The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989

The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989

The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989

The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989

Excerpt

DANIEL CHIROT

No politically literate person in the world can doubt that 1989, like 1789, will be remembered as one of those decisive years in which decades of slow political and economic change and development culminated in a series of unexpected, dramatic events that suddenly redefined the world. But this does not mean that there is anything close to universal agreement, even among the most expert analysts, about the full meaning and consequences of what happened. That communism collapsed in Eastern Europe is obvious. But will it therefore disappear entirely in the Soviet Union, too? And what about China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba? Is this the end of socialism, or just of its Marxist-Leninist version? Or, as some on the left believe, is what happened merely the death of a Stalinist deviation that distorted and postponed the true historical mission of Marxism? Will liberal democratic capitalism in its Anglo-American form, which fifty years ago seemed on the verge of extinction at the hands of a combined fascist-communist, totalitarian alliance, now sweep to global triumph and end the debates about what is the best model of society? Or is America also on a downward path, like its former enemy, the Soviet Union, and will the world of the near future be even more full of conflict and danger than the past few decades of stable cold war?

To answer all these questions it is necessary to know the future, not just for one or two years, but for many decades, or perhaps a century or two. After all, without stretching historical analogies too far, it is worth remembering that those who may have tried to judge the consequences of the American Revolution in 1777, one year after the Declaration of Independence, or of the French Revolution in 1790, one year after the fall of the Bastille and the sweeping reforms of the early revolutionary days, or of Russian Bolshevism in 1918, would have missed most of the significant consequences of what was going on under their very eyes. No matter how historians may argue, often with great insight, that the American Constitution, the emergence of Bonapartism, and the triumph of Stalinism were inherent in the developments of the very early revolutionary years in the United States, France, and Russia, these developments hardly seemed inevitable to those who lived through them. Nor is the ultimate triumph of capitalist liberalism inevitable today, though it now seems more likely than it did a few years ago. At the same time, the defeat of Soviet communism and its disintegration in the most advanced part of the former communist world, namely Eastern Europe, may not spell the end of all totalitarian utopias for the rest of human . . .

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