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Political Stagnation and Marxist Critique: 1968 and Beyond in Comparative East European Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2009

Extract

Specialists in communist affairs, as is well known, differ significantly in their interpretation of Soviet-type systems. Such divergence notwithstanding, numerous scholars seem to agree that under ‘real socialism’, Marxist-Leninist ideology is visibly ‘withering away’ as a meaningful category in analysing society at large or leadership groups. In the ‘Bureaucratic Leviathan’ states of the communist world, Maria Hirszowicz writes, interest in Marxism is nowadays either non-existent or very limited. In these polities there seems to be ‘a widespread belief (shared by many enlightened party members) that Marxist methodology does not have much to offer in relation to what is really important in understanding social life in communist countries’. In a similar manner, Robert F. Byrnes indicates that Marxism has lost ‘any relevance or vitality’ and adds that Marxist thought and revisions of it are far more common in France, the United States and the underdeveloped countries than in communist Eastern Europe, where the doctrine or doctrinal approaches seem to have been spurned for practical reasons. In other words, as Wayne S. Vuchinich put it, ideology ‘has been made the servant of realpolitik and thereby it… has been reduced to hollow ritualism’. The validity of such remarks is often corroborated not only by members of the overtly anti-Marxist opposition, such as Solzhenitsyn, but also by former or present-day dissidents, such as Kołakowski or Sakharov.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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References

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17 The evidence here is superabundant. Cf., among others, Michnik, A., ‘The New Evolutionism’, Survey, XXII (1976), 267–77Google Scholar; and ‘What We Want to Do and What We Can Do’, Telos, No. 47 (1981), p. 77Google Scholar; Slánský, R., ‘Le dialogue et non l'affrontement’, L'Alternative, No. 2 (01 1980), p. 8Google Scholar; Kenedi, J., ‘Comment je suis devenu idiot’, L'Alternative, No. 10–11 (0508 1981), pp. 71–9Google Scholar; Skilling, , Charter 77, pp. 47, 177Google Scholar; Schöpflin, G., ‘Opposition and Para-Opposition: Critical Currents in Hungary, 1968–1978’Google Scholar in Tőkés, , ed., Opposition in Eastern Europe, pp. 142–67Google Scholar; Lomax, B., ‘L'essoir de l'opposition democratique hongroise’, L'Alternative, No. 19 (1112 1982), pp. 1926.Google Scholar

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22 ‘An important feature of political communication in Eastern Europe has been the ability to camouflage material so as to give it an outwardly orthodox appearance. Controversial proposals or arguments can be dressed up in Marxist jargon and published, sometimes with the connivance of the party, and sometimes despite the censor.’ (White, Stephen, Gardner, John and Schöpflin, George, Communist Political Systems: An Introduction (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 241).CrossRefGoogle Scholar Such ‘disguise’ is occasionally deemed necessary even in societies which have ‘left behind’ the ‘reformist’ stage. Commenting on a resolution proposed by the ‘fundamentalist’ group of Solidarity, which employed some Marxist terminology, two members of the Laboratory of Organizational Sociology of the Polish Academy of Science write that this ‘has to be taken as a desire to speak up a language comprehensible to the other side, rather than take up the formulations binding on the other side’ (Kostecki, Marian J. and Mreła, Krzysztof, ‘Workers and Intelligentsia in Poland: During the Hot Days and In Between’, Media, Culture and Society, IV (1982), p. 233.Google Scholar

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92 Cf. Márkus, , ‘Western Marxism and Eastern Societies’, p. 291.Google Scholar

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94 Cf. Wishnevsky, J., ‘More Details Emerge About “Socialists” Arrested in USSR Earlier This Year’, Radio Liberty Research 341/82, 23 08 1982Google Scholar. It is doubtful that Medvedev's advocacy of a ‘return to Leninism’ belongs to the same line of thought. Cf. Medvedev, R., Leninism and Western Socialism (London: Verso, 1981).Google Scholar

95 The attraction to Eurocommunism, for example, is non-existent in Romania (or Bulgaria), much in contrast to the Soviet, Czechoslovak, Polish and East German cases. Cf. Wesson, R., ‘Eurocommunism and Eastern Europe’Google Scholar in Drachkovitch, , ed., East Central Europe, p. 72.Google Scholar

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