We emerged into the unfamiliar, topsy-turvy, infernal world on the other side of the looking-glass.
Here had Lenin sat after studying his daily quota of the pages of Das Kapital. However, he greatly underestimated the economic strength of the West and instead of triumph saw the West build up alliances that were designed to permanently stop or contain Soviet expansion.
Such gains were seen as steps towards, not merely as the result of, the socialist transformation of society. The remaining communists opposed the emergency. This led to the Polish crisis of which was resolved through change in Polish leadership and a negotiation between the Soviet and Polish parties over the direction of the Polish economy.
They must wonder how so many former comrades are running great resistances in India, from Kudankulam to Niyamgiri without any structured communist cadre. Yes, Soviet Communism is just getting started.
Soviet Communism never was, however, merely the ideology of the Communist Party. Its Pavlovian opposition to economic reforms, its failure to grapple with the complexities of caste, its restricted base in pockets of labour aristocracy such as bank unions, its readiness to compromise with Muslim communalism in an attempt to oppose Hindu communalism, its loyalty to Stalinist methods—these are just some of the factors that have sent it hurtling towards irrelevance.It could not retain its original shape and sheen and became increasingly marginalised. The effect of the Hungarian Revolution on other communist parties varied significantly, resulting in large membership losses in Anglophone communist parties. What did Lenin and Stalin get up to, I wonder, lying there in their pyramid side by side in the dark? In some cases, such as Czechoslovakia, this led to an enthusiastic support for socialism inspired by the Communist Party and a Social Democratic Party willing to fuse. Propping up the bar of the Museum Tavern, I now saw clearly that a spectre was again haunting Europe, the spectre of Soviet Communism. Have communist parties become irrelevant? Since that episode, each time I retired after a visit to the British Museum Reading Room across the road to the Museum Tavern for a pint of ale or a dram of whisky, the idea whose faint glimmerings had first visited me in Red Square began gradually to clothe itself in the words of a new manifesto.
They had been represented to me as an ideological monstrosity, but what I saw were careworn, sunken faces; distraught, badly dressed people in their 50s and 60s whose body language betrayed how lacking they were in aplomb.
Is there as much as a mea culpa from anyone in command? Let us not forget, however, that a great religion can exist even without a temple or a territory.