100 years of communism - why it was a Utopian ideal
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A 100 years after the Bolshevik revolution in Russian and the political, social and economical landslide that followed, it still seems quite unnerving to talk about communism. Whenever the theme is brought up, one has the uneasy feeling that opinions on the subject dangerously gravitate towards either a devoted and fearless support or complete rejection and abolishment. Perhaps the time has come to look back and assess calmly the chaotic past of this idealized or fiercely hated social order, and attempt to understand why it didn’t work and why it never will. A certain amount of historical background is in order if we are to discuss communism properly. Leading their way from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s ideology, I would like to present three movements, all interconnected and relevant to understanding the rise and fall of the Soviet Union: communism, socialism, and anarchism. All movements concern themselves with the notions of distribution of power, ownership, and social class, among various other ideological and economic debates. Like every revolution, the October Revolution in Russia aimed to bring down Tsarist autocracy and establish a new social order, which unfortunately turned rather sinister with the arrival of Stalin. However, in theoretical terms communism sought a universal economic and social equality among its citizens, as did socialism. The general difference between the two movements, excluding defining details which are rather extensive and deserve a separate article, is that communism is viewed as rather definitive and hard-left on the political spectrum, originating from ideas in “The Communist Manifesto” pamphlet of 1848, and essentially having a firm belief in the populous collective ownership of means of production. Socialism, on the other hand, predates communism in its origins, can be seen as rather broadly defined and thus more liberal and can be either pro or anti-marked in connection with a rather egalitarian wealth distribution among citizens. Having established a very brief account of theory, it is sufficient to say that the ideological merits of these political movements were never truly achieved in practice, judging from historical accounts of mass genocide, extreme limitation of human freedoms, and numerous other atrocities in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However any account of what being part of the USSR felt like both in a social and individual sense is rather difficult to achieve, especially since my generation was born in the years following its dissolution. We can listen to the stories and viewpoints of our parents and grandparents, but will never truly understand the glimmering hope for a significant ideological change and its devastating and cruel grotesque actuality. Every system can be beneficial for some and harmful to others, but the more perspective question we should be asking is if communism ameliorated humanity and if its expression in social terms was inspiring. According to a fairly large amount of communist survivors, the answer is no, it didn’t, as in its ideology, it so eloquently promises to. The regime destroyed human relations by employing social surveillance tactics and rewarded the citizens who reported to the state their neighbors, friends, and acquaintances who expressed an opinion which was politically or socially controversial. Stating that communism is a diabolical consuming regime will be as inaccurate as it will be to say it was a socially and economically constructed Eden. What we can perhaps assume from communism’s history and the effect it had is that being founded on the ideological concept of a socioeconomic order involving the absence of money, government, class segregation and aspiring to achieve common ownership of production means, it was a utopian hope for the future, which unfortunately proved abusive and dysfunctional due to the basic characteristics of the universal human nature- lust for power, egocentrism, duplicity, and others. Anarchism specifically deals with the philosophical dimension of communist theory and the issues arising from it. According to Ruth Kinna, anarchism is a movement of revolutionaries, who rebel with everyday human against the social order, consumerist values, and possess universal apathy. As in communist accounts, Fredy Perlman, a primitivism writer, views the state as the source of these malevolent characteristics, describing it as an all-consuming Leviathan, who is “a monstrous body…without any life of its own…a dead thing, a huge cadaver”. Thus, even though the present social and economic order of capitalism is somewhat malicious, to say the least, it is the only model humanity presently has. Yes, communism employed mass control, propaganda and ridiculous media narratives and witch-hunts, but isn’t neo-liberalism attempting the same through the prism of consumerism?
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