Twenty-four hours a day the red banner flies over Kremlin spires. Floodlights and a forced-air system keep it proudly billowing through gloomy nights and windless days. But not much longer. On the last day of this year, the Soviet flag will be lowered and the flag of Russia will rise in its place. The ceremony will mark the end of one more effort to remake human nature.
The Soviet state was supposed to be more than a new form of government; it was an optimistic attempt to create a new human consciousness. Karl Marx thought that only a clutter of privilege and exploitation prevents men and women from achieving their natural freedom and creativity. By removing the conditions thought to deform human nature, the Soviet founders hoped to make people understand that their strength lay in collective action.
The New Soviet Man would work co-operatively, instead of at cross purposes. Material abundance would follow. With material needs satisfied, the reason for crime would disappear. With laborers allowed to keep the fruits of their toil, leisure would expand and culture flourish. Since Marxism was a science, its predictions must be infallible, or so "progressives" said. "Reactionaries" were those who stood in the way of the wheel of history.