Washington — One of the more significant political facts in the world today may well be that large sections of the Russian and Chinese population are becoming disillusioned with communism and with its failure to live up to its promises.
It is apparent that communism becomes more attractive the farther you are from it.
The recent testimony of Vladimir Bukovsky, a Soviet dissident now living in the United States, is revealing. In a dialogue with the American Enterprise Institute, he was asked how Marxism stands in the minds of the Soviet people today. His reply:
"I have been surprised that, in the two and a half years outside the Soviet Union, I have met more Marxists and communists than in my 35 years in the Soviet Union!
"There are no genuine communists in the Soviet Union. Those who join the party in our country are just trying to find the best opportunity for a promotion. Any good job is impossible unless you are a member of the party."
And now in the People's Republic of China many Chinese are beginning to pose among themselves and in letters to the editor questions which dismay government leaders, such questions as: "Is Marxism the answer? If so, why are we still so poor?" As reported in an article from Peking in this newspaper, youth groups are being particularly outspoken, and one official newspaper described this persistent questioning as creating "a so-called confidence crisis."
A party newspaper in shanghai wrote with unusual candor: "Some persons think that Marxism-Leninism no longer works, have become doubtful about Marxism-Leninim. They neither believe it nor study it."
One young Chinese confessed his disillusionment by writing: "We have shouted about communist ideals for so many years, but our country is still so poor and the people's lives too hard."
The Worker's Daily went further in summing up the views of many of its readers:
"Some people say we have been practicing socialism for 30 years and living standards are very low. Some nonsocialist countries have higher living standards. This shows that socialism and communism are not the only roads to a happy life. I will follow whatever road can bring an improved life."
From a communist government either in Russia or in China this is a dangerous idea to have penetrating the thinking of its people -- the idea that noncommunist economic systems produce a better life. If the full truth about how well countries which shun communism do for their people ever filters through the screen of censorship, no telling what might be the consequence. Disillusioned Chinese and Russians might learn:
That communist China can't come near to matching the productivity and living standards of noncommunist Taiwan.
That enterprising South Korea far exceeds the living standards of communist North Korea.
That, after practicing communism for more than 60 years, the Soviet Union has the lowest living standard of all the industrialized nations.
That West Germany's free economy achieves a prosperity at least 33 percent greater than communist East Germany.
That in the United States its free enterprise economy is continuing to produce a standard of living in which poverty is defined at a level higher than the average income in the Soviet Union and 800 percent above the average world level.
If, as Mr. Bukovsky observes, there are no real communists in Russia and if more Chinese are becoming disillusioned about what communism is doing for them, perhaps the foregoing facts can help provide the ingredients of peaceful counterrevolution.