RATERO: Communism can provide human emancipation
Opinions Column: Mangoes and Revolution
Cyclical economic crises, political tension in different parts of the world and upcoming elections seem to have people debating politics more than usual. This is a good thing. However, we have the responsibility to think critically and not simply repeat the unsubstantiated propaganda pumped at us by the rulers of the capitalist and imperialist class. Perhaps it’s this very propaganda that makes people, even those aware of the horrors of capitalism, resist change.
Two clarifications before I continue.
First, I would like to challenge everyone who has a gut reaction against communism to take a step back and think about why that might be. People in this country grow up pledging allegiance to the flag in school, singing the national anthem at sports games and being spoon-fed a white-washed, U.S.-centric version of history. This history, among other things, glorifies the slave-owning, misogynist Founding Fathers, erases the complex history and current struggles of native peoples and makes no mention of the role of the United States in backing fascist dictators all around the world throughout the 20th century — including Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Papa Doc in Haiti, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and dozens more.
This United States of America is also a country that surveils its own population, continues systems of torture and mass incarceration while defunding education, aids Israel with generous military funds (thank you President Obama for increasing these funds) and lies to its people (the War in Iraq and the supposed "Weapons of Mass Destruction" the latest, most salient example).
Why would it be that the United States, a current world empire, might be interested in promoting slander and lies against a different political system? Is it possible that maintaining capitalist imperialism might be to the benefit of the ruling class, the same class running the country, with possession of the means of production and propaganda?
Second, please do not make the mistake of believing that this is the first time I hear arguments about the Soviet Union or China, their high body count or their restrictive policies that stripped away personal liberties. These are the same recycled arguments that everybody makes. But it’s important to ask critical questions about history before spouting “facts” that really don't correspond to the historical record.
Let’s observe the numbers brought forward of the Soviet Union and China. First of all, these arguments completely ignore the historical context at the time and the vast amounts of violence inflicted on people in this country and in the rest of the world every single day. They also ignore the reasons behind and the framework of these revolutions.
Before the 1917 revolution, czarist Russia was a vicious autocracy with a vast network of police, jails and surveillance. Non-Russian nationalities suffered vicious discrimination (minority languages and cultures were suppressed), superstition and religion exerted a tight grip over daily life, men had legal authority over women, etc.
When the revolution came to power, men were stripped of that authority over women. The Soviet Union became the first country in Europe to legalize abortion. At a time when black people in the U.S. were being lynched, the Soviet Union was establishing the world’s first multinational state based on equality, combating the persecution of Jews and granting minority nationalities the right to instruction in their native languages in schools and universities.
Pre-revolutionary China was a society of crushing oppression and poverty. The Maoist revolution saved tens of millions of lives. Life expectancy more than doubled, from 32 years in 1949 when the revolution came to power, to 65 in 1976. Literacy grew from 15 percent to 80 percent. The slogan (and the ideal) “women hold up half the sky” was popularized. By shifting the means of production, opium addiction — a huge issue — drastically decreased. The Black Panthers actually popularized Mao’s Red Book and took up a lot of this developing communist ideology coming out of China.
Often, anti-communist Western scholars use the methodology that if someone died, then it was Mao’s doing. They didn’t just die — Mao “killed” them. Thus Mao “killed” people because he was an unforgiving tyrant. This would be like arguing that 600,000 people died during the U.S. Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was president, therefore Lincoln was a senseless murderer … without mentioning the underlying causes of this conflict, the aims of the opposing sides, and the fact that 4 million slaves were freed as a result of the Civil War.
Russia and China were both socialist societies — societies in transition from capitalism into communism, but both were overthrown — and capitalism was restored before they achieved this. They didn't fail, but they were defeated.
Today, there are no communist countries in the world.
But as Sunsara Taylor and Carl Dix raised when they spoke at Rutgers on April 18, Bob Avakian, leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has deeply studied these revolutions, built on their achievements and ruptured with their shortcomings and errors to form a new synthesis of communism. In other words, he's brought forward a new framework for human emancipation. Find out the real history of communist revolutions at the website, ThisIsCommunism.org, and learn what Bob Avakian is envisioning for the future at www.RevCom.us.
Becky Ratero is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women's and gender studies and history. Her column, "Mangoes and Revolution," normally runs on alternate Thursdays.
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