Adler On

Communism and Socialism

To the entry under Capitalism and Socialism, I add here some comments on the seventy-year experiment with communism in the Soviet Union.

Though Lenin and Leon Trotsky, apostles of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, aimed at the socialist ideal in 1917, the communist experiment defeated their attempt to produce a truly democratic and socialist society. Until Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin appeared on the scene in the 1980s, the Communist Party did not realize that neither democracy nor socialism could be accomplished by abolishing the private ownership of capital and by preventing a free-market economy.

Lenin had said, of course, that the dictatorship of the proletariat under the despotic regime of the party was the penultimate stage of the revolution. It was necessary while the Soviet Union was surrounded by their capitalist enemies. The ultimate stage of the revolution lay in the future, when the state had withered away. Lenin's The State and Revolution is very clear on this point, but wrong in its predictions. Many individuals in the United States think that communism and socialism are identical. In fact, they are antithetical. (opposite/diametrically opposed)

Adapted from
Adler's Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

Revised 17 December 2000