sexta-feira, 27 de outubro de 2017

Is Communism really dead?

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”.
Now coming back to “Communism cannot be achieved in one country” argument, let’s
look at it from a pure red-white-n-blue kind of Merican ideological position and
remember that the proponents of US-style capitalism like to remind us that
Reagan’s arms race is what bankrupted the Soviet Union which could not keep up
with it. Other proud American patriots also like to say that, well, the USA
brought down the price of oil, making it impossible for the Soviets to continue
spending and that thois fall in prices is what made the Soviet economy collapse.
Personally, I find these arguments both stupid and ignorant, but let’s accept
them as self-evidently true. Does that not show that the USSR collapsed due to
external factors and not due to some inherent internal flaw?
Modern training (I don’t call it “education”) does not really emphasize logic,
so I will rhetorically ask the following question: if we accept that Capitalism
defeated Communism prove that Communism was not viable or that Capitalism is
superior? To the many (alas) who will answer “yes” I would suggest that if you
lock a hyena and a human being in a cage and force them to fight for resources,
the human is most unlikely to win. Does that prove that the human is not viable
or the hyena “superior”?
Marxism-Leninism clearly states that Capitalism is build on the oppression of
the weak and that imperialism highest stage of Capitalism. We don’t have to
agree with this argument (though I personally very much do), but neither can it
be dismissed simply because we don’t like it. In fact, I would argument that
disproving it should be a key element of any serious refutation of Communism.
But to keep things short, all I will say is this: any person who has actually
traveled in Asia, Africa or South America will attest that the Communists (USSR,
China, Cuba) actually sent immense amounts of aid including raw materials,
technologies, specialists, doctors, military advisors, agronomists,
water-sanitation engineers, etc. In contrast, ask anybody in these continents
what Capitalism brings, and you will get the same answer: violence, exploitation
and the support for a local Comprador ruling gang. To anybody arguing with this
I could only recommend one thing: begin traveling the world.

[Sidebar: So yes, using the hyena as a symbol of Capitalism in my allegory above
is fair. As for the ‘cage’ – it is simply our planet. What I do think is wrong
is equating Communism with a human being. But that at this point of our
conversation is my own private opinion and not an argument at all. I have been
an anti-Communist my entire life, and I still remain one, but that is hardly a
reason for me to accept logically flawed and counter-factual anti-Communist
At this point in the conversation my typical Capitalist interlocutor would
bombard me with a fully or short slogans like “dude, in every Communist society
people vote with their feet, have you forgotten the Boat-People, the Marielitos
or the folks jumping over the Berlin Wall?” or “every single country in Eastern
Europe rejected Communism as soon as the Soviet tanks left – does that not tell
you something about Communism?”. Usually the person delivering these slogans
gets a special glee in the eye, a sense of inevitable triumph so it is
especially rewarding to observe these before debunking all this nonsense.
Let’s begin with the feet-voting argument. It is utter nonsense. Yes, true, some
people did run away from Communist societies. The vast majority did not. And
please don’t give me the “their families were held hostage” or “the secret
police was everywhere to prevent that”. The truth is much simpler:
On the “push side”: All the famous waves of people emigrating from Communist
societies are linked to profound crises inside these countries, crises which
have had many causes, including mostly external ones.
On the “pull side”: In each case, a powerful Western propaganda system was used
to convince these people to emigrate promising them “milk and honey” if they
I am sorry if I have to burst somebody’s naïve illusions, as somebody who has
worked for several years as a interpreter-translator interviewing applicants for
the status of political refugee I can attest that the vast majority of political
refugees are nothing of the sort: they mostly are economic refugees and a few
are social refugees, meaning that some personal circumstances made them decide
that emigrating is better than staying. I have interviewed hundred of refugees
from the Soviet Union and all their stories of political repression were
laughable, especially to a person like me who knew how (the very real) political
repression in the Soviet Union actually worked. To those who would claim that,
well, Communism inevitably results in economic crises I would just refer to the
discussion above about what, if anything, we can conclude from the few examples
of Marxist societies in history.

[Sidebar: Unlike 99.99% of the folks reading these words, I actually spent many
years of my life as an well-known anti-Soviet activist. I traveled to various
ports where Soviet ships were anchored to distribute anti-Soviet literature, I
made list of buildings where Soviet diplomats used to live to deliver
anti-Soviet documents into their mailboxes, I helped send money to the families
of Orthodox Christians jailed in Soviet prisons and labor camps, I arranged
illegal contacts with Soviet citizens traveling abroad (truckers, artists, naval
engineers, clergy, circuses – you name it). And there are things which I did
which I still cannot publicly discuss. And while I never took part in any
violent action, but I sure did everything I could in the domain of ideological
warfare to bring down Communism in Russia. As a result, the (now-defunct) KGB
had me listed as a dangerous provocateur and posted my photo in the offices of
specific Soviet offices abroad (like the Sovhispan in Spain) to warn them about
me. And let me tell you the truth – most of those Soviet citizens who disliked
the Soviet system never even tried to emigrate. The issue here is not hostage
families or the “almighty KGB’ but the fact that you love your country even when
you hate the regime in power. Worse, most of those who did defect (and I
personally helped quite a few of them) were mostly miserable once they came to
the West, their illusions shattered in less than a year, and all they were left
with was a ever-present nostalgia. For that reason, I personally always advised
them not to emigrate. If they insisted, some did, I would help. But I always
advised against it. Now, many years later, I still think that I did the right
Finally, as to the Soviet “allies” in Eastern Europe their rejection of
Communism is as logical and predictable as their embrace of Capitalism, NATO,
the EU and the rest of it. For decades they were told that the West was living
in peace and prosperity while they were living in oppression and misery, and
that the evil Russians were the cause of all their unhappiness. The fact that,
when given the chance, they then rushed to embrace the American Empire was as
predictable as it was naïve. Remember, history is written by victors and only
time will really tell us what legacy Communism and Capitalism will leave in
Eastern Europe. What we do know is that even though the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan resulted in a horrible and vicious war, and even though the people
of Afghanistan also appeared to fully embrace the “kind patronage” of the USA
and its allies, things are now already beginning to change and that the years of
secular rule and even the Soviet occupation are now being re-visited by an
increasing number of historians and Afghan commentators who now see it in a much
more nuanced way than they would have in the past. Just a simple comparison of
the daily life of Afghans before and after the Soviet invasion or a comparative
list of what the Soviets and the Americans actually built in the country tells a
very different story (even the Americans today are still using Soviet-built
facilities, including the now infamous Bagram air base). Careful for the
logically-challenged here: I am not making an apology for the Soviet invasion
here, all I am saying that the wisdom of “embracing the other side” cannot be
judged in the immediate aftermath of a “switch” in allegiance – sometimes
several decades or more are needed to make an balanced assessment of what really
took place.
My point in all of the above is simple: the official imperial propaganda machine
(aka “the media” and “the educational system”) has tried to present a simple
narrative about Communism when, in reality, even a small dig a tad deeper than
the superficial slogans immediately shows that things are much, much, more
complicated than the crude and comprehensibly false narrative we are being
presented with.
Communism – the future:
Here I will immediately lay down my cards on the table and state that I believe,
and even hope, that Communism is not dead and that, in fact, I think that it
still have a long and most interesting future. Here are a few reasons why.
First, the Communist ideology, as such, has never been comprehensibly defeated,
if only because no other ideology comparable in scope and depth has emerged to
challenge, nevermind refute or replace, Communism. For one thing, Communism is a
*huge* intellectual building and just destroying some of its “top floors” hardly
bring the entire edifice down. Let’s take a simple example: the Marxist slogan
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Marx did
not really invent it, he just popularized it. Some sources say that the original
author was August Becker in 1844, Louis Blanc in 1851 or Étienne-Gabriel Morelly
1775. Other say that it was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon but with slightly different
version “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work”.
This was the version accepted in the USSR as being applicable to the socialist
transitional phase on the path to the full realization of Communism. Then, of
course, there is the famous New Testament quote by Saint Paul “if any would not
work, neither should he eat” (Thess 3:10) and the words of Christ Himself about
“to every man according to his ability” (Matt 25:15). This all gets very complex
very fast, but yet this is hardly an excuse to ignore what is one of the basic
tenets of Marxism-Leninism. And there are many such key tenets because Communism
cannot be understood, nevermind evaluated, outside a much broader discussion of
Dialectical Materialism, itself an adaptation of Hegelian dialectics to
historiography, all of which serve as a foundation for Historical Materialism
which, in turn, offers a comprehensive critique of the nature of Capitalism.
There is a reason why a good library on Marxism-Leninism could easily include a
full floor dedicated solely to the teaching and criticism of Marxism-Leninism:
this body of teaching is huge, and incorporates history, sociology, economics,
philosophy and many other disciplines. Just Materialism itself includes a huge
corpus of writings ranging from the Pre-Socratic philosophers to Nietzsche’s
“God is dead” to, alas, Dawkins sophomoric writings. If we honestly look
carefully inside Marxism-Leninism we will see that there are such philosophical
pearls (or challenges, depending on how you look at them) on most levels of the
Marxist-Leninist building. Before we can declare that “Communism is dead” we
have to deal with every “floor” of the Marxist-Leninist building and bring down
at the very least all the crucial ones least we be (justly) accused of willful
Second, the Communist ideology offers us the most comprehensive critique of the
globalist-capitalist society we live in today. Considering that by now only the
most deliberately blind person could still continue to deny that our society is
undergoing a deep crisis, possibly leading to what is often referred to as
“TEOTWAWKI” (The end of the world as we know it) I would question the wisdom of
declaring Communism dead and forgetting about it. After all, informing ourselves
about the Communist critique of Capitalism does not imply the adoption of the
Communist solutions to the ills of Capitalism any more than pay attention to a
doctor’s diagnosis implies a consent to one single course of treatment. And yet
what our society has done is to completely reject the diagnosis on the basis
that the treatment has failed in several cases. How stupid is that?
Third, the corpus of Communist and Marxist-Leninist teachings is not only
immense, it is also very diverse. Leninism itself is, by the way, a further
development of Marxist ideas. It would be simply illogical to only focus on the
founding fathers of this ideology and ignore or, worse, dismiss their modern
followers. Let’s take a simple example: religion.
It is a well-known fact that Marx declared that “religion is the opium of the
people”. And it is true that Lenin and Trotsky engaged in what can only be
described as a genocidal and satanic amok run against religion in general, and
Orthodox Christianity especially, while they were in power. For decades rabid
atheism was a cornerstone of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. And yet, if you look
at the various Marxist regimes in Latin America (including Cuba and Venezuela)
you rapidly see that they replaced that rabid atheism with an endorsement of a
specific type of Christianity one could loosely describe as “Liberation
Theology”. Now, for a hardcore Orthodox traditionalist like myself, Liberation
Theology is not exactly my cup of tea (full disclosure: politically, I would
describe myself as an “People’s Monarchist” (народный монархист) in the
tradition of Lev Tikhomirov, Feodor Dostoevsky, Ivan Solonevich and Ivan Ilyin).
But the point here are not the inherent qualities of the Liberation Theology (or
lack thereof) but the fact that Latin American Marxists have clearly ditched
atheism. And whether they did that out of a deep sense of spiritual rebirth and
renewal or out of cynical power politics consideratons is irrelevant: even if
they had to cave under pressure, they still did something which their
predecessors would never have done under any circumstances. So now instead of
denouncing religion as reactionary, we have leaders like Hugo Chavez declaring
that “Jesus Christ was an authentic Communist, anti-imperialist and enemy of the
oligarchy”. Sincere? Possibly. Important? Most definitely. I submit that if such
a central, crucial, tenet as militant atheism could be dropped by modern
Marxists they are probably willing to drop any other of its part they would
conclude are wrong (for whatever reason). To conflate 21st century Communists
with their 19th century predecessors is unforgivably stupid and ignorant.
Fourth, modern Communism comes in many original and even surprising flavors. One
of the most interesting one would be the in the form of the Islamic Republic of
Iran. Of course, modern Iran is hardly a copy of the old German Democratic
Republic. Ramin Mazaheri, the Paris correspondent for Press TV put it best when
he wrote “Europe came to socialism through industrialization, theory and war,
but Iran came to socialism through its religious and moral beliefs”. And make no
mistake, when Mazaheri compliments Iran on its “socialist” achievements, he does
not oppose the notion of socialism to the one of communism (Mazaheri is a proud
and self-avowed Communist) nor does he refer to the “caviar Socialism” of the
French Left. Instead he refers to “socialism” as a set of underlying values and
principles common the the Marxist and Islamic worldviews. It is often forgotten
that one of the main ideologues of the Iranian Revolution, Ali Shariati, was
clearly influenced by Socialist and even Marxist ideas.
Iran, by the way, is not unique in the Muslim world. For example, the writings
of Sayyid Qutb 1906-1966 contain plenty of ideas which one could describe as
Marxist. I would even argue that Islam, Christianity and Confucianism all
include strong elements of both universalism and collectivism which are
typically associated with Marxist idea, especially in contrast to the kind of
bloated hyper-individualism underlying the Capitalist worldview (which I
personally call “the worldview of me, myself and I”). Sure, the modern doxa
wants to label all forms of Islam as retrograde, medieval and otherwise
reactionary, but in truth it would be far more fair to describe Islam as
revolutionary, social and progressive. But let’s not confuse the nonsense spewed
by the Zionist propaganda machine at those poor folks still paying attention to
it with reality, shall we? Surely we can agree that the worst possible way to
try to learn anything about Islam would be to pay attention to the US Ziomedia!
Communism – the challenge:
It is not really surprising that the Americans, who have not defeated anybody or
anything in a very long time, might be strongly inclined to adopt the notion of
having won the Cold War and/or having defeated Communism. In a country were
adult and presumably educated people can declare with a serious face that Obama
is a Socialist (or even a Communist) such nonsense will very rarely be
challenged. This is a reflection of the poor state of education of a nation
which fancies itself as “indispensable”, but which has no real interest in
understanding the rest of the world, nevermind its history. We can now make fun
of the putatively dumb Commies, their “scientific Communism” and their
university chairs of Marxism and Leninism, but it remains undeniable that in
order to understand the Communist propaganda you needed to have a minimal level
of education and that this propaganda exposes you to topics which are now
practically dead in western societies (such as philosophy or history). When I
see the kind of nonsense nowadays which passes for political science or
philosophy I can only conclude that the once proud western world now lacks the
basic level of education needed to understand, nevermind refute, Marxist
ideologues. And that is a crying shame because I also believe that Marxism and
Communism are inherently both very attractive and very toxic ideologies which
must be challenged and refuted.

[Sidebar: What I personally think about Marxism is not really the topic today,
so I will limit myself to saying that like all utopian ideologies, Marxism
promises a future which cannot ever happen. True, this is hardly a sin unique to
Marxism. Amongst modern ideologues Hitler should be commended for his relative
modesty – he “only” promised a 1000 year long Reich. In contrast Francis
Fukuyama promised a communism-like “end of history”. This is all par for the
course coming from atheists who are trying to simultaneously reject God while
(unsuccessfully) imitating Him: a utopian society is what Satan offered to
Christ during the temptation of Christ in the desert (Matt 4:1-11) and also the
reason why some Jews rejected Him for offering them a spiritual kingdom rather
than then worldly kingdom they were hoping for. Right there there is plenty
enough, at least for me, to reject this and any other ideology promising some
kind of “heaven on earth”. In my opinion all utopian ideologies are inherently
and by definition Satanic].
Can the huge corpus of the Marxist/Communist ideological building be
convincingly refuted? I think that it can and, assuming mankind does not destroy
itself in the near future, that it eventually will. But that will require an
effort of a completely different nature and magnitude then the collection of
primitive slogans which are currently hurled at Marxism today. In fact, I also
believe that Orthodox Christianity already has refuted Marxism by preemption,
many centuries before the birth of Karl Marx, by denouncing all its underlying
assumptions in the Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, the sayings of
the Desert Fathers, the Lives of the Saints, its liturgical texts and icons, but
in our post-Chrstian society that refutation is accessible only to the tiny
minority of those who are exposed to it and who are educated enough to
understand it (a good example of such a person would be Fedor Dostoevskii).
For the foreseeable future Communism has a very bright and long future,
especially with the ongoing collapse of the Anglo-Zionist Empire and the
subsequent debate on the causes of this collapse. Living in the United States
one might be forgiven for not seeing much of a future for Communism, but from
Southeast Asia to the Indian subcontinent and from Africa to Latin America the
ideals, values and arguments of Communism continue to have an immense appeal on
millions of people. When Donald Trump, during his recent UN speech, presumed to
have the authority to lecture the world on Socialism he really only showed that
ignorance is no impediment to arrogance and that they really usually go hand in
hand. If his intention was to speak to the domestic audience, then he probably
made a few folks feel good about themselves and the political system they live
in. If he truly was addressing a foreign audience, then the only thing he
achieved was to reinforce the worst anti-American clichés.
For the time being, the the spectre of Communism will continue to haunt much of
our planet, especially in those parts were education and poverty are high. In
the basically illiterate but wealthy world Communism will remain pretty much as
it is today: universally ignored and therefore unknown. But when the grand
edifice of Capitalism finally comes tumbling down and its victims rediscover the
difference between propaganda and education – then a credible modern challenge
to the Communist ideology will possibly arise. But for the time being and the
foreseeable future Communism will remain not only alive, but also quite
October 12, 2017

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