Social Philosophy and Policy


James W.  Ceaser  a1
a1 Politics, University of Virginia

“The idol of communism, which spread social strife, enmity and unparalleled brutality everywhere, which instilled fear in humanity, has collapsed.” These words, spoken by Russian president Boris Yeltsin before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in 1992, brought a tumultuous response from America's political leaders. The evocation of the theme of idolatry by a former member of the Communist Party was striking, all the more so because it must have called to his listeners' minds the dramatic scenes of the destruction of the statues of Lenin then taking place throughout the Communist world. Nothing of the kind had been seen since the end of the Pagan era, when temples of the old gods were toppled throughout the Roman Empire. The events that historian Edward Gibbon, in his classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, described as happening in Alexandria in A.D. 389 might just as well have applied to what was happening in Minsk or Tirana: “The huge idol [of Serapis] was overthrown and broken into pieces, [its] limbs ignominiously pulled through the streets.