COMMENTARY: Be wary of calls for communist revolutions
Recently, Ms. Becky Ratero supplied the Targum with a fascinating intellectual exercise on the possibility of replacing global capitalism with communism. According to Ms. Ratero, the horrors of capitalism cannot be expunged intrinsically. A revolution — a complete, and total revolution — is required. Why? From Ms. Ratero herself: “The horrors of this system include the destruction and plunder of the environment, from drilling in the Arctic to deforestation in the Amazon, a pharmaceutical industry that only cares about profit, the mass production of consumer goods through sweatshop labor around the world, drone warfare that's directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and the list goes on.”
To deny that capitalism has been responsible for these things would be intellectually dishonest. However, Ms. Ratero is quite naive to believe that a communist system would make things better. In her article, she discusses how communism is scientific in its approach of ordering society based upon an empirical understanding of human history. So, let us then use empirical evidence to disprove the claim that a communist revolution would make everything right that is wrong.
One only has to look to the former Soviet Union for a myriad of case studies on how a communist revolution can, and always will, go wrong. Drawing upon the intellectual foundations set forth by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx — Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin (the big three of the 1917 Revolution, as it were) promised Russians (and Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc.) that the new Russian society would be classless: every man and woman would be equal in political, economic and social terms. There would be no rich, and there would be no poor: wealth (at that time Russia was predominantly agrarian so wealth was land ownership) would be redistributed to the masses evenly. A utopian society where workers would govern themselves, with the ruling class, and would replace the oppression of the Czars.
But what happened? Well, for starters, the Soviet economic system gave preference to ethnic Slavs, meaning Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks and other non-Russians were effectively second-class citizens (remember, according to Ms. Ratero, only capitalism can foster such discrimination). When the Soviet government moved to redistribute land by collectivizing farms, in tandem with implementing production quotas and price controls, Soviet agriculture production fell by roughly half of its pre-collectivization total. Not to be outdone, Stalin (who consolidated his power following Lenin’s death in 1924) blamed the peasants for the catastrophe. Roughly 5 million people starved to death and Russian farmers were sent to the GULAGs, never to return. Historians present the figure of 12 million dead, due to mass starvation, as the agreed-upon estimate of casualties due to the new Communist means of production. Remember, according to Ms. Ratero’s article, only capitalism is responsible for such suffering and death.
Let us not forget the so-called “Great Purge” from 1934 to 1939. Under the guise of “protecting the working-class,” the NKVD (Stalin’s secret police) rounded up and summarily executed millions of Soviet citizens. These were lawyers, intellectuals, farmers, military officers, men, women and in the most drastic cases, children, who were suspected of undermining the rule of “Comrade Stalin,” and thus death was handed out very liberally.
It is not only the former Soviet Union that is responsible for such barbarism in the name of the global communist revolution. Cambodia, for example, is another clear example of genocide in the name of progress. Once the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, they modeled themselves after Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward program, highlighted by the forced evacuation of cities and enslavement of the Cambodian people into massive rural work projects. Two million deaths is the generally accepted figure in this case. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minorities: Vietnamese Cambodians numbered 300,000 before 1975 and were murdered down to 56,000 by 1984. Cham Muslims (a Malayo-Polynesian ethnic group) were killed to the point where only half of their population remained by 1984.
In China, Mao Zedong led the “freed proletariat” in their Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961. Modeling after the failed Soviet experiment with a truly communist means of production, the only result was the Great Chinese Famine. Chinese figures have the death totals at approximately 45 million due to the mass starvation that occurred as a result of the Community Party’s systematic mismanagement of the agrarian economy.
It appears that a communist revolution in the United States is the last thing that we need. Following the Marxist ideological thought pattern, let us say that World War II was the culmination of the oppression and violence of capitalism. Thus, capitalism at its worse, killed 16 million less people than a single Communist economic program in China.
Be careful what you wish for, Ms. Ratero. You might be displeased with the results.
Steven Wynen is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history, political science and Middle Eastern studies.
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