Is Communism really dead?
Is Communism really dead? by The Saker
This article was written for the Unz Review
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did mark the end of the longest experiment in Communism in recent history. Many saw this event as the proof that Communism (or Marxism-Leninism, I use these interchangeably here) was not a viable ideology. After all, if in Russia Communism was formally ended in 1991, the Chinese quietly shifted away from it too, replacing it with a uniquely Chinese brand of capitalism. Finally, none of the ex-Soviet “allies” chose to stick to the Communist ideology as soon as they recovered their freedom. Even Chavez’ brand of Communism resulted in a completely bankrupt Venezuela. So what’s there to argue about?
Actually, a great deal, beginning with every single word in the paragraph above.
Communism – the past:
For one thing, the Soviet Union never collapsed. It was dismantled from above by the CPSU party leaders who decided that the Soviet nomenklatura would split up the Soviet “pie” into 15 smaller slices. What happened after that was nothing more than the result of in infighting between these factions. Since nobody ever empowered these gangs of Party apparatchiks to dissolve the USSR or, in fact, to reform it in any way, their actions can only be qualified as a totally illegal coup. All of them, beginning with the Gorbachev and Eltsin gangs were traitors to their Party, to their people and to their country. As for the people, they were only given the right to speak their opinion once, on March 17, 1991, when a whopping 77.85% voted to preserve the “the USSR as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any nationality will be fully guaranteed” (see here for a good discussion of this now long-forgotten vote). There was no collapse. There was a coup or, even more accurately, a series of coups, all executed by traitors from the Party apparatus in total illegality and against the will of the people. Some will object that the fact that the Communist Party was full of traitors. But unless one can explain and prove that Communism systematically and somehow uniquely breeds traitors this accusation has no merit (as of Christians did not betray Christianity, democrats democracy or Fascists Fascism).
Second, is Communism a viable ideology? Well, for one thing, there are two schools of thought on that topic inside Marxists ideology. One says that Communism can be achieved in one country, the other says that no, for Communism to become possible a world revolution is necessary. Let’s first set aside the first school of thought for a while and just look at the second one. This will be tricky anyway since all we have to judge its empirical correctness is a relatively short list of countries. I already hear the objection “what? Ain’t Soviet Russia, Maoist China, PolPot’s Kampuchea and, say, Kim Il-sung’s DPRK not enough?”. Actually, no. For one thing, according to the official Soviet ideology, Communism as such was never achieved in the USSR, only Socialism. This is why the country was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Communism was seen as a goal, Socialism as an unavoidable, intermediate, transitional phase. To say that Communism failed in the USSR is just about as logical as to say that a half-built building failed to provide a comfortable shelter. China, of course, has not “failed” to begin with, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea as probably a (horrific) attempt at building a truly Communist society almost overnight, but that by itself contradicts the Historical/Dialectical Materialist Theory of Marxism which states the need for a transitional Socialist phase. As for the DPRK, it’s ideology is not Marxism or Communism, but Juche, at most a distant relative. So no, these few examples are hardly representative of anything, if only because the form a sample too small to be relevant and because none of them qualify as “test case”.