Why the West needs communism

It is now accepted by most academics that communism was a failed ideology of the 20th century that was superseded by the success of late 20th and early 21st century global democratic capitalism.  However, in light of recent years it seems that even capitalism is failing – so what is the alternative?  I claim that once more the answer can be found in communism.

First, let us deal with semantics: what exactly is meant by communism today?  I freely admit that the era of communism that started in 1917 and came to a miserable and embarrassing end in the 1990s deserved exactly what it got; it was a horrific failure and there is no question that it had to end. 

However, global democratic capitalism has duly had its own defects and shortcomings revealed, indeed I am even tempted to claim that we are at the beginning of the end of our current prevailing ideology. 

In other words, if the falling of the Berlin Wall was a pivotal symbol of victory in 1989, then the subsequent raising of walls, literally and metaphorically throughout the West since then, is a sure sign that the victory was short-lived.

This proves that global democratic capitalism is not the ultimate answer either - despite what the Francis Fukuyamas of this world will try to tell you.  What this ultimately means is that we must once again start to question the very fundamentals of our system of government. 

Prominent Slovenian philosopher and social critic, Slavoj Zizek, states that the left's dream of the 1960-70s was that proposed by Dubcek: "socialism with a human face".

However, since the 1980s the ideological dream of the left has slowly capitulated to the notion of "capitalism with a human face", a concept that is rightly mocked, but is paradoxically accepted.  To put it another way, most people are now happy with the idea of continuing with our existing system of government on the condition that, through some vague notions of ideological tweaking in which various principals are made to be a little more tolerant or open-minded, we can eventually formulate a "perfect balance."

This simplistic approach will no longer suffice; we must accept that elementary concepts of politics, economics and society need to be completely re-examined.

The evidence for the necessity of this re-examination can be found in the fact that there are certain antagonisms that cannot be solved from within the capitalist framework.

Antagonisms such as ecology, the new and ever increasing apartheid of the excluded poor and the emergence of bio-genetics - however, the most concerning problem of them all is arguably the surfacing of what is being termed as "authoritarian capitalism." 

Until recently there has seemingly been one empirical truth to capitalism: most politically aware individuals will acknowledge that although some governments who employ capitalist ideologies might initially require a decade or two of military rule, nevertheless the demand for democracy within that society will eventually grow to such a level that a refusal to yield to the requests of the people would be political suicide.

The liberals who assert that the West must simply give the relatively new capitalist countries who have not yet acknowledged the necessity for democracy, another ten years before ultimately witnessing a new and even stronger push for a democratic system, are demonstrably wrong.  We have waited long enough - the push never came.

We simply need to look at China, Singapore, Russia and even Berlusconi's Italy to realise that we are witnessing the emergence of a new capitalism, a capitalism that is even more dynamic, efficient and productive than our Western version, but no longer requires democracy.

This does not mean there will be, nor that I wish there to be, a new Leninist party on the horizon.

The problem is not that we live in a relatively free world and as an out of touch and delusional Marxist I wish to ruin it and instigate some anachronistic return to traditional values or a dictatorship of the proletariat.

On the contrary, the assertion is that a re-examination of the rudiments is the key; the horror is that there is precisely no answer.

We must therefore allow ourselves to refrain from the all too easy approach of taking direct action. We must do the counter-intuitive and give up the "glory of the animal" and consider instead the benefits of spending our time formulating new ideas.

It is through this theoretical approach that I claim communism, in one form or another, will resurface and prevail. 

Perhaps this will manifest itself as explicitly communist, perhaps simply as socialist, or perhaps neither; the name hardly matters. What matters is that the seed of thought will grow from core communist ideologies due to necessity rather than desire.

Nicholas Tufnell

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest