Invent the Future

"We must dare to invent the future" - Thomas Sankara

soviet-index

This series of articles attempts to unpick the fall of the Soviet Union, looking in depth at the economic, political, ideological and military factors. Why dig up these particular old bones? Because we must reflect on, and learn from, history. The world’s first socialist state no longer exists, and nor do the European people’s democracies that were its close allies. If mistakes were made, it’s crucial that they aren’t made again. Existing socialist states face many of the same external pressures that the Soviet Union faced; future socialist states almost certainly will too. Additionally, socialist states so far have had […]

soviet-part8

So long as socialism does not collapse in China, it will always hold its ground in the world. (Deng Xiaoping)1 We should think of China’s communist regime quite differently from that of the USSR: it has, after all, succeeded where the Soviet Union failed. (Martin Jacques)2 This series has thus far explored in some detail the various factors – economic, political, ideological, military and cultural – that contributed to the collapse of the USSR and the dismantling of socialism in Europe. This final article in the series shifts perspective forwards to the present, asking what future socialism has in the […]

A World to Win

A slightly modified version of this article first appeared in the Morning Star on 05 May 2018 (the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth). Sven-Eric Liedman’s new biography of Karl Marx aims to provide the reader with a nuanced and detailed account of the intellectual giant’s life and thought. Beyond the biographical outline and the coverage of the best-known aspects of Marx’s work (Capital, and The Communist Manifesto), Liedman also gives a fairly detailed description of Marx’s explorations in philosophy and the trajectory of his theoretical ideas. This, along with an examination of the intellectual relationship between Marx and Engels and […]

soviet-part7

There can be no more tragic spectacle in the history of humanity than that of a defeated revolution. When the revolt of the slaves in Rome was defeated, thousands were nailed to crosses on the roadside. This should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is… There was also the dreadful slaughter of workers after the defeat of the Paris Commune [in 1871]. This, too, should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is. History teaches us that a defeated revolution has to pay an extraordinary toll in blood. The victorious ruling class demands payment for […]

simon-hannah

A slightly modified version of this article first appeared in the Morning Star on 03 March 2018. Simon Hannah’s recently-released book ‘A Party with Socialists in it: a History of the Labour Left’ provides a timely, concise and very readable account of the ongoing struggle between left and right within Labour. The title is inspired by Tony Benn’s comment that “the Labour Party has never been a socialist party, although there have always been socialists in it”, and the text charts the attempts of those socialists to promote their vision over the course of the past 118 years. This fight […]

tj coles fire and fury

A slightly modified version of this article first appeared in the Morning Star on 15 February 2018. Clairview Books RRP £10.99 This short book by British academic TJ Coles will perhaps not receive as much attention as another recently-released text that shares its name. It is, nonetheless, an important and insightful book, providing an alternative viewpoint on the escalating crisis over Korea, and promoting an urgent message of peace. The primary aim of the book is to dismantle the idea that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a serious danger to regional and global stability; that it’s an […]

soviet-part6

Many of us aspire to change the world for the better: you are among the few who have successfully done so. (John Major to Mikhail Gorbachev, December 19911) The early Gorbachev era was relatively exciting and inspiring; there was a sense that the new General Secretary had the energy, creativity and commitment to lead the USSR out of economic stagnation and political disillusionment. By 1987, this initial excitement had waned, replaced with apprehension and worry. Economic growth, which in 1985 had been relatively slow, was by now anaemic, and the Communist Party was being actively marginalised. Many party members and […]

soviet-part5

The basic cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union may be identified as the long-term ideological chaos that prevailed in the USSR. Acting as a key driver of events were long-term mistakes in organisational policy, while the primary factor that dealt the direct, fatal blow was political betrayal, through the implementation of ‘perestroika and new thinking’.1 Gorbachev: the beginning of the end After a decade of economic stagnation, declining popular confidence and escalating military confrontation with the West – and with three CPSU general secretaries in three years having died on the job (Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko) – there […]

soviet-part4

Not for a moment since 1917 have the fascist and democratic Western powers abandoned the idea of defeating the Soviet Union.1 Full-court press against the USSR Seeing the Soviet Union experiencing economic and political difficulties, and noting the deepening split within the socialist camp, it dawned on US strategists that there was potentially a historic opportunity to push the USSR off the cliff. Having identified this opening in the late 1970s, the US ruling class pursued it relentlessly: rolling back detente, expanding sanctions, massively increasing spending on military technology, and drawing the Soviet Union deeper and deeper into war in […]

soviet-part3

A crisis of confidence How do societies stick together? How do you organise the cooperation of millions of people – a modern challenge that humans have only had to face since the emergence of civilisation in Asia a few thousand years ago? At the root of any successful project of that kind is a set of beliefs and values shared by a large number of the population – beliefs and values that bind them to the existing order. Modern capitalism, for example, is strongly rooted in individualism, consumerism, the idea of the free market as being fundamental to human life, […]

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