The sharp contrast that Alexis de Tocqueville drew in 1835 between the United States and Russia — “the principle of the former is freedom; of the latter, servitude” — became even sharper after 1917, when the Russian Empire was transformed into the Soviet Union.
Like the United States, the Soviet Union is a nation founded on a distinct ideology. In the case of America, the ideology was fundamentally Lockean liberalism; its best expressions are the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. The Ninth Amendment, in particular, breathes the spirit of the world‐view of late‐eighteenth‐century America. The Founders believed that there exist natural, individual rights that, taken together, constitute a sort of moral framework. Translated into law, this framework defines the social space within which men voluntarily interact; it allows for the spontaneous coordination and ongoing mutual adjustment of the various plans that the members of society form to guide and fill their lives.
The Soviet Union was founded on a very different ideology, Marxism, as understood and interpreted by V. I. Lenin. Marxism, with its roots in Hegelian philosophy, was a quite conscious revolt against the individual rights doctrine of the previous century. The leaders of the Bolshevik party (which changed its name to Communist in 1918) were virtually all revolutionary intellectuals, in accordance with the strategy set forth by Lenin in his 1902 work What Is to Be Done? They were keen students of the corpus of works of Marx and Engels published in their lifetimes or shortly thereafter and known to the theoreticians of the Second International. The Bolshevik leaders viewed themselves as the executors of the Marxist program, as those whom History has called upon to realize the apocalyptic transition to communist society foretold by the founders of their faith.
The aim they inherited from Marx and Engels was nothing less than the final realization of human freedom and the end of the “prehistory” of the human race. Theirs was the Promethean dream of the rehabilitation of Man and his conquest of his rightful place as master of the world and lord of creation.
Building on the work of Michael Polanyi and Ludwig von Mises, Paul Craig Roberts has demonstrated — in books that deserve to be much better known than they are, since they provide an important key to the history of the twentieth century — the meaning of freedom in Marxism. It lies in the abolition of alienation, i.e., of commodity‐production, production for the market. For Marx and Engels, the market represents not merely the arena of capitalist exploitation but, more fundamentally, a systematic insult to the dignity of Man. Through it, the consequences of Man’s action escape from his control and turn on him in malign ways. Thus, the insight that market processes generate results that were no part of anyone’s intention becomes, for Marxism, the very reason to condemn them. As Marx wrote of the stage of communist society before the total disappearance of scarcity,