Today we cannot understand anything of Europe, the European Left or any other problem in the world unless we start out, in a spirit of truth, from the epochal shift of the last few years that has resulted in the political, ideological and economic collapse of the Communist states in Eastern Europe.footnote＊ It has been an event as overwhelming and as fraught with long-term consequences as the conclusion of the anti-fascist war half a century ago. When the Berlin Wall came down the judgement of many people, especially in Europe, was one of euphoria. They saw the coming of a new historical period marked by world cooperation, disarmament and democratic advance, which would provide a clear opportunity for democratic socialism with a human face. Now we can see that the reality is different and much harsher. Let us be clear. For my own part, I am no orphan of actually existing socialism or the Cold War, nor have I ever looked back at them with nostalgia. I have been active from an early age in a Communist Party, the pci, which has always striven both theoretically and practically to develop a line independent of the Eastern-
The present crisis of the Left is occurring under the dual impact of capitalist restructuring, with all its economic and cultural results, and the collapse of the planned economies. It bears the marks of both. The events of the last few weeks in the Soviet Union confirm this. It is true that the worst has been avoided: namely, the success of a coup d’état which was so resoundingly devoid of social consent or ideological bases that it would have had to engage in mass repression before arriving at a regime at once authoritarian and impotent. Nevertheless, the outcome is not a revival of Gorbachev’s original aim of self-reform of the Soviet system, but the taking of power by a new social bloc and a new political leadership that have radically broken with the October Revolution and everything it produced.
These dangers, with all their short-term costs for that region of the world, have become visible to everyone through the events in outlying lands of the ussr. At least in a first phase, we shall see not economic development and representative democracy, so much as production crises, mass unemployment and violent outbursts of nationalism—a democratic revolution accompanying and producing social restoration, disaggregation of the state structure of a large nuclear power, and rapid introduction of an unbridled capitalism which, for the time being, is more likely to follow the Brazilian than the German pattern.
But the purpose of my contribution is not to make analyses, judgements or predictions about that whole development in the East, for which I anyway lack the necessary competence. What I wish to stress here are the general, long-term elements that follow for the world order, and their repercussions on political and social struggle well beyond the frontiers of the ussr.
Firstly, a historical experience is now ending in painful defeat—an experience which, both materially and in terms of ideas, served
Secondly, there is a radical change in the relationship of forces or geography of power in international relations, especially after the recent developments in Moscow. A great power and its system of alliances have now dissolved, giving way not to a secure, polycentric world equilibrium, but to the complete supremacy of a group of major capitalist powers centred on the United States of America. Conflicts of interest are certainly taking shape among them, but they are firmly united in their economic structure and show a clear determination to rule the world by their own lights, by force where economic and cultural supremacy do not suffice. The mounting of the Gulf War, the current shifts in nato towards a world police force, the management of international economic institutions and so-called aid programmes, us policy in Central and South America or European in Africa—all these demonstrate what kind of world government is at issue.
The Left throughout the world, even that part of it which never had anything to do with the ideology and organization of actually existing socialism, is inevitably affected by such trends, both in terms of the objective conditions and relationships of force that it has to face, and in terms of the internalization of defeat.