Growing up in south London I didn’t know much about Communism. It was generally seen as a bad thing. Older people with a bit more experience of life than me told me stories of the Soviet bread queues and Pravda, the official news agency and the like.
Back then it was clear to me that the Soviet Union was an authoritarian regime, but it wasn’t dramatically emphasized in the same way that the evils of Nazi Germany were. I always thought that curious, I still do. The Nazis were the bad guys. As boys playing at soldiers with make-believe rifles (usually broken tree branches) the baddies were always Nazi, you never went to battle with the Commies.
As I grew up and during the Brezhnev era, the Soviets were more sinister than evil, a silent malevolent force nobody knew much about. Then came Mikhael Gorbachev and they also seemed to be turning a new leaf.
The Communist bloc fell in the early 1990s under Glasnost and Perestroika, but I did have other encounters with the ideology. One of my friends was an avowed Communist. A hsrdline Marxist. Forever saying that if the Cuba regime would be implemented globally we would havre a perfect world! But I didn’t give it much thought. In the 1990s Communism had no future, so his ideological passion struck me as just that,a harmless affectation.
I later understood the true impact of Communist ideology, especially earlier in the 20th century. The poverty, the food shortages, the power outages, the gulags, the police state with the dreaded knock on the door in the dead of night. The one’s that had been brushed under the carpet. Stalin’s and Mao’s political purges, and the tens of millions who died in famines. The death toll under Communist regimes is of incredible magnitude, when compared to other mass killings.
Joseph Stalin is reputed to have been the one who said “the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.”
And yet whenever I attack Communism for being an evil ideology I get a number of counterclaims and ‘whatabouteries’.
One argument I often get is that they meant well. This is in contrast to the National Socialists in Germany. The proletariat was going to overturn the old order. Not only were they going to be dispossessed, but they were often targeted and killed. They were class enemies, and it was clear early on that revolutionary Marxists were not going to be gentle with those class enemies. They would liquidate them. (In my mind surely that makes the Marxists as bad as the Nazi’s they rail against!)
Today we face a new dilemma. The egalitarian society of mass affluence seems to be fading away, as a new era of inequality and misery is facing us. At least in the west.
There is no easy solution on the horizon. And, to be frank, those on the centre-right are correct in suggesting the old elite are involved extensively in crony capitalism, they enforce policies which are self-serving.If it is not the old elite, it is the powerbase in Brussels. The EU is just a new brand on an old tin.
Into this vacuum are stepping firebrands on the hard left. The soft left seeming to have vanished, or perhaps morphed into the Conservative Party? Also on the left, the media are taking a “fresh look” at Marxism. Except they rebrand it Cultural Marxism, as since the Winter Of Discontent in UK (just before the Gorbchev era I mentioned above), Economic Marxism was shown wanting and wholeheartedly rejected. Thatcher got in and stayed in for 10 years).I can understand the impatience, but this experiment has been done, disastrously, multiple times. There is no way any state, major or otherwise, should risk this sort of socialism.
I know of people who call themselves “Anarchist Communists,” but in practice, they praise states like Venezuela, who are not a very good example at the moment. Girls are having to sell their hair to wigmakers to buy food! Is that really a goal for a country to aspire to?
Alarmingly, and despite the record of Communism, the Uni fraternity, lecturers in particular, seem to have a warm spot for the Marxists. They “meant well.”. Obviously, there are no Nazi professors. And yet Communism is given a latitude, despite its 100 million body count!
This point was also made recently by the journalist and presenter Andrew Neil when he said the left gets a “much easier pass than the right’ at a recent speech at the Holocaust Educational Trust. The left gets away with, and is allowed to get away with, much more.
The body count issue is interesting because apologists for Communism regularly suggest that these numbers may be exaggerated. This is like saying the Nazi regime has been slandered, because they killed 2 million, as opposed to 6 million. Quibbling over numbers in a passionate manner like this is the domain of Holocaust deniers, and yet with Communism, it seems ok to do.
If Communists had their hearts in the right places, what did they end up accomplishing? Look at Romania, totalitarian USSR, East Germany with its Staxsi? Aand of course now there is Cuba and Venezuela. A country with massive oil reserves that ought to be on a par with middle eastern OPEC countries but is instead reduced to selling hair to buy food.
And yet here we are when many, including Corbyn’s Labour with its Momentum troops, boast their sympathies with Communism and Communist regimes of old. This is a failed experiment that must never be repeated or we may be revisiting a dark corner of history.
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