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‘Now That Red Is Dead’

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The way Powers describes it, some sort of titanic struggle has taken place over the last 150 years, between a “right” and a “left” ending finally with the defeat of the “left.” Reality, of course, is much more complicated, and one of the most obvious reasons for the decline in the number of men and women involved in “leftist” politics is that many of their goals have been achieved and institutionalized in most Western democratic societies over the last 150 years.

These goals include the right of workers to a healthy work environment, the right to organize and strike, independence for Third World nations, guaranteed income for the elderly, medical care for the sick, civil rights for all, and the rights of women to vote, to own property, to divorce. More recently these goals have included safe abortions for those who choose it, the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, and a reduction in the level of our aggression against Nicaragua.

If capitalism is returning to societies that formerly spurned that system, it may because it returns with a difference--ownership. In much of the Third World capitalism used to mean exploitation of land and labor by foreign owners. Now it means foreign income for local owners.

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Powers would do well to recognize that the demise of Marxism-Leninism has less to do with the moral superiority of conservatism than with the fact that it was a rigid dogma (like Medieval Christianity).

Sooner or later those guided by dogma become unable to adapt to changing needs. Gorbachev and other reformers are at last offering the flexibility communism needs if they want it to survive, as many other once rigid dogmas have survived, in some form or another.

BRIAN CARSTENS

Arcadia

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