The Old Competition with Marxism Isn't over Yet

By Thomas Magstadt. Thomas Magstadt writes frequently on international affairs. His latest book is "Nations and Governments: Comparative Politics , 1991). | The Christian Science Monitor, December 14, 1992 | Go to article overview

The Old Competition with Marxism Isn't over Yet


Thomas Magstadt. Thomas Magstadt writes frequently on international affairs. His latest book is "Nations and Governments: Comparative Politics , 1991)., The Christian Science Monitor


THE demise of Soviet-style communism in Europe spelled the end of the cold war, but not the end of the Marxist challenge to capitalism. The democratic trends, apparent in regions of the world where liberalism has never before taken root, create a false impression.

Free enterprise appears to be on the march everywhere. Individualism appears to have triumphed over collectivism. And history appears to have consigned Marxism to the "dustbin" Marx reserved for capitalism. But socialism is not dead.

Indeed, Marx's second coming may be just around the corner. Moreover, a resurgent Marxism will mount a more formidable challenge to the ideas and institutions associated with Western classical liberalism than Soviet communism ever did.

The logic of political circumstances in many regions of the world suggests that an antiliberal backlash is imminent. In the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the attempted transition from central planning to the free market has brought hardship and disillusion. Nowhere has the transition been smooth.

In Russia, Boris Yeltsin faces a major challenge from conservative opponents of radical market reforms who want to keep the old structures of state control largely intact. Poland's 1991 elections, as well as more recent opinion polls, leave little doubt that the people are profoundly disenchanted with economic "shock therapy." In Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Klaus's zeal for privatization undoubtedly helped Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and contributed to the Slovak decision to secede. In Romania, voters also handed ex-communists a victory at the polls.

In September 1992, when Angola held its first-ever open, multiparty elections and the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola won a convincing victory, Western observers could shrug it off as a fluke. After all, Angola remained under Portuguese colonial rule until the mid-1970s and was then ravaged by a civil war that lasted 16 years.

Shrugging off Lithuania is not so easy. In mid-November the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), headed by Algirdas Braszauskas, won a landslide victory over the anticommunist party, Sajudis, in Lithuania's first post-Soviet elections. The DLP gathered a total of 80 seats in the 141-seat parliament; the alliance led by Sajudis won about half as many seats. The major issue: President Vytautas Landsbergis was blamed for pushing economic reforms too far, too fast.

The electoral setbacks for market-oriented liberal parties in Slovakia, Romania, and Lithuania, as well as defeat of the anticommunist UNITA in Angola, are straws in the wind. …

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