A Century Of Communism
The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution is to be celebrated this year.
A hundred years ago, a group of Communist revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to overthrow the first democratic government in Russian history. The new dawn they promised eventually became a nightmare for the millions of people who lived under Communist regimes. A group of European historians, in a book titled The Black Book Of Com\munism, estimated that 94 million people have been killed by Communist regimes around the world over the years.
The Communist ideology is derived, on the one hand, from the penetrating insights of Karl Marx on the contradictions of Victorian capitalism and, on the other, from the violent determination of Leninist regimes to impose their version of utopia on feudal societies.
• The few experiments with a more moderate version of Communism—in Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito or during the Prague Spring led by Alexander Dubček—were too insignificant to make a lasting impact.
• The liberal Menshevik regime in Georgia was crushed by an invading Bolshevik army in 1921.
• The spectacular collapse of Communism across Europe as well as the embrace of capitalism by the Chinese Communists destroyed the last remnants of credibility.
Why Communism failed?
• Capitalism in the advanced countries softened its hard edges in response to the Communist challenge.
• The industrial proletariat that Marx hoped would be the driving force of historical transformation lost its political clout in economies where services became more important.
• The innate failure of planning agencies to replace the price system as the primary institution of economic coordination amid rapid technological change ensured that Communist countries lost the race for global dominance.
• Hope of the emergence of a new socialist man driven by political commitment rather than economic incentives such as higher wages or property rights proved to be vacuous.
• The totalitarianism of the international Communist movement snuffed out all fresh thinking, and intellectual movements such as the New Left, Eurocommunism and analytical Marxism were treated as heretical.
Left parties on decline:
Any modern society needs a left to articulate the needs of the poorest.
The liberal consensus that has dominated the world since 1990, and which deserves at least some of the credit for the most spectacular decline in poverty in human history, is now being challenged by a resurgent nationalism in the developed countries. The working class in these countries has seen its incomes stagnate as industrial jobs were shipped abroad or lost to automation.
This working class has veered towards nationalist parties rather than the traditional left to articulate its grievances.
Left force in India:
In India, the left no longer has any power or influence.
Its opposition to economic reforms, its failure to grapple with the complexities of caste, its restricted base in pockets of labour aristocracy such as bank unions, its readiness to compromise with Muslim communalism in an attempt to oppose Hindu communalism, its loyalty to Stalinist methods—these are just some of the factors that have made it irrelevant.
Socialism is desirable. But, the problem is that what is true of an intimate group of people need not be true of large populations. The rules of intimate groupings cannot be imposed on the extended order unless one is prepared to use extreme violence. This is the big lesson of 100 years of Communism.