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Dissent and Socialism


Dileep Padgaonkar

ON SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY
By Roy A. Medvedev
Macmillan, London, 1975, 12.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 3 July - September 1976

Much to the chagrin of their leftist sympathizers in the outside world more and more Soviet dissidents refuse to subscribe to any shade of socialist the­ory and practice. Unlike a growing number of socialists in, say, France or Italy, they seem to be convinced that socialism cannot rhyme either with freedom or with greater social justice. This is why they rule out any prospect of Soviet society reform­ing itself in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, they fear that as the Kremlin reinforces its econo­mic and technological ties with the West it will take care to snuff out every whimper of domestic protest against the inequities of the regime. Is it any wonder after all this that Alexander Solzhenitsyn finds a favourable echo to his stringent anti-Communist campaign only in the most conser­vative and old-style social democrat circles in North America and Western Europe? To a somewhat lesser extent, this is also true of Andrei Sakharov who now appears to have renounced his earlier faith in de­mocratic socialism. As for the noted historian, An­drei Amalrik, he has reiterated, on his recent arrival in Holland as an exile, that it is no longer possible for him to adhere to any all-embracing ideology, es­pecially when it dons a ‘scientific’ cloak. Perhaps the only notable exception to this gene­ral rule is the historian and sociologist, Roy A. Medvedev. It would be no exaggeration to say that among the leading Soviet dissidents he alone gives the western leftists some reason to hope that socialism can and indeed will be rejuvenated some day. For, Medvedev’s Marxist and even Marxist-Leninist ardour has been strengthened rather than dimmed by his bitter hostility to Stalinism (See his Let His­tory Judge). The author's Marxism-Leninism, however, owes little to the doctrinal aridities of the Soviet establish­ment. He does not treat it as a closed system but only as a method to analyse social and economic phenomena. This is all too evident from this book where he chooses to be empirical and pragmatic rather than ideological. The ideological elements come into play when he makes copious references to Marx, Engels and Lenin to assert that without democracy there can be no socialism. As a matter of fact, the author ascribes all the major ills afflicting Soviet society today to the absen­ce of a real participation of citizens in the ...


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