The western media and politicians have worked very hard to portray the Soviet and Eastern European communist experience as an ‘aberration’. They claim that it was doomed to fail from the outset and that there is no alternative to ‘free market’ (i.e. monopoly) capitalism.
They conveniently forget that capitalism fails more than one billion people every day – the poor, the starving, the homeless and the illiterate. It relegates the overwhelming majority of women to a second-class status, and fosters racism, homophobia, anti- Semitism and religious bigotry. It seeks continually to weaken the power of organised labour.
Indeed, since the disappearance of Soviet socialism, there has been a world-wide onslaught against workers’ wages, rights and conditions. Imperialism cost the lives of over 80 million people in the twentieth century. It has unleashed two major world wars and – since 1945 – over 100 smaller-scale conflicts, including those in Korea, Vietnam and – most recently – Iraq. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it employed the first and – so far – only military use of atomic weapons, and followed this up with a nuclear arms race whose end result still threatens the existence of all life on this planet.
When its interests are threatened, imperialism intervenes. Where it cannot buy votes or politicians, it uses covert or openly military means to achieve its ends. In the period after the Second World War period, the US Central Intelligence Agency engineered military coups against several democratic governments, including Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia (where half a million communists were massacred in 1965), Greece and Chile. It sponsored the abortive Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba in 1961, the notorious ‘contras’ fighting against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the UNITA bandits in Angola. Most recently, the USA has colluded in the attempted overthrow of the revolutionary Bolivarian government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The demise of the Soviet Union does not mean that communism has failed.
Socialism, as it existed, certainly suffered a dramatic set-back. But it will return, reinvigorated and without the paternalist and bureaucratic distortions which denied real participation. The history of the last 150 years confirms the necessity for replacing capitalism, and the inevitability that the working class will achieve that. Communist parties still lead – or are partners in – governments in a number of countries, such as Cuba, Vietnam, China, South Africa, Brazil and the Indian states of Tripura and West Bengal. In many other countries – including Greece, Portugal, France, the Czech Republic, Chile and Russia – they have built significant mass support. Communism is very much alive in the world today.
In a world-wide movement of this size, differences of opinion are inevitable. Life throws up complex and unexpected situations, and solutions are not always straightforward. Where differences of view lead to different chosen courses of action, the arguments can become quite sharp. Nonetheless, what unites the communists is their adherence to the basic principles of the Manifesto. They have no interests separate from those of the working class as a whole. And since ‘the working class must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation’, each individual party works out its own national strategy. But they also remain internationalists, recognising that international solidarity strengthens the entire working class movement whereas narrow national interests only help the bourgeoisie.
Part of an introduction to the Communist Manifesto, written by Martin Levy of the Political Committee, Communist Party of Britain.