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There is no heaven, and the Gods are dead - so must It seem to the believers, as socialism crumbles in north-east Europe. The little relief afforded by South Europe has evaporated with the split in CPSU. With the split, CPSU's grip on Russia is loosened, and with Russia disappears a major bulwark against the 'baikanisation1 which threatens the Soviet Union.
The crisis of socialism is not new. It has been simmering for at least 3½  decades (Hungary '56), but ideological blinkers prevented early diagnosis. Now that it has exploded In Europe, dripped blood in Tien-an-Mien, even as Albania gives way and boat people flee Vietnam, the search for surviving angels and excuses is on.
This search, which at times takes highly sophisticated forms, ultimately reduces the problem to 'mistakes’ :— The basic principles are alright, but their interpretation/implementation was mistaken. There was no 'genuine’ socialism, no 'genuine' democratic centralism and so on. Sometimes the 'doctrine of mistakes' centres on Stalin, Krushchev, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim-ul Sung, while at other times It embraces collectives, even whole parties and nations.
The problem with this doctrine is that the so-called 'mistakes' are hardly exceptions. They seem to recur through 7 decades of socialism, and across countries and cultures with painful regularity. This suggests an essential connection between the 'mistakes’ and the premises of communist ideology. Dismissing the cause of the crisis as a 'mistake’, iInvites the dismissal of the socialist experiment itself as a 'mistake’ as is happening in Europe. Moreover the doctrine of mistakes drives too deep a wedge between theory and practice to be satisfactory. So a deeper analysis of communism is called for.
Communists brought to the age of revolutions a philosophy: historical materialism, and a well developed technique of revolution. Experience suggests that both premises are problematic, but a full diagnosis awaits an uninhibited debate. A provocation for such a debate is offered in the following.

Concentration of Power

The Communist technique of revolution is characterised by an extreme concentration of power, which Lenin secured by the twin Instruments of "democratic centralism" and after the revolution by the 'dictatorship of the proletariat’. The combination was enormously successful In the seizure and maintenance of state power – especially when supported by nascent nationalism, peasant unrest, or just the plain ‘barrel of the gun’ (as in East Europe for example).
But power is only a means to progress. And with progress and education a new Intelligentsia and working class develop that increasingly demand freedoms. And when revolution takes away already existing freedoms, immediate and tragic confrontations are precipitated, as in Kronstadt (1921), Hungary (1966), and the flight of the boat people from South Vietnam.
As and when the confrontation intensifies, protection of power which was hitherto only a means, becomes the primary objective. Tanks roll in. The ends for which power was seized recede, and all we are left with are the means, and the means to the means . So unfolded the grand tragedies of Kronstadt (1921), Hungary ('56), Prague C66), Poland ('80), TIen-an Mien (90) - all begging the same question: "Man for socialism, or socialism for man?”
This is not to deny that some measure of freedom has always been granted to supporters. These formal freedoms are sometimes cited to evade the charges of dictatorship, whether inside or outside the party. But this is beside the point,  for as Rosa Luxemburg pointed out long ago, while criticising the Leninist interpretation of proletarian dictatorship:
"Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party - however numerous they may be is no freedom at all. Freedom Is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently".
Later, Myasnlkov, a senior bolshevik, demanded the restoration of freedom. Lenin's reply was characteristically frank: "We have no wish to commit suicide and so we shall not do it", Gradually demotions, expulsions, executions, degradation, gulags, torture and even lunatic asylums were pressed into service to extinguish free will and spontaneity All that remained was a monotonous grey marred by occasional splashes of red. So depressing was the picture until Gorbachev came along that one might have said with Orwell:
"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.”
Concentration of power leads inexorably to moral crisis.

Freedom and Truth

'A nation which oppresses another cannot be free - so is it with individuals. The oppressor cannot be free, He becomes the persecuted persecutor. He no longer remains the same man he was at the start of his quest. Power corrupts. But the mystique of power and the party binds. While the willing are ensnared by the temptations of power, the unwilling fall victim to the Leninist mystique of power and the party.
"My party, right or wrong", exclaimed Trotsky, Just days before his expulsion. Trotsky, Zinovtev, Kamenev, Rykow, Bukharin _ the list Is long and unending: each and every one was driven to submission, capitulation and death by the myth of the party. The very strength of the communists turned out to be their Achilles heel.
The thraldom of power and mystique of the party swallowed up truth. Deafening silence and active connivance greeted all that was being done in the name of the party and socialism. Since authority and mind control stemmed from perceptions of the past, history was bent and truth twisted to sustain the mystique. As Orwell put It: "All history become a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinserted as often as necessary".
The perversion of truth and all pervasive fear led to a debasement of the soul so poignantly described by Imre Nagy:
They "destroy the most noble human virtues, virtues that, in a socialist society, should be cultivated with love:
I speak of courage, of steadiness, of sincerity, of fidelity to principles, of constancy. Instead of these, cowardice, hypocrisy, servility, falsehood and opportunism are praised as virtues, ..... .Lies proliferate; careerism spreads destroying honour and honesty, an atmosphere of distrust, suspicion and vengeance weighs on the minds; humanism, which should be the characteristic trait of socialism, is repressed and its opposite, a cold inhumanity, reigns in public relations. Our social life presents an astonishing picture".[1]
It is a striking fact that the rebels against the moral crisis of existing socialism were very frequently themselves communists.[2] It Is equally striking that they were, at least till now, always the losers.
This paradox can perhaps be explained by the friction between the morality of communist concerns and the amorality of their method.[3] Unfortunately, it is the method that sets them apart from the "unscientific" socialists, while the concerns are common (with the socialists, added).[4] Naturally the method wins. Moreover it is immediately effective and 'powerful’. Only after economic or political stagnation reveals its long term bankruptcy, is the method being called into question.
Thus the moral question has quite amoral origins!

Humanism Vs. Materialism

The future and success of socialism lie In generating, sustaining and widening the values of humanism. It was thought that education of fresh young minds in a classless society would do the trick. But the contrast between means and ends, precepts and practice was too sharp for youthful minds to swallow. And the believers among them swung between the extremes of rebellion and cynicism.
But believers constitute only a fragment of any society. Human nature is diverse. The acquisitive instinct has proved to be more stubborn, widespread and dynamic than mere faith.[5] Even among the faithful, the communist idea has to contend with the claims of nationalism and religion. And it has not always emerged successful from the encounter.
Nationalism and religion have proved to be the soft underbelly of materialism, which believes culture to be epiphenomenal and spirituality to be subterranean. Both streams have proved their autonomy, intractablity and durabilty. In  general, the irrational core of the human psyche has remained out of socialist control, despite innumerable psychiatric brutalities.[6]
The apparent inability of historical materialism to come to grips with human nature is a fatal flaw in a ‘science of man’.[7] It is clearly damaging and unacceptable in its present state as the ideology of socialism. Perhaps the damage can be minimised by rejecting the exclusive claim of materialism on the party of socialism.[8]
Another possible trade-off between socialism and materialism is already on the horizon.

The Future of Socialism

Materialism draws strength from advances in science. Scientific and technological progress, it is hoped, will revolutionise productive forces and pave the way to communism. Thus communism - the future of socialism - is believed to be in line with science and materialism.
The argument misses a link. Communism requires a universal man.[9] The moral side of such a man, experience suggests, cannot be built by materialism. And the scientific revolution is rapidly eroding the intellectual side.
The intellectual world is being rapidly fragmented by the knowledge explosion, which has outstripped the learning mechanism. There Is a proliferation of subspecialisation. Universality survives only at the genius level. This growing polarisation in the world of Intellect can only be arrested by a revolution in the learning process. Orthodox science holds out no such possibility in the near future,[10]
The crisis of socialism shows that it is no longer possible to carry over uncritically and wholly the historical legacy of socialism. Parts of this legacy are materialism, democratic centralism and proletarian dictatorship. Experience suggests that they can no longer serve as centrepieces in the politics of socialism.[11] Socialism needs to learn from and mature with experience. Only flexibility can enable it to survive and strive towards a future.

[1]These virtues apart, it can be added that virtues like humanism, the idea of brotherhood of all men also suffer. Here it can be mentioned that there is one view that these virtues had their origin in Christianity. Religion had an important play in shaping faith in virtues that led to the rise of Communism. Interestingly since communism (materialism) denies religion, its (communism’s) success destroys the basis of the virtues that had engendered it. In this way, communism digs its own grave.

[2]Apart from the huge number of communists eliminated by Stalin and purged by Mao, it can be mentioned that almost every member of the politburo that brought in the October Revolution under Lenin, was purged by Stalin.

[3]Unlike Gandhiji who believed in the unity of means and ends, Communists have always laid store by the dialectical tension between the two.

[4]Communists differ from the socialists in their adoption of party, democratic socialism  and proletarian dictatorships as essential means. It is these, apart from materialism that set them apart from the general run of socialists.

[5]See Cuba, China, and USSR.

[6]Ideological opponents of socialism where it was entrenched were often treated as psychiatric patients in the USSR, and relegated to labour camps and brainwashing in China. I am not aware of the techniques adopted in Cuba and Vietnam.

[7]Historical materialism claims to be a complete ideology and a science of man.

[8]Dange was expelled for writing a foreword to a book on Vedanta and Marxism written by his son-in-law Bani Deshpande. There is some literature on the idea that Vedanta is closely attuned to socialism.

[9]Communism is the idea of the withering away of the state. This is possible only with extreme technological progress supporting a ‘new man’. Such a man is ‘moral’ at heart, and ‘universal’ in intellect. While a group of such men can develop, the author now considers it immature and utopian to think that all men can be such. The idea runs against the grain of diversity which is essential to God’s creation.

[10]Here yoga offers a key. Meditation is believed to open up in jnanis, an ability to tune into knowledge smoothly and extensively. Swami Vivekananda is known to have read effectively one volume of the Encyclopaedia daily.

[11]I will now go further and suggest that they be jettisoned forthwith.