1956-76 Trial and Failure of Political Marxism
Although it is hard to find a date upon which to hang the end of a major world political system, political Marxism began to wither in the West after 1956-61. On February 25, 1956, Nikita Kruschev, then Premier of the Soviet Union, delivered a secret speech to a closed session of the Communist Party meeting in which he disclosed the excesses of Josef Stalin's reign. He called the government of the period a "cult of personality" which cost the lives of millions of people killed by execution or starved due to faulty government programs. Anglo-European spy agencies rapidly acquired a copy of the speech and, by June of that year, the CIA had leaked the text to The New York Times, confirming rumors that had circulated before and during the war years.
Repercussions from the speech's revelations continued to erode people's faith in Marxist principles as a means of organizing governments, and Soviet satellite nations like Czechoslovakia and Hungary and Poland experimented with brief rebellions which were put down only by military force. China's communist system was, itself, beginning to collapse as its agriculture-based economy faltered under command-driven policies. Mao Zedong (subject of another "cult of personality") fought the collapse of public confidence in the party by introducing the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76), a national campaign which mobilized teenagers and young adults in an anti-modern, anti-bourgeois, anti-intellectual witch-hunt which nearly destroyed the intellectual and economic structure of the nation.
Between 1987 and 1991, the Soviet Union gradually collapsed, from internal economic disorder, and from external failures of its political doctrine and military power to rein in its client state. The Chinese system, observing with alarm its Communist neighbor's dissolution, began "modernization" by incorporating capitalist strategies in 2003 (private property rights, rural and urban growth policies, etc.). China still maintains a political-military stance which seems little changed from the post-1949 expansionist era. Nevertheless, nobody would mistake its current participation in the global capitalist marketplace for the old Communist system of the 1950s. Markets, not commissars, dictate production, products, and prices.