Post-Communist Reflections

By Muray, Leo | Contemporary Review, October 1992 | Go to article overview

Post-Communist Reflections


Muray, Leo, Contemporary Review


WE are now, one is assured, in a |Post-communist World'. But are we? After all, China, the most numerous nation with 1,200 million people, is still ruled by what is now called a |Communist Gerontocracy', by the stalwarts who invented Maoism and are only dropping it bit by bit as they are dying off and younger |Comrades' want the luxuries of Western capitalism. There are still Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and above all Cuba, the last citadel of European Communism, and nobody forgets that the fall of Castro in the next few months would win the election for President Bush. One should not forget either that old-style Communist parties are still alive, and sometimes kicking, in say France and Portugal. It is also worth noting that the Hungarian Foreign Minister Horn, told the recent Helsinki Conference of the CSCE: |There is not a single country in the region where people today are not worse off, in terms of living standards, than they used to be'. He was referring, of course, to his own region, that of the late Soviet bloc.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the experts in the West worry. One indication is the 40th anniversary meeting of 37 experts reported in the 40th anniversary issue of Problems of Communism. It is the magazine that has reported on, and analyzed, the vast world of Communism under the auspices of Washington, and its development, based on competent use of Soviet world sources. For example, it reproduced an analysis of Soviet defence strategy, some years ago, by Marshal Akhromeyev, who committed suicide after the failed August 1991 coup which has not really been analyzed yet.

One panel discussed what it saw as the ultimate failure of Marxism as an ideology as well, in connection with the Nation State, and took a look at Islam, a rival ideology.

A fascinating feature of the meetings was the passionate criticism some participants, mostly from the former Communist countries, launched on the Western experts who had totally failed to foresee the collapse, let alone, its consequences. There was also the problem of the effects of rising nationalism. Special discussions were held on China, Africa and the |Latin Left', that is Latin America. Naturally a whole range of views was expressed, especially on China.

The conference discussions attempted to outline the implications that |End of Communism' now has for American policy. As Marxism-Leninism declines efforts had to be made to work out a new understanding of world affairs. Without an analysis of the political changes unfolding it will be impossible for those shaping Western policy to determine what kind of assistance to give and to whom. Again, how will relations, and conflicts, between the ex-soviet republics affect European security and can East Europeans overcome Communist ideology, ethnic hatreds and economic stagnation? The meeting was held at the end of last year and, therefore the flood of disastrous events in Yugoslavia had not approached their peak. But there was an undercurrent of feeling that Yugoslavia was likely to show up the essential problems of post-Communism.

Outstanding contributions were made by Vaclav Klaus, the Czech leader, and by Professor Jeanne Kirkpatrick who was for a time President Reagan's Ambassador to the UN. In a curious sense they supported each other. Dr. Klaus, the Czech leader, spelt out in powerful simplicity his policy for turning his country into an efficient free market economy but he did not once even hint at the possibility of the Czech lands and Slovakia separating. Professor Kirkpatrick came straight to the point that the collapse of Communism was a |fantastic surprise' and that there was no greater surprise in modem history. It had been an |ideological revision' that had led the Soviet elite to hesitate to use force. Lenin, |the master of the science of power', had arranged for a small elite to control a superstructure of that power. But with marginal changes of values and goals in later generations of the ruling elite the structures that were left became unstable and weak. …

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