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November 2, 2009 ● no.

11

Reflections on Communism
Twenty Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall
by Paul Hollander

Executive Summary
wenty years ago the Berlin Wall fell, marking the col- consequences of the pursuit of lofty goals whereas the goals

T lapse of Soviet communism. The failure of the com-


munist system was not merely economic and political;
it was a moral failure as well. Over time communism created
of Nazism themselves were unmitigated evil.
Western intellectuals who had once idealized the Soviet
Union have done little soul searching regarding the roots of
a deep disillusionment and revulsion among those who lived their beliefs. The long association of idealism with animosity
under it. The diminished sense of legitimacy of the ruling elite toward commerce and capitalism among Western intellectu-
in the Soviet Union and Soviet bloc countries contributed to als has contributed to a reluctance to criticize a system osten-
the unraveling of those systems as well. sibly established in opposition to the values they abhorred.
At the same time, there is a remarkable lack of moral Public attitudes in former communist countries have been
concern in the West with the atrocities committed under conflicted because of the arguable complicity of many citizens
communist systems, including the tens of millions of peo- in keeping the old system in power. A predominant attitude
ple who perished as a result of communist policies. By con- in Eastern Europe and Russia toward the former communist
trast there has been a great deal of impassioned condemna- systems has been a mixture of oblivion, denial, and repression.
tion of the outrages of Nazism. The most important reason Contemporary Western attitudes toward the fall of the
for treating Nazism and communism differently has been Soviet system suggest that political beliefs endure when they
the perception that communist crimes were unintended are widely shared and can satisfy important emotional needs.

Paul Hollander is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an associate at the Davis Center for Russian and
Eurasian Studies of Harvard University. Born in Hungary, he escaped following the crushing of the 1956 Revolution by Soviet forces.

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The failure of abundance, the “withering away” of the state
the communist Introduction (that is to say, the state as an agent of coercion),
and the disappearance of all inequalities and
system was not The 20th anniversary of the collapse of social problems (or social pathologies) such as
merely economic Soviet communism in Eastern Europe is an crime, alcoholism, and family disintegration.
appropriate time for stocktaking and for seek- Most importantly, exploitation and alienation
and political; it ing to answer a number of questions associat- were going to be eliminated.2 Under these con-
was a moral ed with this historic event, its aftermath, and ditions, the conflict between individual and
failure as well. its continued influence.1 In this paper, I will society, or private and public interests, was also
address the following questions: supposed to disappear.
As commonly used in the West, “commu-
• Why did Soviet communism collapse, nist” refers to the political system of countries
and what were some of the consequences that designated themselves as “socialist.” How-
of its collapse? ever those “socialist” states should not be con-
• What have been the attitudinal respons- fused with social-democratic countries such as
es to the collapse in the former and sur- those in Scandinavia. The countries discussed
viving communist countries? in this paper were dominated by parties that
• How did the Western publics and elites usually (but not invariably) called themselves
respond to the collapse, and how did ear- “communist.” Notwithstanding differences in
lier conceptions of communism and atti- size, population, history, culture, levels of in-
tudes towards communist systems and dustrialization, and urbanization, they had in
ideologies influence those responses? common the following attributes:
• Why do the ideals associated with com-
munist systems and movements remain • The doctrine of Marxism-Leninism (usu-
attractive in many parts of the world and ally interpreted by the supreme leader) as
among many groups and individuals the source of legitimacy and supposed
despite the well-documented crimes of guide to all of the regime’s policies.
communism and its enormous cost in • A one-party system often led by a deified
terms of human lives? supreme leader; these parties claimed vir-
tual infallibility and universal support (as
Two questions need to be dealt with at the expressed in the alleged 99 percent of the
outset. Did communism as a whole collapse or votes they regularly received in elections
just Soviet communism—the latter referring that offered no other choice).
to the Soviet Union and countries under its • The monopolistic control of the econo-
direct control in Eastern Europe (the so-called my and media of mass communications.
Soviet bloc that was also designated by Soviet • A large, highly differentiated and special-
authorities as the Socialist Commonwealth)? ized police force that was dedicated to
Or did communism collapse as a global phe- combating “political crimes” and was in-
nomenon, including communist ideology in strumental in keeping the party in power.
all its varieties? Answering those questions • An ostensible commitment to develop a
requires clarification of what is meant by new, superior human being.
“communist.”
Communist states referred to themselves Some of those states were also totalitari-
not as “communist,” but rather “socialist.” an—at least during certain periods, such as the
“Communism” was the long-term objective to Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao
be attained in the distant, unspecified future, at Tse-tung, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and Cuba
the pinnacle of historical evolution. Commu- under Fidel Castro. Totalitarian states unlike
nist society, as envisioned by Marx, was going to other repressive, authoritarian systems, devel-
be characterized by unprecedented material oped unusually efficient and ambitious meth-

2
ods of social control and intimidation and tions and misperceptions of communist sys-
sought to politicize most spheres of life. In the tems in general and the Soviet Union in par-
totalitarian society, the party/state reserved ticular.5
the right to interfere in aspects of life that used There was no single, universal cause of the
to be matters of indifference for other author- end of communism in each of the Iron Curtain
itarian rulers (i.e., the family, sexual morality, countries, but the weakening and disintegra-
recreation, sports, travel, etc.). These totalitari- tion of the Soviet Union was a major contribu-
an systems controlled both the means of pro- tor to the collapse of communism in Eastern
duction and mass communication. Totalitar- Europe. Insofar as the popular rejection of
ian societies were also defined by their far- those systems was among the causes of their
reaching goals of social, economic, and cultur- collapse, a major component of that rejection
al transformation and by their attempted was nationalistic resentment over Soviet politi-
transformation of human nature that was to cal and cultural domination. Popular disen-
culminate in the rise of the new socialist or chantment with communist systems was far
communist man.3 greater in Eastern Europe (where communist
It remains debatable whether or not the institutions and policies were externally
collapse here discussed should be considered imposed) than in the Soviet Union itself, where
that of Soviet communism or more generally a resigned acceptance of communism by the
There is a
of communism—including its ideological populace was more typical. remarkable lack
underpinnings. It is indisputable, however, The collapse was unanticipated largely of moral concern
that in 1991 the Soviet Union fell apart. It is because the Soviet Union succeeded over long
also indisputable that between 1989 and 1991, periods of time to project an image of strength in the West with
communist systems in Eastern Europe im- and staying power.6 Some Western observers the atrocities
ploded. Those Eastern European regimes col- attributed this apparent stability to the agen-
lapsed when it became clear that the Soviet cies of control and coercion, others to the
committed under
Union under Mikhail Gorbachev would not capacity of the communist system to meet the communist
keep them in power by Soviet military force as basic needs of the population. For example, systems.
it had done in 1953 in East Germany, in 1956 Alexander Dallin of Stanford University wrote,
in Hungary, and in 1968 in Czechoslovakia. “What we are really puzzling over is how a
The collapse of Soviet communism also thoroughly controlled, tightly disciplined and
helped to hasten the end of the communist heavily indoctrinated system as the Soviet
systems in Ethiopia and Nicaragua and weak- Union managed to fall apart, unravel so easily
ened communist movements in other parts of and completely.”7
the world. It has also stimulated the change of Critics of communist systems tended to
economic policies in some of the surviving believe that an unpopular, inefficient, and
communist states, especially China and Viet- repressive system could survive indefinitely
nam. Economic policies in Cuba and North given the determination of the rulers to stay in
Korea, however, remain largely unchanged. power, and given the means at their disposal
to stifle dissent, crush opposition, keep levels
of intimidation at a constant and high level,
Why Did Soviet and hold popular expectations low. Some of
Communism Collapse, and the critics also believed that those systems suc-
ceeded in indoctrinating the population—at
with What Consequences? least to the extent that the population was no
It is important to note that the collapse, longer capable of entertaining alternatives to
and especially its timing, was largely unfore- the existing and seemingly deeply entrenched
seen both inside the communist countries system, and was thus reduced to passivity.8
and in the Western world.4 This lack of antic- Those in the West who were sympathetic in
ipation was related to the prevailing percep- some measure to the Soviet system did not

3
think that it would collapse either. Commu- The new permissiveness that glasnost ush-
nist sympathizers considered communist ered in came about because of the declining
regimes stable not because of their power of ideological convictions of the ruling elite and
coercion, but because, in their opinion, com- its diminished sense of legitimacy and political
munist countries were modernizing states that will, including the will to repress dissent and
met, by and large, the needs of their popula- any criticism of the authorities. At the same
tions and therefore enjoyed widespread popu- time, Gorbachev and his associates believed
lar legitimacy. In particular, Stephen F. Cohen that greater openness in confronting the
of New York University believed that there was defects of the system would reinvigorate rather
much evidence (including opinion surveys) than discredit it. Most consequentially, glas-
that showed that even during the years of glas- nost made it possible for the general public to
nost and perestroika “large majorities of Soviet observe and ponder the abyss between the the-
citizens . . . continued to oppose free-market ory and practice of communism, between offi-
capitalism and to support fundamental eco- cial ideals and daily realities, between the
nomic-social features of the Soviet system— promises of the authorities and the multiple
among them, public ownership of large-scale failures regarding their fulfillment.
economic assets, a state-regulated market, Glasnost delegitimized the Soviet system
guaranteed employment, controlled consumer by allowing the population to learn about the
prices . . . and free education and health care.” many defects and crimes of Soviet commu-
But he has also written that “a majority of nism, including forced collectivization, fam-
Russians . . . regretted the end of the Soviet ines, the millions who perished under Stalin,
Union not because they pined for ‘Commu- the show trials, the specifics of life in the
nism’ but because they lost a familiar state and Gulag, the mismanagement of the economy,
secure way of life.”9 the decline of public health, the grotesque
cult of Stalin, and the privileges of the Soviet
Some Explanations of the Unraveling political elites, the “nomenklatura.”10 Glas-
Numerous explanations have been pro- nost also enabled the Soviet public to learn
posed in retrospect to account for the unravel- more about life in the West, thereby intensi-
ing of the Soviet Union. The most popular one fying relative deprivation—that is to say, the
has been economic stagnation combined with sense of deprivation based not only on objec-
Gorbachev’s policy of allowing more free tive realities (such as the shortages of hous-
expression, or glasnost. As the argument goes, ing and consumer goods) but also on com-
the Soviet system faced serious, chronic eco- parison between their lives and those of
nomic problems throughout its existence, westerners.
ranging from the famines of the late 1920s But what accounts for the rise of glasnost?
and early 1930s to the persistent shortages of It may best be explained by the mindset of
consumer goods and housing. Those difficul- Gorbachev and his colleagues who were far
ties, however, did not endanger the survival of less rigid and doctrinaire than their predeces-
the system until, beginning in the mid 1980s, sors; their ideological certainties had been
increased free expression made them subject shaken and weakened. As a result they did not
Western to public discussion and the discontent they exercise power as ruthlessly as would have
intellectuals generated became more openly shared. Glas- been required to fend off challenges to their
who had once nost was probably the single most important rule. The rise of Gorbachev reflected genera-
contributor to the collapse. It made it possible tional change. He and his associates no longer
idealized the for ordinary people to learn what was wrong possessed the self-assurance and the political
Soviet Union with the system and to compare their own per- will that allowed former Soviet leaders to pre-
sonal dissatisfaction with that of others—mak- side—untroubled—over a wasteful and ineffi-
have done little ing everyone realize that their grievances were cient economy, to enjoy politically determined
soul searching. far from isolated. privileges without compunction, and to crush

4
dissent with a clear conscience. This was the the questioning of communism in the Glasnost was
major proposition of my 1999 book, Political Soviet Union itself. probably the
Will and Personal Belief.
The roots of the doubts shared by this new Discontent was nothing new over the single most
generation of Soviet leaders probably reach decades of Soviet control. What was new was important
back to the historic speech of Nikita Khrush- the greatly diminished public willingness to
chev at the 20th Congress of the Communist tolerate the failures of the system and the
contributor to
Party of the Soviet Union in 1956. In that greater freedom to express discontent and the collapse.
speech, Khrushchev revealed many details frustration. There was discontent with the
about Stalin’s reign of terror and the intoler- low standard of living, the stifling bureaucra-
ant, cruel personality that was in striking con- tization of life, the privileges and corruption
trast to Stalin’s official depiction. Those shock- of the nomenklatura, the waste of resources
ing and unexpected revelations became the on foreign interventions and allies, and the
basis of the gradual delegitimization and ques- limitations of personal freedom (foreign trav-
tioning of the whole Soviet system among the el in particular). There was also smoldering
members of the party elite, which included, ethnic discontent in many parts of the Soviet
prominently, Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, as Union that was contained as long as the cen-
well as politburo members Alexander Yakovlev tral authorities exercised power without hesi-
and Eduard Shevardnadze, and historian tation.
Dmitri Volkogonov.
The more proximate causes of the collapse The Divergence between Theory and
may be summarized as follows: Practice
Richard Pipes of Harvard University has
• The massive inefficiency that was always argued that in addition to these proximate
an intrinsic part of the system of central causes, the fundamental cause of the collapse
planning. The failure of communism to “was the utopian nature of its [the regime’s]
meet the material needs of the populace objectives.” That is to say, the Soviet system
became more obvious over time. Short- from its earliest days pursued goals that were
ages of even the most basic foodstuffs both unrealizable and unpopular, including
and consumer goods were chronic and the attempted creation of “the new socialist
ubiquitous throughout the communist man.”11 Those utopian efforts demanded a
bloc, especially the Soviet Union. waste of resources, vast amounts of coercion
• The costly Soviet intervention and de- and fraudulent political propaganda. Martin
feat in Afghanistan (1979–1988), which Malia of the University of California at Berke-
drained the economy and illustrated the ley made a similar point: “Of all the reasons for
limits of Soviet imperial power. the collapse of communism, the most basic is
• The arms race that intensified under U.S. that it was an intrinsically nonviable, indeed
president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, impossible project from the beginning. How-
which imposed another great burden on ever important in its genesis were the heritage
the economy and further undermined the of Russian backwardness and authoritarian-
standard of living, increasing popular dis- ism, or the personal ruthlessness of Lenin and
content. Stalin, it is Marxism that was the decisive fac-
• The intensifying unrest and uprisings in tor . . . making communism the historically
Eastern Europe. Although repeatedly sup- unique phenomenon it was. And the perverse
pressed, the uprisings made it clear that genius of Marxism is to present an unattain-
the alleged beneficiaries of the Soviet rule able utopia as an infallibly scientific enter-
did not appreciate the imposition of the prise.”12
Soviet model. Thus the deteriorating situ- These Western assessments of the nature of
ation in Eastern Europe contributed to communism—utopian or otherwise—have great

5
bearing on the disputes and explanations The reasons leading to the collapse includ-
regarding the collapse of the Soviet Union. ed both sets of factors: some of the ideals or
Thus, one set of the responses to the collapse theoretical propositions of Marxism were
was shaped by the belief that it occurred clearly adopted and zealously pursued but
because, as Malia and Pipes argued, the system they had adverse, unintended consequences.
sought to achieve utopian goals inspired by For example the collectivization of agriculture
Marxism. In other words, the collapse occurred retarded food production, and state con-
because theory and practice converged (i.e., trolled industrialization created a huge, ineffi-
Marxist theory compelled communist systems cient bureaucracy, diminished incentives of
to pursue unattainable utopian goals). The the workers, and contributed greatly to the
theoretical foundation or blueprint itself was concentration of political power.
flawed, not viable, as Malia put it. Milovan Marx and Lenin (initially) believed that
Djilas, the Yugoslav communist politician who communist ideals would command broad
later became a critic of communist totalitari- popular support and therefore little violence or
anism, also believed that “the [communist] coercion will be required to implement them.
idea itself contained the seeds of its own inglo- They also believed that all forms of human
rious, future collapse. . . . Such visions may misbehavior will “wither away” after the prole-
The Soviet system encourage us to sacrifice . . . but they are also tarian revolution and the seizure of the means
from its earliest opiates to the soul. . . . The idea dried up in pro- of production. As Leszek Kolakowski put it,
days pursued portion as the reality legitimized by it grew “Marx seems to have imagined that once capi-
stronger.”13 talists were done away with the whole world
goals that were Igor Kon, a Russian social scientist, empha- could become a kind of Athenian agora: one
both unrealizable sized the psychological dimensions of the pop- had only to forbid private ownership of mach-
ular dissatisfaction. He wrote: “Among the ines or land and, as if by magic, human beings
and unpopular. causes contributing to the demise of the Soviet would cease to be selfish and their interests
empire one has to count the psychological cri- would coincide in perfect harmony.”15
sis that gripped Soviet society in the early 1970s There were further connections between
and wore it down through the 1980s. Apathy, Marxist theory and Soviet-communist prac-
cynicism and alcoholism had as much to do tice. Communist leaders shared Marx’s con-
with the collapse . . . as falling prices on world viction that capitalism and the profit motive
oil markets and corruption among Soviet offi- were the sources of all evil. They also believed
cials. . . . Perestroika failed to deliver on its that religion was a primitive and debilitating
promise . . . because its architect . . . underesti- superstition and a tool of the ruling classes
mated the depth of the anger that enveloped that had to be suppressed. Marx and the lead-
Soviet society after its cherished myths were ers of actually existing communist systems
exposed.”14 also shared a contempt for peasants and their
By contrast, many (mostly Western) com- traditions. Marx’s doctrine of class struggle
mentators argued that the system had little or too was eagerly embraced by communist
nothing to do with Marxism, and it collapsed leaders and helped to legitimize their ruth-
because theory and practice diverged as the rul- lessness and intolerance for any opposition
ing elite made no serious attempt to realize the or dissent. Neither Marx nor 20th-century
humane and liberating ideals of Marxism. communist leaders were concerned with the
These two seemingly conflicting approaches dangers of bureaucratization and the con-
may in part be reconciled by proposing that centration of political power.
there was a fundamental discrepancy between The all-too-visible gaps between theory
the promises and ideals embedded in the Marx- and practice (or theory and its attempted real-
ist theory and the results of their attempted ization) were crucial in delegitimizing the sys-
realization, but not between the theory and the tem and in creating massive, entrenched pop-
policies these ideals inspired and legitimated. ular discontent. As Alexander Wat, a Polish

6
writer, noted, “The loss of freedom, tyranny, Unlike most Western commentators, Ste-
abuse, hunger would all have been easier to phen Cohen believed that the Soviet system
bear if not for the compulsion to call them was eminently reformable and that its collapse
freedom, justice, the good of the people.”16 had far less to do with structural factors than
Or, as Hungarian writers Thomas Aczel and with the mistaken decisions and policies of
Tibor Meray put it, “Most intolerable was the particular leaders such as Gorbachev and
simulation of virtue, the endless proclama- Yeltsin. It is those personal decisions that pro-
tion of good intentions: everything was tak- vide, in Cohen’s view “the essential explana-
ing place on behalf of ‘the people.’ . . . The tion of the end of the Soviet Union.” Accord-
writers knew very well that there were great ing to him, “the opposing but symbiotic will
social contradictions in Western capitalist sys- of two extraordinary figures [Gorbachev and
tems. . . . But in those capitalist societies at Yeltsin] . . . led to the end of the Soviet Union.”
least they did not insist that everything be- The decisions and policies that proved to be
longed to the masses.”17 fatal to the Soviet state included Gorbachev’s
The ubiquitous political propaganda made “giving away immense personal power he had
a substantial contribution to popular discon- inherited” as well as political decisions that
tent and cynicism since its repetitious asser- “dismantled and undermined the old Soviet
tions sharply and spectacularly contrasted economic system without leaving time for
with the daily experience of the people.18 another to develop in its place.” Glasnost, in
The disunity between theory and practice addition to its consequences noted earlier
was more apparent. The public ownership of “contributed to the economic crisis by loosen-
the means of production did not make the ing central controls. . . . By 1990, Gorbachev’s
economy more productive. The workers reforms and other developments had removed
deprived of autonomous trade unions had or weakened the elements of Party-state com-
less control over their wages and working con- mand and control that had defined the Soviet
ditions than their counterparts under capital- economy and made it workable . . . for
ism; they were often searched when exiting decades.” The “fateful” decisions of these two
the factories (to make sure they did not steal) leaders included Yeltsin’s hasty, arbitrary, and
and had little reason to consider themselves ill-conceived decision, as Cohen sees it, to dis-
masters of their fate and owners of the means mantle the Union of the Soviet Socialist
of production. One-party rule was no more Republics. Cohen also believes that the eco-
democratic than parliamentary democracy. nomic shortages by themselves were not seri-
The Communist Party was not composed of ous—the problem was “primarily one of distri-
the most selfless and idealistic representatives bution.”19
of the working classes; the leaders of the party While Cohen never had illusions about the
and government proved quite vulnerable to repressive qualities of the Soviet system prior
corruption. Communist prisons were no to the rise of Gorbachev, he has entertained for
more humane than those in capitalist coun- much of his professional life questionable Utopian efforts
tries and they too failed to rehabilitate the hopes about its humane and liberating poten- demanded a
inmates. The privileges of the nomenklatura tial rooted in the original ideological inspira-
contradicted the ideals of social equality. The tion personified by Nikolai Bukharin, who waste of
masses did not readily accept that religion was executed during Stalin’s purges. resources, vast
was their opiate and that the persecution of In concluding this brief survey of the caus- amounts of
believers was just and served a useful purpose. es of the collapse of communism, it is impor-
In short, the causes of the collapse of Soviet tant to stress once more that Soviet commu- coercion, and
communism could be found both in its ideo- nism was not merely or primarily an economic fraudulent
logical roots and theoretical inspiration as and political failure—it was a moral one as
well as in the unintended consequences of the well.20 The system’s legitimacy greatly dimin-
political
practices and policies of the system. ished (or completely disappeared) not only propaganda.

7
The workers because it malfunctioned economically and Romania, and Russia, the process of western-
had less control administratively, but because of its notorious ization has been less successful.
mendacity, which created, over time, a wide- In Eastern Europe, as in Russia, the new
over their wages spread moral indignation and cynicism and weaker central authorities have had diffi-
and working among the population. Doubtless, the ideo- culty coping with resurgent social problems
logical convictions and sense of legitimacy of (crime, drugs, homelessness, caring for the
conditions this new generation of leaders was also under- old, ethnic tensions, etc.). The rise of new
than their mined by economic stagnation, but that stag- inequalities produced resentment and dissat-
counterparts nation was not the only, or major source of isfaction in Eastern Europe, where the privi-
doubt. For all the above reasons, the Soviet leges of the nomenklatura used to be careful-
under capitalism. leaders were less capable than their predeces- ly hidden from public scrutiny.
sors of subordinating means to ends and keep- Political polarization in Eastern Europe has
ing the communist system going. been another consequence of the collapse.
Democratization allowed for a free expression
Some Consequences of the Fall of of formerly suppressed political sentiments
Communism and ideologies such as virulent nationalism,
One of the initial consequences of the anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and the revival of
Soviet Union’s disintegration was the growth old ethnic hatreds peculiar to the region. In the
or perpetuation of economic, social, and former Czechoslovakia (split into the Czech
demographic problems. Prominent among Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, and Roma-
them were crime (especially organized crime) nia, popular hostility toward the gypsy popula-
and ethnic conflict. There has also been a tion became freely expressed. In Hungary
decline in the standard of living, public health, (which has the largest surviving Jewish popula-
and population growth, and a rise in new and tion in Eastern Europe) anti-Semitism has
very visible inequalities. The independence of become overt in many parts of the population
the former Soviet republics created new rela- and has even found expression in the mass
tionships between Russia and the politically media.
independent but economically still dependent Globally, the most obvious consequence of
successor states. Their economic dependence the collapse was the rise of the United States as
on Russia would be later used by President the only superpower21 and the replacement of
Vladimir Putin to reassert at least a measure of the Cold War by a series of localized conflicts
control over those former Soviet territories. of diverse origins. The rise of global terrorism
The integration of some of the former perpetuated by radical Islamic groups also fol-
Soviet bloc countries into the North Atlantic lowed the collapse, though the rise of terror-
Treaty Organization and the European Union ism cannot be directly linked to the fall of the
was another significant outcome of the col- Soviet Union.
lapse of the Soviet Union and the “Socialist The collapse of the Soviet Union has encour-
Commonwealth.” That contributed to a mea- aged the United States to play a more active,
sure of political stability and progress in those interventionist role in world affairs—as ex-
countries but also resulted in massive resent- pressed by the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraq War
ment and apprehension in Russia. The reuni- beginning in 2003, and the removal from pow-
fication of Germany was another major out- er of the Taliban in Afghanistan beginning in
come of the collapse. 2001. Those actions and policies also created
By and large, the process of political, cul- new, unanticipated problems and contributed
tural, and economic westernization has been to a substantial increase of worldwide hostility
more rapid and consistent in Czechoslovakia toward the United States. The resurgent anti-
and its successor states and in Hungary, Americanism and anti-capitalism diverted
Poland, Slovenia, and in the Baltic countries. attention from the communist systems, both
In the Ukraine, Belarus, Albania, Bulgaria, extinct and surviving. As a result efforts to bet-

8
ter understand the nature of communism and Responses and Attitudes
the damage it inflicted on the world have toward the Collapse in
diminished. More recently, anti-Americanism
and anti-capitalism have found expression in
Former and Surviving
the rise to power of radical leftist political move- Communist States
ments in Latin America, especially Venezuela,
Bolivia, and Ecuador, as well in the electoral re- The response to the collapse in the former
turn to power of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Soviet bloc countries and the Soviet Union has
Generally speaking, the collapse of the Sovi- been determined largely by the gap between the
et empire did not stimulate in the West or oth- expectations raised by such momentous
er parts of the world a serious or lasting moral change and the fulfillment of those expecta-
or philosophical reassessment of the nature of tions. To be sure, the responses and attitudes
communism comparable to the massive moral have not been static or uniform in those areas.
reflections stimulated by Nazism and its well- Generally speaking, with the passage of time,
known evils. Nor has there been much of what the enthusiasm occasioned by the collapse
some critics of the United States called “tri- declined as new problems emerged. A large
umphalism,” although there were a handful of proportion of the population in those coun-
overly optimistic assertions about the supposed tries expected more rapid and spectacular
The privileges
“end of history” (i.e., an end of serious, ideolog- improvements in their standard of living than of the
ically based political conflict and of any serious occurred. At the same time, they did not expect nomenklatura
questioning of liberal democracy).22 their new, democratically elected governments
The fall of Soviet communism has been to be tainted by corruption and petty infight- contradicted the
used by many academic intellectuals to reaf- ing. The unseemly public expressions of com- ideals of social
firm their critiques of the theories of totalitar- petition for political power were unfamiliar
ianism, of the Cold War policies of the United and unwelcome. Similarly, they did not expect
equality.
States, and of the anti-communist disposition the increase of a wide range of social problems
in general rather than to probe the nature of and the new forms of inequality.
communism in the light of its collapse and the There was also disenchantment among
new information that has become available. intellectuals who had been at the forefront of
The collapse also reinvigorated “revisionism” the movement for change. Andras Bozoki, a
in Soviet studies. The latter denied the applic- Hungarian political scientist, observed that
ability of the totalitarian model to the Soviet many intellectuals who played a major part in
Union, shifted responsibility for the Cold War the largely peaceful transformation of Central
to the United States, reduced the estimates of and Eastern European societies “found it
the victims of communism, and diminished increasingly difficult to find a place in the
the part that communist ideology and high- newly consolidating political systems.” While
level decisionmakers played in mass mur- some willingly became politicians, the majori-
ders.23 ty became disillusioned and were either
The worldwide recession that started in pushed out or withdrew from political life. . . .
2008 has further stimulated critiques of cap- The bureaucratic, routine politics . . . was unat-
italism, which in turn helped to neutralize tractive to many intellectuals who had actively
critical assessments of communist systems— participated in the transition. Some felt that
extinct or surviving. There remains a dis- the emerging system was not what they had
cernible continuity (further discussed below) struggled to create, their dream of a victorious
in Western countries and among Western civil society giving way to party elites with par-
intellectuals between longstanding (and tial interests.”24
largely discredited) views of communist sys- Thus, in many sectors of society, the initial
tems and the responses to their collapse and euphoria over the collapse gave way to a mix-
aftermath. ture of bewilderment, ambivalence, and cyni-

9
cism, as well as some nostalgia for the old days. formerly part of the Soviet Union. Suspension
This nostalgia has been far more pronounced of oil and gas shipments to other former
among the old and less educated than the Soviet republics was another attempt to
young, the highly skilled, and well educated. reassert Russia’s influence over those areas.
As James Millar and Sharon Wolchik of The deterioration of political conditions in
George Washington University have written, Russia has also been marked by the assassina-
“The belief and desire for an extensive system tions of numerous journalists and human
of welfare entitlements . . . represents a signifi- rights activists who were critical of the author-
cant legacy of Soviet-style communism.”25 ities. Also significant and ominous was the
In Hungary, the relatively permissive partial restoration of Stalin’s reputation.
“goulash communism” of the Kadar regime According to official statements, school texts,
has been nostalgically recalled by those dis- and new discussions of Soviet history, Stalin’s
turbed by the new inequalities and the dimin- alleged accomplishments overshadow his
ished social stability of the post-communist “excesses” and errors. The new official line on
era. Many Hungarians also reacted negatively Stalin received support from two sources. The
to the new freedom of expression that allowed older generation associated him with the old
the venting of irredentist, neo-Nazi, and anti- glories of the Soviet Union and a seemingly
Semitic sentiments, and the establishment of less corrupt, more stable and less confused era
political movements embodying those ex- in Russian history. The second source of sup-
treme attitudes. port came from some younger people who
In Russia, where the superpower status knew little about Stalin, but who adopted him
and the associated nationalistic pride used to as a symbol of their opposition to the new
compensate large segments of the popula- social realities, which they found alien and
tion for their modest material circumstances, unaccommodating. The recent proposal by
the loss of imperial-power status was widely Russian president Dmitri Medvedev to set up
regretted. These Russians wanted “respect”— a commission to oversee and rectify the teach-
and the more so the more uncertain they ing and research of Soviet-Russian history is
were whether or not their actual accomplish- yet another indication of the official determi-
ments merited the respect they demanded. nation to burnish the historical record of
The growth of public indifference in post- Russia to suit the resurgent nationalistic
communist Russia toward former dissident beliefs and current government policies.
author Alexander Solzhenitsyn that followed In Eastern Europe, and especially in the
his return from the West in 1994 was anoth- more developed and westernized countries
er indication of the lack of interest in the past such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and
and the sufferings and indignities associated Poland, democratization after 1989 has been
with it. It was also an expression of the pub- far more successful. East Germany united
lic indifference to the critiques of commu- with West Germany and instantly acquired a
nism that he personified. well-established democratic institutional
Democratization initiated by Yeltsin was framework. In the former Yugoslavia, which
The collapse of halted and reversed under his successor, was not a part of the Soviet Bloc, instability
the Soviet empire Vladimir Putin. The latter’s popularity rested and violent ethnic conflict erupted as it had
did not stimulate on rebuilding social order and stability, in parts of the former Soviet Union, where
increasing economic growth, beginning to some of its former constituent republics or
in the West a restore the political and military power of regions, such as Chechnya, sought indepen-
serious moral Russia, and thereby satisfying the nationalistic dence or greater autonomy.
reassessment of longings in parts of the population. The 2008 The predominant attitude in Eastern
military intervention in Georgia was the most Europe as well as Russia toward the former
the nature of obvious attempt to reassert Russia’s military communist systems has been a mixture of
communism. and political power over those areas that were oblivion, denial, and repression. Few former

10
communist officials were held responsible the most part, disgust blended with the desire The predominant
for violations of human rights. As Martin to forget that shameful chapter in the history attitude in
Malia noted, “throughout the former com- of formerly communist countries. Thus, with
munist world . . . virtually none of its respon- the exception of the Baltic states, both public Eastern Europe
sible officials has been put on trial or pun- and elite opinion seemed to come to the con- as well as Russia
ished.”26 Only in the Baltic countries were clusion that domestic spying, as well as other,
some communist officials, such as former more serious crimes of the previous govern-
toward the
KGB agents, tried and convicted for their par- ments, should not be investigated and prose- former
ticipation in political repression or human cuted—in order to avoid prolonged and acri- communist
rights abuses.27 There were halting attempts monious recriminations, and to preserve a
in Czechoslovakia to introduce what came to semblance of national unity and social cohe- systems has been
be called “lustration” (exclusion from politi- sion. a mixture of
cal participation for a period of time of those The intelligentsia too has been split in its oblivion, denial,
involved in gross human rights violations attitudes toward the past. A minority sought
under the communist system). better understanding and further research, as and repression.
Markus Wolf, the head of the foreign intelli- those in Hungary who are associated with the
gence service of Stasi, the East German political Institute of the 1956 Revolution. Others
police, was tried and convicted. On appeal, Wolf became preoccupied with the new (or revived)
was given a suspended sentence. A handful of political conflicts and divisions, and with pre-
border guards were also tried. Some were con- serving indigenous cultural traditions in the
victed and served reduced prison terms. None face of the onslaught of Western popular cul-
of these half-hearted attempts had much in ture.
common with the sweeping and thorough de- The rise (or perhaps only the greater visibil-
Nazification program that was introduced after ity) of corruption has been another source of
World War II in what became the Federal disillusionment with post-communism. In
Republic of Germany. The differences between both Russia and Eastern Europe, members of
the treatment of Nazi and communist officials the former party elite took advantage of priva-
are indicative of the longstanding reluctance to tization and came to possess or control large
pass comparable moral judgments over Nazism parts of what used to be state property. They
and communism (a matter that will be further thereby entered, at a stroke, the ranks of the
discussed below). new rich. Other conventional forms of corrup-
For all of the above reasons, rather than tion also persisted or increased—bribery, ex-
reassessing the past and seeking a better un- change of favors, paying for supposedly free
derstanding of the nature and the damage medical services with tips to nurses and physi-
inflicted by the communist systems, public cians.
attention in ex-communist countries came to The fluidity of political attitudes in Eastern
focus on the new political conflicts and eco- Europe has also been reflected in the swing of
nomic problems, as well as on the new oppor- the pendulum between left and right parties in
tunities for consumption, enrichment, and Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.
private pleasures. Communism has doubtless been discredited
Public attitudes about the past were also in Eastern Europe, but many people greeted
conflicted—especially in Russia and East the new, unfamiliar alternatives that emerged
Germany—because of the arguable complicity after the collapse with reservations, ambiva-
of a considerable number of citizens in keep- lence, or outright hostility.
ing the old system in power. Revelations of the In the more advanced countries of Eastern
widespread penetration of private lives by the Europe, the loss of interest in communism
former political police and the ubiquity of has also been the result of their growing west-
informers, including friends and family mem- ernization and the experience of the new
bers, also created mixed public reactions. For problems that the process of westernization

11
entails. As Hungarian philosopher Gaspar M. sequent developments. Americans—both hos-
Tamas put it, “Regime change was in the first tile and sympathetic to communist systems—
place liberation, but secondly a new chapter knew little about them. The policies and char-
in the ongoing crisis of modern society.”28 acteristics of communist states used to be, and
The collapse of Soviet communism in the have remained, matters of indifference, except
surviving communist states led to different when the possibility of a conflict arose as dur-
responses. The rulers in Cuba and North Korea ing the cold war when the Soviet Union was
were determined to avoid anything resembling the enemy. The mass media devoted limited
glasnost or perestroika that might have wetted attention to the collapse, its aftermath, and to
popular appetites and expectations, and threat- communist societies in general. New opportu-
ened their monopoly on power. In China, the nities for learning more about communist sys-
loosening of political controls after Mao’s tems from field research or archival sources
death culminated in the Tiananmen Square have not been fully utilized.30 Massive igno-
demonstrations and massacre, which indicated rance persists among the public at large and
that the political will of the Chinese leadership even among the better educated. Few colleges
did not waver. While retaining the monopoly or universities offer courses about the former
on political power, the Chinese communist or remaining communist systems, let alone
Few former regime introduced sweeping economic reforms their massive human rights violations.
communist that legitimated the profit motive and led to
officials were high levels of economic growth. China is still a Asymmetrical Reaction to Communism
police state, but it has ceased to be totalitarian. and Nazism
held responsible As a Chinese dissenter has written, the state Public awareness of the large-scale atroci-
for violations of security remains “as restrictive as ever. . . . Like a ties and human rights violations in commu-
spider in its web . . . the Security Bureau was nist states is minimal, especially in compari-
human rights. always lying in wait for its prey.”29 It remains to son to awareness of the Holocaust and
be seen how long the current (arguably precari- Nazism.31 These differences are symbolized by
ous) coexistence of considerable economic free- the contrast between the impressive and well-
dom and strict political controls will endure. funded Holocaust Museum in Washington,
D.C., and the absence of any corresponding
institution devoted to the victims of commu-
Western Responses to nism.32 It should also be noted that the physi-
the Collapse and cal remnants of the Nazi killing machine have
been recovered, preserved, and images of it
Their Determinants seen all over the world. The Communist
Western responses to the collapse were in killing fields have been for the most part inac-
large measure determined by the prior percep- cessible and poorly known. Little remains of
tions of and attitudes toward communist sys- the “Gulag Archipelago” and its equivalents in
tems. Those critical of communism rejoiced at various former communist states.
its fall but they were not necessarily in a better Visual representations of those two sys-
position to explain why it happened or why it tems in the mass media have also been vastly
happened when it did. Sympathizers were at different. There have been few movies or tele-
an even greater loss to explain and interpret vision programs—either documentaries or fea-
the collapse. The following discussion focuses ture films—dealing with communist societies
on the responses in the United States. In all or movements. By contrast there are, appro-
probability, the discussion below is applicable priately enough, countless offerings depicting
to Western Europe as well. Nazi Germany, Hitler, and the Holocaust.
After the initial euphoria, American public During World War II, Hollywood actually
opinion as a whole has remained largely indif- made a number of pro-Soviet propaganda
ferent to the collapse of communism and sub- films, glorifying various aspects of the Soviet

12
regime. As a result of this discrepancy, negative cially its Soviet variant, can perhaps be made
stereotypes of Nazis and Nazism are familiar fun of because of lingering (and partially cor-
to American and Western audiences, whereas rect) notions of Soviet inefficiency, disorder,
communist systems, their representatives, and backwardness. By contrast, perceptions
policies, and massive human rights violations of Nazism entail stereotypes of cold and cal-
remain (for the most part) abstractions. culating German efficiency and orderliness.
The scholarly attention paid to the two sys- Those characteristics certainly marked the
tems has also been divergent. Studies of Nazi machinery of repression and are apt to
Nazism and the Holocaust are far more nu- generate impassioned moral indignation and
merous and widely known than correspond- judgment.
ing research and writing about communist We can readily summarize the principal
systems. As Martin Malia noted, “Soviet social factors that determined the contrasting West-
processes claimed victims on a scale that has ern perceptions and moral assessments of
never aroused a scholarly curiosity at all pro- Nazism and communist systems. They are as
portionate to the magnitude of the disaster.”33 follows:
Another telling discrepancy between the
attitudes toward Nazism and communism is • Easy access to far more abundant visual
that few people have ever questioned the relia- images and evidence of Nazi wrongdo-
bility or veracity of the information provided ing and especially mass murders.
by surviving victims of Nazi persecutions— • The different methods used in each sys-
including surviving inmates of concentration tem to exterminate groups defined as
camps and other refugees from Nazi Germany undesirable.
or Nazi-dominated territories. By contrast, the • The different official ideologies, beliefs,
veracity of defectors and refugees from com- and intentions that motivated the two
munist countries has often been subject of sets of atrocities.
skepticism and even scorn, and deemed to be
an unreliable source of information about the For all the above reasons, there remains a
workings of the communist systems.34 deep aversion in the West to postulating or
An additional and thought-provoking acknowledging moral equivalence between
illustration of those divergent attitudes can be Nazism and communism. The most impor-
found in the commercial use of communist tant reason for treating the two totalitarian sys-
symbols in advertising. We now have a lemon- tems differently is the perception that commu-
ade soda, called “Leninade.” At HammerSick nist mass murders were byproducts and
leStuff.com, you can buy “classy and novel unintended consequences of the pursuit of
panties, undies, thongs and bras with the Sovi- admirable ends, whereas the Nazi campaigns More
et hammer and sickle logo.” Adidas used to of extermination were the goals in themselves.
offer hats celebrating the People’s Republic of The Nazis single-mindedly (one might say recently, anti-
China, Castro’s Cuba, and the former Soviet obsessively) pursued the extermination of a Americanism and
Union. The last one came with the inscription, particular group, the Jews, by shooting or
“Show your love of the former USSR during gassing them. By contrast, the larger propor-
anti-capitalism
training time.”35 There is also an overabun- tion of the victims of communism were not have found
dance of products bearing the images of Che executed; they died in forced labor camps as a expression in
Guevara (more about him below). result of harsh living conditions—illness, star-
There are no Nazi symbols used in adver- vation, over-work, cold, poor or nonexistent the rise to power
tising. Evidently, Nazism is not considered a medical services. Millions of inmates survived of radical leftist
laughing matter by advertisers or marketing communist camps and prisons, only tens of political
specialists. Advertisers feel free to joke about thousands survived the Nazi concentration
communism and use its symbols to sell a camps. It remains debatable what, if any, moral movements in
wide range of products. Communism, espe- distinctions should be attached to killing peo- Latin America.

13
Only ple in highly purposeful, technologically and practices during the war. According to R.
the idealistic advanced manner, as opposed to achieving J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii, who
their liquidation (in much higher numbers, specializes in studies of genocide, communist
or utopian over longer periods of time) by inhumane liv- governments in the 20th century killed a total
component of ing and working conditions in detention. of 95 million people. Of those victims, the
There were other morally relevant differ- Soviet regime was responsible for 39 million
both communism ences between the two systems. Communist deaths and China under Mao Zedong for 45
and Nazism could states were not fixated on destroying any par- million. Martin Malia put the total between 85
justify the scale of ticular social or ethnic group or class of people. million and 100 million. Tony Judt ascribes 20
Those who were designated as politically unde- million victims to the Soviet Union, 65 million
political violence sirable (and their descendants) were not invari- to China and a combined total of 6 million to
undertaken. ably and automatically sentenced to death. It Cambodia, North Korea, Vietnam, and East-
was sometimes possible to escape such desig- ern Europe. Robert Conquest cites the figure
nation and its consequences by demonstrating of 20 million Soviet victims. Dmitri Vol-
loyalty to the system or by being useful to it. kogonov, the Soviet historian, puts the num-
Rehabilitation was a theoretical and some- ber of the victims of Soviet repression between
times practical possibility, and, over time, poli- 19 million and 22 million.36
cies changed and a larger proportion of those The far greater revulsion at Nazism could
previously persecuted groups became tolerat- also be linked to a deep-seated aversion and
ed. By contrast, under Nazi rule, belonging to ambivalence to modern industrial society on
undesirable racial or ethnic categories was an the part of Western elite groups, given the asso-
immutable condition, which had lethal conse- ciation of the Holocaust with modern technol-
quences. The Nazis saw the Jews as represent- ogy, such as gas chambers and crematoria. In
ing unalterable, ineradicable evil that could not fact, critiques of the Holocaust are sometimes
be tamed or reeducated, but required destruc- implicitly linked to critiques of Western indus-
tion. The Nazi designation of the enemy was trial societies. Ideas such as “the banality of
much narrower but far more deadly. In com- evil,” which was introduced by the philosopher
munist states, not only class origin, but a broad Hannah Arendt, suggested that there was
range of social, cultural, demographic, and nothing truly distinctive about the Nazi poli-
behavioral attributes could qualify a person to cies and the mindset that led to the Holocaust.
be designated as undesirable or suspect. The In her view, Eichmann-like human beings
communist definition and classification of the could be found anywhere in modern bureau-
enemy fluctuated—nobody was immune to cratic societies. In turn, studies by the social
suspicion. That fluctuation resulted in more psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated
victims over time and a greater overall sense of the human propensity to obey authority even
insecurity for the citizens in communist coun- when that authority demands to inflict intense
tries. Another important moral difference was pain on human beings. His research suggests
that the communist authorities, unlike the that a particular ideology or strong convictions
Nazis, did not execute children but placed need not play an important part in the inflic-
them in various institutions when their par- tion of pain, suffering, or death. What the
ents were incarcerated or executed. Nazis did, in other words, could be duplicated
In any event, the far greater number of vic- elsewhere. As far as I know, no Western social
tims of communist systems appears to carry scientist has sought to apply Milgram’s find-
less moral weight than the Holocaust, because ings, insights, and methodology to the phe-
of the mechanized quality of the Nazi mass nomenon of obedience to authority in com-
murders. Nazi Germany murdered six million munist societies.
Jews. To that number we might add several There were also numerous morally relevant
million Soviet prisoners of war and civilians similarities between Nazism and communism
who lost their lives because of Nazi policies that need to be noted. Both Nazi and commu-

14
nist campaigns of extermination and political tion or persuctuion. One was defined by racial
violence had a cleansing, purifying goal. Those theories and the other by “scientific socialism”
persecuted and killed were defined as socially, including, most relevantly, the Marxist doctrine
culturally, and morally harmful, as well as infe- of a class struggle.
rior and obstructive to the accomplishment of Last but not least, both systems extracted
laudable objectives such as the creation of a labor from their victims prior to their death—
better society or better world. The removal of the communist ones on a far larger scale than
such groups was often conceptualized as a sur- the Nazis. In the same vein, both treated com-
gical procedure. Only the idealistic or utopian mon criminals better than political prisoners,
component of both communism and Nazism and both persecuted homosexuals.
could justify the scale of political violence
undertaken. Communist ideals were, of course, The Roots of Western Attitudes toward
much more attractive since they were more Communism
universalistic than the Nazi ones, which rested The roots of the asymmetrical assessment
on an immutable racial hierarchy. of Nazism and communism in the West reach
Both the Nazi and communist regimes back several decades—to the Cold War, the
treated the accomplishment of their utopian Vietnam War, and McCarthyism. Each of those
objectives very seriously. The Nazis diverted events contributed to the rise of what has come
Neither Nazi
railroad cars—at the time desperately needed to be called “anti-anti-communism.” Accord- nor communist
by the German military—to transport Jews to ing to the latter, while communism is not policies of
the extermination camps during a critical peri- exactly commendable, anti-communism (usu-
od in World War II. It is less well known that ally characterized as “irrational” or “obsessive”) victimization
the Soviet authorities showed a similar deter- has done more harm and is more disreputable were based on
mination to provide resources under condi- and distasteful than communism.38
tions of scarcity for the deportation of suspect The roots of certain Western responses to
actual behavior,
ethnic groups between 1943 and 1944. In the the collapse of Soviet communism go back but rather on
middle of the war “Stalin diverted thousands even further in time. There has been a long tra- belonging to
of trucks and hundreds of thousands of sol- dition of animosity toward commerce and
diers . . . in order to deport various people liv- capitalism on the part of Western intellectuals, certain categories
ing in the Caucasus.” Earlier Beria deployed and among idealistic and educated people. or groups.
14,000 troops from the war effort to deport This animosity led to a benefit of doubt, or
German-speaking minorities.37 outright sympathy, toward political systems
A further important similarity is that nei- that were anti-capitalist, denounced the profit
ther Nazi nor communist policies of victimiza- motive, and proclaimed as their goal the cre-
tion were, as a rule, based on actual behavior, ation of a more humane, just, and egalitarian
but rather on belonging to certain categories or society of altruistic human beings. The Soviet
groups that automatically conferred on their Union was the first such society. It was fol-
members “socially undesirable” status. In the lowed by Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam,
Soviet discourse, membership in “socially Laos, North Korea, Cuba, Grenada, and Nica-
undesirable” groups amounted to involvement ragua, as well as Angola, Ethiopia, and Mo-
in “objective crime.” Whereas the Nazi cate- zambique.
gories were mainly racial and ethnic, the Com- The past misperception and idealization of
munist ones related to social origin, status, those countries and their political systems had
class, kinship, and other personal connections. an unmistakable and apparently ineradicable
Expression of unorthodox or nonconformist influence on the responses to their collapse or
political views, in both systems, was seen as partial transformation. Longstanding beliefs,
political hostility that had to be crushed. even if ill conceived, are difficult to discard,
Third, both systems used a putatively scien- especially when they are integral to the sense
tific justification for their policies of extermina- of identity of an individual or the group he or

15
she belongs to. Left-wing political ideals and tion with the societies in which those intel-
affiliations have been important sources of lectuals lived. That dissatisfaction led to sus-
identity for large numbers of educated people ceptibility to the attractions of communist
in Western societies—especially since the societies that were seen as promising alterna-
1960s. They have been closely associated with tives to Western corruptions, injustices and
youthful idealism, a sense of community, and irrationalities. Many of those beliefs came to
notions of self-realization. be scaled down or discarded over time, but
The misperceptions and misjudgments of they left a residue. The qualified disillusion-
communist societies had recurring patterns ment with communism left intact the cri-
and components.39 They were seen as striving tiques and rejection of Western societies—
to realize the ideals of Marx and Engels, and by especially of the United States.40
doing so attaining high levels of socioeconom- It is important to note here that the con-
ic equality and social justice. They were also trast between the attitudes of “New Left” and
judged to be enjoying broad popular support “Old Left” toward the Soviet Union has been
and legitimacy. They were supposed to be soci- greatly exaggerated. The New Left of the 1960s
eties in which the perennial conflict between (and its spiritual successors) certainly lost
personal and public interest was largely tran- interest in and enthusiasm for the Soviet
scended (or in the process of being transcend- Union. But that change in attitude did not lead
ed), and in which most social pathologies or to a searching and critical look at the broader
defects that afflicted capitalist societies had ideas associated with the left. Orthodox com-
vanished (or were in the process of vanishing). munist families produced many of the well-
These defects included unemployment, lack of known 1960s activists—the so-called “red dia-
work satisfaction, crime, juvenile delinquency, per” babies—who admired the Soviet system.
alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, un- As the American sociologist Todd Gitlin wrote
equal access to education and healthcare, sex- about them, “They had grown up breathing a
ism, and the degradation of the natural envi- left-wing air . . . being different, touched by
ronment. Even communist prisons were nobility and persecution. . . . The majority of
considered superior settings for the humane New Leftists were not the children of Com-
treatment and the rehabilitation of wrongdo- munist or socialist parents, but some in ado-
ers. lescence were . . . influenced . . . by children who
Communist societies were also lauded for were. From them the rest of us absorbed, by
their apparent success in dramatically raising osmosis, the idea and precedent, and the
the standard of living, rapid modernization, romance of a left.”41 The radical political ac-
rational economic planning, and providing tivist Angela Davis toured the Soviet Union in
access to political participation for all citi- the early 1970s and her admiration for the
zens. It was also widely believed by those Soviet system was duly recorded in a contem-
favorably disposed that those countries were porary Soviet publication. Kathy Boudin, who
led by exceptionally wise, kind and knowl- belonged to the Weather Underground—the
edgeable leaders. Last but not least, many most violent faction of the New Left—and who
Western intellectuals believed that commu- went to jail for her actions, was the daughter of
Both systems nist systems were permeated by a new sense old-leftist, pro-Soviet Leonard Boudin, promi-
used a putatively of purpose and community, banished alien- nent lawyer and defender of many leftist
scientific ation, and made life meaningful and satisfy- clients.42 Similar connections and affinities
ing for the great majority of their citizens. between the old and new left abound.
justification for Most of those assessments were based on
their policies of predisposition, wishful thinking, the asser- Coping with the Collapse
tions of the communist propaganda, con- Several strategies were developed by those
extermination or ducted tours in the communist countries on the left to deal with (or to evade) the prob-
persecution. and, most importantly, a profound disaffec- lems created by the collapse of Soviet commu-

16
nism. While at the time of its collapse, the we had is a great dream, whether you call it a There has been a
Soviet Union was no longer idealized by left- socialist dream or . . . the dream of general lib- long tradition of
leaning Western intellectuals, the collapse eration. . . . . I think the people who devoted
called into question their deeper, prior com- their life to this were enormously good peo- animosity toward
mitments and convictions and offered an ple.”44 commerce and
opportunity for some political and ideological Did he include among those “good peo-
soul-searching. But few undertook such soul ple” Stalin or the heads of the Soviet political
capitalism on the
searching because, even after the collapse, police, like Yuri Andropov, Lavrentiy Beria, part of Western
there remained some sympathy towards what Felix Dzerzhinsky, and Nikolai Yezhov? The intellectuals.
used to be called “the Soviet experiment.” This leaders of the Soviet satellite states, like Nico-
lingering sympathy was also revealed by the lae Ceauscescu of Romania, Mathias Rakosi
outrage and scorn that greeted President of Hungary, and Walter Ulbricht of East
Ronald Reagan’s characterization of the Sovi- Germany? They all devoted their lives to the
et Union as “an evil empire.” These attitudes “dream” Hobsbawm still reveres and one that
rested on several considerations: caused untold suffering.
Another approach to dealing with the prob-
• The Soviet Union was not a capitalist lems created by the collapse of the Soviet
society and was opposed to those that Union is exemplified by John Cole, an anthro-
were. This fact by itself gave the Soviet pologist formerly at the University of Massa-
Union a huge moral credit. chusetts, who blamed the collapse on Western
• The Soviet Union was an adversary of the capitalism: “The communist countries should
United States and, as such, a restraint on have stayed on a road of purely socialist devel-
American imperialism and a defender of opment instead of giving in to their citizens’
the more authentic revolutionary Third demand for a more consumer-oriented econo-
World countries, such as Cuba. my. But because the West had the consumer
• Even if many things went wrong in the goods, it was able in the 1980s to hoodwink the
Soviet Union, it sought to realize, at least communist world into becoming trading part-
initially, the hopes and ideals of Marxism. ners, which tied its economic well-being to the
West’s. . . . The decline in the 1980s of world
Eric Hobsbawm, the famous British capitalism nailed Eastern Europe.”45
Marxist historian, exemplifies these attitudes An almost reflexive recourse to moral
most vividly. For him, the USSR remained a equivalence between communism and capital-
sentimental repository of hopes for a better ism was another popular response to the col-
world. As he put it, “I belonged to the gener- lapse of the Soviet empire and its aftermath.
ation tied by an almost unbreakable umbili- According to the more radical leftists, regard-
cal cord to hope of the world revolution and less of what was wrong with communist sys-
its original home, the October Revolution.”43 tems, the greater evils of capitalism remain in
Hobsbawm personifies a typical response to place and demand utmost critical attention. It
the collapse of Soviet communism that man- was imperative not to allow the collapse and
ages to neutralize the large volume of nega- its moral implications to distract attention
tive information that became available about from the evils of capitalism. Paul Sweezy of the
it. On the one hand, he admits that commu- Monthly Review hopefully wrote, “As far as
nist systems such as the Soviet Union were global capitalism is concerned, its internal
deeply flawed and that the good intentions contradictions will hardly be affected one way
of their creators had horrific unintended or another [by the collapse] . . . These contra-
consequences. On the other hand, he perse- dictions . . . continue to multiply and intensi-
veres in regarding those intentions and the fy, with all indications pointing to the matur-
ideas that underpinned them as admirable ing of one or more serious crises in the not so
and inspiring. He averred, “I think the dream distant future.”46 Tom Wicker, the prominent

17
journalist, in an article that began with refer- Ditfurth, a West German leftist, “argued at a
ences to the Czechoslovak celebration of the panel discussion at Humboldt University in
collapse of their communist regime wrote, East Berlin [that] there simply is no need to
“Freedom. . . is not a panacea and that com- reexamine socialism’s validity as a model
munism failed does not make the Western because it was not socialism that was defeated
alternative perfect, or even satisfying for mil- in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
lions of those who live under it.”47 After sur- because these systems were never socialist.”50
veying the changes in Eastern Europe, Daniel Paul Robeson Jr., an American civil rights
Singer of the University of Michigan conclud- activist, came to believe that what he consid-
ed, “our task is to spread the conviction that a ered the “death of Stalinism” amounted to the
radical change of society in all its aspects is on “birth of socialism.”51 Professors Sam Bowles
our own historical agenda. In the long run, the of the University of Massachusetts and Philip
collapse of the Stalinist model should help us Green of Smith College averred that “for the
in this search for a socialist alternative. . . . The first time in history there is a chance of a true
Western left should get on with its job. It must socialist and democratic state, one based on
attack the very foundation of our own system the writings of Karl Marx. . . . Eastern Europe
. . . its incapacity of growth for any purpose now will lead the way in creating the first truly
Few of Che’s other than profit . . . its commercialization of socialist nations . . . The soil in Eastern Europe
admirers know art, culture and even human relationships; its is prime for true socialism to take root.”52
or are ready to exploitation of the Third World and its per- Many Western intellectuals believed that
petuation of social, sexual and racial inequi- the Soviet system (even if no longer idealized)
admit that he was ties.”48 Sheldon Wolin of Princeton University represented a valid and successful path to
also a ruthless used the collapse to renew his critique of modernization and was in some respects
American society and to compare communist morally superior to the capitalist West. The
fanatic. regimes favorably with the former. “In the past Soviet Union was also considered stable and
decade the perceptions and sensibilities of durable. Its abrupt collapse came as an un-
many Americans have been Reaganized, pleasant surprise to many Western intellectuals
shaped by counterrevolutionary concerns who often anticipated with relish the impend-
regarding welfare, health care, ecology, govern- ing crisis and collapse of capitalism instead. To
ment regulation of business . . . the rights of cope with what psychologist Leon Festinger
minorities and women. . . . Even acknowledg- called “cognitive dissonance,” they now resort-
ing gross distortions, Communist regimes ed to denying that the Soviet Union was
have been the only ones that professed and to Marxist or “genuinely” socialist. If it was not
some degree achieved a commitment to equal- Marxist or socialist, the unexpected collapse of
ity.”49 One wonders if Wolin would have been the Soviet Union did not matter, or mattered a
equally impressed if the governments of lot less. In any event the collapse did not threat-
Western countries professed their committ- en Western intellectuals’ belief that capitalism
ment to equality without doing much about was more corrupt and doomed to collapse
it. He seemed unaware of the politically deter- eventually.
mined privileges of elite groups (and the asso- Perhaps the most absurd and bizarre argu-
ciated, large, inequalities) in communist sys- ment put forward in defense of Marxism
tems. appeared in an editorial in The Nation: “The
Another popular response to the collapse exodus of . . . East Germans . . . cannot be inter-
among many academic intellectuals has been preted . . . as an abandonment of the teachings
the assertion that communism had nothing, of Karl Marx. . . . The country to which they are
or next to nothing, to do with Marxism. traveling . . . is not Thatcher’s Britain or après-
Therefore, the fall of communism did not Reagan America . . . The new emigrants have
bring disrepute to Marxism. That position was chosen capitalism with a human face [i.e.,
not limited to American leftists. Jutta West Germany]. . . . And so the newcomers

18
have gone from Stalin back to Marx.”53 intellectuals who immersed themselves in
Evidently it did not occur to the writer of that multiculturalism, identity politics, postmod-
editorial that the appeals of West Germany ernism, radical feminism, post-colonial stud-
had little to do with the political and econom- ies, cultural studies, deconstructionism, more
ic differences between West Germany on the esoteric explorations of Marxist theory, and
one hand and Britain and the United States on new critiques of American society.
the other. West Germany was literally a walk-
ing distance from East Germany. People spoke Persistence of Communist Ideas
the same language and East Germans were Not only individual intellectuals but entire
automatically given West German citizenship. professional associations of American acade-
Another widely used exculpatory technique mic intellectuals have expressed favorable atti-
was to call the collapsed system, or its defects, tudes toward communist systems. The Latin
“Stalinist” thereby transferring the wrongs of American Studies Association has repeatedly
the system onto an individual. That tech- taken positions supportive of Castro’s Cuba
nique, chosen by Khrushchev and his succes- and Sandinista Nicaragua. The professional
sors in the Soviet Union, was singularly un- association of anthropologists has taken simi-
Marxist, given the deemphasis of Marx on the lar stands. During the Vietnam War, numer-
role of the individual in the historical process- ous other professional organizations passed
es. Blaming Stalin for all that went wrong in resolutions supportive of North Vietnam and
the Soviet Union was eagerly adopted by the Vietcong. In 1990, the Organization of
Western intellectuals and communist apolo- American Historians defeated a motion that
gists in order to avoid confronting the obvious welcomed glasnost in Soviet historiography
question: Why did the system allow or enable and expressed regret that the Organization of
individuals such as Stalin (and others in other American Historians “never protested the
communist states of similar character) to rise forced betrayal of the historians’ responsibility
to power, accumulate huge amounts of power, to truth imposed upon Soviet and East
and exercise it in the most arbitrary manner to European historians by their political lead-
the obvious detriment of millions of people? ers.”55 To the best of my knowledge, none of
Sometimes the weaknesses of human these professional associations ever protested
nature and false consciousness, which the new violations of human rights in communist
socialist environment apparently failed to police states or the crushing of uprisings in
eradicate, got blamed for the defects of the East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956,
communist system. For example, Alan J. Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Poland in the early
Spector of Purdue University and Peter Knapp 1980s, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
of Villanova University wrote, “the main rea- and the large-scale atrocities committed by the
son that communism has not been realized is Soviet forces in that country. They had ex-
that sufficient numbers of people do not pressed no displeasure about the post–World
understand why it is required and what it War II show trials in Eastern Europe, the mis-
requires.” The same authors “do not believe treatment of fellow academics in China during
that the failure [of the communist systems] is the Cultural Revolution, the imprisonment of
a failure of Marxism.” After all, they argued, dissenters in Cuba, or the longstanding perse- For Western
“the Soviets were trying something for the first cution of religious believers in all of those intellectuals, the
time in history and it is hardly surprising that countries.
they made mistakes.”54 Another indication of the persistence of morally repellent
The proliferation of new causes or renewed communist sympathies in the West is the attributes of
preoccupation with old ones were also among praise heaped on present day leftist systems— communist
the responses embraced on the left to avoid especially Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. Bill
dealing with the collapse of communism. Ayers, the former Weather Underground lead- systems remain
That was a path chosen by many academic er, delivered a speech “at Hugo Chavez’s side in abstractions.

19
When political Venezuela in 2006. . . . He told the assembled The continued cult of Guevara, including
beliefs satisfy revolutionaries that education ‘is the motor the stunning commercialization of his image,
force of revolution’ and Venezuela shows the is yet another indication of the persistence of
important path of how ‘to overcome the failings of capi- the attitudes discussed herein. Michiko Kaku-
emotional needs talist education.’” He ended his speech with tani of the New York Times, wrote: “Che lives!
“Viva Presidente Chávez! Viva la Revolucion Not just in the heart of revolutionaries, Marxist
and bolster a Bolivariana!”56 Clearly, Ayers found Venezuela insurgents, and rebellious teenagers, but on t-
favorable under Chávez a promising setting on which to shirts, watches, sneakers, key chains, cigarette
self-conception, project his lifelong political values and aspira- lighters, coffee mugs, wallets, backpacks,
tions fueled by his relentless loathing of his mouse pads, beach towels and condoms. . . . He
they are likely to own society. Similarly, Cindy Sheehan, a has also been employed by merchants to sell air
endure. prominent protestor of the Iraq War, em- fresheners in Peru, snowboards in Switzerland,
braced (literally and figuratively) Hugo Chávez and wine in Italy. The supermodel Gisele
at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela. Chávez, in Bundchen pranced down a runway in a Che
turn, assured her “Cindy, we are with you in bikini. . . . An Australian company produced a
your fight.” As the New York Times reported, ‘cherry Guevara’ ice cream line.”61
“Mr. Chavez has become a voice for many Che Guevara is of course closely identified
opponents of the Bush administration who with Cuba—one of the few surviving ortho-
are drawn to his self-styled socialist revolution dox communist systems. He is widely seen as
and his close alliance with . . . Fidel Castro.” the personification of the authentic, idealistic
Hollywood celebrities such as Sean Penn, revolutionary—his authenticity warranted by
Danny Glover, and Harry Belafonte have also his death while organizing a guerilla move-
embraced Chávez.57 ment in Bolivia. He reminded I. F. Stone, the
Communist Cuba continues to elicit warm famous American investigative journalist
feelings from famous Western intellectuals (revered by those on the left), of Jesus. He
and entertainers, including the late playwright wrote: “In Che one felt a desire to heal and
Harold Pinter, author Nadine Gordimer, mu- pity for suffering. . . . It was out of love, like the
sician Harry Belafonte, and writer Tariq Ali, perfect knight of medieval romance, that he
who “signed a letter claiming that in Cuba set out to combat with the powers of the
‘there has been not a single disappearance, tor- world. . . . He was like an early saint.”62
ture or extrajudicial execution since 1959.’”58 Most of Che’s Western admirers only
Even North Korea was occasionally given know of his heroic death and, possibly, of his
the benefit of the doubt. In the spring of 2006, belonging to a small group of revolutionaries
the Harvard Alumni Association organized a who, led by Fidel Castro, landed in a small
tour of that country. This was not intended as boat in Cuba to start a guerilla movement
a critical fact-finding mission since all such that eventually overthrew the regime of
tours are strictly controlled by the North Fulgencio Batista. But few of his admirers
Korean authorities. The tour memo instructed know or are ready to admit that he was also a
the tourists that they “will be expected to bow ruthless fanatic, capable without hesitation to
as a gesture of respect at the statue of Kim Il order the execution of those he regarded as
Sung.” The memo explained that such bowing obstacles to the utopian social system he
is appropriate because “North Korea like every wished to create. He was the classic embodi-
country has its unique protocols.”59 On his ment of the revolutionary intent on redeem-
goodwill visit to North Korea in 1994, former ing mankind, but profoundly indifferent
President Jimmy Carter “heaped praise on Kim toward concrete, individual human beings. In
Il Sung . . . [saying] ‘I found him to be vigorous, his own words, he extolled “hatred as an ele-
intelligent, well informed.’” Carter also noted ment of struggle: unbending hatred for the
“the reverence with which they [the North enemy, which pushes a human being beyond
Korean people] look upon their leader.”60 his natural limitations, making him into an

20
effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded to put forward his views and rebut his critics.69
killing machine.”63 In December 2008 the New York Times provid-
The publication by Harvard University ed him with space for a self-serving op-ed arti-
Press and the academic popularity of a book cle in which he protested his designation as an
entitled Empire, coauthored by convicted “unrepentant terrorist.”70 This is the same
Italian terrorist Antonio Negri and filled with man who was quoted in another New York
radical-left rhetoric and glorification of politi- Times article in 2001 as saying that “I don’t
cal violence, also testifies to the continued regret setting bombs . . . I feel we didn’t do
attractiveness of ideas inspired by Marxism enough.”71 In his memoir, Ayers has written of
and the hatred of Western capitalist democra- his bombing of the Pentagon: “Everything was
cies.64 absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the
The faith in the essential innocence of Pentagon. The sky was blue. The birds were
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were execut- singing. And the bastards were finally going to
ed for spying for the Soviet Union in 1953, also get what was coming to them.”72
persists. They are often “portrayed as martyrs
for civil liberties, righteous dissenters.” As the
American historian Ronald Radosh wrote, “To Prospects The Communist
this day this received wisdom permeates our
educational system. A recent study . . . has Why have the beliefs and attitudes herein Party was not
found that very few college textbooks say sim- examined persisted among substantial num- composed of the
ply that the Rosenbergs were guilty. . . . .Most bers of Western intellectuals and portions of
either state that the couple were innocent or the educated public? The most important rea- most selfless
that the trial was ‘controversial’ or they excuse son is the continued, profound aversion to and idealistic
what [they] did by saying ‘it was not that bad. capitalism made more plausible by the recent
What they provided wasn’t important.’”65 At a global financial-economic crisis and the steep
representatives
Fordham University Law School Forum in growth of executive compensation in recent of the working
2006, Tony Kushner, an American playwright years. Capitalism is also held responsible for classes.
and screenwriter, argued that the Rosenbergs the subversion of nation states, the exploita-
were “murdered.” E. L. Doctorow, an Ameri- tion of the Third World, and the destruction
can novelist, asserted that the Rosenberg case of nature. But the deepest roots of anti-capi-
was fabricated to fan the flames of the Cold talism are spiritual. Capitalism is blamed by its
War and to impose on the American public “a most ardent critics for undermining the most
Puritan, punitive civil religion.”66 precious attributes of human nature. As
The rehabilitation of certain well known Norman Mailer put it, “In America it is not
1960s radicals, some of whom were earlier that surplus value is extorted from us so much
engaged in acts of violence, is also sympto- as that we are spiritually exploited and denied
matic of the continued attractiveness and the opportunity to find our true growth.”73
respectability of the ideas and ideals they Even the free-market economist Joseph
championed. The case of Bill Ayers is the most Schumpeter wrote that “capitalism creates a
noteworthy. A petition on his behalf that was critical frame of mind, which, after having
signed by over 3,000 “educators” (including destroyed the moral authority of so many oth-
two editors of the moderate socialist Dissent er institutions turns against its own. . . . The
magazine and a number of well known profes- rationalist attitude does not stop at the cre-
sors and writers) portrays him as “a victim of dentials of kings and popes but goes on to
McCarthyite slurs.”67 An op-ed article by the attack private property and the whole scheme
New York Times columnist Gail Collins belit- of bourgeois values.”74
tled or dismissed serious charges against More generally speaking, the discontents
him.68 He was twice interviewed in the New and problems of modernity persist and are
York Times Magazine and given an opportunity often identified with and blamed on capital-

21
ism. Most important among them, for the pre- function, while being drawn to the role of
sent discussion, are the perception of social righteous critics of their society. When politi-
isolation and of a decline of the sense of com- cal beliefs satisfy important emotional needs
munity and purpose. and bolster a favorable self-conception, they
Western intellectuals who remain attract- are likely to endure.
ed to communist ideals never had the disillu-
sioning experience of living in an actual com-
munist or socialist society. For them, the Notes
morally repellent attributes of communist sys- 1. The Eastern European communist states col-
tems remain abstractions that cannot com- lapsed in 1989, symbolized by the removal of the
pete with the vividness and personal experi- Berlin Wall, but the Soviet Union itself dissolved
ence of the flaws and injustices of Western only in 1991.
societies. 2. The concept of alienation was developed and
Communist ideals have also retained and widely used by Marx to describe the negative
regained some of their attractiveness because impact of capitalism on industrial workers as well
of some of the trends and developments in as society as a whole. The workers, Marx asserted,
had no control over their working conditions,
former communist states. While some former wages, and more generally, their entire life; they
communist states succeeded in creating stable were exploited, deprived materially and spiritual-
capitalist democracies, the most important ly, and incapable of experiencing work satisfac-
one, Russia, has regressed to authoritarianism tion. The term alienation came to be used more
widely to designate a feeling of exclusion, impov-
and aggressive nationalism. In most former erished social relations, incomprehension of the
communist countries, new inequalities and social order, and stunted human development.
abuses of power emerged, while the inequities
of the old regimes, never well-known in the 3. For a few representative definitions and dis-
cussion of totalitarianism see Hannah Arendt, The
West, are being rapidly forgotten. Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt,
Last but not least, the continued attrac- Brace, 1969); Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy,
tiveness of communism rests on the human ed. Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski (Cam-
capacity to dissociate ends from means, good bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967);
Totalitarianism in Perspective, ed. Carl J. Friedrich,
intentions from poor results, ideals from Michael Curtis, and Benjamin R Barber (New
realities, and theory from practice. Arthur York: Praeger, 1969); Tom Gleason, Totalitarian-
Koestler called this capacity to assign an over- ism: The Inner History of the Cold War (New York:
whelming moral importance to the ends Oxford University Press, 1995); A. James Gregor,
while overlooking or dismissing the human Contemporary Radical Ideologies: Totalitarian Thought
in the 20th Century (New York: Random House,
costs of those ends “the doctrine of unshak- 1968); Paul Hollander, “Observations on Bureauc-
en foundations.”75 racy, Totalitarianism and the Comparative Study
Communist ideals persist because it is of Communism,” Slavic Review, June 1967; Bar-
Few colleges or always easier to retain familiar, deeply inter- rington Moore, “Totalitarian Elements in Pre-
industrial Societies,” in his Political Power and
universities offer nalized beliefs held over long periods of time Social Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
courses about than to radically revise or discard them. Such Press, 1958); Leonard Schapiro, Totalitarianism
beliefs are especially compelling to hold on to (London: Pall Mall Press, 1972); J. L. Talmon, The
the former or when they are widely shared—as is the case Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (New York: Mer-
cury, 1961).
remaining with the entire left-of-center, adversarial ideo-
logical heritage and subculture left behind 4. There were some anticipations of a collapse of
communist from the 1960s. Millions of people in the West the Soviet Union that did not entail specific esti-
systems, let associate communist ideas and ideals with mates as to when it might occur. They were based
on the belief that the system was inherently weak,
alone their their youth, youthful idealism, and their better backward, badly administered, possessed little legit-
selves. These ideas have become an integral imacy, and was plagued by chronic and systemic
massive human part of their sense of identity, especially of economic difficulties. Such beliefs were expressed,
rights violations. intellectuals who are uncertain of their social among others, by Andrei Amalrik, Robert Con-

22
quest, F. A. Hayek, Bernard Levin and Ludwig von (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 527.
Mises. Edward Crane, founder and president of
Cato Institute, predicted in 1982 (following a visit 16. Alexander Wat, My Century: The Odyssey of a
to the Soviet Union) that the Soviet system “would Polish Intellectual (Berkeley, CA: University of Cali-
collapse in 20 years of its own weight.” Toward fornia Press, 1988), p. 173.
Liberty: The Idea That Changed the World, ed. David
Boaz (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2002), p. 17. Thomas Aczel and Tibor Meray, Tisztito Vihar
166. (Munich: Griff Kiado•, 1978), p. 276.

5. For a summary of such perceptions see Paul 18. See also Paul Hollander, “Crossing the Moral
Hollander, “Judgments and Misjudgments” in Threshold: The Rejection of Communist Systems
The Collapse of Communism, ed. Lee Edwards (Stan- in Hungary and Eastern Europe” in Resistance,
ford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2000). Rebellion and Revolution in Hungary and Central
Europe: Commemorating 1956, ed. Laszlo Peter and
6. Richard Kapuscinski, a Polish author wrote: Martyn Rady (London: Hungarian Cultural Centre,
“just before the break-up of the USSR, the view of 2008).
that country as a model of the most stable and
durable system in the world had gained wide 19. Cohen, pp. 123, 124, 129, 131, 134.
acceptance among Western Sovietologists” in
Imperium (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1994), p. 314. 20. See also John Clark and Aaron Wildavsky, The
Moral Collapse of Communism (San Francisco, CA:
7. Alexander Dallin: “Causes of the Collapse of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1990).
USSR,” Post-Soviet Affairs, no. 4. (July-September
1992), p.282. 21. See also Paul Hollander, The Only Super Power:
Reflections on Strength, Weakness and Anti-Americanism
8. Valentin Turchin, a prominent Soviet dissenter, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009).
aptly summed up the internal perceptions of the
system that prevented people from conceiving of 22. See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and
change: “the basis of the social order [in the Soviet the Last Man (New York: Maxwell Macmillan
Union] is considered by its citizens as absolutely International, 1992).
immutable. . . . They consider it a given, as
Newton’s Law. When you fall don’t blame gravity.” 23. For a recent debate on revisionism see the Slavic
Quoted in David Shipler, Russia (New York: Times Review, Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 issues. In the for-
Books, 1983), p. 194. mer, prominent revisionists reappraised and recon-
firmed their positions; in the latter, critiques of
9. Stephen F. Cohen, Soviet Fates and Lost Alterna- those positions were published. See also Peter
tives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War (New York: Kenez, “Stalinism as Humdrum Politics,” Russian
Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 90, 149. Review, October 1986; and Paul Hollander, “Moral
Responses to the Great Mass Murders of Our
10. “Nomenklatura” refers to the party elite, the Century,” in Discontents: Postmodern and Postcommu-
full-time functionaries. It also refers to all higher- nist, ed. Paul Hollander (New Brunswick, NJ: Trans-
level appointees in the military, government action Publishers, 2002).
bureaucracy, economy, educations institutions,
etc., that required party approval. 24. “Introduction,” in Intellectuals and Politics in
Central Europe, ed. Andras Bozoki (Budapest: CEU
11. Richard Pipes, “The Fall of the Soviet Union” Press, 1999), p. 6.
in The Collapse of Communism, pp. 42, 46.
25. James R. Millar and Sharon L. Wolchik, The
12. Martin Malia, “The Highest Stage of Social- Social Legacy of Communism (Cambridge, UK: Cam-
ism,” in The Collapse of Communism, p. 71. bridge University Press 1994), p. 7.

13. Milovan Djilas and Vasilije Kalezic•, The Fall of the 26. Quoted in Ste•phane Courtois et al., Black Book
New Class: A History of Communism’s Self-Destruction of Communism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Universi-
(New York: A. A. Knopf, 1998), pp. 289, 302. ty Press, 1999), p. XIII.

14. Quoted in Russian Culture at the Crossroads, ed. 27. See Eva Jaskovska and John P. Moran, “Justice
Dmitri N. Shalin (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, or Politics? Civil and Political Adjudication in the
1996), p. 121. Newly Independent Baltic States,” Journal of Com-
munist Studies and Transition Politics, December 2006.
15. Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism:
The Breakdown v. 3: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution 28. Masvilag—Politikai Esszek (or Another World:

23
Political Essays) (Budapest: Uj Mandatum, 1994), 1996); Courtois et al., p. x; Tony Judt, “The Longest
p.8. Road to Hell,” New York Times, December 22, 1997;
Robert Conquest, The Great Terror (New York:
29. Kang Zhengguo quoted in Jonathan Mirsky, Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 485–86; Dmitri
“He Won’t Give In,” New York Review of Books Volkogonov, Victory and Tragedy: The Political Portrait
(February 14, 2008), p. 47. of Stalin (Budapest: Zrinyi, 1990), p. 413.

30. An important exception has been the Annals of 37. Courtois et al., pp. 16, 217.
Communism series published by Yale University
Press, based on previously inaccessible documents 38. For a discussion of anti-anti-communism, see
from former Soviet state and party archives. Paul Hollander, The Survival of the Adversary Culture
(New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988),
31. For earlier discussions of these differences by esp. pp. 24–25. Also Paul Hollander, Anti-American-
this author see “Resisting the Lessons of History, or ism: Irrational and Rational (New Brunswick, NJ:
How the Adversary Culture Responded to the Dis- Transaction Publishers, 1995), esp. pp. 21–22. I do
integration of Communism,” in Paul Hollander, not know who introduced the term, possibly
Decline and Discontent: Communism and the West Today Sidney Hook. The spirit of anti-anti-communism
(New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, is given an illuminating, sentimental reflection in
1992); Hollander, “Moral Responses to the Great Vivian Gornick, The Romance of American Commu-
Mass Murders of Our Century” in Discontents: nism (New York: Basic Books, 1977).
Postmodern and Postcommunist (New Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction Publishers, 2002); and “Introduction: 39. For a rich repository of such misperceptions
The Distinctive Features of Repression in and misjudgments see, by this author Political
Communist States,” in Paul Hollander, From the Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good
Gulag to the Killing Fields (Wilmington, DE: ISI Society (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publish-
Books, 2006), esp. pp. xx–xxxix. ers, 1998); see also “The Pilgrimage to Nicaragua,”
in Paul Hollander, Anti-Americanism; also “Judg-
32. There is a Victims of Communism Memorial ments and Misjudgments.”
Foundation in Washington, DC, but its efforts so
far have resulted only in a virtual, online “muse- 40. On disillusionment with communist systems
um” that concerns communist systems and their as well as the resistance to such disillusionment see
victims and a small sculptural memorial in the Paul Hollander, The End of Commitment: Intellectuals,
District of Columbia. Revolutionaries and Political Morality (Chicago: I. R.
Dee, 2006), esp. Chaps. 7 and 9.
33. Courtois et al., p. x.
41. Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of
34. For some examples see Frederick Schuman’s Rage (New York: Bantam Books, 1987), pp. 20–21.
review of Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom in the New
Republic, May 6, 1946; and Arch Getty’s fulmina- 42. Olga Chechetkina, Andzela v Sovetskom Souze
tion about the lack of integrity of defectors in (Angela in the Soviet Union), Moscow, 1973; Susan
Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, ed. J. Arch Getty Braudy, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy
and Roberta T. Manning (New York: Cambridge of the Left (New York: Knopf, 2003), pp. 132–133.
University Press, 1993), pp. 40–41; for an article
calling into question the accounts of Pol Pot’s ter- 43. Quoted in James Kurth, “If men were angels. . . .
ror by Cambodian refugees see Noam Chomsky Reflections on the world of Eric Hobsbawm,”
and Edward S. Herman, “Distortions at Fourth National Interest, Summer 1995, p. 9.
Hand,” The Nation, June 25, 1977; also by the same
authors, After the Cataclysm (Boston: South End 44. Quoted in Robert Conquest, “Who Was Right,
Press, 1979). In turn, Nicholas Kristof cautioned Who Was Wrong and Why?” Encounter (Septem-
about taking at face value reports of former ber 1990), p. 29.
inmates of the North Korean Gulag; see his
“Survivors Report Torture in North Korean Labor 45. Quoted in Ron Grossman, “The Marxist
Camps,” New York Times, July 14, 1996. Brothers,” Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1991.

35. Jay Nordlinger, “Undies, Comrade? The Prob- 46. Paul M. Sweezy, “Is This Then the End of
lem of Products Bearing Communist Symbols,” Socialism?” The Nation (February 26, 1990), p. 278.
National Review (July 6, 2009).
47. Tom Wicker, “Freedom for What?” New York
36. R. J. Rummel, “War Isn’t the Century’s Biggest Times, January 5, 1990.
Killer,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 1996; see also his
Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 48. Daniel Singer, “Revolutionary Nostalgia,” The
1917 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers Nation (November 20, 1989), p. 600; and Daniel

24
Singer, “Europe in the Post-Yalta Era,” The Nation 61. Michiko Kakutani, review of Che’s Afterlife: The
(December 11, 1989), p. 720. Legacy of an Image, by Michael Casey, New York
Times, April 20, 2009.
49. Sheldon Wolin, “Beyond Marxism and Mon-
etarism,” The Nation (March 19, 1989), p. 373. 62. “The Legacy of Che Guevara,” Ramparts, De-
cember 1967, p. 21.
50. Quoted in Andre S. Markovits, “The West
German Left in a Changing Europe,” in The Crisis of 63. Quoted in Alvaro Vargas Llosa, “The Killing
Socialism in Europe, ed. Christiane Lemke and Gary Machine,” New Republic, July 11, 2005, pp. 25, 26.
Marks (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992),
p. 184. 64. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Empire
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2000).
51. Quoted in Donald Bauer, “Leftists in the
Wilderness,” U.S. News and World Report (March 65. Ronald Radosh, “Case Closed: The Rosenbergs
19, 1990), p. 27. Were Soviet Spies,” Los Angeles Times, September 17,
2008.
52. Robert Grabar, “Marxists in Area Predict Better
Time for Socialism,” Daily Hampshire Gazette (Feb- 66. Joseph Rago, “Rosenberg Reruns,” Wall Street
ruary 8, 1989), p.11. Journal, January 27, 2006.

53. “Borderline Marxists,” The Nation (October 2, 67. Paul Berman, “Bill Ayers Fan Club,” DailyBeast.
1989), p. 333. com (October 15, 2008), http://www.thedaily
beast.com/blogs-and-stories/2008-10-15/bill-ayers
54. Peter Knapp and Alan J. Spector, Crisis and -fan-club/; Ronald Radosh, “The Real Threat Posed
Change: Basic Questions of Marxist Sociology (Chicago: by Bill Ayers.”
Nelson-Hall, 1991), pp. xi, 251, 245.
68. Gail Collins, “Clearing Ayers,” New York Times,
55. Wilcomb E. Washburn, The Treason of Intellectuals October 9, 2008.
(Herndon, VA: Young America’s Foundation, 1991),
p. 18. 69. “Questions for Bill Ayers: Forever Rad,” New
York Times Magazine, September 16, 2001; “Radical
56. Quoted in “The Real Threat Posed by Bill Cheer,” Ibid., February 15, 2009.
Ayers,” Ronald Radosh Blog, October 20, 2008,
http://pajamasmedia.com/ronradosh/2008/10/ 70. Bill Ayers, “The Real Bill Ayers,” New York Times,
20/the-real-threat-posed-by-bill-ayers/. December 5, 2008.

57. “Antiwar Campaigner Speaks on Chavez 71. Dinitia Smith, “No Regrets for a Love of Ex-
Broadcast,” New York Times, January 29, 2006. See plosives,” New York Times, September 11, 2001.
also Juan Forero, “Visitors Seek a Taste of Revo-
lution in Venezuela,” New York Times, March 21, 72. Bill Ayers, Fugitive Days: A Memoir (New York:
2006. Also, see “Celebrity Fans,” Newsweek, Septem- Beacon Press 2001), p. 256. The statement quoted
ber 3, 2007. is followed by a convoluted disclaimer. Further
down on the same page he wrote: “the government
58. Quoted in Ian Buruma, “Thank You, My Foolish was dead wrong, and we were right. In our conflict
Friends in the West,” Sunday Times (London), May 15, we don’t talk; we don’t tell. We never confess.”
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73. New Yorker, Letters, October 6, 2008, p. 57.
59. Deborah Orin, “Harvard Loves a Thug,” New
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60. Quoted in George Will, “Carter Misreads North
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1994. (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 123.

25
STUDIES IN THE POLICY ANALYSIS SERIES

650. Yes, Mr President: A Free Market Can Fix Health Care by Michael F.
Cannon (October 21, 2009)

649. Somalia, Redux: A More Hands-Off Approach by David Axe (October 12,
2009)

648. Would a Stricter Fed Policy and Financial Regulation Have Averted the
Financial Crisis? by Jagadeesh Gokhale and Peter Van Doren (October 8, 2009)

647. Why Sustainability Standards for Biofuel Production Make Little


Economic Sense by Harry de Gorter and David R. Just (October 7, 2009)

646. How Urban Planners Caused the Housing Bubble by Randal O’Toole
(October 1, 2009)

645. Vallejo Con Dios: Why Public Sector Unionism Is a Bad Deal for
Taxpayers and Representative Government by Don Bellante, David
Denholm, and Ivan Osorio (September 28, 2009)

644. Getting What You Paid For—Paying For What You Get: Proposals for the
Next Transportation Reauthorization by Randal O’Toole (September 15, 2009)

643. Halfway to Where? Answering the Key Questions of Health Care Reform
by Michael Tanner (September 9, 2009)

642. Fannie Med? Why a “Public Option” Is Hazardous to Your Health by


Michael F. Cannon (July 27, 2009)

641. The Poverty of Preschool Promises: Saving Children and Money with the
Early Education Tax Credit by Adam B. Schaeffer (August 3, 2009)

640. Thinking Clearly about Economic Inequality by Will Wilkinson (July 14,
2009)

639. Broadcast Localism and the Lessons of the Fairness Doctrine by John
Samples (May 27, 2009)

638. Obamacare to Come: Seven Bad Ideas for Health Care Reform
by Michael Tanner (May 21, 2009)

637. Bright Lines and Bailouts: To Bail or Not To Bail, That Is the Question
by Vern McKinley and Gary Gegenheimer (April 21, 2009)
636. Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy by Malou Innocent (April 13, 2009)

635. NATO at 60: A Hollow Alliance by Ted Galen Carpenter (March 30, 2009)

634. Financial Crisis and Public Policy by Jagadeesh Gokhale (March 23, 2009)

633. Health-Status Insurance: How Markets Can Provide Health Security


by John H. Cochrane (February 18, 2009)

632. A Better Way to Generate and Use Comparative-Effectiveness Research


by Michael F. Cannon (February 6, 2009)

631. Troubled Neighbor: Mexico’s Drug Violence Poses a Threat to the


United States by Ted Galen Carpenter (February 2, 2009)

630. A Matter of Trust: Why Congress Should Turn Federal Lands into
Fiduciary Trusts by Randal O’Toole (January 15, 2009)

629. Unbearable Burden? Living and Paying Student Loans as a First-Year


Teacher by Neal McCluskey (December 15, 2008)

628. The Case against Government Intervention in Energy Markets:


Revisited Once Again by Richard L. Gordon (December 1, 2008)

627. A Federal Renewable Electricity Requirement: What’s Not to Like?


by Robert J. Michaels (November 13, 2008)

626. The Durable Internet: Preserving Network Neutrality without


Regulation by Timothy B. Lee (November 12, 2008)

625. High-Speed Rail: The Wrong Road for America by Randal O’Toole
(October 31, 2008)

624. Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2008 by Chris Edwards
(October 20, 2008)

623. Two Kinds of Change: Comparing the Candidates on Foreign Policy


by Justin Logan (October 14, 2008)

622. A Critique of the National Popular Vote Plan for Electing the President
by John Samples (October 13, 2008)

621. Medical Licensing: An Obstacle to Affordable, Quality Care by Shirley


Svorny (September 17, 2008)
BOARD OF ADVISERS
ANNE APPLEBAUM
WASHINGTON POST

GURCHARAN DAS
FORMER CEO, PROCTER
& GAMBLE, INDIA he Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity was established to promote
ARNOLD HARBERGER
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES
T a better understanding around the world of the benefits of market-lib-
eral solutions to some of the most pressing problems faced by develop-
ing nations. In particular, the center seeks to advance policies that protect human
FRED HU rights, extend the range of personal choice, and support the central role of eco-
GOLDMAN SACHS, ASIA
nomic freedom in ending poverty. Scholars in the center address a range of
PEDRO-PABLO KUCZYNSKI economic development issues, including economic growth, international finan-
FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PERU
cial crises, the informal economy, policy reform, the effectiveness of official aid
DEEPAK LAL agencies, public pension privatization, the transition from socialism to the mar-
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES
ket, and globalization.

JOSÉ PIÑERA For more information on the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity,
FORMER MINISTER OF LABOR AND visit www.cato.org/economicliberty/.
SOCIAL SECURITY, CHILE

OTHER STUDIES ON DEVELOPMENT FROM THE CATO INSTITUTE


“Socialism Kills: The Human Cost of Delayed Economic Reform in India” by Swaminathan S.
Anklesaria Aiyar, Development Briefing Paper no. 4 (October 21, 2009)

“An International Monetary Fund Currency to Rival the Dollar? Why Special Drawing Rights
Can’t Play That Role” by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, Development Policy Analysis no. 10
(July 7, 2009)

“The False Promise of Gleneagles: Misguided Priorities at the Heart of the New Push for
African Development” by Marian L. Tupy, Development Policy Analysis no. 9 (April 24, 2009)

“El Salvador: A Central American Tiger?” by Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Development Policy Analysis
no. 8 (March 9, 2009)

“The Benefits of Port Liberalization: A Case Study from India” by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria
Aiyar, Development Policy Analysis no. 7 (December 3, 2008)

“Zimbabwe: From Hyperinflation to Growth” by Steve H. Hanke, Development Policy Analysis


no. 6 (June 25, 2008)

“A Decade of Suffering in Zimbabwe: Economic Collapse and Political Repression under


Robert Mugabe” by David Coltart, Development Policy Analysis no. 5 (March 24, 2008)

“Fifteen Years of Transformation in the Post-Communist World: Rapid Reformers Outperformed


Gradualists” by Oleh Havrylyshyn, Development Policy Analysis no. 4 (November 9, 2007)

Nothing in this Development Policy Analysis should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the
Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity or the Cato Institute or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of
any bill before Congress. Contact the Cato Institute for reprint permission. Additional copies of Development
Policy Analysis are $6 each ($3 for five or more). To order, contact the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts
Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC, 20001, (202) 842-0200, fax (202) 842-3490, www.cato.org.