Old left parties once ruled a good portion of the world/humanity. As a result of intensification (read financialization) as well as expansion (read globalization) of the capitalist world system, with attendant trappings, certain tenets of the left ideologies per Marxism/Leninism/Maoism, etc. became increasingly unappealing to the gullible sheeple (human mass) ever fixated on frivolous consumption. Moreover, the rigid structures and secretive operations of the Old Left Parties (OLP) also became, in due course, downright disagreeable, particularly to the increasingly defiant and techno savvy generations of recent decades. As a combination of both, i.e., the demise of the ‘socialisms’ as well as OLPs tendencies to lord it big over their subjects, the once mighty organized left was literally decimated. Today there are only few places where such parties still hold sway!
Currently China and some other smaller countries still have OLPs in power. The OLP in China survived because it was willing to adapt to the changing dynamics of the world system. The CPC (Communist Party of China) revised its ideological foundation rather significantly, to address the sheeple’s insatiable desire for binge consumption (unsustainable) availing it immediate gratification without fulfillment! Consequently, the appeal to set up an ethically and democratically organized egalitarian society, which was one of the founding principles of the radical left, faded fast. Today China is a peoples’ republic with capitalism at its core and political leadership under OLP. See Wallerstein’s lucid expose on the failures of the left and a prognosis of our fast collapsing modern world system, on page 50, 54 & 55. The old USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), with the grand dad of the OLP; namely the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) found it difficult to adapt to the ever-changing global dynamics and promptly vanished! The mismanagement of the CPSU was legendary, putting mildly. Under Josef Stalin, head of the OLP/CPSU, millions lost their lives, including members of top leadership (Trotsky et al). There are lessons to be drawn from the vast experience of 20th century Socialisms/Sovietism/Maoism that were, to a large extent, based on the model of the CPSU of the USSR. This model spanned the width and breadth of organized left across the world, including Western Europe. The countries that were operationally impacted by the OLP were; East Europeans, China, South East Asia and a number of countries in Africa and even Latin America!
There were/are many ideological shortcomings of OLPs. Today, we will only look at structures and secretive operations of OLPs that contributed to their downfall. We will start with a key modus operandi of OLPs, i.e., ‘democratic centralism’. Here is a definition. ‘The phrase democratic centralism identifies the principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties. The democratic aspect of this organizational method involves the freedom of members of the political party to discuss and debate matters of policy and direction, but once the party has made a decision by majority vote, it expects all members to uphold that decision. This latter aspect represents the centralism. As Lenin described it, democratic centralism consists of “freedom of discussion, unity of action.’ Espoused by the Bolsheviks and Lenin (not the Mensheviks and Trotsky), democratic centralism became very effective in implementing decisions passed by the top hierarchy of OLP. It helped to implement the new bold ideas of the Bolsheviks. Before long, its outwardly undemocratic dispensations started to stifle creativity, spontaneity, even common sense, while allowing residing psychopaths to take full advantage of the rigid system, both openly and clandestinely! Democratic centralism was subsequently adopted by almost all OLPs in the world.
OLPs were inaccessible to the general public, both in spirit and body, so to speak. Public dissatisfaction, unless filtered through the various organs of the OLP itself, was hardly considered as an agenda item for serious deliberations, unless of course things unexpectedly blow up! As a result, manipulation became one of the ‘virtues’ of the OLPs and their operatives! Gradually the manipulators morphed into power brokers within OLPs. On the outside, these characters established a Mafia like structure/operations, along with their trusted oligarchs and goons. Grand political corruption soon established itself as a potent means of accumulation, available only to the OLP and affiliates. De facto feudalism was established, yet again, by criminally leveraging the whole of the state apparatus from the inside. Observing such immense power, new recruits from the outside (without much integrity) flocked to join OLP, supported/facilitated by psychopaths from within. In a country where almost all resources are under the state; like land & finance, to say nothing about the entire state apparatus-legislative, executive, judiciary, joining the OLP was more like hitting the jackpot, so to speak! The cumulative result; the gradual weakening of OLPs and the rise of unprecedented culture of decadence in the various ‘socialisms’. Some of these countries are now heading towards capitalism, crony capitalism to be more precise. See Hayase’s article next column.
Loyalty is another of the values that are usually misdirected or misinterpreted in OLPs. We admit loyalty is critical in all endeavors, let alone in an OLP. However, mere loyalty should not be used to undermine the core values and operations of the OLP. A loyal daft who murders hundreds or thousands without questioning an insane directive should not necessarily be more trusted and valued than a dynamically inquisitive one who tries to keep the OLP on its thinking toes on ethical grounds! Blind loyalty is dangerous (recall the Third Reich, Khmer Rouge, etc.) Further, bureaucratized mediocrity within OLPs was touted as distilled knowledge against which everything else was judged. OLPs have tendencies to proclaim themselves as the sole fountain of truth and knowledge, particularly in the universe of politics. All knowledge from the outside is suspect, especially if it espoused/promoted by opposition groups. Justice is a mere political dispensation given to the favored and not a right to be demanded by ordinary citizens. In such a degenerated milieu, quality and integrity swiftly migrate, leaving mediocrity and corruption to define and characterize the OLP. Without massive purges and determined radical renewal, the OLP ends up becoming an organization only for ‘losers’, to use a popular American saying.
If truth be told, there is uncanny resemblance between the ‘deep states’ of Western Democracies and power monopolizing OLPs elsewhere. EPRDF need to learn from the failures of these OLPs, particularly from CPSU. The USSR’s Republics were to our Regions, which were based on ethnic/linguistic affinity. Also considering Ethiopia as the African equivalent of former Yugoslavia might lead to a fresher and more realistic perspective on our collective predicament! In summary, it is wise to reflect on the teachings of those who have come before us: “Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Thomas Jefferson. Good Day & Good Year!