Bailey83221 (bailey83221) wrote,

Anticipations of the Failure of Communism (Scholarly list of those who predicted fall


Theory and Society, Vol. 23, No.2, Special Issue on the Theoretical Implications of the Demise of State Socialism. (Apr., 1994), pp. 169-210.

Seymour Martin Lipset; Gyorgy Bence

George Mason University; Lor(md Eotvos University, Hungary

One of the questions that social scientists have to deal with in reacting to the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union is why they, and other nonacademic experts such as the intelligence agencies of the great Western powers, as well, did not anticipate that this would happen, or even that it could occur. The evidence is fairly clear that the world was taken by surprise by the transformations that emerged under Gorbachev and even more by the outlawing of the Communist party after the coup against him. There was, of course, an equivalent failure to expect that the East European Communist regimes would give up power.

Some who were right

Not all efforts at Sovietology were wrong about the future of the system. Journalists, political scientists, sociologists, historians, demographers, and economists produced many useful studies that pointed the way to the transformations after 1989. More than a few analyses have withstood the test of the subsequent developments.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
Robert Conquest
Merle Fainsod
Eugene Lyons
Giorgio Galli
Isaac Don Levine

A book edited by Zbigniew Brzezinski that appeared in 1969 contains fourteen articles dealing with the future of the Soviet Union. Six of them, by Brzezinski, Robert Conquest , Merle Fainsod, Eugene Lyons, Giorgio Galli, and Isaac Don Levine, considered "collapse as a serious possibility although not immediately." 13 One, Robert Conquest, saw "the USSR as a country where the political system is radically and dangerously inappropriate to its social and economic dynamics. This is a formula for change - change which may be sudden and catastrophic"14 Brzezinski himself, as we shall note in more detail below, repeatedly emphasized that collapse was a realistic possibility.

Most Sovietologists, however, did not agree with these judgments, in part because they thought that the system was improving, that conditions of life were better for the masses. Relying to a large extent on Soviet data, they concluded that the Soviet economy was doing so well to the point where "by the 1970s, the conventional wisdom (shared also by the CIA) came to be that the Soviet GNP was some 60 percent of the American." 15 These estimates, as we now know, were misguided and untenable as revealed by the Soviet authorities and scholars after Gorbachev took office. But that information had been available much earlier...

…It was especially due to the efforts of Brzezinski who, in a long series of impressive works, continued the line of thought started with Friedrich's and his 1956 classic that the totalitarian interpretation never lost touch with Soviet developments. From the early sixties until 1989 when The Grand Failure was published, Brzezinski always worked with the alternative of "transformation and degeneration."

In 1969 Brzezinski put the question in the following way: "Is Russia at the end of the highly motivated energetic period in its history and at the beginning of the sterile bureaucratic phase? Such energetic and bureaucratic cycles have been typical of Russian history: a major challenge gives rise to a major national response, coercively and collectively organized; the organized response then in turn becomes fossilized and bureaucratically stagnant, leading to a period of decay." 36 A year later, in a book on the "technetronic era;' his version of the knowledge-based post-industrial changes that had emerged in the West, Brzezinski concluded that the rigid centralized systems of control in the Soviet polity and economy had become dysfunctional because the "scientific-technological revolution;' to use Brezhnev's term, required greater flexibility and pluralism than the Party could accept. One possible consequence would be "political disintegration." 37 Almost twenty years later, he saw the following five options facing the regime: (1) success of perestroika, (2) "protracted but inconclusive turmoil;' (3) "renewed stagnation," (4) "a regressive and repressive political coup, in reaction to [184] either Option 2 or 3," (5) "fragmentation of the Soviet Union, as a consequence of some combination of the above."

Among these options, Brzezinski deemed Option 2 the most likely alternative "for the next several years." He did not expect a quick end to the totalitarian regime, but he was certain that the moment of failure was close. Perestroika, i.e., revitalization of the system without a radical break with the totalitarian institutions and ideology, could not succeed. Turmoil and chaos could not last forever. The genie was out of the bottle, and there was not much chance that it could be put to sleep by renewed stagnation or put back into the bottle by a Coup. 38...

Murray Feshbach
Nick Eberstedt

...One of the most significant set of such reports is by Murray Feshbach, a demographer who has been interested in health statistics. Feshbach, in a number of important papers written in the 1970s and 1980s, brought together a variety of data, drawn from Soviet sources, demonstrating how miserable Soviet living conditions were. Particularly noteworthy was his stress on the fact that infant mortality had been going up in the Soviet Union while adult longevity declined. 16 Such tendencies could not be found in any other country. While there are many countries that are low on both, the direction in industrialized countries has always been upward, except under Communism. Feshbach also noted and documented the tremendous extent of alcoholism in the Soviet Union. 17 Another demographer, Nick Eberstedt, drawing in part on Feshbach's work but also on his own, noted in the early 1980s evidence of considerable alienation, particularly in work, within Soviet institutions. 18

Andrei Amalrik

A devastating critique of the Soviet system was presented by a Soviet emigre, Andrei Amalrik, in his 1970 essay, Will The Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Amalrik wrote during an earlier period of liberalization, that of Khrushchev. He suggested that the "liberalization" was a function of "the growing decrepitude of the regime, rather than its regeneration;' that "the logical result will be its death, followed by anarchy."19

Basically, Amalrik argued that the strata who most benefited from the system, largely the educated professionals, want democratic reforms, greater freedom, and the rule of law. The masses, the workers without rights, the collective farmers, all exhibit "pervasive discontent" with their lot. Although the 1960s showed a slow growth in the standard of living, Amalrik predicted that "a halt or even a reversal in the improvement of the standard of living (such as was to occur from the seventies on) would arouse such explosions of anger, mixed with violence, as were never before thought possible." Such developments would take place because of the "ossification" of the system, and would affect industrial output. He saw the regime becoming "progressively weaker and more self-destructive." 20

Beyond changes in class relations, Amalrik noted that the Stalinist expansion into Eastern Europe and its "fostering of international tension" created a danger for the Soviet rulers. More importantly, the USSR would not be able to hold down the forces of nationalism. Any event which undermined domestic stability "will be enough to topple the regime." 21 He anticipated a breakdown in the 1980s.

Randall Collins

Awareness that the nationality question, ethnic tension, would undermine the system, is at the heart of the 1980 analysis by sociologist Randall Collins. In an article that he had difficulty in publishing in academic journals because it went so much against the accepted scholarly wisdom, until it finally appeared in his own book of essays in 1986, Collins wrote that the Soviet Union "had already reached its limit... and was entering a period of . .. decline. .. with the likelihood of extensive decline becoming very high before the 21st century." 22 He concluded that the country was overextended economically, militarily, and politically, that it simply would not be able to control "the Baltic, the Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Central Asian Moslem territories." 23 These would follow on the "breakdown of the central power of the Russian state." 24 As a Weberian, he emphasized legitimacy, and suggested that the Soviet Union had major legitimacy problems, since its failures had produced a loss of faith in Marxism, in Communist ideology. Not only the masses and the intelligentsia, but the privileged generally no longer had faith.

Moshe Lewin

The social historian Moshe Lewin in a book published in 1988, produced an illuminating interpretation of the early Gorbachev era, which if widely noted would have prepared us for the momentous transformations soon to come. Following a quasi-Marxist (but not socialist) approach, much like Roman Szporluk and Alexander Motyl, he pointed to dialectic tensions among the various parts of the system, some of which were more advanced than others, some of which acted as a brake on the development of others, some of which were declining while others were growing, that would lead to a breakdown. 25 As we argue in the next section of this article, such a dialectical approach, sensitive to internal variations, based on a strand of an important macrotheoretical tradition in modern social thought had a definite advantage for understanding the long-term processes underway in communist societies. It may be contrasted with those, dominant in Sovietology, which relied almost exclusively on theories specifically developed in or taken over from systems analyses in other fields to explain the peculiarities of the communist system. 26

In 1987, Lewin wrote: "Whenever some aspects of the system seriously lag behind others - for example, if the political institutions are too sluggish - crisis and turmoil, reform or stagnation, if not worse, invariably ensue. This is the story of the Soviet Union in the twentieth century." While noting symptoms of decline and decadence, he also pointed to "vast changes in the Soviet social system (urbanization, industrialization, the growth of intellectual and professional classes)." 27 Lewin's particularistic and dialectical approaches did not make him a better prophet about political outcomes than the bulk of his more narrow and inward-looking Sovietological colleagues who concentrated on developments in Moscow, but he deserves recognition for anticipating the need created by structural changes for moves toward a more open society, which made the transformations of the early 1990s possible.

Although considerably reformed and strongly diluted, the anachronistic autocratic features have now come under pressure from the social environment. The apparaty, not too alert to the call of history, has [sic] been re[*180]minded that the muzhik (the implicit, sometimes explicit justification for the crude dictatorial regime) is no longer at center stage. Today well educated urban citizens, not backward peasants, are the largest demographic group.

... the dimensions and potential of this novel society, especially its political aspects, are still poorly understood. But one thing is clear: Soviet society needs a state that can match its complexity. And in ways sometimes overt, sometimes covert, contemporary urban society has become a powerful "system maker," pressuring both political institutions and the economic model to adapt. Through numerous channels, some visible, some slow, insidious, and imperceptible, Soviet urban society is affecting individuals, groups, institutions, and the state. Civil society is talking, gossiping, demanding, sulking, expressing its interests in many ways and thereby creating moods, ideologies, and public opinion. At the same time, the impersonal, structural features of the social system create hard facts, define reality, and set limits. Both the personal and impersonal factors disregard controlling devices such as censorship, police controls or the nomenklatura (nomination process). 28

Richard Pipes

The Harvard historian Richard Pipes, a scholar of a more conservative political persuasion than Lewin, also used some quasi-Marxist ideas in his anticipation of the Soviet crisis. In 1984, before Gorbachev took office, Pipes called attention to the possibility of the emergence of a "revolutionary situation," and used Lenin's famous description of the conditions that produce one: "...a condition of stalemate between the ruling elite and the population at large: the former no longer could rule, and the latter no longer would be ruled in the old way." 29 He left open, however, both reformist and revolutionary outcomes, depending on the behavior of the Soviet establishment : "The nomenklatura is not the first ruling elite to face the choice between holding on to all power and privilege at the risk of losing all of it, or surrendering some of both in the hope of holding on to the rest." 30

Theoretical insight, political judgment

Bernard Levin

Finally, we must note that some politicians and journalists on both the Right and the Left seem to have known what was happening in the Soviet Union and based their policies and writings on this knowledge. Perhaps the most accurate description and prevision came from a conservative journalist, Bernard Levin, writing in the (London) Times in September 1977. Levin thought the same nationalist, social, and political forces that had produced dissidence within the elites in Czechoslovakia and other parts of Eastern Europe would inevitably produce the same outcome in the Soviet Union itself by 1989. He wrote with uncanny prescience that in the Soviet Union, the eventual leaders of revolt

...are there, all right, at this very moment, obeying orders, doing their duty, taking the official line against dissidents, not only in public but in private. They do not conspire, they are not in touch with Western intelligence agencies, they commit no sabotage. They are in every respect model Soviet functionaries. Or rather, in every respect but one: they have admitted the truth about their country to themselves, and have vowed, also to themselves, to do something about it.[201]

That is how it will be done. There will be no gunfire in the streets, no barricades, no general strikes, no hanging of oppressors from lamp-posts, no sacking and burning of government offices, no seizure of radio-stations or mass defections among the military. But one day soon, some new faces will appear in the Politburo, - I am sure they have already appeared in municipal and even regional administrative authorities - and gradually, very gradually, other, similarly new, faces will join them. Until one day they will look at each other and realize that there is no longer any need for concealment of the truth in their hearts. And the match will be lit.

There is nothing romantic or fantastic about this prognosis; it is the most sober extrapolation from known facts and tested evidence. That, or something like it, will happen. When it will happen it is neither possible nor useful to guess; but I am sure it will be within the lifetime of people much older than I... let us suppose, for neatness' sake, on July 14, 198982

Ronald Reagan

In four major speeches delivered in 1982, 1983, 1987, and 1988, Ronald Reagan said the system was going down. At Westminster in 1982, he noted as simple fact that "of all the millions of refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward, the Communist world," and he consigned Marxism-Leninism to the "trash heap of history." In 1983, he said Communism is a "sad, bizarre chapter in history, whose last pages even now are being written." In 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate, he stressed: "In the Communist world we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind - too little food." And he proclaimed that his cold war policies were based on the assumption that the Soviet Union was a "basket case." Economics, Reagan believed, was the Soviet Union's primary failing. As a good pupil of the market economists, he explained that weakness as derivative from the fact that it is impossible for government planners, no matter how sophisticated, to ever substitute for the judgment of "millions of individuals," for the "incentives inherent in the capitalist system." 83 These conclusions were out of line with the advice he had been receiving from experts in the C.I.A., the Defense and State Departments. Seemingly, the President had his own sources, some of whom were in the Defense Intelligence Agency and the RAND Corporation.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

From the Left, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in a series of prescient statements, made from the late seventies on, gave even more emphasis to the terrible weakness of the Soviet Union. Asked to predict what would happen in the 1980s, he stated in 1979 that the Soviet system "could blow up." He pointed to the economic downturn, the "rise in mortality rates... the nationality strains."84 In a speech in the Senate in January [202] 1980, Moynihan noted: "The indices of economic stagnation and even decline are extraordinary. The indices of social disorder - social pathology is not too strong a term - are even more so. The defining event of the decade might well be the breakup of the Soviet Empire." In a commencement address at New York University in 1984, he pointed to the absence of legitimacy, "that the Soviet idea is spent... it summons no loyalty." Again in that year he commented, "the Soviet Union is weak and getting weaker,"85 and in October 1984, before Gorbachev took office, Moynihan proclaimed: "The Cold War is over, the West won...The Soviet Union... has collapsed. As a society it just doesn't work. Nobody believes in it anymore." Moynihan differed from Reagan in drawing policy implications. His strategy "for dealing with the Soviets is to wait them out." They will collapse. 86

Given these judgments of the Soviet future made by political leaders and journalists, the question is why were they right and so many of our Sovietological colleagues wrong. The answer again in part must be ideological. Reagan and Levin came from rightist backgrounds, and Moynihan, much like the leaders of the AFL-CIO, from a left-antiStalinist social-democratic milieu, environments that disposed participants to believe the worst. Most of the Sovietologists, on the other hand, were left-liberal in their politics, an orientation that undermined their capacity to accept the view that economic statism, planning, socialist incentives, would not work. They were also for the most part ignorant of, or ignored, the basic Marxist formulation that it is impossible to build socialism in impoverished societies.

The differences among the Sovietologists, however, also stem from responding to varying sets of questions. The scholars sought to explain how the system worked. They took the fact of the USSR's long-term existence for granted. Thus, they looked for institutions and values that stabilized the polity and society. 87 Ideologically critical journalists and politicians, however, were disposed to emphasize dysfunctional aspects, structures, and behaviors, which might cause a crisis.

The distribution of emphases among the fourteen contributors to Brzezinski's 1969 collection, Dilemmas of Change in Soviet Politics, discussed earlier, is congruent with these assumptions. Two-thirds (four out of six) of those who foresaw a serious possibility of breakdown were, like Levin, Moynihan, and Reagan, nonacademics. Three quarters (six out of eight) of those who could not look beyond system continuity were scholars. [203]

One may ask, what about Asian communism? Why is it surviving, as in China and Vietnam? We obviously do not have time and space to deal with this issue, but we would note that China and Vietnam are following the strategy advanced by Trotsky before World War I for revolutions in underdeveloped societies, to preside over market-driven economies. Most of the Chinese economy is now private and is becoming even more so. Its most successful regions are the most market oriented. Vietnam is predominantly a capitalist economy. Equally or more important is the fact that it is 43 years since the Chinese party came to power and only 17 years for Vietnam, as compared to the 74 years that the Communist regime lasted in the Soviet Union. The men who made the Asian revolutions are alive and at the summits of their power structures, they acknowledge implicitly the failure of Communism, but do not quit. Communism still has its revolutionary legitimacy for them, one that decrepitude and biology had reduced, if not eliminated, in the USSR.

Finally, we would note that although Marx was right about the failure of efforts to create socialism in pre-industrial societies, he was wrong in anticipating the socialist revolution in advanced industrial ones. The United States apart, they all have significant socialist or social democratic parties, but without exception all of these have now given up socialist objectives; they all endorse the market economy as the best means to produce increased productivity and a higher living standard for the underprivileged. 88 Socialism and Marxism may be considered failures not because of developments in the formerly Communist world, but because of their inability to point the way for the advanced countries.

Does modem sociology have anything to contribute to the analysis of developments in the former Communist world? We hope we have shown that it does. But if you doubt it, may we note that while the party still held power, at a three-day conference on "The Party and Perestroika" at the Higher Party School in Moscow in 1989, attended by Communist scholars and intellectuals from all over the Soviet Union, a review of the stenographic record by S. Frederick Starr reports few references to Marx and Lenin, while statements by Max Weber and Talcott Parsons were invoked more frequently to analyze the situation and justify various proposals for reforms. 89 [204]

… Implications of grand theory

Much of the grand theory implied that Communism would produce a reactionary and oppressive society, and concluded that the system would fail. Here we are thinking of the writings of classical sociologists such as Max Weber, Robert Michels, the elite theorists such as Vilfredo Pareto, and in more recent times Raymond Aron, as well as Marx and Engels themselves. Classical liberal economics, of course, also produced major theoretical works attesting to the inherent failure of socialism. Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Joseph Schumpeter all concluded that a socialist planning system and government ownership of industry were necessarily inefficient. They argued that a capitalist market system was inherently much more productive than its rival. These, of course, though eventually applicable to the Soviet Union, were about the functioning of statist systems generally, not about the U.S.S.R. Max Weber, the great sociological critic of Marx, in his writings about socialism and capitalism, contributed important insights for understanding the nature of and subsequent failure of the Soviet Union. 70 He [194] was, in fact, the mentor of the young Michels and inspired Michels's study of socialist oligarchy. Weber emphasized bureaucracy as the charactertistic mode of large-scale social organizations in modern society, including both government and industry. Weber, however, generalized beyond politics to argue that whether the means of production were privately owned, as in capitalism, or publicly or socially owned, as under socialism, would make little difference for the position of the lower strata. The socialist revolution would, in fact, intensify the bureaucratic character of modern industrial society, resulting in the increased oppression of the working class and other repressed strata. 71

Weber formulated a theory of alienation under bureaucratic conditions, which differed from Marx and was subsequently expanded in the writings of scholars like Erich Fromm, C. Wright Mills, and David Riesman. Weber emphasized that in a bureaucratic system the people lower in the hierarchy have to "sell" their personalities, rather than their manufacturing skills, to impress their superiors. Bureaucracy produces what was later to be called organization men or marketeers or otherdirected personalities. The theory implies that they are even more alienated from their true selves than is suggested by the Marxist analysis of alienation resulting from economic powerlessness. 72 Weber, who lived to see the beginnings of the Soviet rule, argued with students in Germany about the future of socialism, predicting that it would not produce a decent or egalitarian system, but rather a more oppressive one than capitalism because it would be more bureaucratic. Shortly before his death, he concluded one of his lectures by saying "Let us meet again in ten years to see who is right."

While a member of the German Social Democratic Party, Robert Michels put forth a major critique of socialism that was to become extremely influential. His book Political Parties, which first appeared in 1911, emphasized inherent oligarchic tendencies within political parties, especially within the socialist parties and most notably within the most important of them at the time, his own German party. 73 Michels noted that the socialists claimed to be the greatest advocates of democracy in the polity and the economy. Their coming to power would supposedly lead both to greater democracy and classlessness. Michels, however, documented in abundant detail that the internal structure of the socialist parties was not democratic, that the parties were controlled by an elite that was able, through its control of the organization and political resources, to dominate the membership. He also emphasized that the party bureaucrats were not workers, even if some of them had [195] been such before they became party employees and leaders. Hence he argued, as did Rosa Luxemburg from a different perspective, that the program of the party reflected not the social situation of the working class, but the position and interests of the socially privileged party elites. Since this was particularly true of the socialist parties, Michels concluded that socialist parties might triumph and come to office, but that socialism as an egalitarian system could never materialize. There would always be control by the party bureaucracy, who would be the ruling class in socialist society.

While Michels's classic work was written years before the Russian Revolution, it was seriously discussed in what for a time was the major theoretical tome of the Russian and international Communist movements, Historical Materialism, written by Nikolai Bukharin in 1924. 74 Bukharin, well versed in sociological theory, evaluated the writings of Durkheim, Weber, and Michels knowledgeably. Addressing the criticisms of Marxism by various bourgeois political scientists, he summarized Michels's argument, but then surprisingly did not reject it. Rather he acknowledged that the beginnings of a new ruling class or stratum could be seen in the Soviet Union. He stated, however, that it would not lead to the failure of socialism or to the growth of a new controlling class because one of the major variables that Michels stressed as making for elite dominance was in the process of being eliminated in the Soviet Union, namely, a proletariat lacking political competence or education.

Bukharin argued that the working class was being raised by a socialist society to a higher level of understanding, and consequently also of political participation, than had ever occurred before. These skills would enable the workers to resist what he accepted as the inevitable tendency of the dominant strata of a socialist society to try to become a new ruling class. Bukharin believed that a sophisticated proletariat would prevent this from occurring. It is obvious, however, that Bukharin was concerned that socialism might fail, that it might produce a new exploitative class. Historical Materialism, which was used as required teaching material in the Communist movement for a few years, was to disappear completely, and Bukharin himself, like almost all the Revolutionary fathers, was to be executed by Stalin as a traitor in the Second Moscow Trial in 1938.

Michels's Political Parties had, however, a considerable effect on young American radicals in the 1930s and early 1940s, including two who [196] were to become sociologists, Philip Selznick and Seymour Martin Lipset. They had been Trotskyists, which meant that they were critically aware of the exploitative authoritarian character of the Soviet Union, but as they observed autocratic tendencies in the Trotskyist movement itself, they came to accept Michels's analysis that oligarchy and dictatorship seemed to be inherent in the organizational structure of revolutionary movements, a belief that was to lead them out of the movement and to be severely critical of the Soviet Union.

The writings of Weber and Michels were to have an influence on analyses of the Soviet system during and after World War II. James Burnham, who had been a leading American Trotskyist, wrote two books, The Managerial Revolution and The Machiavellians, which advanced the idea that the managerial bureaucracy was not only becoming the new ruling class of the Soviet system, but was also taking over throughout western industrial society, which he thought would become statist and manageria. 75 Burnham argued that power lay in the hands of the managers of industry who would be the new ruling class of a post-capitalist society. These ideas had appeared earlier in the writings of another former follower of Trotsky, although not a member, Bruno Rizzi, and subsequently in the works of Max Shachtman, who had been a Trotskyist leader. 76 Burnham was to give up his belief in the dominance of the managerially controlled state and become an advocate of pure market economies.

These views, it should be noted and acknowledged, did not conflict with those of the fountainhead of socialist theory and of Communist ideology, Karl Marx. Marxism is a materialist theory of society and history. The nature of society, the structural posibilities, are determined by the level of technology. Social structures, class relations, power systems, ideologies, are derivative from, are closely tied to, the productive apparatus. Marx, therefore, rejected as utopian proposals to build communism prior to the emergence of highly industrialized countries.

Marx and Engels distinguished between utopian and scientific socialism in The Communist Manifesto and in Engels's work, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. The concept of utopian socialism referred in part to efforts in the Middle Ages to create egalitarian communes and to the writings of men such as Fourier and Owen, who favored creating cooperative communities in the nineteenth century. And following from Marx's assumption, the major Marxist theorists did not believe that socialism could be built in a nonindustrialized country like the Czarist [197] empire. These included, prior to the Revolution, Russians Lenin, Trotsky, Plekhanov, and Martov, the last two the theoreticians of the Mensheviks, and, outside Russia, major figures Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg.

Underdeveloped, primarily agrarian countries did not meet Marx's materialistic requirement for socialism. He consistently emphasized that socialism could only come to power and take shape in a society that produces economic abundance, i.e., has the appropriate material substructure. Marx was convinced that an exploitative class society is the inevitable consequence of scarcity. Managers have to be highly rewarded to motivate them to organize the society. Surplus value has to be extracted from the lower classes to produce economic growth and to support the institutions of the ruling class, of government, of political organization, of defense against natural and human enemies. To repeat, socialism can only emerge in a society in which technology is so advanced, so productive, that the goal of equality, a high standard of living for all, is a practical one. Utopian, unrealistic efforts to create socialism, to form an egalitarian society prior to abundance, must fail.

In Das Kapital, Marx noted that "the most advanced society would show to the less developed the image of their future.'m Ironically, this meant that the first socialist country would be the United States since it was the most developed country from the late nineteenth century on. Many Marxists, ranging from Friedrich Engels in Europe to Daniel DeLeon in the United States, Paul Lafargue, Marx's son-in-law, in France, August Bebel in Germany, and Maxim Gorky in Russia, concluded that America had to be the first socialist country. They continued to believe this up to World War I, even when they saw large socialist movements developing in Europe, but not in the United States. 78

The theory, of course, meant that Russia, not to speak of China, could not and would not be among the first socialist countries. The Russian Marxists, both Bolshevik and Menshevik, knew their Marx and believed this. They wrote that Russia first had to go through the stages of being a bourgeois society, a capitalist economy. Capitalism, a market economy, economic incentives, were necessary for growth under conditions of scarcity.

Prior to 1917, the only well-known Russian Marxist who argued that the working class, the socialist movement, should try to take power in [198] Russia was Leon Trotsky. Trotsky did not believe this because he thought that the country was ready for socialism, but rather because, as he emphasized, Russia had missed the opportunity to develop along the lines that had occurred in the west. He argued that it was too late for the Russian bourgeoisie to take over their country and transform it into an economically developed capitalist democracy, like western Europe or America. Russia's weakness in the world market would prevent it from doing so. However, Trotsky did not propose that the party take office to erect a socialist system, but rather to lead the effort to industrialize the country using market or capitalist mechanisms.

The other Russian Marxists, both Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, ridiculed Trotsky's theory and rejected the idea that the working class would come to power in an underdeveloped country. In 1917, however, the Bolsheviks did take over. The historical record documents that this happened because Lenin, who was a strategic genius, in effect decided that Trotsky was right, although he never acknowledged this openly. On his return from Switzerland in April 1917, he proposed that the Bolsheviks plan for the seizure of power. All the other leaders of the party thought he had lost his bearings and rejected his policy.

Lenin, however, was able to switch the party's orientation. He argued that Russia was the weakest link in the chain of capitalist nations as a result of the military defeats it had suffered in the war. He felt and hoped that a Russian revolution would provide the spark for the revolution in the industrialized west, particularly in Germany, but elsewhere as well. And it was his belief that if the working class, if the socialist movement, came to power in the more developed countries of western Europe, that Russia could be helped along by them. No one, certainly not he nor any of the other Marxists, thought that socialist institutions could be erected in the backward material conditions of the Czarist Empire. He did not really believe that the Bolsheviks would hold power unless the west joined in.

We do not know what went through Lenin's mind as it became clear that the revolution would not succeed in the west, that the Bolsheviks were isolated in what had become the Soviet Union. For the first few years, he and the other Bolsheviks kept looking for the revolution to emerge in the industrialized West, in harmony with Marx's anticipations. But as it became clear that this was not happening, that they were isolated in their economically backward territory, one that showed little evidence of response to the egalitarian norms introduced under War [199] Communism, Lenin became increasingly pessimistic. He put the blame for domestic shortcomings, not only on war conditions and underdevelopment, but also on the low cultural level of the Russian people, on Asian traditions that made for passivity.

Marx's theory implied the effort to build socialism in a less developed society would result in a sociological abortion. If those words do not describe what happened in the Soviet Union, nothing does. Karl Marx anticipated that the premature creation of a socialist state would be a fetter on the means of production, not a goad, and would be repressive and reactionary. Marx would not have believed that the ruling class of the sociological abortion would give up as benignly as it has.

Some orthodox Marxists, focusing on organizational variables, came up with equally pessimistic predictions about the future of an effort led by an elite party, the Bolsheviks, to build socialism in Russia. Leon Trotsky, in the period after the Revolution of 1905, rejected the Mensheviks as too moderate, but regarded the Bolsheviks as too authoritarian. Analyzing the internal structure of their organization and Lenin's power within it, he predicted that a Bolshevik seizure of power would inevitably lead to an authoritarian regime, in which one party controlled everything, with a dictator who dominated the party. He of course gave up this analysis when he joined the Bolsheviks in 1917.

The Polish-German Marxist Rosa Luxemburg also debated with Lenin in the early years of the twentieth century. She rejected his idea that a small revolutionary elite party would lead the working class into socialism. In two articles published under the title, "Leninism or Marxism?" in 1904, she argued against Lenin's organizational views. She attacked Lenin's emphasis on a centralized elite party, one that she thought implied contempt for the working class, suggesting they could not come to revolutionary consciousness on their own. Like Trotsky, she anticipated a future in which the Party would dictate to the masses, the Central Committee would dictate to the Party and a leader would ultimately dictate to the Committee. After the Bolsheviks had come to power and established a dictatorship, she again polemicized against Lenin's views in a pamphlet on The Russian Revolution. She wrote, among other things: "Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party - however numerous they may be - is no freedom for all. Freedom is always and exclusively for the one who thinks differently."79 And she predicted that "without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, [200] without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out of every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element... . (The system becomes) a clique affair, a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians. .. such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc." 80

The idea that socialism could only emerge in an advanced industrial society, which was a fixed dogma of Marxism prior to 1917, almost disappeared afterward, given the existence of the Soviet Union. It should be noted, however, that the justly esteemed Italian theoretician Antonio Gramsci wrote from prison in the middle 1920s, in line with the traditional Marxist gospel, that his country, Italy, must "Americanize" to become socialist. That is, Gramsci argued Italy must first become an advanced bourgeois industrial country like the United States, before it could move on to make a socialist revolution. 81 Gramsci did not refer critically to the situation in the Soviet Union; as a Communist he could not, but he may very well have had it in mind, since it was much more backward than Italy.


13. See William adorn, "The pluralist mirage," The National interest 31 (Spring 1993):
99-100. The book is Zbigniew Brzezinski, editor, Dilemmas of Change in Soviet Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969). See table on 157 in Brzezinski's "Concluding Reflections."

14. Robert Conquest, "Immobilism and decay," in Brzezinski, ibid., 72.


15. Martin Malia, "From under the rubble, what?" Problems of Communism 41
(January-April 1992): 96.

16. Murray Feshbach, "Population and manpower trends in the U.S.S.R.," paper prepared for Conference on the Soviet Union Today, sponsored by the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, held in Washington D.C., April 1978; Feshbach, "Issues in Soviet health problems," in U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, Soviet Economy in the 1980s: Problems and Prospects, Part 2, 97th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 31 December 1982), 203-227; Feshbach, "Soviet population, labor force and health," in U.S. Congress, Joint Hearings of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Joint Economic Committee, The Political Economy of the Soviet Union 98th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 26 July and 29 September 1983),91-138.

17. It is interesting to note that Emmanuel Todd, who in his book The Final Fall: Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere (New York: Karz Publishers, 1979) drew an exceptionally stark picture of Soviet decline, was also trained in historical demography.

18. Nick Eberstedt, The Poverty of Communism (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1988), ch. 3. This chapter was originally published as "Human factors: Quality of life," in Soviet Economy in the 1980s: Problems and Prospects, Part 2, 187-202. See also Eberstedt, "Health of an Empire: Poverty and social progress in the CMEA bloc," in Henry S. Rowen and Charles Wolf, Jr., editors, The Future of the Soviet Empire (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989),221-258 and Mikhail S. Bernstam, "Trends in the Soviet population," in ibid., 185-220.

19. Andrei Amalrik, Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? (New York: Harper and
Row, 1970),35.

20. Ibid., 33,41.

21. Ibid., 59,64.

22. Randall Collins, Weberian Sociological Theory (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 187.

23. Ibid., 197.

24. Ibid., 203.

25. Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1988).

26. For a systematic treatment of the state-society tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe see Walter D. Connor, Socialism's Dilemmas: State and Society in the Soviet Bloc (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), ch. 1. Blair A. Ruble described the long-term social changes in the Soviet Union as a "quiet revolution" preparing the way for Gorbachev's reforms in "The Soviet Union's quiet revolution," in George W. Breslauer, editor, Can Gorbachev's Reforms Succeeds? (Berkeley: Berkeley-Stanford Program in Soviet Studies, Center for Slavic and East European Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 1990).

27. Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon, viii.

28. Ibid., 145f.

29. Richard Pipes, Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America's Future (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), 199-200.

30. Ibid., 203.

31. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1973).

32. Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956).


33. Ibid., part vi.

34. Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, ch. 12, section 1.

35. For a fundamental criticism of the "atomization thesis" see Ralf Dahrendorf,
"Totalitarianism revisited," Partisan Review 55 (Fall 1988): 541-554.

36. Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Concluding reflections," in his Dilemmas of Change, 162

37. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America's Rule in the Technetronic Era
(New York: Viking Press, 1970), 164-172.

38. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in
the Twentieth Century (New York: Scribner, 1989), 100.

70. On Weber and other sociological critics of socialism, see Daniel Bell, "The postindustrial society: The evolution of an idea," Survey 79 (Spring 1971): 117-129. 71. Max Weber, Economy and Society vol. I (New York: Bedminster Press, 1968), 223-225.

72. For discussion see Seymour Martin Lipset, Conflict and Consensus (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1985), chapter 2, "Social stratification and social class analysis." Also: Seymour Martin Lipset and Richard Dobson, "Social stratification and sociology in the Soviet Union," Survey 88 (Summer 1973): 114-185; Seymour Martin Lipset and Terry Nichols Clark, "Are social classes dying?" International Sociology 6 (December 1991): 397-410.

73. Robert Michels, Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Ten
dencies of Modern Democracy (New York: Free Press, 1962).

74. Nikolai Bukharin, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology (New York:
Russell and Russell, 1965).

75. James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World


(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972); Burnham, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1970).

76. Bruno Rizzi, The Bureaucratization of the World (New York: Free Press, 1985). This was originally published in Paris in 1939. Max Shachtman, The Bureaucratic Revolution: The Rise of the Stalinist State (New York: Donald Press, 1962). See the discussion of these works in Bell, "The post-industrial society," 139-142.

77. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1958),

78. They looked to America as the country that would show others the way to socialism, in spite of the glaring weakness of socialist parties in the United States. As Howard Quint points out in The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953),380, they "found the United States, of all the countries in the world, most ripe for socialism, not only in the light of Marxian law of economic development, but also by the express opinion of Friedrich Engels." Karl Kautsky, considered the leading Marxist theoretician in the German Social Democratic Party, announced in 1902 that "America shows us our future, in so far as one country can reveal it at all to another." He elaborated this view in 1910, anticipating "the sharpening of class conflict more strongly" in the U.S. than anywhere else. The British Marxist H. M. Hyndman noted in 1904 that "just as North America is today the most advanced country, economically and socially, so it will be the first in which Socialism will find open and legal expression." Quoted in R. Lawrence Moore, European Socialists and the American Promised Land (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970),58, 102. Werner Sombart emphasized this point in his classic 1906 book, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? (White Plains, N.J.: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1976), 15: "If ... modern socialism follows as a necessary reaction to capitalism, the country with the most advanced capitalist development, namely the United States, would at the same time be the one providing the classic case of Socialism, and its working class would be supporters of the most radical of Socialist movements." Maxim Gorky, who supported the Russian Bolsheviks from 1903 on, wrote in 1906 of his conviction that "socialism would be realized in the United States before any other country in the world." Quoted in J. E. Good, Strangers in a Strange Land: Five Russian Radicals Visit the United States (Ph.D. dissertation, Washington, D.C.: American University, 1979),231. August Bebel, the leader of the German Social
Democrats, stated in an interview in 1907 in the American socialist paper Appeal /0 Reason that: "You Americans will be the first to usher in a Socialist Republic." His belief at a time when his party was already a mass movement with many elected members of the Reichstag, but the American Socialist Party secured less than 2% of the vote - was based on the fact that the United States was "far ahead of Germany in industrial development." He reiterated his opinion in 1912, when the discrepancy between the strength of the two movements was even greater, saying that America would be "the first nation to declare a Cooperative Commonwealth." Quoted in Moore, European Socialists, 78f. Paul Lafargue paraphrased Marx on the flyleaf of his book on America by asserting that "the most industrially advanced country shows to those who follow it on the industrial ladder the image of their own future." Quoted in Moore, European Socialists, 91.

79. Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism? (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981),69.

80. Ibid., 71-72.

81. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (N ew York: International Publishers, 1971),21-22,272,318.


82. Reprinted as Bernard Levin, "One who got it right," National Interest 31 (Spring 1993): 64-65.

83. Edwin Meese, "The man who won the Cold War," Policy Review 60 (Summer 1992):36-39.

84. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Will Russia blow up?" Newsweek (19 November 1979):

85. "Senator to Reagan: 'We won the Cold War,'" Watertown Daily Times, 10 September 1984.

86. "Soviet Union is 'failed society' in need of clear policy from U.S., Moynihan says," Buffalo News, 15 October 1984.

87. A good example is Severyn Bialer's "Sources of Soviet stability," in Terry L. Thompson and Richard Sheldon, editors, Soviet Society and Culture: Essays in Honor of Vera S. Dunham (Boulder, Co!.: Westview Press, 1988).

88. Seymour Martin Lipset, "No third way: A comparative perspective on the left," in Daniel Chirot, editor, The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991), 183-232.

89. S. Frederick Starr, "Pooped party," The New Republic (4 December 1989): 20.
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded