Why did communism fail in the USSR?
Ph.D., born 1971; Senior Lecturer in Russian Politics, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, Scotland / UK.
Email: [email protected]
introductionIf extremism is defined as the opposite of the values and procedures of liberal democracy and if one ascribes a tendency towards political violence to it, then the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was for a long time the most important extremist party in the world. With a membership of 19 million at times, it was behind the CPC with around 70 million members, but its ideological influence spanned half the globe.
Communism, even if weakened, withstood the fall of the Soviet Union in Russia to an extent that was not expected in 1991. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) claims to be the immediate successor party to the CPSU and its traditions, claims its property and was the strongest party in post-communist Russia in the 1990s. Although the popularity of the party has declined sharply compared to 1996, its leader Gennady Zyuganov came in second in the presidential elections in March 2008. 
A comparison of the Soviet and Russian communist parties leads to the realization that the KPRF differs very strongly from its predecessor party in every respect except in style and symbolism: it is not revolutionary, but conservative, it is increasingly moderate, it is more of a one parliamentary party as a militant cell, it is certainly not "communist" in Lenin's understanding, and in some areas its left-wing orientation is hardly recognizable. When you consider that today's Russia is often stereotyped as the rebirth of the USSR, it is remarkable how little its "neo-Soviet" resurgence owes to Marxism-Leninism as an ideology or even to the strength of the KPRF as a party. Incidentally, the KPRF is by no means the "most extreme" political actor in Russia today.
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