This year marks the 100th anniversary of a major shakeup in the modern world—a disruption caused by the actions of the United States and Russia that seemed insignificant at first, but which had dramatic consequences as subsequent events later showed. With some reluctance, our nation ultimately became the major force for good in the world, while Russia convulsed internally and before long threatened the rest of the world without relenting until its collapse seven decades later.
This is a perspective not welcome among many persons in our political and academic leadership, who have for years gotten things exactly backwards. In plain words, according to the Left, the United States, not Russia, has been the world’s villain, and it has made enemies needlessly.
align=”left” No less shocking than the Western intellectuals’ long love affair with Communism during its heyday is their refusal to admit in the years following that they were wrong. The common theme then and now is the belief that communism failed not because it is at war with human nature and is therefore unjust, but because it is betrayed (continually, it turns out) by corrupt or incompetent rulers.
It was America’s entrance into two world wars that largely ended the threat of German and Japanese domination, but this was paralleled by the emergence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which made no secret of its expansive aims.
The czarist regime was overthrown in March 1917, but the democratic government that replaced it fell to a Bolshevik insurrection in October led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Following victory in the subsequent civil war by the Reds over the Whites—meaning everyone in opposition—the centuries-old Russian empire re-emerged more militant than ever under a new banner.
Next to the brutality of that barbaric regime, the worst thing about the Soviet Union was its rosy reviews by Western progressives and massive public ignorance of its horrors. The Black Book of Communism, published in France after the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of its Eastern European satellite countries, made the facts clear. Six authors collaborated over 27 chapters and more than 800 pages to conclude that some 100 million human beings were killed in Communist regimes in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The worst carnage was in China, where a Communist regime was established in 1949 and endures to this day thanks to its leaders’ decision to permit commerce to grow under its watchful eye. There an estimated 60 million people died in recurrent repression and starvation. That’s twice the number who perished in the Soviet Union, operating from a smaller population base but not from any less homicidal impulses.
The Cold War, which defined the relationship between East and West for so many years, was the focus of my political education as a college student in the early 1960s, but not in the classroom. Anti-Communist organizations proliferated to warn citizens about the false promises and the real evils of Communism. Central to Communist doctrine is the claim that private property is the source of most, if not all, of the world’s problems, with the corollary that Western democratic governments were the tools of greedy capitalists.
Fortunately, the West’s free-market prosperity rendered communism unattractive to most people, but intellectuals, unhappy with their status and proud of their theories, continually misled many. From distorting actual events to romanticizing leaders in Communist countries, men and women in academia and journalism undercut American strategy in the Cold War. Instead of victory over Communism, we settled for containment, postponing the day of reckoning until President Ronald Reagan denounced the “evil empire” and put it on the road to ultimate extinction.
No less shocking than the Western intellectuals’ long love affair with Communism during its heyday is their refusal to admit in the years following that they were wrong. The common theme then and now is the belief that communism failed not because it is at war with human nature and is therefore unjust, but because it is betrayed (continually, it turns out) by corrupt or incompetent rulers.
Not so. Communism, because it demands a sweeping revolution in the relationship both between citizens and with their government, necessarily entails the loss of human freedom in a police state. So-called “betrayals” of communism are, in reality, its predictably bitter fruits.
As long as Communist regimes exist, we can never be complacent. China, North Korea, Indochina, Cuba and, more than likely, Venezuela, suffer under totalitarianism that starves people no less than it enslaves them. Regimes that so thoroughly victimize their citizens are ever-present threats to other nations, including ours.
Consider this: Adolph Hitler justifiably has been denounced in our news and entertainment media every year since his defeat in 1945. But Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky, not to mention China’s Mao Tse Tung and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, are invariably spared. Why is that? The simple reason is that Communism gets a pass.
Distinctions between Communists and Nazis are more biological than political as both of their doctrines bring tyranny and loss of freedom. But those whose lenses see poverty where there is plenty, and oppression where there is freedom, invariably get it wrong.