If communist ideology could have worked, the mighty Soviet Union wouldn´t have fallen into pieces, the Eastern Europe would not have been freed from communism, and China and Vietnam would never have resorted to capitalist economic policies.
Ever tired of lecturing that Communists should understand the real world objectively without applying the advice themselves, learning dictums of Marx, Lenin and Mao by rote without trying to study the realities of one´s society, ignoring the achievements of capitalism and its struggle against feudalism, denying achievements of revolutions that were led/carried out by non-communist forces, always parroting revolution whether warranted/possible or not, and always happy in the fantasy world of revolution rather than in real life—these tendencies of classical communists are responsible for their demise, according to Ghanashyam Bhusal, a thinker and youth leader of CPN-UML.
Largely agreeing with his thesis that appeared in a leading daily on January 4, Pradip Giri, the scholar and socialist leader of Nepali Congress, wrote on January 13 that Marxists themselves have undermined Marxism (implying that the theory of Marxism is correct, but its application has been flawed). Bhusal, citing UCPN (Maoist) as an example, also opines that communist leaders are often duplicitous which often manifest in political opportunism. Commenting on Bhusal´s arguments, Mumaram Khanal, a political analyst knowledgeable on Maoist affairs and an ex-Maoist himself, solely blames UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal for the problems the party and the country face today.
While Bhusal´s arguments are significant and bold for a communist leader, they suffer from two serious flaws. One, he keeps mum on the shortcomings of the communist doctrine as such. Two, he avoids discussions on the ideological confusion, self-contradiction and power-oriented opportunism of his own ´neither fish nor fowl´ brand party, the CPN-UML. It´s true that communists in this country have been pretty successful, both in battlefield and ballot. However, it is equally true that communist ideology has played little role in their success. To begin with CPN-UML is no longer a traditional communist party, whatever its history and nomenclature.
As regards the Maoists, they too dropped their agenda of one-party communist state (´People´s Democracy´ in their jargon) while signing the peace accords with other political parties. Their success, both in the polls and the quick expansion of insurgency, was combined outcome of terror tactics and people´s disappointment with the ´mainstream´ parties which demonstrated little ability and interest in addressing their problems—like poverty, unemployment, lack of education, economic disparity, social exclusion and bad governance/corruption—that breed communist revolutions. Also, time and again, different political forces that included the Royals, the Nepali Congress and, of course, the Indian establishment foolishly used the Maoists against their political rivals which helped the latter flourish. The Maoist success, therefore, could be explained as ´triumph of tactics´. If it were ´triumph of ideology´, similar rebellions that took place during last 50 years or so in countries ranging from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Myanmar to Peru would not have been defeated; similarly, a much older Maoist rebellion would have succeeded in neighboring India, a country with socioeconomic and political settings similar to Nepal’s. If communist ideology could have worked, the mighty Soviet Union wouldn´t have fallen into pieces, the Eastern Europe would not have been freed from communism, and China and Vietnam would never have resorted to capitalist economic policies.
Yes, back in the middle of the last century communism drew more youths and intellectuals into its fold than any other political doctrine. Two factors contributed to this. One, evils of conventional capitalism such as the growing socioeconomic disparity and exploitation of the working class reached new heights. Two, true accounts of the failures and cruelties of communism didn´t filter through the Iron Curtain; only propaganda of the ´exploitation-free, egalitarian, progressive and prosperous order´ reached the outside world in those days.
Capitalism has come a long way since. It has changed and improved itself and stood the challenges of time, unlike communism and socialism. For example, communism grossly lacked motivation required for increased production, productivity and innovation—the in-built strengths of capitalism; yet it never cared to change. CPN-UML blames violent methods and lack of competitive democracy and Bhusal blames the obsession with revolution, for the downfall of traditional communism. However, these assertions are only half-truths. Communism and socialism are philosophies, very noble and humane (of course, without the violence); but, they are not workable blueprints of political economy and governance. In fact, communism failed miserably as an economic system, which Deng Xiaoping understood more than anyone else.
Now, even the ´democratic socialist parties´ like British Labor and Indian National Congress have bid farewell to their socialist past. It is a different thing that Bhusal, Giri and Khanal are shy to admit the reality. They also overlook how capitalism has constantly changed itself with times. For instance, it introduced and implemented minimum wages, working standards and several workers´ rights including the right to organize and industrial action, on order to end the exploitation of laborers. It has lifted up billions of people from the wretchedness of poverty.
Capitalism invented and provided a wide range of social security and welfare benefits to the needier ones of the society. Capitalist systems of Canada, Australia and Europe—particularly the Scandinavia—have far better social security systems in place as compared to the ´Communist´ China. Of course countries like the US are somewhat conservative in this regard—less tax, less expenditure, less social security, small government and large private sector being its salient features. However, Republicans and Democrats differ on the scale of these issues. In US and many other capitalist democracies, elections are fought on differences on such issues. People decide, through ballots, what best suits them for the time.
Capitalism is more than an ´ism´; only the communists/socialists make it appear so. Unlike communism, capitalism was not propounded and pursued by some authorities or ideologues. It is a politico-economic program where issues and ways to address them may be different for different people and parties. If capitalism were an ideology the way communism is, there wouldn´t be divergent views and means; both issues and the ways to handle them would be prescribed in advance by an authority such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin or Mao. Any deviation or revision would be considered a sin, as often happens in religious matters. Capitalism is the economic management of resources; whoever manages the resources better for optimum benefit is successful. Those who cannot are voted out by people.
Capitalism succeeded because it is the only system of political economy that believes, and is based, on what works, and not on what ought to work. It has succeeded on its own merit and in its own right; failure of communism or socialism has not affected its success. Even during the middle of the 20th century when communism/socialism was the darling of third world leaders and intellectuals, the largest and the most successful economies of the globe were none other than the US, Japan and Western European nations. Later, going against the ´third world tide´, developing countries/territories like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea adopted capitalism. Impressed by their success, South East Asian countries (Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among others) followed suit and prospered.
China, Vietnam and many other erstwhile communist countries of East Europe are the latest in this series to successfully adopt the production/export-driven growth model of capitalism. Economies that stuck to communist or socialist ideology during this era, especially those which adopted an import-substitution oriented or inward-looking model, or discarded globalization in the name of self-reliance, either collapsed or remained stagnant (our southern neighbor for instance). Bhusal, Giri and Khanal better use their intellectual and analytical caliber to discuss these facts instead of debating a dead ideology.