We all remember the fall of Communism don’t we? Certainly, anyone who is over twenty five will.
Who could, after all, forget the end of the Berlin Wall in 1989? Or Boris Yeltsin’s heroic role following the coup two years later? Or the final collapse of the USSR?
For many, the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to signal an ideological victory for capitalism. Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the triumph of liberal democracy and “the end of history”. Many argued that the end of the USSR proved that Communism and Marxist-Leninism, like fascism before it, simply could not work. It was contrary to human nature, they said. Reagan, Bush and Thatcher claimed the war had been won
Here’s the problem. Twenty one years have now passed since the fall of the USSR and…well, how shall I put this? Communism is very much alive and well. In theory, if really doesn’t work, it should have “withered away” long before now. It hasn’t done so.
There are currently five communist states in the world. This includes the People’s Republic of China, a nation whose population accounts for one fifth of the world’s population. China’s growth rates are also widely expected to exceed those of the United States by 2017. Vietnam, another communist state, has some of the highest growth rates in the world as does Laos, which also went communist in the 1970s as a result of the sorry American legacy in Vietnam.
There is indeed a reasonable case for arguing that the Cold War never in fact ended in Asia at all. In addition to Laos and Vietnam, North Korea, another unhappy reminder of an American war, remains a constant source of international tension. Outside Asia, fifty two years after the revolution which propelled his brother to power, Raul Castro continues to keep the red flag flying in Cuba, just eighty miles off the coast of Florida.
I don’t want to exaggerate. Communism is not obviously on the ascent anywhere other than the five states in which it already holds power. The “domino effect” once spoken of by President Eisenhower does not seem to be happening at the moment. There are far fewer Communist states now, than there were even at the start of the 1990s. This is a fact only partly explained by the fall of the USSR: countries as varied as Angola, Mozambique and the Somali Democratic Republic all renounced communism in the 1990s. None of these states were, of course, anywhere near the Eastern Bloc geographically, although of course, as the holder of many of these states’ purse strings, once the USSR went, these other states quickly followed.
Yet the fact remains: two decades after the fall of the USSR, communism isn’t going anywhere.
True, a number of the modern communist states have achieved fantastic economic growth rates only by rejecting the tenets of Marxist-Leninist command economics. Had they not embraced free market capitalism, China, Laos and Vietnam would never have achieved their current impressive levels of growth, statistics which look all the more striking coming as they do in the aftermath of the global meltdown which has struck the western world.
But this does not stop them being fundamentally communist states. Lenin’s Soviet Union, after all, absorbed free enterprise and private ownership into its structural framework as early as 1923.
And the sad truth is that most of the communist states of today have as an appalling human rights record just as the old USSR did.
In the last twenty years, the West has taken its eye off the ball as regards communism. Economic issues and concerns over the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism are (perhaps rightly) accorded a higher priority. Yet the fact remains that by the end of President Obama’s (likely) second term, a brutal totalitarian regime is destined to be the leading economic power in the world.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever,” warns a villainous character in George Orwell’s novel 1984.
I hope the future isn’t going to be quite as bleak as that. But the rise of a brutal totalitarian Communist dictatorship to global economic supremacy should be a cause for concern for everyone.