An engrossing and generally persuasive case for the proposition that international communism is, if not dying, at least fading away. Director of the National Security Council during the Carter Administration, Brzezinski (Game Plan, Power and Principle, etc.) offers an unsparing appraisal of a sociopolitical doctrine that once threatened to take the 20th century by storm. As a practical matter, he concludes, global communism has foundered, not prospered. In the USSR, the author notes, Gorbachev's renewal efforts have produced unintended consequences, including divisive debates over the Communist Party's stewardship and de facto subversion of the system's ideological foundations. Communism's "fatal dilemma" in the Soviet Union, he asserts, is that "its economic success can only be purchased at the cost of political stability, while its political stability can only be sustained at the cost of economic failure." No longer a relevant model, the USSR, Brzezinski argues, is losing its grip on long-restive Eastern Europe satellites. Nor is the Maxist/Leninist line faring at all well in the Third World, where, he contends, nations "now equate Soviet-style communism with arrested development." In the meantime, the author makes clear, China's commercially oriented pragmatists are marching to the beat of a different drummer, as are nationalists in ethnic republics like the Ukraine. And Gorbachev's success or failure with perestroika is almost beside the point so far as Brzezinski is concerned. The central issue, in his opinion, is whether the Soviet brand of communism is evolving toward a more permissive and innovative future—or is decaying, even self-destructing. To the extent that genuine pluralism strikes him as an unlikely prospect, the author is not sanguine on this score; the most probable scenario is a lengthy period of inconclusive conflict that could aggravate communism's systemic crisis. While the Kremlin may boast a handful of liberals, he observes, it has virtually no democrats. An instructive and accessible audit of a secular creed that has encountered increasingly tougher going in the marketplace of ideas.
Read full book review >