Invent the Future

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

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

We do not forget for a moment that we have committed and are committing numerous mistakes and are suffering numerous reverses. How can reverses and mistakes be avoided in a matter so new in the history of the world as the building of an unprecedented type of state edifice! We shall work steadfastly to set our reverses and mistakes right and to improve our practical application of Soviet principles, which is still very, very far from being perfect. (Lenin)1 As discussed in the previous article, the Soviet Union recorded world-historic achievements in many fields. Nonetheless, there were a wide variety […]

This is the first in a series of eight articles regarding the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). Although a distance of more than 25 years separates us from that fateful day in 1991 when the USSR ceased to exist, the left’s understanding of the Soviet collapse is still limited and many of the important themes are poorly understood. 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. […]

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on 23 October 2017. Manchester University Press RRP £22.50 China’s rise is the most significant development in modern history since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For most readers of this newspaper, it is a profoundly positive advance: hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, and China has been transformed from a technologically backward and underdeveloped country into a global powerhouse. Increasingly it is a world leader in environmental preservation and in the pursuit of a new type of globalisation based on cooperation and shared prosperity. Not everyone is pleased […]

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on 19 July 2017. In this compact book of just over 200 pages, Geoffrey Swain does a surprisingly good job of presenting a historical overview of the October Revolution – the defining event of the 20th century, the centenary of which we celebrate this year. The writing is necessarily dense, but not to the point of impenetrability, and most readers will find something of value here, although many Morning Star readers will undoubtedly find some things to disagree with. Swain offers two key ideas that are relatively controversial in terms of mainstream […]

He hates racism of all kinds. Actually genuinely hates it, not just pretending. He’s done more against it than any of us, working to support oppressed communities, taking asylum cases to the Home Office, campaigning tirelessly on behalf of the victims of racism, xenophobia and religious discrimination. He hates war. Again, he’s done more against it than the vast majority of us. Wouldn’t it be good if the person making the final decision about whether to bomb a country was the same person that can be heard in Trafalgar Square shouting “No war for oil”? He wants to save the […]