Since the destruction of Nazi Germany,” wrote Irving Howe and I thirty years ago in the concluding chapter of our history of the American Communist party, “Stalinism has been the only political movement able to seize the initiative on a world scale. . . . [I]t succeeded in appropriating most of the social dynamism of the post-war world, so that both as a system of power and as an ideology it soon came to be a dominant problem of our time.” How times have changed! Though our characterization seems still correct for the period in which we wrote, it is completely inapplicable to the current scene. In fact, communism in Western Europe and most probably elsewhere, rather than being an inspiring messianic movement, has now become a grotesque relic. The Soviet mortgage on the political life of Western Europe has been lifted.
The near demise of communism in all of Western Europe is a historic fact that current commentators have not yet fully appreciated. It is, in my view, as significant a feature of contemporary history as the rise and fall of Nazism in the thirties and forties or the impact of the Russian Revolution in the West after 1917....
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