Twenty Years After the Wall Fell: An Interview with a Ukrainian Communist

Reproduced from

This interview gives a particularly sound perspective on the issues and strategic questions for Communism in Eastern Europe today, specifically in the former member states of the Soviet Union. Therefore it is reproduced in Notes & Commentaries. Continue reading “Twenty Years After the Wall Fell: An Interview with a Ukrainian Communist”

Great divisions of global opinion on capitalism, USSR

The British Broadcasting Corporation recently held a poll in various countries of the world in which they asked the respondents’ opinions on capitalism and the fall of the Soviet Union, among other things.(1) Unsurprisingly, the opinions on the current world system were strongly divided in the world, and mostly between the rich and the poor nations. Nevertheless there were some interesting results. Only 11% of all people polled indicated the current capitalist system worked well, with many people desiring reform or regulation, and 23% indicating it was “fatally flawed”. We may take the latter position as an anti-capitalist one, meaning principled opposition to capitalism lives among a quarter of the sample polled, a better result than might be expected. Opposition to capitalism altogether was still intense in France, by far the most anti-capitalist of the Western nations: in this country 43% of the population indicated to oppose capitalism altogether, compared to 35% in Brazil and 38% in Mexico.

Opinions on the collapse and disappearance of the USSR were strongly divided by bloc. Continue reading “Great divisions of global opinion on capitalism, USSR”

Ten Years of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ in Venezuela

Hugo Chávez Frías, the current President of Venezuela, was first elected to this office in 1998 and was inaugurated in 1999, now ten years ago.

He had already been a remarkable figure on the Venezolan political scene after having attempted a leftist military coup against the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. In those days, the oil kleptocracy of Pérez failed and a series of riots by the poor majority of Venezolans, the so-called ‘Caracazo’, destabilized the government. Pérez had been a self-styled social-democrat, but had submitted his country to the liberal rule and ‘reforms’ of the International Monetary Fund, which disappropriated the people of their public goods and bled dry the urban population by abandoning the policies of gasoline subsidy. As a result, the Caracazo erupted and the army intervened to violently repress the revolts against this organized comprador thievery and the umpteenth case of betrayal by social-democracy. Progressive sections of the military, led by Chávez, attempted a coup against Pérez. The coup failed and Chávez was imprisoned, but Pérez was removed from office and his successor freed the coup perpetrators.

In 1998, Chávez’s new “Fifth Republic Movement” (MVR) obtained an absolute majority of votes in the Presidential elections, with Chávez himself as the candidate, defeating the rightist American-trained economist Henrique Salas Römer. Continue reading “Ten Years of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ in Venezuela”

An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union

The eventual downfall of the USSR has often been seen as a self-evident example of the failure of central planning, both as a principle and especially in practice. The critics of the USSR also point to the low standard of living of the population during its existence, the prevalence of famines, the low availability and shoddy quality of consumer goods, and its continued lagging behind the United States in production as more proofs of the failure of ‘socialist construction’. Although these criticisms are not entirely without merit, they need to be contextualized and qualified strongly to be properly understood. It is therefore important to provide a rough outline of the economic history of the collapse of the USSR and its meaning. Because the focus of this article is on the economic problematic, more detail than is usual will be presented about these issues, whereas some political, cultural and social developments of importance will be largely avoided. Continue reading “An Outline of the Economic Problems in the History of the Soviet Union”

Edward Hallett Carr on History and Revolution

This is a transcript of an interview with the famous British historian E.H. Carr as done by New Left Review in the year 1978, under the title “The Left Today”. Carr, one of the early serious specialists in Russian and Soviet history (a little outdated now but still very useful and readable) was at the time 86 years old. Although he was never a Communist, he clearly identified with the political left, and spent much of his academic efforts combating conservative and liberal (Whiggish) historiography. Nonetheless, for a significant of his career he was not an academic, but worked at the Foreign Office, and later as assistant editor of The Times, neither of which are exactly known for being left-wing. This gave him a broad and nonsectarian perspective on events. Continue reading “Edward Hallett Carr on History and Revolution”