Should-Read: Ernest Gellner (1990): The Civil and the Sacred: “The history of the Soviet Union… falls into two main periods: Terror and Squalor…

…Both inside and outside the Communist world, Marxism succeeded in securing a near monopoly of the critique of liberal theory and practice…. Like other faiths, Marxism operated in a circle of ideas, which contained simple but powerful devices for counteracting the effect of any hostile ideas and evidence…. Self-maintaining circles of ideas of this kind are astonishingly effective and robust. The fact that some segments of the circle carry an amazing load of blatant falsehood fails to subvert the circle as a whole, always provided that two conditions are satisfied: that the circle holds firm internally and does not itself deny any of its own elements, and that it also contains important segments which record great insights and have a genuine appeal and which thus provide deep psychic satisfaction for the adherents….

What in fact happened to the Marxist Circle? Twice it was crucially breached from the inside… by Khrushchev… by Gorbachev. The first time… the wound was not all that deep…. The second, Gorbachevian liberalization…. Suddenly it became plain that no one subscribed to the faith anymore…. Under Brezhnev, it quietly ceased to be an Umma: it had entered this period still endowed with faith and left it wholly devoid of it.

Theoretically, it now faces three alternatives: it could return to both authoritarian centralism and to faith and become an Umma once again… it could continue in its faithless way while retaining a centralized… single hierarchy… it can reacquire civil society-in other words, a set of institutions strong enough to check the state, yet not, so to speak, mandatory enough from the viewpoint of individuals to constitute an alternative form of oppression….