The USSR fell more than 20 years ago. Capitalists rejoiced, and quickly proclaimed communism dead. They said that it was all over, the story written, the song sung. All that was left was for liberal “democracy” to flourish bringing untold riches to the people of the world. Well, at least those who “work hard”. (i.e. get born white, into the right family in the right country etc etc etc.) Political scientists like Francis Fukuyama gleefully declared the “END OF HISTORY” in booming voices like that of a motion picture voice over artist. The curtain fell on socialism. All that was left was the bloody teeth of a capitalist Moloch waiting to enslave us all. Even socialists bought into this narrative, deciding that revolution was pointless, and that they had no choice but to drop their protest signs, their political activism and join the work a day world as willing wage slaves. They joined social democratic parties, the democratic parties and other right wing organizations. It was over.
Not as over as you think
For all their caterwauling cries of the end of history, the liberals and conservatives forgot one thing. History is all about two steps forward, one step back. Let me give you a good example. The French Revolution tore down the old aristocratic privilege, it killed the king and proclaimed the rights of man. There were excesses. There were problems. Innocent people died. Then after a few short years, the revolution fell. It collapsed under its own weight, the people exhausted and the chaos triumphant. Napoleon Bonaparte would take power as an emperor, and control the country for many years. France went through a century of instability and uncertainty. So, the revolution was a waste then? No, it most certainly was not. Napoleon was able to take power for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the old system had died. In its place was a vacuum, one that he exploited for his own gain. However, it is of note that France no longer had a hereditary monarch. The legacy of the French Republic had been born. The French Revolution, for all its flaws, for all its excesses, had changed the world, it had altered the course of human history forever. The age of the divine right of kings was over, the age of aristocratic privilege was dying, the age of feudalism was on its way out the door. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
In a similar vein, the USSR came into existence. While socialism was aimed at developed industrial capitalist countries, the Bolsheviks had a dream of a socialist Russia. They were sick of the aristocratic autocracy under which they suffered, and they wanted to create a better world. They were not an industrialized country. They were seen as a backwards feudal backwater of a country, neither Europe or Asia, stuck perpetually at a cultural crossroads. They were, in a sense, a mess. Yet, they believed in a better world. In the Czar’s Russia, unless you were a member of the aristocracy, you lived a nasty, brutish and short life working for your feudal masters. Just how bad was it? Most of the population were uneducated illiterate peasants. In the mid-19th century the Czar abolished serfdom, but did it in such a way that it further impoverished them. There was no freedom of speech, no freedom of thought, no freedom of any kind whatsoever. Only the rich and the noble had a chance at succeeding. High death rates, crushing poverty and hopelessness were the order of the day. Then, one day, the people had just about had enough. A revolution was born of the abuses heaped upon them by their unfeeling psychopathic rulers. The world would never be the same.
Seeing the USSR in its historical setting
There is much hypocrisy in those from the West who hate the USSR. They have had their brains washed with anti-communist propaganda, they have had their thoughts filled with fear at the inkling of a socialist revolution, even one that would benefit them personally. The USSR did amazing. It took a backwards feudal dictatorship, and brought about a very egalitarian society. It took an almost completely illiterate population, and taught them to read, write and even become scientists and doctors. It raised the standard of living at a ridiculously fast pace. It raised the life expectancy by decades, lowered the infant mortality rate and gave equal rights to women. It ended the mass killings of Jews, and would go on to defeat Hitler in WW2. After the country suffered heavy losses in WW2, they rebuilt it again this time stronger than before. A right to a home and food and education. A right to a voice in your government, a right to a good standard of living and a stake in your own means of production. Were there problems? Oh yes, there were. It wasn’t a perfect country, such a paradise doesn’t exist. However, while the US was segregating its population, the USSR was preaching the equality of all men regardless of the color of their skin. While the US was killing the Vietnamese in droves and destroying their land, the USSR was defending their right to self determination. While the US was still lynching blacks, the USSR was giving a free university education to anyone who wanted one. While the US ignored its lower classes, the USSR was pushing ahead into space. To look at the USSR and think it was a hell hole is to believe blindly the bullshit narrative spit out by those who hate progress and have nothing but contempt for the working classes. Can we learn from the USSR? Yes, we can, we can learn a lot. Do I want the USSR back? No, I want something even better. I want to build on the past revolutions, not relive them. We move forward into the future, building a better world.
In conclusion, yes, I defend the legacy of the USSR. Although flawed, it provided an example of the fact that the Bourgoise liberal “democracy” road was not the only one possible. It inspired millions of people to rise up, overthrow their oppressors and establish socialism. The legacy of the USSR lives on all around the world. Communism isn’t dead, it’s just incubating. This capitalist system is tottering, marching blindly to its own destructive end. Revolution rises from the ashes of the last, creating a dawn that will once again shake the world to its core. Hold the revolution in your heart, and work for a better world.
Just a note here, I will be writing a piece soon on social democracy, and liberal “democracy”. Don’t miss it.