Neither such principled hostility to Soviet communism nor such open exultation at its downfall could be voiced by socialists and social democrats. However arbitrary the exercise of power, gruesome the repression, inefficient the economy and stultifying the bureaucracy, there was no denying that the USSR had achieved at least one of the conditions defining a socialist society: the absence of capitalism. The collapse of the system had not only removed the ‘deformations’ of socialism, but even this one defining feature. Nor could social democrats rejoice at the collapse of the centrally planned economy, because it did not usher in a social-democratic alternative. On the contrary, the ‘market’ turned out to be more uncritically worshipped in what was once ‘the Motherland of Socialism’ than it had ever been in the West.
It is in the interplay of this twin-faceted phenomenon - an anti-establishment culture with an elitist and avant-garde profile, resting on popular foundations - that the student movement developed. It should not be thought, however, that student activism ever ‘dominated’ the universities, or that student activists were ever in the majority, or that Marxism become the uncontested ideology of the student movement. The single most important strand of the activists’ ideology was a strong anti-authoritarianism. This was accompanied by a dislike of rules and bureaucracy, a suspicion of representative and delegated authority, and a strong sympathy for the oppressed, especially those oppressed by racial discrimination. Apart from such description enunciations, it is difficult to provide an adequate analysis of the phenomenon of student and youth protest.