In doing the research for my book Comrades: A World History of Communism, I tried to find whether there was a basic pattern to the regimes that resulted. The conclusion was a stark one. In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet "model". A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.But there are still journalists out there who reject this history. He cites one reviewer from the Guardian, Seumas Milne, who is emblematic of what is called the "revisionist" approach to studying communist regimes.
His Stalinoid form and content of argument involved deliberate misrepresentation. It would seem that Milne and his like consider it fair game to denounce anybody who comes to a considered anti-communist standpoint as a neocon. This is a shoddy way to handle a serious political discussion. If this farrago had not come from the editor of the comment pages of one of our national newspapers, it would not be worth bothering about. What is more, Milne is typical of a more general trend that retains a nostalgia for communism, and it is a trend that ought to be repudiated.Read the rest of his article for his explanation of why the communist regimes always become repressive dictatorships.
Milne rails against people who describe Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's cultural revolution as totalitarian. His preference is for the alleged even-handedness of the "revisionist" school. What he has in mind here is the body of work written since the 1970s which stresses that not everything in communist politics was controlled by the supreme leadership. It would be ludicrous to claim that Stalin or Mao directed and controlled every aspect of thought and behaviour. I know of no one who does this. Communist states were indisputably very far from a condition of total regulation from above. In fact, they were more chaotic in many ways than are most liberal democracies.