“Market Leninism” has become the biggest challenge to our society, writes John Avlon. And the problem with this alternative to Western governance is that it promises prosperity at the expense of individual freedom – while dismissing democracy as ineffective
The ideology of communism may have ended up on the ash heap of history like Nazism before it, but now “Market Leninism” is taking its place as a challenge to liberty in the 21st Century.
The fault lines reflect Cold War regions.
Russia and China and some of their old satellite states have traded Marx and Lenin for Market Leninism.
The militaristic one-party state endures – but the nomenklatura now attracts global capital, swilling champagne in jet set nightclubs instead of behind dacha walls.
To some extent, this is a mark of the West’s Cold War victory.
Even ex-communists recognise that capitalism – albeit a corrupt, crony, command-and-control version – is more effective at lifting people out of poverty than endless programmes and slogans about the proletariat. This is helpful for holding on to power.
What’s insidious about this alternative to Western governance is that it promises prosperity at the expense of individual freedom, while dismissing democracy as ineffective.
For some citizens, the presence of spending money in their pockets plus the narcotic of nationalism is enough to make this seem a fair trade. Outsiders are just asked to ignore the annexation of Crimea or never mention the occupation of Tibet and they can enjoy their share of the spoils while staying at the local Four Seasons. It’s almost civilised.
In the 1930s, the buzz was that liberal capitalist democracy was decadent and declining – that the pluralism and diversity of the USA was our greatest weakness because we could not reason together.
Ideologues argued that it took a Great Leader to get things done.
Demagogues always do well in economic downturns and the mirror-image systems of communism and fascism promised to solve problems quickly through command and control. This was not just the siren-song of extremism – it represented a failure of democratic governments at the time.
Of course, America, England, and our allies ultimately proved those ideologues and opportunists wrong. When our back was at the wall, we proved that free and diverse people working together in a liberal capitalist democracy have strength that one party states cannot compete with.
And so it will be again. A growing middle class will not ultimately abide by fundamental restrictions on individual freedom and technology makes it impossible to block out the rest of the world. Freedom will seep into the bedrock as we rediscover our backbone.
But in the intervening years, “Market Leninist” states offer a slick sales pitch that will seduce some short-sighted dupes into buying the moral equivalence argument. Dictators will line up to trade with “Market Leninists” rather than democracies, wielding slogans about non-judgment and cultural autonomy. The world will re-polarise while money flows into Swiss bank accounts. This is better than the Cold War when nuclear war loomed, but it is still sinister. It is still a challenge to liberty.
That’s why this is a testing time.
Full article: Why America’s poisonous politics makes ‘Market Leninism’ an attractive alternative (The Telegraph)