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New Left Review I/226, November-December 1997


Boris Kagarlitsky

The Unfinished Revolution

On the topic of the Russian Revolution, it might appear that everythingworth saying has already been said. Both critics and defenders of the revolution repeat again and again what was already being said and written in the 1920s. Throughout the Soviet decades leftists repeatedly cited the pronouncements of Trotsky and of his biographer Isaac Deutscher on the bureaucratic degeneration of the regime, on the incompleteness of the revolutionary process and on the possibility of it being rolled back. Social democrats repeated the arguments of Kautsky and Martov concerning the premature nature of the Bolshevik experiment and its anti-democratic character, while liberals insisted that an economy not constructed on the firm foundations of the market and private property could not be viable. It seemed as though the collapse of the Soviet system in the years between 1989 and 1991 would dots all the i’s and conclude the discussion. At least on the emotional plane, however, the events of those years turned out to be a complete surprise for the ideologues. To propagandists of capitalism, the fate of the ‘Russian experiment’ seemed absolutely natural, but from 1989 it appeared as though history was mocking the liberals; after confirming all their theories and forecasts, it immediately began to refute them. All the promises of a shining future, of dynamic growth and a ‘normal economy’, turned into their opposites. Not one of the ‘positive’ recipes has worked, while liberal values are becoming steadily less interesting to anyone but professional intellectuals.

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