Courtesy Reuters

The Russian Revolution - Fifty Years After

WHAT IS LEFT OF COMMUNISM?

HALF a century after Lenin's seizure of power started the global chain reaction associated with his name, there no longer is a single center to direct what is still conventionally described as the world communist movement. The shock waves released by the original explosion continue to travel, but they follow a course profoundly divergent from that formerly traced out by the Bolshevik party and the Third International. Communism as a global phenomenon and the U.S.S.R. as the focus of a planned industrial transformation do not inhabit the same universe. Rhetorical assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, their respective lines of development increasingly point away from each other.

Ideologically, this divergence manifests itself in the slow erosion of Moscow's hold over the loyalty of its nominal followers. Dark planets circling the dying sun of the October Revolution, the communist parties of Europe, Asia and Latin America revolve in their separate orbits-now drawn together by geography or the pressures of the East-West conflict, now propelled in different directions by the resurgence of nationalism or the impact of the Sino-Soviet split. Deeply riven by the conflicting claims of Moscow and Peking, the communist movement has begun to display unmistakable symptoms of disintegration. Numerical growth is purchased at the cost of doctrinal enfeeblement. "Polycentrism," from being a heresy, shows signs of becoming the norm. Even the first principle of Leninism, the political monopoly of the single-party régime, has ceased to be sacrosanct.

The fiftieth anniversary of the October coup, by an unwelcome coincidence, falls at a time when the celebrants are confronted with the Chinese schism in a new and menacing form-an open confrontation of Asia and Russia. In the struggle to hold the loyalties of their respective followers, Moscow and Peking are increasingly driven back upon barely camouflaged nationalism. The Maoist heresy, from being an obscure quarrel over the interpretation of the depositum fidei, has turned into a rebellion sustained by China's ancient claims to hegemony

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