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The Position and Prospects of Communism

Courtesy Reuters

"A SPECTRE is haunting Europe -- the spectre of communism." Eighty-five years have passed since the Communist Manifesto opened with those fateful words. It is little less since Tocqueville predicted that the democracy, weary of the inadequate results of their political emancipation, would one day turn to the destruction of the rights of property as the condition precedent to their economic emancipation. "In matters of social construction," he wrote,[i] "the field of possibilities is much more extensive than men living in their various societies are willing to imagine."

After the breakdown of the revolutions of 1848 there was little disposition among the statesmen of Europe and America to take the growth of socialism with any profound seriousness until the epoch of the war. A moment of horror at the events in Paris in 1871, a sense that the abortive revolution in Russia of 1905 might be the prelude to a vaster drama, exhausted the sense of doubt about the foundations of the social system. Neither the experience of France nor of Germany seemed to point to the likelihood of Socialist governments; and as late as 1908, President Lowell, reflecting upon the English position at the close of his famous treatise,[ii] concluded that "unless the Labor Party should grow in a way that seems unlikely" there was no prospect of a class-division in English politics in the near future. Lord Grey, indeed, on the very eve of the war, was troubled by a sense that its prolongation might result in a repetition of 1848; but the universal welcome which greeted the March Revolution in Russia did not suggest that men had any doubts about the foundations of a capitalist society. At no time in American history prior to the war had the socialist movement made any profound impact upon American life.

The Bolshevik Revolution wrought an immediate and fundamental change in the perspective of public opinion. The very fact that Marxian principles could assume the guise of action made it evident that the foundations of capitalism had

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