In This Review

Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy
Complications: Communism and the Dilemmas of Democracy
By Claude Lefort
Columbia University Press, 2007, 224 pp.

For decades, even centuries, to come, people will be arguing over the reasons for communism's demise -- and not least because they will disagree as much over the reason the system came into being in the first place and lasted as long as it did, catching up so many along the way. In the throat-clearing already under way, Lefort positions his message between (or above) Martin Malia's candidate cause (the pathological effects of socialist utopianism) and François Furet's (the "illusion" of equality tracing back to the French Revolution). He admires both men but agrees with neither. Malia errs, Lefort -- an anticommunist man of the left -- thinks, by equating the Soviet phantasmagoria with socialism; Furet, by assuming that an "idea," rather than the usurpations of an all-engulfing party, was behind the Soviet phenomenon. Both, he fears, make it too easy for the simple-minded to assume that communism's failure proves democracy's virtue -- thus leaving the unresolved issue of social justice for another day and another challenger.