In a world full of ideas there are those who come up with some truly awful ideas and therefore are destined to forever be considered null and void. Then there are those who come up with awful ideas, but for whatever reason are still romanticized. Karl Marx is one of the latter and, given that last week would have been his 200th birthday, there were fawning tributes to Marx throughout the world. From the New York Times to a statue in Germany (Yes, Germany where the eastern part of the country lived under the iron boot of the Stasi while being trapped behind the Berlin Wall for decades) that was unveiled in his honor, admiration for the man who inspired some of history’s worst tyrants flowed in from everywhere.
But, Marx’s disciples cry, “Those were not truly Marxist countries, don’t you know that Marxism and Communism have never been implemented correctly?” Maybe if Marx’s ideas have never been implemented properly that might say something about Marx’s ideas.
Considering that the whole model of communist government from 1917 to present day has been called Marxism-Leninism, it does not hold much weight. It is not a new argument, it has actually been around for decades. After Stalin died, Nikita Khrushchev confessed to the crimes committed in Stalinist Russia, but the line from Khrushchev that has been regurgitated by Soviet apologists ever since was that Vladimir Lenin had actually left the country in a pretty good place, Stalin just messed it up and thus real Marxism has never been tried.
Lenin for his part expanded on Marx’s writings. The reason why it is called Marxism-Leninism is because Lenin realized that once the revolution in Russia succeed in overthrowing the Russian Provisional Government, the state did not just “wither way.” Put another way, the revolution only came to Russia, not the whole world, and therefore Lenin and the Bolsheviks had to figure out how to run a country. Marx’s pseudo-scientific view of history was proven to be just that: pseudo-scientific.
When Lenin and his merry band of henchmen finally did get around to running the country, they went on a French Revolution-like killing spree. Anyone who was considered a threat to the revolution was to be eliminated. If you were a member of the wrong economic or social class, you were executed. If you insisted on continuing to worship God, you were executed because Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the masses. Marxism reduces people not to individuals created in the image of God but to economic units whose identity is solely in their economic status. The poor and working class are good, everyone else is the enemy, for they are oppressing the before mentioned groups of people. All Lenin did was follow through on Marxist ideology.
Lenin, the man who supposedly despised all things imperialist, invaded Poland in 1919 for the purpose of spreading Bolshevism and Marx’s world revolution. Lenin was just the beginning. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Castro’s, the Kim’s, and so many others are descendants of this Marxist-Leninist tradition.
As for the Vanguard of the Proletariat and Nomenklatura, they could be excused by saying they were facilitating the revolution into its final stage and that therefore Marx’s scientific view of history would eventually be proved correct. Of course, reality was very different. They remained entrenched in their positions of power, enjoyed privileges that ordinary people did not, enslaved hundreds of millions, murdered tens of millions, and squashed any threat that challenged their iron grip on power.
The Romanian-American political scientist, Vladimir Tismaneanu, argues in his book, The Devil in History, that communism and fascism should be seen as equally evil. The very last paragraph of his book reads:
“Tens of millions of dead, the memory of barbed wire and gas chambers, and a sense of unbearable tragedy are the main legacies left by the reckless ideological pledges of the twentieth century to build the City of God here and now.”
Hitler and Mussolini were the leaders and brains of Nazism and Italian Fascism, respectively. Today they are rightfully considered to be among history’s greatest villains. It is time for Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, and the great inspiration for communist dictators everywhere, to be looked at the exact same way.