Centenary of the Russian Revolution
The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 came at a time when the divisions between a tiny minority of the very wealthy and the great mass of people was at the level it now approasches. The dramatic changes usered in by the revolution brought hope and confidence to a vast international social movement. The benefits that accrued to the majority of people throughout Europe were enormous and have yet to be acknowledged. Its success contributed to improvements in education, health, and living standards worldwide, with a shift of wealth to the majority. It is only since the collapse of the USSR has the flow of wealth and power again been in favour of the rich and the few.
Post 1917 the reverberation of the events in Russia, combined with the return of millions of men from the First World War, conversant in the use of arms, sent a chill through the ruling class of every country where capital was king. They realised what an organised people could achieve and the potential that existed for such actions to spread. Fear, that great advisor of survival, ensured that concessions were made to the workers throughout the world and on all fronts.
Socialist ideas had led the great struggles of the twentieth century; the emancipation of women, the fight against fascism and racism, they gave hope to the disposed worldwide. The anti-colonial wars of many peoples, from Southeast Asia to the Americas, were supported by socialist states. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought a decline of confidence to the socialist movement and instigated a roll-back of previous social gains which continues to this day. It gave buoyancy to unregulated capital and the concentration of wealth intensified as did every facet of the alienating order.
SOCIALISM A PLAUSIBLE DREAM
Innovations in science or business start with research, a hypothesis and chance. Similarly social revolutions require a concept or a plausible dream for the construction of a better future. In both cases, the conditions must be right but even then either may experience the risk of dead-ends and failures. Social history is generally perceived as a series of unconnected events – an almost circular movement of humanity, the coming and going of monarchs and their various battles and conquests. It ill serves an establishment to show any pattern of progress in history, for interpolations might lead to unwelcome conclusions. An emotive issue is the role of class contradictions in the formation of every economic system and state. It is the relationship between the owners of the means of production and those whose labour power is necessary for production; these forces determine the nature of an economic and social order. The ultimate resolution of the class conflict is when the producers have the ability and responsibility to take ownership of the means of production.
A HUNDRED YEARS OF HOT AND COLD WAR
The hundredth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, the formation of the USSR and its legacy will sharpen discussions on whether history can be progressive. The 80-year experiment with socialism in the Soviet Union will be used as an example of failure. Some will and have argued as they did at the time, that it is impossible to build socialism in one country and thus the experiment was doomed from the start. Many socialists agree that what happened in the USSR was a socialism which distorted under isolation, external aggression and internal paranoia. A related issue is a lack of understanding most people have of the aggression by the forces of capital against the Soviet Union, both at its formation and during the Second World War. A war which is often falsely seen as a battle between Germany and the UK on the one hand and Japan and the United States on the other. A more balanced history from pre-revolutionary Europe, through the events of 1917 to the collapse of the USSR gives an understanding of the main players on the world stage and how they got there.
The oppressed have always yearned for a society in which their lot would improve. Slaves dreamed they might escape and return to an abundant hunting and gathering ground. Serfs in a feudal society wished freedom to farm their own plot of land and control their lives. Workers dreamed of a society without exploitation, thereby gaining and sharing the fruits of their labour, to this end they organised into socialist and communist parties. But communists were not the only dreamers of the time. Fascists from Spain to Germany were the militant face of capital and the church, they realised that democracy and internationalism threatened the rule and riches of this elite, as was evident from the events in Russia. The main objective of fascism was the crushing of all working-class organisations and any democracy that might extend power over capital. They were the front line protagonists of their sponsors – the remnants of aristocracy and owners of industry. Their dream was the establishment of a permanent ruling class, bathed in the light of xenophobic nationalism which brooked no discussion or opposition. The German fascists or Nazis coupled such ideas with a notion of an Aryan master race and an empire that would dominate Europe for a thousand years. Had it succeeded it would have been an enormous setback for civilisation. This explosion of dysfunctional capitalism caused the death of over sixty million people leaving a huge section of Europe in ruins. It did unfortunately succeed, for the unparalleled devastation that came in its wake sowed the seeds for the destruction of socialism and postponed any possibility of building a communist society.
INVASIONS BRING SETBACKS
The revolution of 1917 came not, as was predicted, to an advanced industrial state such as Germany or England but in a relatively backward feudal one. The invasions sponsored by international capital seeking to regain its wealth that immediately followed the revolution weakened the state and contributed to internal paranoia and a diminution of democracy. An objective history of the rise and fall of the Soviet Union has not yet been written and may never be, as there are perhaps too many subjective agendas. It never progressed beyond beginning the construction of a socialist state and certainly never came near being a communist society, as no state ever has, or independently can. We will never know if in different conditions it could have evolved into a truly communist, egalitarian society. But in any event the transparency, the checks and balances and constant democratic input from the bottom did not prevail. All of this and more would have been required to maintain the confidence and support of its people. While there might be the possibility of building a socialist state within a national boundary, such could not apply to the construction of a communist society, which by definition would require the withering away of state enforcement structures. That could only emerge if it were international and without internal or external threat.
THE HOLDERS OF WEALTH WILL DO ALL TO MAINTAIN IT
Since the immortal opening lines of the Communist Manifesto written in 1848 – “A Spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism” – a certain unease has lurked deep in the minds of the holders of power and privilege. Their nightmare, that great hordes of the dispossessed, the people who sell their labour to exist, were thinking revolutionary thoughts and organising revolutionary parties to take power. In almost all cases the only reason organised workers become revolutionary is because they were given no choice, their demands ignored and democratic movements suppressed. An early revolt of that nature was the Paris Commune of 1871 when municipal elections led to the formation of a commune government. It followed the French Revolutionary tradition with a programme that called for an end of support for religion and a limited number of social measures such as a 10-hour working day. It was short-lived, ending in suppression by the national armies of the elite. The French bourgeoisie took the challenge to their power and privilege very seriously and over 35,000 communards were slaughtered. The red flag, the workers flag, was raised in France for the first time about February 1848 and came to symbolise what was to be the recurring fate of those in the lower orders who dared seek equality. ‘For though their limbs grow stiff and cold, their hearts’ blood dyed its every fold’ [song-The Red Flag- Jim Connell, Co. Meath].
The century leading up to 1914 was relatively peaceful in Europe with a concentration on industrialisation, colonial expansion and the consolidation of nation states. The Industrial Revolution in Britain and beyond expanded the available consumer market and likewise the numbers of producers competing for those markets. It brought massive increases in productivity and great disparities of wealth, it brought the working class and class conflict. It stimulated alternative, socialist philosophies which questioned state and church power as never before. As an antidote to the growth of international socialism and to aid colonial expansion, nationalistic feelings were promoted within each country. Superiority over other nations was preached and the dangers they posed were embellished. European nations, especially France, Britain, and Germany, joined in the rush for overseas colonies. Industrialisation and superiority in arms allowed them to seize land almost unopposed world-wide and build colonial empires. By the turn of the century most colonisation had taken place intensifying competition for the remaining areas.
The industrialised countries of Europe applied taxes on imported goods, prices increased, and trade declined. The masters of capital and politics sought scapegoats, blaming competing states which led to a spiral of tariffs, lower trade, rising unemployment and unrest. The unification of Italy and most especially that of Germany and its rapid rise as an economic and military power alarmed its neighbours. Nations reacted by building their respective military strength and forming alliances. France allied with Russia and England. Germany with Austria and Italy. Wealth, greed and competition became a toxic combination within and without the national borders of Europe. With the major powers in opposing camps, danger lay in any two members of opposing alliances coming into conflict, resulting in the possibility of a major war.
THE POWER OF CAPITAL
The awesome power of capitalism was being demonstrated by the creation of new technologies which, as trade and production of consumer goods declined were diverted into the armaments industry. The mass production of weapons, such as the machine gun, long-range artillery, mortars, submarines, and battleships, triggered an arms race such as the world had never seen. This poisonous cocktail combined with the arrogance of national chauvinism and plunged Europe into the First World War.
Nationalism like religion has the power to overcome the common interests of humanity and gather it into opposing groups. In each country the national press demonised any internal opposition and blackened the people of opposing countries into vile caricatures. Most socialists were persuaded to abandon their internationalism and join the army where they trained to kill their fellow workers. Christian priests and pastors preached to both sides that god was with them. With much singing and flag-waving the armies marched off to war, all assured of their superiority, and that victory would be theirs within a few months. Both sides were almost equal in armaments and the armies bogged down in trench warfare and unbelievable carnage. On the 1st of July 1916 at the Somme, with the aid of mine, mortar and machine gun 65,000 young men lay dead by the end of that single day. Most did not die clean, but screaming in disbelief and searing pain as they looked at their own scattered limbs or intestines. Millions of young men with common interests had been persuaded to support King or Kaiser and over four years slaughtered each other. By the end of the war, a war driven by competition and greed for markets and power between the giants of capital, 16 million were dead and 20 million injured.
On the eastern front, the autocratic rule of Tsar Nicolas II, the despair of Russian troops in a stalemated war, combined with radical movements at home to create a revolution. Russia was an unlikely place for this event, a land of approximately 170 million, where the majority of the population were peasants on a meagre existence with more than 60% illiterate. As Tsarist rule collapsed, many variants of politics briefly existed before the Bolsheviks took power. That organised workers and peasants were able to overthrow the Romanovs and extend democracy over economics brought hope to millions of the oppressed and fear to ruler’s worldwide. The rebellion took place in conditions of extreme scarcity for, in addition to the privation of Russia’s people, the war had aggravated food shortages and disease. By October 1917 the country was under the control of councils of workers, farmers and soldiers.All productive property and land was brought under the ownership of the people. The Russian army, as promised, was withdrawn from the slaughter of the front.
The first phase of any new project has an exciting quality, a hypothesis that mankind could build a society without exploitation, with equality of gender and race, where the combined productive capacity of society could be harnessed to serve the common good. It was a watershed historical moment and an inspiration to millions as they witnessed economic power pass to its producers. But it was also a watershed moment for those who were losing their land, mines, railways and investments. It was a dangerous and threatening time for capital and the ruling elite worldwide who mobilised all the power and propaganda they could muster against this new state, for if this socialist revolution was not strangled at birth, it could spread. They were determined that it had not just to be contained, but reversed.
CRUSH THE REVOLUTION
Thus external capitalist powers invaded Russia trying to regain their investments and crush the revolution. Germany invaded from the west, American, British and French forces from the north, Japanese and American troops landed in the east. All these forces combined with the internal counter-revolutionaries forces as the old order of Russia fought to regain power and privilege. As many as 255,000 troops were involved from 14 different countries, capturing large sections of the country. It was November 1920 before the Red Army finally defeated all the invaders, subdued the internal opposition and secured the country. However, the invasions had brought devastation, economic ruin and famine. Those who had failed to bring down the revolution with direct military intervention now concentrated on blockades, propaganda and isolation.
The security of the revolution in Russia depended on its spread to advanced capitalist countries, in particular to Germany, where despite five years of revolutionary upheaval, the revolution failed. The new socialist state was left isolated, struggling internally with reaction and under attack from external forces. Consequently, instead of being able to concentrate on improving the well-being of the people, huge resources had to be squandered on defence. When the leader of the revolution, V.I. Lenin, was shot in 1918 this act further poisoned the atmosphere, substantiating the belief that there were enemies of the state everywhere and increasing the paranoia. Lenin’s health deteriorated and he died in January 1924, but the struggle to build socialism went on. There is no greater school than a revolution and it is not surprising that some of the most innovative and successful literacy campaigns are those born when a mass of people fight for a better society. In such periods ideas matter as never before and the spread of literacy becomes a prime liberating endeavour. Education was massively overhauled with a tenfold increase in expenditure. Free and universal access was mandated for all children from the ages of three to sixteen years, and the number of schools doubled within the first two years. Co-education was implemented to combat sex discrimination and for the first time schools were created for students with learning and other disabilities.
ART & ARCHITECTURE FLOURISH
Revolutionary ideas in Europe were reflected by a surge of radical architecture and art, two centres of this movement emerged, the Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, a year later Lenin announced the establishment of the Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops – VKhuTEMAS. The aim was to use the visual arts in the training of technically, politically and scientifically educated architects and designers in all disciplines. It became a laboratory of modern architecture and art, in which diverse artistic ideas such as classicism, constructivism and futurism came together.The oppressive forms and pompous decoration of imperial grandeur were stripped away. During the ten years of its existence, it was a leading light in the Russian and European avant-garde. The ethos of the school- which had a close association with the Bauhaus- was to develop an architecture and art of socialised man and the machine age. It was a time of promise and endless possibilities, ‘less is more’ was the catchphrase. Both schools were to flourish for ten years and have a lasting international impact. However, in time the architecture and art of a growing autocracy in Russia could not escape its own reflection, nor could the free spirit of Vkhutemas and by 1930 the school was closed. During the same period, the Nazis saw the Bauhaus as un-German, degenerate and Marxist. Its links with VKhuTEMAS in Moscow did not go unnoticed; it was also closed.
Mass literacy was seen as crucial, for it is hard to propagate social ideas and develop an economy in the midst of illiteracy. Economic conditions did not help, they were described at the time: “Hungry children in rags would gather in winter around a small stove planted in the middle of the classroom, whose furniture often went for fuel to give some tiny relief from the freezing cold; they had one pencil between four of them and their schoolmistress was hungry.” Over the next 16 years despite a diminution in democracy, progress was made in industrialisation, agriculture, science, education and social care. The emergence of the Soviet Union bolstered the confidence of trade unions and left-wing movements worldwide, allowing gains in living standards and social democracy. However, this was not happening unopposed. The enemies of socialism never sleep and fascism was emerging throughout Europe. In Spain a democracy emerged and subsequent elections established a republic but this was crushed by a right-wing army and ruling class revolt. This movement against democracy received support from reactionaries throughout Europe, including Germany, and from some within the Republic of Ireland. Thankfully, for our historical dignity 275 Irish volunteers fought with the International Brigade and many died in the unsuccessful defence of the Spanish Republic.
THE RISE OF FASCISM
In Germany, the rising Nazi party received its support from the ruling elite, not because Hitler was going to ‘solve’ the Jewish, gay or gypsy ‘problems’ but because he was going to destroy the organised workers, the trade unions, and communists. Fascism was the embodiment of competitive greed and ‘might is right’. It gained support by opposing the reparations demands of WW1 and by fomenting a populist hatred against the Jews, a policy that led to a most appalling, organised genocide, the Holocaust. It provided a diversion, a cry from a prophet Hitler, who was persuading his followers that if the Jewish, gipsy and gay ‘problems’ were solved, all would be well. But the main antagonists were at large, the spectre of communism was haunting Europe. The worker’s revolution had consolidated power in Russia and the great fear was that it could be repeated in Germany. The main aim of fascism was to thwart socialism in theory and practice. As early as August 1919, Hitler was lecturing returning German prisoners of war on the dangers of Communism and pacifism, as well as democracy and disobedience. He also delivered tirades against the Jews that were well received by the weary soldiers who were looking for someone to blame for all their misfortunes. The title of the fascist party, the National Socialist Party, while being a total corruption of everything socialism stood for, caused confusion. The promotion of xenophobic ideas, such as the superiority of the Aryan race and German nationalism, undermined international class unity, as had happened in the First World War. Thus the left in Germany was thwarted by the rise of the Nazi party who were supported by the ruling class terrified that they might suffer the fate of the Russian elite. Hitler was seen as a better option than another Lenin.
Historians and obscurants often equate fascism and communism as equal terrors of the time. The majority of leading intellectuals of the day and throughout most of the twentieth century were often criticised for their support of the Russian revolution while condemning fascism. This is not surprising for, as the fascists were scheming for nationalism, division, conquest, dominance and the negation of democracy, communists were dreaming of the international solidarity of humanity as well as negation of class divisions, equality, universal education and democratic control over economics. The call of the ‘International’ to unite all men and end the nightmare of war, was by far the most attractive governmental cause engaged in by our species to date. That the Russian revolution and the Soviet Union did not or perhaps could not reach fruition, is the major human philosophical, social and material tragedy of the last century.
When Germany invaded Poland in1939, England and France stood by their allegiance and war was declared. The German army then swept west over-running everything in its path until it reached the English Channel. It was assumed the conquest of the United Kingdom would occur within a few months. However, air superiority was required to invade across the channel. The heroic air conflict ‘The Battle of Britain’ was a victory for the Royal Air Force and changed the tide of war on the western front. Those in Ireland of thoughtful mind and democratic bent breathed a sigh of relief, for had the Third Reich occupied England, Ireland would have quickly suffered the same fate. Even if the Nazis had not invaded they would have ensured a proxy government of their liking Socialists, trade union leaders and Jews would have suffered the fate in the UK and Ireland as their European counterparts.
WAR OF ANNIHILATION
If we in Ireland thought English occupation was rough it would have been a picnic compared to the Third Reich. Resistance would have been dealt with the same brutality as that suffered by the village of Lidice outside Prague where when a Nazi officer was assassinated, 173 men of the village were shot, any Aryan looking children were sent to ‘good’ German homes and the remaining children, together with 183 women, were sent to the death camps. The village itself was levelled. The Republic of Ireland has often come under criticism for remaining neutral in the Second World War, but it was weary from the war of independence and a civil war. Besides it did not have an industrialised army to contribute and there still existed a sentiment amongst the population which was hostile to the UK. An ambiguity towards fascism had been strengthened by the support given by the Church and media for the crushing of the Spanish Republic. However, while Ireland remained officially neutral an estimated fifty thousand Irish men and women served with the Allied and UK forces. Furthermore, Allied airman downed over the Republic were returned to their bases within a few days while Germans who suffered the same fate were confined for the duration of the war.
In the east, Hitler and Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact which fooled no one, least of all the Soviets who immediately started to move their armament factories east of the Ural Mountains. It was to be a short-lived respite. ‘Operation Barbarossa’ – called after the Holy Roman Emperor who led a crusade in 1189 to free the ‘Holy Land’ from Islam – began in June 1941, a crusade to free the world from socialism. It was the biggest military operation of all time; a mainly German invasion of the Soviet Union with three million men and 3,500 tanks, this was more than two and a half times the number of German troops operating on the western front. This invasion was planned not to be a war of conquest but a war of annihilation, to form a space for the expansion of Germany. In the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, there is a plaque which reads:
On June 22 1941. Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The rapidly advancing tank forces helped the Wehrmacht to make massive territorial gains. At the end of 1941 the German army stood before Moscow, certain of victory. Yet the Red Army’s counter-offensives in snow and frost halted the advance on the capital. In the summer of 1942 the Germans once more seized large areas of the southern section of the front, but were soon forced to retreat. The war in the East, unlike that on the West was carried out as a war of annihilation. The primary aims were to suppress Bolshevism, seize Lebensraum, living space, exploit the occupied areas and make use of the population as forced labour. The East was to provide the German Reich with food and to be colonised by Aryans. Hence the death of many millions of Soviet citizens was an integral part of the plan. Captured Red Army soldiers were deliberately left to die of hunger. Mobile killing units operating behind the front lines – the Einsatzgruppen – systematically killed the Jewish population along with Roma and Sinti as well as communist functionaries. The entire Soviet civilian population suffered from the terror of the occupation, which led them to retaliate with bitter guerrilla warfare. By 1945 the Soviet Union had more than 25 million dead to mourn.
Hell had travelled east and every village, town and city taken by the German forces was destroyed. By August 1942 they were at the gates of Stalingrad. Initially the Luftwaffe reduced much of the city to rubble with a massive bombing campaign. Then German armour and infantry fought street by street driving the Red Army defenders back in constant close combat. In November with the deepening of winter and in freezing conditions the Red Army counter-attacked and surrounded 265,000 Axis troops, mainly German but also Hungarian, Romanian, Italian and Croatian, who had been forbidden to surrender by Hitler. All were eventually overrun and the entire course of the war turned. Stalingrad is now recognised as the most decisive battle of the war; it lasted just under six months. At the end of the fighting there were almost two million causalities on both sides. It had been the biggest and bloodiest single battle of not just the Second World War, but ever in human history.
The Red Army, having broken the back of the Wehrmacht, started its push west and by May 1945 reached Berlin and the war was over. The Soviet Union paid a very high price with 25 million of its people dead, 70,000 villages and 1,710 towns, together with thousands of factories, power plants, libraries, schools, hospitals destroyed. To place the scale of the Allied losses in context, the United States lost 420,000, mainly military personnel, in the Pacific and European conflicts and suffered no damage to its industrial base. The UK lost a total of 450,000 military and civilians. Total German losses were over 7,000,000 and the country was in ruins. In the countries where the Red Army pushed back fascism, socialist governments were established. At the Yalta conference, the Soviet delegation demanded a sphere of political and military influence in Eastern and Central Europe making the point that this bulwark of allied states was an essential aspect of its national security. This effectively partitioned Europe between the western capitalist economies and the eastern socialist ones. The power and wealth of US capitalism was then directed to rebuilding the economies of Western Europe in a mode to suit the free reign of capital. Huge amounts of aid under the Marshal Plan were poured into rebuilding West Germany. The decimated USSR was not in any position to match that reconstruction in the east. In the world of free capital everything was done to promote anti-socialist thinking and contain the influence of socialist ideas. By 1950 the red scare and McCarthyism were in full swing in the United States, the part played by the Red Army in WW2 was being written out of history. An intellectual iron curtain was drawn down on socialism and the physical border between the two systems in Europe became another. The cold war developed.
THE COLD WAR
Towards the end of the war with Japan, the United States had demonstrated how two nuclear bombs could immolate a city and 130,000 people in a flash. This forced Japan to surrender but it also forced a now very nervous USSR to divert a vast amount of its resources from badly needed reconstruction and social projects to nuclear deterrence and defence. The United States was bolstered by a flourishing arms race. This forced the Soviet Union with its much damaged economy to do the same, thus seriously impairing the building of socialism. The fear of external attack forged its strategic thinking regarding the states that lay between it and the perceived threat from the west. While Soviet Russia had rendered anti-imperialist support to many countries worldwide and respected their self-determination, it would and did intervene to ensure that states adjacent to its border remained under its sphere of influence within the Warsaw Pact. This paranoia of external attack and persecution effectively prevented the flourishing of socialism in the Soviet Union and any chance of building a communist society was doomed. To this day the fear of external aggression dominates Russian military thinking, it will go to great lengths to maintain influence on its neighbours to ensure they remain allies or at least non-aligned.
By way of comparison, on September 11th 2001 after the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the death of 3,000 by hijacked airliners, the United States was gripped by paranoia. The war on terror commenced, and countries that were completely innocent were invaded and destroyed. Suspects were collected worldwide and flown to Guantanamo Bay to be held without charge and tortured. Imagine the reaction of the United States if an actual ground force invasion had occurred and 25 million Americans had been killed, 70,000 villages, 1,710 towns, thousands of factories, power plants, libraries, schools, hospitals had been destroyed.
Up to 1991, the USSR made erratic progress in production, health, education and living standards. However, the investment in armaments was to prove ever more crippling. That such a relatively backward state could, after so much destruction, match the United States in nuclear firepower, achieving a capability of mutually assured destruction, speaks volumes for the organisational ability of a people under pressure. Unfortunately the building of socialism and securing the well-being and happiness of a people requires a very different environment, a problem that highlights the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of building socialism in a single country, particularly a threatened one. Deep governance problems arose, a lack of balances and transparency within the system allowed power to move away from the worker councils and fall excessively into the hands of the Communist Party and leadership, finally concentrating in Stalin. Inherited characteristics of supplication from the legacy of Czarism and religious orthodoxy re-emerged, a cult of leadership flourished with a leader who was both feared and adored. Nothing could be further from the foundations required to build socialism from the bottom up. Huge mistakes were made in the economy. Corruption, bureaucracy and inefficiencies grew. Finally in 1991 the contradictions of external pressure and internal betrayal brought about a coup by President Yeltsin.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE
When it became evident that he would lose the next election and knowing he had support from the IMF and with billions in aid promised from the US Congress he abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament. Having doubled military salaries, he surrounded the parliament building with troops and ordered an attack. About five hundred were killed and a thousand wounded, democracy was effectively crushed and the socialist state was replaced by a corporatist one. Naomi Klein says in her book The Shock Doctrine, ‘former communist party apparatchiks and a handful of western fund managers ….teamed up with Yeltsin’s Chicago boys and stripped the country of nearly everything of value, moving profits abroad at the rate of $2 billion a month’. Never have so many lost so much over such a short period, the pillage required terror and oppression and the country that strove for egalitarianism now languishes with an elite of billionaires and a bulging poverty.
The collapse and the break-up of the USSR was grotesquely celebrated by the western media and the elite worldwide; they were relieved when a fistful of men grabbed the wealth of the USSR and became multi-millionaires overnight. The spectre of communism was at least temporarily over; the world could now perhaps be free – free for the dictatorship of capital. With the collapse of this intrepid peoples experiment, went the confidence and influence of left-wing movements worldwide. Capital regained its confidence and accelerated deregulation and further accumulation at the expense of the majority, its global range and power increasing in inverse proportion to the diminishing power of national democracies. Workers international solidarity diminished with it a growth in divisions amongst people through nationalism and religion. Most movements against oppression which had previously been led by secular left-wing forces had been subverted and splintered into divisive religious fundamentalism, toxic to reason, but ultimately of no threat to global capital. Nonetheless the innate desire of humans to build a just egalitarian society, a co-operative internationalist community will not go away.