variety of Marxism and the official political ideology of the Soviet Union and the countries of the Eastern Bloc

Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology that became the largest faction of the communist movement in the world in the years following the October Revolution. It was the predominant ideology of most socialist governments throughout the 20th century. Developed in Russia by the Bolsheviks, it was the state ideology of the Soviet Union, Soviet satellite states in the Eastern Bloc, and various countries in the Non-Aligned Movement and Third World during the Cold War, as well as the Communist International after Bolshevisation.

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  • Marxist-Leninist states have perpetuated authoritarian institutions (the secret police, labor bosses, and the communist party) to maintain their power. The apparent effectiveness of such organizations (we‘re just as efficient as the Capitalists) masks the way that “revolutionaries” who pattern themselves after Capitalist institutions become absorbed by bourgeois values, and completely isolated from the real needs and desires of ordinary people. The reluctance of Marxist-Leninists to accept to accept revolutionary social change is, however, above all seen in Lenin’s conception of the party. It is a prescription to just nakedly seize power and put it in the hands of the Communist Party. The party that Leninists create today, they believe, should become the (only) “Party of the Proletariat” in which that class could organize and seize power. In practice, however, this meant personal and party dictatorship, which they felt gave them the right and duty to wipe out all other parties and political ideologies. Both Lenin and Stalin killed millions or workers and peasants, their left-wing ideological opponents, and even members of the Bolshevik party. This bloody and treacherous history is why them is so much rivalry and hostility between Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyite parties today, and it is why the “workers’ states,” whether in Cuba, China, Vietnam, or Korea are such oppressive bureaucracies over their people. It is also why most of the East European Stalinist countries had their government overthrown by the petty bourgeois and ordinary citizens in the 1980s. Maybe we are witnessing the eclipse of State communism entirely, since they have nothing new to say and will never get those governments-back again.
  • Since the Marxist-Leninists don’t build cooperative structures, the nucleus of the new society, they can only see the world in bourgeois political terms. They want to just seize State power and institute their own dictatorship over the people and the workers, instead of crushing State power and replacing it with a free, cooperative society. Of course, the party, they insist, represents the proletariat, and there is no need for them to organize themselves outside of the party. Yet even in the former Soviet Union the Communist Party membership only represented five percent of the population. This is elitism of the worst sort and even makes the Capitalist parties look democratic by comparison. What the Communist Party was intended to represent in terms of workers power is never made clear, but in true 1984doublethink” fashion, the results are 75 years of political repression and State slavery, instead of an era of “glorious Communist rule.” They must be held accountable politically for these crimes against the people, and revolutionary political theory and practice. They have slandered the names of Socialism and Communism.
  • Meanwhile, communism had promised a better life but failed to deliver. Marx insisted that the shifts in the means of production would increase inequality, provoke anger, and thereby fuel revolutionary consciousness within the "working class." He failed, though, to anticipate the kinds of shifts that would take place, for as post-industrial economies evolved they began to reward lateral over hierarchical forms of organization. Complexity made planning less feasible than under the earlier, simpler stages of industrialization: only decentralized, largely spontaneous markets could make the millions of decisions that had to be made each day in a modern economy if supplies of goods and services were to match demands for them. As a result, dissatisfaction with capitalism never reached the point at which "proletarians of all countries" felt it necessary to unite to throw off their "chains." That became clear during the Cold War, and it did so largely because western leaders disproved Marx's indictment of capitalism as elevating greed above all else. When set against the perversions of Marxism inflicted by Lenin and Stalin on the Soviet Union and by Mao on China—placing a ruling party and an authoritarian state in control of what was supposed to have been an automatic process of historical evolution—the effect was to discredit communism not just on economic grounds, but also because of its failure to bring about political and social justice. Just as a new world war did not come, so the anticipated world revolution did not arrive. The Cold War had produced yet another historical anachronism.
  • For the first two years at the psychology department, Arutyunyan was in hell. Endless hours were devoted to a subject called Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. This was a clear case of propaganda masquerading as scholarship, and while the young Arutyunyan might not necessarily have phrased it this way, she cracked the propaganda code. She developed a simple matrix on which any philosophy could be placed and easily appraised. The matrix consisted of two axes on a cross. One ran from Materialism (good) to Idealism (bad) and the other from Dialectics (good) to Metaphysics (bad). The result was four quadrants. Philosophers who landed in the lower left quadrant, where Metaphysics met Idealism, were all bad. Kant was an example. Someone like Hegel—Dialectics meets Idealism—was better, but not all good. Philosophical perfection resided in the upper-right-hand corner of the graph, at the pinnacle of Dialectical Materialism. Arutyunyan shared this matrix with several classmates, and now they had Marxist-Leninist Philosophy down.
  • Communism itself looks unlikely to return in the form it had in the USSR or in Maoist China. Indeed its restoration in any comprehensive fashion is surely inconceivable. It has been thoroughly discredited among intelligentsias and general publics even though grouplets of true believers will probably survive in liberal democracies or in many clandestine movements. Yet ideologies and politics can mutate and spread like a virus which counteracts every medical effort to pinpoint and eradicate it. So it has been with communism. Lenin and the Bolsheviks groped their way to the creation of their new kind of state. This became the stereotype for communist systems elsewhere; and the USSR itself underwent internal variation in subsequent decades. Communism also infected other movements for the transformation of society. The totalising ideas, institutions and practices of Marxism-Leninism had a profound impact on the political far right. The one-party, one-ideology state with its disregard for law, constitution and popular consent was implanted in inter-war Italy and Germany. Neither Mussolini nor Hitler acted only in response to communism; and the forced submission of society to comprehensive control took different forms in the USSR, Italy and Germany. But the importance of precedent is scarcely deniable. The objective of an unrestrained state power penetrating all aspects of life – political, economic, social, cultural and spiritual – was a characteristic they shared. The same phenomenon emerged in the secularist Baathist regime in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and appeared in the Islamist plans of Osama bin Laden as well as in the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    • Robert Service, Comrades!: A History of World Communism (2010)

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