Georg Lukacs in one of his last interviews had suggested that if the transition from feudalism to capitalism took about three hundred years, there was no reason to believe why the transition from capitalism to socialism should not be an equally protracted one; this according to him was one area where a revision of the earlier Marxist belief was necessary. Lukacs' interview of course was long before the recent events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but his remarks have a prophetic ring, anticipating the possibility of reversals in the process of transition, but asserting at the same time that such reversals do not negate the historical reality of the transition process. To assert this reality of course is not just a matter of blind faith or a misplaced argument by analogy. Today, when communists, shorn of pomp and power, head mass demonstrations and battle with riot police on Moscow streets in protest against skyrocketing food-prices which the Great Leap Backwards to capitalism has brought to the people of Russia, this reality appears as strong as ever.
The question nonetheless remains: why did the reversal take place? We had promised our readers in an earlier issue that we would be devoting a good deal of our space to discussions on this theme. In keeping with that promise, we publish as the lead article in the current number of Social Scientist, a piece by E.M.S. Namboodiripad that is addressed to the question. The article has a wide range, but among its many observations, one that deserves particular notice is the author's remark that capitalism's greater ability to harness the scientific and technological revolution was an important contributory factor to the reverses suffered by socialism. Much has been written on the failures of extant socialism; while this is of course important, any attempt at explaining the fate of socialist countries exclusively in terms of their internal characteristics without taking into reckoning the career of capitalism, can at best be a partial one. Surely the collapse of socialism is a result not merely of the legacy of Stalin, but also of the fact that capitalism in the post-war period has displayed unexpected dynamism; and yet this latter aspect has scarcely received the attention that it deserves. With Namboodiripad's touching on this aspect, we hope there will be further discussion on it.
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 12, December 1991