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By Ronald Kowalski

Communism has had a profound effect on Europe from the mid-nineteenth century to the current. In conception, it promised equality and freedom for all. In perform, it spawned inegalitarian, authoritarian and, in a few situations, substantial regimes in East Europe. Ronald Kowalski re-examines the heritage of ecu Communism, from its theoretical origins within the paintings of Marx and Engels until eventually the cave in of the Soviet Union, and explains why it didn't come to strength in West Europe.

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Extra info for European Communism: 1848-1991 (European History in Perspective)

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Even if the workers did possess the (Utopian) level of consciousness that would lead them to sacrifice their own particular interests for those of society at large, they simply would not possess the information to take decisions which would achieve this objective. In the complex industrial economy demanded by socialism, production could be regulated through the market. If the market was abolished, then its replacement by a centralised bureaucracy would become ‘a functional necessity’. 19 In a nutshell, central planning and democracy, especially the direct democracy of the commune-state model, are mutually contradictory.

In this conjuncture the emphasis on partial reforms to improve material conditions for the workers was appropriate. Bernstein, however, had mistaken this temporary phase of prosperity for the normal condition of capitalism, instead of focusing on its underlying contradictions.

He venomously rejected the Lassallean ideas embedded in it, including reference to the ‘iron law of wages’, which implied that the workers could make absolutely no material advance under capitalism; the dismissal of all but the workers as ‘one reactionary mass’, which denied any revolutionary potential to the lower middle class and peasantry; producers’ cooperatives as the basis for the future socialist organisation of the economy, instead of the nationalisation of the means of production; and the emphasis on the struggle of the German workers within national bounds, at the expense of forging links with their counterparts elsewere.

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