When the right-wing talk about the West's victory over communism, they usually credit the victory to those three great heroes of the right in the 1980's - Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. Yesterday, the man who was actually responsible for the collapse of communism died; Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007).
The West loved to portray him as a mad Russian drunk, but the reality is he defeated communism when the West did not have a clue where to start. How did Ronald Reagan defeat communism? By bullying governments of small islands in his own backyard who had the audacity to look after the poor? Did Thatcher bring down communism by defeating Arthur Scargill? Did Pope John Paul's repression of liberation theology strike fear into the hearts of Marxists across the world? More likely, it depressed us Catholics who see support for it in nearly every book in the Bible, and perhaps moved some into the arms of the atheist leftists.
Boris Yeltsin famously stood on a tank to defy a coup by communists trying to overthrow another man who was pivotal in overthrowing communism, Mikhail Gorbachev. Unlike Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II there was a real chance he could have paid with his life. He could have looked the other way. He didn't, and as a result millions of people are freer than they used to be.
The West never defeated communism. Just like the Chinese adopting privatisation, in Russia it was an inside job.