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A Communist Idealist Criticizes the "Real Existing Socialism" of the GDR (1977)

Because the GDR was ending neither the exploitation of workers nor the arms race, the ethical Marxist Rudolf Bahro criticized the post-Stalinist version of “real existing socialism” in the Soviet bloc and proposed the creation of a new Communist League in order to recapture the original revolutionary spirit.

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The communist movement made it appearance with the promise of solving the basic problems of modern humanity and overcoming the antagonisms of human existence. The countries that call themselves socialist still pay official allegiance to this programme. But what perspectives are people offered in the present situation, if they turn their eyes to the practice of our social life? Is there any way of telling how the new order plans to prove its superiority by a more effective organization and economy of labour? Has it attained its promised breakthrough to the humanization of collective life, or is it at least making daily progress in this field, in as much as the goal is not yet reached? What kind of better life was it that we sought to create? Was it only that mediocre well-being devoid of any further perspectives in which we try unsuccessfully to compete with late capitalism, try to overtake it on a road that, by all our traditional theory, leads straight into the abyss? We were planning to create a new and higher civilization! That new civilization is more necessary today than ever before; its image has nothing in common with the illusion of a ‘perfect society’ free from contradiction.

For the time being, it has turned out, we are extending the old civilization, continuing on the ‘capitalist road’; compulsively, as it were, i.e. under very real compulsions, and in a most profound sense that involves our whole culture, rather than being simply a question of politics. A superstructure has emerged from our revolution which seems only good for this purpose, and for pursuing it in the most systematic and bureaucratic way possible. As all those involved are well aware, the rule of man by man has lost only its topmost layer. The alienation and subalternity of the working masses persists in a new phase. Completely stuck in the old logic of international power politics and diplomacy, the new order does not even secure peace – not to be confused with the ‘balance of terror’ which it plays an active part in reproducing. The relationship between the two major powers of actually existing socialism even displays some quite apocalyptic features. In the Soviet Union, the liberal intellectual opposition seems to be at least at one with the government that the major strategic task facing the country is to build up Siberia, both industrially and militarily. And China is digging in, building a new great wall against the North, which this time is underground and everywhere.

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