a wall, the US border is very well policed. Most illegals come here legally and just never leave given the high level of traffic:

          If Trump actually studied data he’d know that. What’s more it’s laughable that he thinks Mexico would pay for a wall that would serve no purpose anyway and nearly every US corporation would come down on him for trying. We do trade them.

          It might help to actually look at real data and not just select something and get riled up about it. And if you’re looking to Trump for answers, I don’t know what to tell you. His policy solutions to everything is “I’ll study it and fix it.” Given his slate of bankrupt businesses and that he’s really just a reality show star, he’s about as qualified to be President as Sarah Palin was and even less so actually.

        • EPGAH

          We have had 11 Amnesties–and yes, I realize the first was Reagan’s, OK?
          But we still have 20 MILLION illegals if you believe the Bum, and 50 MILLION if you believe Calderon. Strangely, I believe the enemy’s liar more than ours.
          The new Mexican President is even MORE insulting and calls America the “Other Mexico”!
          Even if it’s “just” 20 MILLION, that’s more than a lot of countries’ whole population! Including Norway and Sweden–put together!

          Compare our border to Mexico’s southern border, and tell me again how “secure” OUR border is? Plus, we don’t have a train running the height of our country to dump OUR illegals on Canada. Mexico has a train running from their southern border to ours.

          How blind or corrupt are they to somehow miss all those illegals? Or do they not really care because soon that’ll be AMERICA’S problem, not theirs?

          We trade GOODS with them, not supposed to trade people since 1865, right?

          A lot of those kids turn out to be kidnapped. And the ones that aren’t? These “orphans” suddenly have families they want to let into our country.
          Family Reunification should be reserved for productive citizens in good standing as a REWARD, not considered a birthright!
          Immigration needs to serve OUR needs, not the invaders, right?
          And again, what filtering is there? Why is there a sudden outbreak of everything from Chagas to Chikungya in America?
          And other diseases we thought we’d extincted half a century ago?

          Thank you for that link, once again it proves I had the right of the REASONS for the “reverse immigration” as you call it:
          “Unintentional factor such as weakening US economy in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and increased violence in the north of Mexico has made attempting illegal border crossings more risky and less rewarding.”
          Rats are leaving the sinking ship and it’s dangerous for more to invade.

          Trump’s policy is to study and fix it? The Bum’s has been “I Know More Than You, I Know More Than My Advisors”! And yet, the Bum has been an epic disaster from economy to immigration to terrorists (He calls it “Workplace Violence”)
          So if someone will actually STUDY it rather than act like they know all the answers (AND prove they don’t), I prefer that approach.

          Which businesses exactly are bankrupt? Trump Tower’s there, Trump casino, his bimbo pageant…How many BILLIONS have you made, and do you have your own pageant to pick trophy wives?

          As to the Moslems, have you actually BEEN to Minnesota? It’s looking more and more like Somalia…And they send money to Somalian pirates! Or Dearborn, where the Moslems stone the Christians?
          Obviously Moslems are a powerful subgroup, demanding everything from special microwaves in PRISON, to PAID prayer-breaks during work hours, and GETTING most of their demands. Problem is, they only care about minority rights when THEY are the minority. Once they become the majority in an area, they squelch everyone’s rights!

          And it only takes ONE to shoot up a military base, and it only takes TWO to shoot up a hospital! And I mean a REAL hospital (San Bernadino) not an abortion clinic. Plus as more pour in, there’s an increased chance of a Paris-like coordinated attack.
          Did you actually read Robert’s other article? The Bum hasn’t bothered vetting them, because refugees!
          The head of the FBI admits they’ve already found ISIS agents.

          As to overstaying visas, that’s another good point! Why aren’t they picked up and ejected? What is the delay here, exactly?

        • Johnny

          You’re missing the point. Illegals mostly come here legally. If you want to curtail legal movement into and out of this country that’s a different discussion and a wall is just dumb in this case. This isn’t like keeping out the Mongols if you’re medieval China.

          Yes, Trump has no clue actually. He constantly spouts things about immigrants being murderers and rapists when one of the links I provided also shows they do less of this than the American average. And do you really believe the Obama (or even the Bush) administrations don’t do studies? I can post a slew of them on every topic. If you’re falling for his line, hey that’s fine. You can vote for him. I’m not interested.

          Once again, you pick the worst examples and claim that 2.8 million people are responsible. Do you not see the logical fallacy there? There’s no such thing as 100% security. Do you want to ban guns and militias to prevent mass shootings as well then? No, just Muslims because some have committed crimes? Yeah again, you have no data to support that these are real problems that are worse than the other real problems we have face like pollution and the environment and income inequality. You have a significantly better chance of dying while driving your car than you do from a Muslim terrorist or an illegal immigrant.

          The conservative blogosphere has created a world that cuts off data analysis and looks to some examples of the “other” to then paint entire populations as the problem. I’m sorry, but I don’t see it. Nor do I see any real viable solutions coming from Trump and company.

  4. siberiancat

    An average engineer or a doctor was paid less than an average industrial worker in USSR. That’s a fact.
    However people at the top of the intellectual professions were paid very well, and also were eligible for state prizes. T

    • Johnny

      Yes, that’s a good point to raise. There were attempts to create a meritocracy, but one that didn’t imagine the road the Chinese took.

      • EPGAH

        And yet, they left a pair of (the equivalent of) convenience-store clerks to run a nuclear reactor and were surprised when they couldn’t handle it!

  5. EPGAH
    Here’s a long discussion of Great Leap Forward, the deaths, the murders of idiot farmers who tried to get their food back…and the coverup. It’s by Frank DiKotter, who literally wrote the book about the subject!
    I don’t know if your local library/bookstore would carry that book?

    Like I said, they wouldn’t mind the Government taking a vig, but not ALL of it to “prove” how much more productive Communism was!

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