This year marks the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution which led to the creation of the USSR, the first state to adopt the theory that would later be called Marxism.Marx had prophesised that capitalist states were going to end up in the ‘dustbin of history.’ Ironically, it was the communist and not the capitalist states that ended up in the dustbin. Marx, the most famous resident of London’s High gate cemetery, must be turning in his grave.Communist Eastern Europe began to collapse after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. By the summer of 1990 it was governed by democratically-elected governments. In 1991, the USSR followed suit with a spectacular collapse.The People’s Republic of China, founded by Mao Zedong in 1949, embraced market-based socialism in 1978 under Deng Xiao Ping, who had been dubbed ‘a capitalist roader’ during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.The Khmer Rouge, which sought to proselytise Maoist thought into Cambodia, was deposed in 1979, just four years after they had seized power.Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Islamic Socialism,’ launched to much public acclaim in 1972 fizzled out in five years. His ill-conceived and poorly executed program of nationalisation devastated the economy; his Federal Security Force crippled individual freedoms; and his abrasive personality irked many.Marx argued that the inexorable logic of history would ensure that private property would be replaced by collective property, capitalistic markets with state planning, and parliaments with peoples’ power. But he failed to provide any details on how a communist state should functionThis was a steep climb downward for Marxism, which had had a very promising beginning. In 1848, Marx had expounded his vision in a pithy tract co-written with Friedrich Engels; in 186, he had built on them further in Das Kapital. Marx had argued that class struggle was the motor force of history. Just as surely as feudalism had given way to capitalism, so would capitalism give way to socialism, which would give way to communism.The Communist Manifesto made a clarion call: “Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.” It envisaged a revolution in which the masses would break their shackles and run their own state.Abenign dictatorship of the proletariat would take the place of bourgeois democracy. In 1875, Marx wrote that once a communist society was established, it would ultimately reach a state of bliss where each citizen would “pay according to his ability and be provided according to his needs.”Ultimately, wrote Engels, the state would ‘wither away’ since society would be able to govern itself without any coercive social institutions. Paradoxically, once the Marxian utopia was realised, there would be no state.Marx argued that the inexorable logic of history would ensure that private property would be replaced by collective property, capitalistic markets with state planning, and parliaments with peoples’ power. But he failed to provide any details on how a communist state should function.That challenge was taken up by his disciples. They argued that some concessions to individual freedom would have to be made to achieve the Marxian ideals.Thus a secret police were created to track renegades and to weed out capitalist thought. Many people picked up by the dreaded Cheka would be shot dead or sent to the gulag in Stalin’s USSR. The program, called Red Terror, had a bone-chilling agenda: “We will turn our hearts into steel, which we will temper in the fire of suffering and the blood of fighters for freedom. We will make our hearts cruel, hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them … Without mercy, … we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands; let them drown themselves in their own blood…. let there be floods of the blood of the bourgeois.”In a similar vein, China’s ubiquitous Red Guards would collect intellectuals and city dwellers suspected of renegade thought and send them to work on collective farms where many would die.Alas Comrade Lenin, whose collected works ran into 45 volumes, would prove to be the first of several false messiahs of Marxism.Joseph Stalin who succeeded him was a man driven by a sense of personal destiny, writes Stephen Kotkin in his new biography. Stalin believed the peasantry had to be collectivised in order to smash through the class system. During his rule, 7 million people died from starvation or disease and 100 million were enslaved. The Times commented: “None of the tsars, for all their despotic ambitions, had remade their world so completely.”Mao, the ‘Great Helmsman,’ popularised his ideas through his Selected Works and the Red Book. Proclaiming that the East was red, he put China through a ‘Great Leap Forward.’ Sadly, it caused a great famine which led to one of the deadliest incidents of mass starvation in human history.Pol Pot, who headed the Khmer Rouge, seized power after the US withdrawal from Vietnam, intending to create an agrarian utopia along Maoist lines. He began by sealing off Cambodia from the outside world. Two million urban dwellers were forcibly evacuated, evacuated on foot to the countryside at gunpoint, and forced into slave labor. Hundreds of thousands perished along the way.Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘Islamic Socialism,’ launched to much public acclaim in 1972 fizzled out in five years. His ill-conceived and poorly executed programme of nationalisation devastated the economy; his Federal Security Force crippled individual freedoms; and his abrasive personality irked manyThey worked in the fields from 4 in the morning to 10 at night, with a few short breaks. Any who slackened off were shot dead. Muslims were forced to eat pork and shot if they refused. Up to 2 million died in the killing fields. In detention center S-21 only seven of the 20,000 prisoners survived. Pol Pot fell from power in 1979.Worldwide, communism resulted in the deaths of more than 65 million people, bringing grief and woe to their survivors. Among the living, no one could lead a normal life. The East German film, The Lives of Others, put the spotlight on how the Stasi continuously monitored the lives of ordinary people.Marx’s premise that class struggle was a fundamental driver of history proved to be false, as did his assertion that capitalism would be undone by its fundamental contradictions. His practitioners turned out to be selfish and cruel dictators who delighted in the mass murder of their own people. They ruined their economies and created a new class of wealthy people.The Economist magazine wrote a perfect obituary to Marxism when it said that while Marx may have been right on a few things, “(O)n everything that mattered most to Marx himself, he was wrong. The real power he claimed for his system was predictive, and his main predictions are hopeless failures.” Marxism was a secular religion, “a creed complete with prophet, sacred texts and the promise of a heaven shrouded in mystery. Marx was not a scientist, as he claimed. He founded a faith. The economic and political systems he inspired are dead … but his religion … lives on.”As it is with any religion, facts don’t matter to its adherents. Marxism promised economic and political freedom to the masses. It stirred emotions, which were whipped up into frenzy by the demagogues that governed the communist states. In the name of the people, these narcissists executed mayhem and mass murder, traumatising the lives of hundreds of millions. But it was only when Marxism failed to deliver on economic progress that it was swept into the dustbin of history, one of many false dawns.The writer is an economist, he has studied Marx, Lenin and Mao at the University of Karachi. Ahmadfaruqui@gmail.comPublished in Daily Times, November 15th 2017.