This Tuesday marked the 500th anniversary of one of the most important events in the history of Western civilization. Next Tuesday, however, will mark an event that ranks among the most disastrous in world history. On November 7, 1917, the Russian Provisional Government fell, enabling Vladimir Lenin and letting the Bolsheviks take power in Russia.
Viewing History Through Rose-Colored Glasses
One hundred years later, the Soviet Union is gone. However, communism still persists.
Unfortunately, so do the puff pieces written on tyrannies that emerge wherever communism spread. The New York Times alone has published pieces praising Vladimir Lenin as a conservationist, East Germany as a sexual paradise, and Mao’s China as a place of women’s advancement.
The 1917 Bolshevik raise to power was particularly extreme. Lenin saw to it that “enemies of the people” were brutally executed in the name of advancing his idea of worker’s paradise. His policies of “war communism” helped facilitate a famine that killed roughly five million people through the forceful redistribution of grain. Simply put, he was a man who put no value on human life.
When Joseph Stalin died in 1953, many people were familiar with Nikita Khrushchev’s speech in which he denounced Stalinist rule. Stalin was a man responsible for the deaths of 20 million people, including through his own state-induced famine. The resulting starvation has been recognized by 25 countries as an act of genocide. Stalin also sent millions of political prisoners to the gulags to engage in slave labor.
Many people, however, are unaware that Khrushchev believed Stalin had betrayed Lenin’s Utopian vision. As one can see, however, Lenin was just as much a tyrant as Stalin.
Communism’s Real-World Impact
After World War II communism spread near and wide, but the result was the same everywhere it went. It failed to produce heaven on earth, and led to some of the worst tyrannies the world has ever seen. They are responsible for the deaths of 94 million people, and created immense economic misery.
It was inevitable that communist governments would end up tyrannical. Marx wrote of a classless utopia, and it is hard to have a classless utopia in world that contains people of varying income levels. Communist policies could not elevate poorer people, so they had to tear other people down to the lowest common denominator. In Lenin’s Russia, being of the wrong economic class could get you a bullet in the back of your head.
Marx and Lenin’s hatred of religion, and the desire to pursue this secular religion of a classless society, inevitably led to dictatorship. Remaining faithful to, and continuing to follow, God meant you were not being faithful to the Communist Party. Therefore, communism led to the silencing of religion.
The drive to install utopia led communist rulers to grant themselves godlike powers, and some developed cults of personality. Communism became the equivalent of a state religion. Anybody who did not adhere to the Party line, or didn’t worship the personality cult, was a heretic and a blasphemer.
Preserving Freedom In The Present
Communist societies stripped individuals of all that made them individuals. They existed to do whatever the powers that be told them to do. Factory workers were assembling, disassembling, and then reassembling tractors to meet quota standards. Meanwhile, the nomenklatura, who purported to rule on the behalf of the masses, lived separate lives and received special privileges, such as the ability to shop at better stores.
The gulags, purges, and famines of the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward of Mao’s China, the Stasi and Berlin Wall of East Germany, the Kim Dynasty of North Korea, Fidel and Raul Castro of Cuba, and so many others. These terrible events remind us of a century of brutal oppression waged in the name of heaven on earth.
There are some who will insist, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that communism did and can work. They will swear that it made society more equal.
For, the rest of us, we must ensure that those voices remain on the fringe. We must not let those who would destroy freedom and individual liberty in the name of a false religion enslave any more people than they already have.