The words of Marx and Engels changed the course of history. Hopefully, their vision will one day come into being. However, the political philosophy they espoused has fallen victim to over 70 years of anti-communist propaganda, let alone the perversity of American culture which has reconstructed the English language. Which is why libertarian socialism is considered an oxymoron by Americans, due to the "different" connotations the word "libertarian" and "socialism" have in the US. In this post-Leninist world, Marxism and it's many variants are commonly associated with totalitarianism and oppression, whilst capitalism is associated with freedom and prosperity in a world owned by free market fundamentalists. The very word communism, conjures up images of uniformity, marching, singing, dictators applauding themselves and personality cults. The truth is that the accepted notions of communism have been engineered by it's enemies, most notably the United States. Though, some would argue that men like Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Hu Jintao of China are the biggest enemies of communism.
Communism is defined as "a political or economic system in which all property and wealth is owned in a classless society by all the members of that society." Capitalism is defined as "an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit." Interestingly and perhaps ironically, the common ground that both communism and capitalism share, is that, neither system has ever really existed and many of their advocates are promoting a false version. Well, actually I exaggerate, in the Third World capitalism does exist, which is why it's the Third World. The First World has developed due to the constant violation of free market principles, through state intervention of the market.
The rich and powerful are the primary beneficiaries of such intervention we have only to look at the recent economic crisis - which Boris Johnson labelled as a "function of capitalism" - to see how. In Great Britain, we have only to look at Fred Goodwin to see how "failure" and "irresponsibility" is treated by the polyarchs who govern us, £700,000 a year until he dies and this man is in his fifties, and that's just from RBS, he'll also receive a yearly pension of over £30,000 from other companies he has "worked" for. But the political right doesn't want us to be concerned with the fact that they are, and have been for decades, pissing away our money on walking fuck ups like Fred Goodwin. They're more concerned with the "cost" of welfare and the "cost" of the National Health Service.
America is no better, where the rich have received even more help than the wealthiest 10% of the British population, for practically causing this recession they have received over $3 trillion to save their companies from financial destruction. Not much has changed since Adam Smith's day, when the "merchants and manufacturers" were the principle architects of state policy and they made sure their interests were "most peculiarly attended to" regardless of the interests of others. Look at the health insurance companies, in the "Land of the Free", who put millions toward the Presidential campaigns of Republican candidates to oppose universal health care.
Debatably, Vladimir Lenin holds most of the responsibility, for the public perception of Marxism, as the progenitor of authoritarian models of "socialism" and later forms of totalitarianism. Though, some have argued over the decades that Leninism was "corrupted" by Joseph Stalin and other vile dictators. But after looking at how Lenin established a one-party state, it is easier to conclude that Stalin exploited the environment and abused the power he inherited. Leninism was regarded as a deviation of Marxism, by mainstream Marxists such as Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Pannekoek and Leon Trotsky until April 1917, because of the opportunistic "vanguardism" Lenin advocated. Lenin's writing shifted character in 1917 and became more libertarian, in order to attract support from the left-wing movements that had developed, than his previous work.
As soon as Lenin seized power in the "October Revolution", which could also be viewed as a coup, he reverted to the former "vanguardism" set out to destroy socialist instruments of worker control such as councils, unions and ironically soviets. Lenin reconstructed the Tsarist forms of oppression, such as Cheka, into organisations which were more effective than under the Tsars, to crush all political opposition. And with Cheka he succeeded in doing so, by torturing and killing thousands. Lenin maintained the Orthodox Marxist belief that it wasn't possible to have socialism in Russia, because it was an undeveloped society and that the Revolution would occur in a developed capitalist society. Therefore, the October Revolution was a "holding action" to maintain a society in preparation for the Revolution which would take place in the most advanced capitalist society. This was Lenin's "justification" for the destruction of socialist institutions and all opposition within the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union proclaimed such actions (and worse under Stalin) as "socialist" to exploit the progressive moral force of socialism, which was more real at that time than it is today, and to gain support from progressive sectors of society. Whereas, Western states labelled the Soviet Union as an example of communism to instigate the common association - of communism with totalitarianism and capitalism with democracy - and to ultimately crush socialism. The propaganda of the Soviet Union intensified over the decades and America became the main proponent of anti-communist propaganda, after it replaced Britain as the dominant superpower in the world. The threat of US aggression posed to the Soviet Union, that tyrannical regimes emulated throughout the world, encouraged totalitarianism to counteract bourgeois interference with the "progression of socialism".
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc is more of a blessing to the struggle of socialists. Though, it does appear that the Financial Meltdown of 2009 has rejuvenated popular interest in dialectical materialism, 20 years after the "death" of most of it's imitators. The biggest stains on Marxism are gone and the biggest stains of corporatism, parading as laissez faire capitalism, remain for all to view, and no amount free-market fundamentalism will wash them away. And as for the so called communist states of China, North Korea and Cuba, they are as fake as the Soviet Union. China being a totalitarian corporatist state and North Korea being the most extreme example of a "postmodern" state in the world.
In recent years, the rise of the left has been seen in Latin America, a region which has traditionally been the target of US aggression and imperialism, in fact South America was the first target of US aggression, probably because the continent is so close to the US. Which is probably the reason why some historians trace the origins of "anti-Americanism" to
Latin America. On an interesting side note, the only other countries to utilise such a concept are totalitarian states, notably the Soviet Union in which a concept of "anti-Sovietism" was used to crush all political opposition.
The American government became dominant in the region soon after the British left Venezuela, which led to the US gaining control of several colonies in the Caribbean. It was John Quincey Adams who theorised, in the 1820s around the time that the Monroe Doctrine was formulated, that the American government should wait until the imperial powers were weak enough to drive out of colonies like Cuba and Venezuela. The Monroe Doctrine had been successfully implemented by the mid 20th Century, then major American fortunes could be made by extracting resources from Latin American countries.
The neoliberal policies are so unpopular with the population of
South America that in many cases the policies required a dictatorial government to be enforced. Several of these dictators were backed by the and other Western states, most notably Augusto Pinochet who actually seized power with assistance from the CIA, to prevent democracy and crush socialist political movements. Pinochet's coup against Salvador Allende was backed by the Nixon Administration and monetarist Milton Friedman entered Chile to give the new regime advice on economics. Pinochet is merely one example of a neofascist dictator who was backed by the US in South America. US
In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration poured money into the Contras, a right-wing terrorist group, Nicaragua to "punish" the Nicaraguan people for electing the Sandinistas, a socialist political party. The Reagan Administration even resorted to sanctioning illegal activities by the CIA, such activities included trafficking in drugs and weapons. Around $50 million worth of weapons were sold to the Iranian government, official enemies of the US, and the money was placed in an offshore bank account which the Contras could access. The Reagan Administration succeeding in punishing the Nicaraguan people, the terror atrocities left around 80,000 people dead. This doesn't count the amount of American people who died during the crack epidemic, because of the CIA's use of cocaine trafficking to acquire funds.
Venezuela and Bolivia are two notable examples of Latin American countries which have been the setting of two democratic revolutions. Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales were elected in landslide victories, their success being down to the involvement of the masses in their campaigns and the success of grass roots democracy. Chavez in particular, has been reelected repeatedly since he came to power 1999 and is extremely popular with the poor of Venezuela. Despite the slurs spread about him in the media, which is known for representing the elites of Venezuela, who're more in touch with upper class American society than the impoverished slums of their own country. This new form of socialism, taking place in exploited countries and predicated on grass roots democracy, may be the future of the lost cause.