The odds against this happening seem very long indeed. It is true that the old capitalist dogma that Communism was irreversible except by revolution from below or intervention from without was belied by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, but his attempt to create democratic socialism failed and the nation he governed disintegrated. The centralized economy was discarded not because it had been transcended, but because it had failed. Once power is concentrated in the hands of a certain class of people–whether bureaucrats or apparatchiks–they do not willingly let it go. Even the most idealistic rulers–perhaps especially the most idealistic rulers–are easily deceived into thinking that they speak for the people or at least govern for the people’s good. The sort of debate necessary for the emergence of a functioning democracy is almost always viewed by the leaders as a form of treason and quickly stifled.

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