Historicizing communism means overcoming the dichotomy between two narratives—one idyllic and the other horrific—as radically opposed as fundamentally alike. Several decades after its exhaustion, the communist experience does not need to be idealized or demonized; it deserves to be critically understood as a dialectical totality shaped by internal tensions and contradictions. Communism merges multiple events and experiences. Its ambiguity does not lie exclusively in the discrepancy that separates the communist idea from its historical embodiments; it lies in the extreme diversity of its expressions. Sketching its “anatomy,” this article distinguishes at least four broad forms of communism, interrelated and not necessarily opposed to one another, but different enough to be recognized on their own: communism as revolution, communism as regime, communism as anticolonialism, and communism as a variant of social democracy. The October Revolution was their common matrix. The article points out that a new global Left will not succeed in the twenty-first century without “working through” this historical experience.
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Enzo Traverso; Historicizing Communism: A Twentieth-Century Chameleon. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2017; 116 (4): 763–780. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-4234994
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