The period after 1989

The collapse of “real existing socialism” around 1989 and the final crisis of its legitimising ideological superstructure represented a huge turning point for the parties and movements following Marx. However, despite all of the (generally interest-driven) claims that Marxism was dead and buried, Marx remained on the agenda. This has occurred, because the inner-Marxist discussion and its critique of real socialism has existed for as long as real socialism. Today, tendencies that existed before 1989 are still present, but new approaches have also developed, in the same way that theoretical and political concepts have always been subject to upheavals and further development.

Nevertheless, in many regions of the world, “Marxism experienced a period of sustained weakness after the collapse of “real existing socialism”. This became particularly apparent in 2007: despite the wave of social protests that broke out after the financial crisis, Marxist positions remained marginal. Even the renaissance of the study of Marx and his work among younger academics has not been able to hide the fact that Marxism and the parties and movements that deal with Marxism are far from constituting a grand narrative that could come together to form a political project.

In recent years, Marx has gained ground especially in circles that are not viewed as “left-wing”: the multiple crises of “real existing capitalism” have led the bourgeois feuilletons, among others, to ask whether Marx “might have been right all along”. At the same time, a view that has long been present within “Marxism” is now being voiced outside of Marxism: the importance of distinguishing between Marx and Marxism. There is not simply “one” Marxism, but very different and at times opposing approaches, parties, currents, etc. and it is essential to differentiate between them.

This section is supplemented and expanded successively.

Communist and Post-Communist Parties of Western Europe

In the old capitalist states of Europe (that is to say, the ones that did not belong to the socialist world system in the years prior to 1989-91) the end of state socialism constituted a major turning point for the Communist parties.

Left Parties in the United States, 1989-2017

The decline of the Communist left in the US began long before 1989. Neoliberalism and the technological revolution brought fragmentation to the society as a whole, and the left was particularly shaken by the corrosion of working-class communities and the workforce.

Communist Parties and the Naxalbari Movement in India

Communist Party of India
The party was founded in the 1920s inspired by the October Revolution in Russia. During India’s struggle for independence, the CPI joined the left wing of the Indian Congress Party known as Congress Socialist Party (CSP). After India’s independence the party constituted the principal opposition in parliament raising important demands such as social equality for women, land reforms, nationalization of privately owned enterprises etc. The strongholds of the Indian Communists have always been the South and the East of the country.

Post-communist parties in Eastern Europe

By the time real socialism collapsed in and around 1989, it had already become apparent that Marx would never be uniformly received in the real-socialist countries of eastern Europe. Even within the ruling communist-Marxist parties, opposing trends had emerged.

Social Movements in Europe and North America Since 1989

Although they were formed during the post-war years and maintained a critical distance to the countries where real socialism and ‘party’ communism thrived, like the communist parties themselves, the social movements of Europe and the New Left in North America were impacted by the collapse of real socialism and the broad delegitimisation of radical social critique.