Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice

By C. M. Hann | Go to book overview

Foreword

Ernest Gellner

Since the Middle Ages, Europe has twice been bifurcated ideologically. The first time, it was the Reformation which in the end divided those parts of Europe which were neither Orthodox nor occupied by a Muslim power between itself and those left to the Counter-Reformation. The so-called Enlightenment was, in a way, an attempt to explain and disseminate the achievements of the Reformed part of Europe-economic prosperity, political liberty-to the rest of Europe. The second major bifurcation arose between the liberal and the Marxist parts of the continent. As an ideological conflict, it began of course in the nineteenth century, but the contest only acquired territorial, political incarnation after 1917. For a time after 1945, the Great Contest, as it was called by a writer who was clear in his mind that victory would and should go to socialism, looked fairly evenly balanced.

By 1989, however, it was all over. As in the previous great bifurcation of Europe, victory went to the more liberal, pluralist, and individualist of the two contestants, and the outcome was decided by an economic rather than a military struggle. The victory of the liberals over the Marxists was much quicker and more total and convincing than that of the Protestants over the Counter-Reformation. The victory was overtly recognized and in the end loudly trumpeted by the leaders of the defeated system themselves. This is historically unprecedented: as far as I can recall, there has never been a case of an ideocracy, a Caesaro-Papist regime, hauling down the flag and conceding defeat, without being compelled to do so by either a violent uprising or a foreign military force. Never before has a previously charismatic and total faith been disavowed by its own sacerdotal-political leadership.

In Central Europe, the dominant feeling may be expressed by the motto I have devised for any newly revived Danubian federation: Better Franz Josef than Josef.

The demise of Marxist socialism does not of course automatically invalidate all other forms of socialist theory. But it would be comic for the socialist Old Believers to pretend that nothing has happened, that no thinking is

-x-

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