Book Review — The Idea of Communism 3: The Seoul Conference

The Idea of Communism 3 by Alex Taek-Gwang Lee

The idea of communism to many in the West is dead. The Soviet Union is dead. China is essentially a semi-capitalist dictatorship. All that remains is North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba; none of them threatens capitalism. In 2009 Slavoj Žižek brought together leftist intellectuals to discuss the meaning of the idea of communism since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The speakers center on Asia and spend a great deal of time discussing China. The conference was held in Seoul on the Cold War divided peninsula of Korea. No one speaking at the conference accepted North Korea as part of “communism.” In fact, the Soviet Union is divided into Leninist and Stalinist periods. China is the example of where communism went wrong. There is a discussion of class difference and more importantly the state. Ideally, communism would lead to the disappearance of the state and the capitalist world’s idea of nationalism. It also opposed Stalin’s “socialism in one state.”

China as a state presents two problems to communism. The first is a dictatorial party government and second, the greater problem is the entrenched bureaucracy. Both lend themselves to the creation of a class on to their own above the worker and peasant. The conference was good at pointing out flaws in the current communist states as well as the flaws in capitalism. The problem lies in practical solutions. Leadership is needed initially, but once established refuses to let go. However, the idea of the population willing following a Rousseauian general will is impractical.

The conference does lend insight to the problems of communism in the 21st century. There is criticism and theory, but little in the way of practical solutions. Granted many of the same problems exist in capitalism and are starting to be recognized: Class difference, racial discrimination, pay difference between men and women, police abusing their authority, rising college costs preventing many attending or leaving them with near impossible debt, exporting manufacturing jobs, and European austerity programs. The point that problems, rejections of current and past government models, are being examined and criticized shows that at least on an intellectual level the idea of change and refinement is possible. This collection of opinions, however, is written for a very limited audience. An understanding of Maoist China and the current Chinese government is almost necessary.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Book Review — The Idea of Communism 3: The Seoul Conference

  1. Eric Hatton

    Sounds interesting. It’s always fascinating to me to read how communism and socialism are interpreted.

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