Communism was not Defeated

The 1917 Russian Revolution facilitated a victory for Bolshevism, not for Communism. Communism was based on an egalitarian approach towards society, certain aspects of which – such as the concept of the welfare state and social democracy – were adopted by Western states. Furthermore, in Western states, small Communist and Anarchist parties gave voice to this approach.

Lenin experienced the failed revolution of the commune in Paris, which was opposed by consensual Parisian society. Through this experience, he came to the conclusion that revolution could not operate through the people, but that the people must be dictated to by a small group of revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks were victorious in Russia not due to the prominence of their ideology, but because they were better organized and more determined than other revolutionary groups. As their power grew, so did their desire to monopolize all aspects of society, thought, and education. Ideology became more of a cover for rule, and power itself became the ends, rather than the means.

Yugoslavian Philosopher Milo Vangelis, from the times of Tito, took a new approach towards the state, arguing that revolutionaries often want change for the sake of taking power. According to Valgelis, revolutions are often used to promote personalities rather than ideas, and the people are divided into camps following certain personalities. Ideology becomes a mere tool to mobilize people.

Lenin’s approach was an obvious manifestation of this idea. For example, he viewed the socialist in Western Europe as mere tools by which he could advance his leadership in the face of capitalism. Lenin knew that the humanitarian aspects of socialism made it easier to mobilize people by tapping into class consciousness. Pure capitalism could be portrayed as a threat to our social good, while communism as a way to promote egalitarianism.

But the Soviet Union was in no way egalitarian, and Bolshevism was mainly manipulated as a way to rule over resources in a centralized manner. In the end, the economic situation became untenable, and Bolshevik communism reached its downfall. The Soviet Union disintegrated and the Western system of economy and government became dominant.

The notion of a victory for capitalism caused fear about socialists and social democrats in the West. Social democratic parties did not give in to the rule of pure capitalism.

While the Soviet Union fell apart, China changed its system into a kind of centralized, non-democratic capitalism. The challenge posed by Russia to the West today is not one of ideology, but a challenge of influence and power.

However, in Western countries, various socialist and social democratic movements find a lack of satisfaction in the capitalist system. Over the last few years, Europe has been dealing with an economic catastrophe that only empower both the extreme right wing and the extreme left wing, who seek significant change in their country’s system of political economy and government. Scandinavian states face a challenge of new class systems and demography. Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece are grasping for solutions to their economic problems, with anarchy threatening their foundations. Even in the United States, socialist elements desire a change in the system.

Indeed, these various challenges within Western states illustrate that communism was not defeated, and that elements of communist ideology are clashing with more capitalist approaches and threatening the stability of Western economy and culture.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center