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Remembering Communism

Well, of course it’s not entirely all gone, though it should be.  The following is from a book review of The Red Flag by David Priestland published in the Financial Times:

So have we written off communism too soon?

That is a question David Priestland puts in the introduction to his hefty new history of communism, The Red Flag. But it will never be quite the same again, he admits: “Communism will not return as a powerful movement in its old form, but now globalised capitalism is in crisis, it is no longer inconceivable that at least some of the autarkic, populist and illiberal features of the old communist world will resurface.”

He has a point. He thinks it isstill worth trying to understand what made communism tick. His book isnot a defence of the system but nor is it a hatchet job. It is anattempt to understand why communism happened the way it did.

Itis more than that, too. It attempts to discover why such a muddled,pseudo-scientific hotchpotch of revolutionary romanticism and ruthlesspragmatism (my words, not his) succeeded for so long. Why did it becomeso violent and repressive? Why did it prove such an economic failure inthe Soviet Union, yet lay the foundations for such an extraordinaryeconomic success in China? And why did it manage to inspire so muchidealism in spite of the violence wreaked in its name?