As Communism Falls Around the World, Local Radicals Vow To Stay the Course

It's over, finished, kaput.

According to many pundits, the "End of History" has arrived. The ideological battle between socialism and capitalism is over, and the West has won.

In short, they say, communism is dead; Marxism has breathed its last.

The evidence is everywere. Socialist governments are collapsing all across Eastern Europe. The Sandinistas have been voted out of power in Nicaragua. And Mikhail S. Gorbachev continues to dazzle the world with progressive reforms in the Soviet Union.

But members of the American radical left are not giving up the fight. Defying the skeptics, die-hard representatives of communist parties in the greater Boston area say the movement is alive--if not well--in this country and around the globe.

"I think we're in an overall favorable position," says Kathy Lawrence, a spokesperson for the Boston chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). "This is a time when there are immense dangers and immense opportunities."

But Lawrence's optimism is guarded at best. Like many local communists, she appears to have been left somewhat disoriented by the rapid collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

On the one hand, Lawrence says she is glad see the workers in revolt. The oppressed proletarian masses are finally asserting political power and demanding radical change, she says.

She says she is even glad to see it happening in the Soviet bloc. Her party disowned the Soviet Union and its satellites 30 years ago when Nikita Khrushev began his program of reform, thus turning his back on true communism, she says. Lawrence says she feels no tinge of regret at the downfall of East Bloc regimes.

But while it may be the right play, it's really the wrong stage with the wrong actors. According to conventional Marxist theory, if workers should be rebelling anywhere it should be in the highly developed capitalist nations of the West.

"Basically we welcome what is happening in Eastern Europe, but not at all in the terms the Western press has put it," Lawrence says. "But rather in terms of how revisionism has been exposed."

"The Western press has called it the death of communism, but it's the death of phony communism," Lawrence says. "The people there see themselves as rebelling against communism, but they're not."

Not all sects can match the semantics of RCP, however. Still wedded to a doctrine of firm support for the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe, other self-described communists are not giving up support for the discredited regimes.

The Workers World Party (WWP), for example, now finds itself in the highly unpopular position of opposing reform and democratization on the continent.

"Perestroika is a disastrous step in the wrong direction," says Bill Doares, a member of the WWP National Committee, in reference to the Soviet leader's reform program. "The working class has been disoriented in these countries by their leaders and the abandonment by the Soviet Union."