I recently came across a comment on The Philosophical Salon about the CIA’s deliberate attacks on the intellectual left. It reads “Who supports communism anymore? Those who have never lived the communism”. Now, ignoring the obvious grammatical mistakes in this assertion let me begin to address this person’s concern, and show why it is absolutely preposterous.
People who support communism today actually have read Marx and understand the huge differences between Stalinism and the socioeconomic and political system Marx advocated. People who support communism today understand Marx believed proletarian revolution would come about only once capitalism had reached its peak stage of development in the most advanced countries int eh world first,(say in 30 years) instead of in the poorest country in the world, (1917 Russia) in an isolated revolution which could not support democracy or socialism, (industrial democracy) and where Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration was practically inevitable under such conditions.
Not to say I don’t idealize the October revolution as a general historical event, I most certainly do. What emerged from the October revolution? The writings of Lenin in The State and Revolution could not be implemented in backward Russia, that is a fact. What Lenin did was try to build the foundation on which such a society could eventually come about. This is why Lenin implemented the NEP (New Economic Policy), a system of state-capitalism as a necessary prerequisite to socialism. It was unfortunately cut short by Stalin once he came to power, the multi-party political system which existed up to 1924 (the year of Lenin’s death) was abolished and never returned. Soon the Stalinist bureaucracy emerged and the hopeful embers of October were snuffed out. Marx believed in the inevitability of proletarian revolution in the most advanced capitalist countries at the end of capitalist development, but October was not the revolution Marx foresaw as inevitable, as anyone can clearly see.
“But wasn’t Stalin doing what Marx advocated? Building a Marxist utopia?” Anyone who’s read Marx, or even Lenin’s The State and Revolution can tell you what an absurd statement that is. Let’s look at a few examples. Did the USSR get rid of the military and police force to replace it with armed militias instantly recallable of and by the people? No. Were all elected officials instantly recallable at any time and receive no more than a workman’s wage? No, they weren’t even democratically elected as the necessary preconditions for democracy simply weren’t there. Lenin and Trotsky, before the bureaucratic degeneration of the October revolution, did, however, take no more than a workman’s wage for their role in leading the country. Did the USSR utilize a system where the workers, and not the state had democratic control over enterprise (socialism)? No, it was the state that controlled industry, a form of state-capitalism as a necessary prerequisite to socialism. In essence, the USSR remained staunchly state-capitalist until, as Trotsky would call it, the inevitable dissolution of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Contrary to Stalin’s infamous declaration, any Marxian economist can tell you that the idea of 1930’s Russia having a socialist economic system was preposterous. Should I even mention the genuine worker’s revolts in Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia against the Stalinist system, that aimed at genuine socialism against Stalinism, and not at capitalist restoration against socialism? I could go on and on.
Also to equate Stalinism with communism is such an ignorant thing to say. It’s not too different from equating fascism with capitalism. It is to say this highly authoritarian system which advocated the preservation of capitalism is no different than what capitalism actually is, it is an absolutely absurd statement to say that Stalinism is the same thing as communism. Furthermore, the method to get to communism, as we have stated, is not inherently through this totalitarian system whose sheer brutality and inefficiency we all know too well. In fact, most communists are highly critical of the Stalinist system and its legacy on the left. In Nazi Germany, all national socialists supported what Hiter was doing. His actions were the perfect embodiment of the Nazi ideology. Why then, in the USSR were millions of communists sent to the gulag, deported and killed for saying that Stalin betrayed the revolution, that he betrayed Marxism? Why then did characters like Leon Trotsky, bolsheviks to the core, emerge to condemn the horrific abuses of Stalin’s power? To compare communism with fascism is equally absurd. If you assert such a comparison then I should be able to compare anarchist communism with fascism, right? By your logic, I could compare two ideologies which could not be more opposite as being the same. Fascism is a highly authoritarian form of capitalism, and Stalinism (Marxism-Leninism) is a highly authoritarian form of socialism, moreover of the road to socialism. I won’t say that one is worse than the other, I have no patience for lesser evilism. We have enough of that in the two-party US as we speak. To compare the two, in your mind might make sense, but good lord it couldn’t be more wrong.
Perhaps even more importantly, we are living in the time Marx spoke of, that is- not 1917 but today, what is happening in the world today is exactly what Marx wrote about. He is more relevant now than he ever was in the 20th century. It can be said that the workers have nothing to lose but their chains, now more than ever. They still have a world to win. The time is ripening by the hour. Wealth inequality is higher now than it was in the 1920’s and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, wages haven’t risen with productivity since the 1970’s, the most brutally efficient capitalists in the world are not in the US, Europe, or Latin American but in China. Democracy and capitalism will be, in the not too distant future, completely incompatible. Everything Marx wrote about the inevitable future of the capitalist system is happening today. So to answer the question, pretty much anyone who reads and understands Marx would see the logic in supporting communism today.