On July 17, 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a joint resolution of Congress that declared the third week of July to be Captive Nations Week. The resolution condemns “the enslavement of a substantial portion of the world’s population by Communist imperialism.” Captive Nations Week was meant to remind America of its unique heritage, “in large part attributable to its having been able, through the democratic process, to achieve a harmonious national unity of its people.” Our uniquely free and tolerant society impels us to sympathize with “the desire for liberty and independence by the overwhelming majority of the people” enslaved by totalitarianism.
For nearly 30 years, Americans upheld the noblest wishes of President Eisenhower, and embraced the captive nations of the earth in deed and in spirit. Since 1959, millions of political and religious refugees have fled communist countries for America’s free shores. America’s commitment to aiding victims of communism was not just empty rhetoric. The US government, along with a host of religious, secular, national, and local non-governmental groups, have helped liberate the captive nations of communism by giving them a home in America. And when we couldn’t bring the refugees to America, we pressed for their liberation overseas. The people of Eastern Europe would not be free today if their American allies had not emboldened America’s congressmen, senators, and presidents to stand strong against communism’s evil empire.
Despite our best efforts and intentions, America has not been as successful at eradicating communism as President Eisenhower had hoped. In the 21st Century, more people live under communism than at any point in history. While most of Eastern Europe is free of communism, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea still have communist regimes that continue to rob a combined 1.5 billion people of their human rights and liberties. Beyond the borders of communism, the populations of Russia, Belarus, and Crimea continue to suffer under collectivist and statist regimes that resemble communism as nearly as makes no difference.
It is alarming that, in 2016, the population of captive nations continues to grow while America’s interest in Captive Nations Week seems to shrink. President Obama’s Captive Nations Presidential Proclamation in 2015 rightly called “upon the people of the United States to reaffirm our deep ties to all governments and people committed to freedom, dignity, and opportunity for all.” However, 2015’s Presidential Proclamation omitted the word “communism” entirely, and in so doing, failed to recognize the nature of the evil against which President Eisenhower aimed Captive Nations Week.
Looking ahead to Captive Nations Week 2016, communism might seem like a 20th Century anachronism–the ideology of the losing side in the Cold War. That is why VOC presents five facts you may not have known about 21st century communism. It is up to us, who have the privilege and freedom to do so, to push our elected officials to honor President Eisenhower’s desire for a continued fight against communism until “such time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the earth.”
Fact 1. Communist regimes hunt and kill ethnic minorities
In Laos, the few remaining Hmong people must move their camps every few weeks through the jungles of Laos in order to avoid capture and torture at the hands of communists. In 1975, most members of the Hmong nation escaped communism in Southeast Asia by coming to America. The Hmong community in America sets the backdrop for Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film, Gran Torino. Members of the Hmong nation who were not able to escape face daily persecution in Laos.
The Dalai Lama champions Tibet’s independence and reminds Americans that Chinese communists conquered an independent nation and murdered over one million Tibetans. But who, in the 21st century, will champion the Uyghur nation, a Muslim Turkic minority in China? In 2016, China continues to ban their religious practices and persecutes them for their ethnicity.
Fact 2. Socialism’s powerful get richer; poor still poor.
In the 20th Century, the poverty of people in the Soviet Union largely shattered the myth that socialism leads to economic improvements for the working class. In the 21st Century, “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has similarly made the rich richer and left the poor in destitution.
In China, Vietnam,and Laos, where government-dominated markets have enticed many western investors, the socialist governments do very little to actually improve the condition of the working class. China’s GDP per capita consistently ranks between 80th and 90th in the world, while it continues to have the second largest amount of billionaires behind the United States. It is important to further note that most “billionaire” counts do not factor in members of the Chinese government who profit from China’s state-owned enterprises. Furthermore, Chinese labor camps–where political and religious prisoners are forced into slavery–remain very much operational into the 21st century. It turns out that Socialist China is actually the biggest exploiter of the working class in the history of humanity.
Fact 3. Women are unequal under socialism.
In socialist countries, where individual choice is illegal and human beings must serve the government, women are treated like birthing machines. When China wanted to limit its population, the Communist Party prohibited women from choosing to have more than one child. Even though China’s one child limit has recently expanded to a two child limit, women still have no right to choose how many children they have. There are currently at least 13 million abortions carried out per year in China, and many of them were involuntary. The US State Department found “a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite the lifting of one-child-per-family restrictions, in some cases resulted in forced abortion (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy).”
Inside China, the government silences women who stand up for feminism and women’s rights. “The abrupt closure of a flagship legal service for women in Beijing set up by the renowned lawyer Guo Jianmei has sent shockwaves among women’s activists,” including Hillary Clinton, who tweeted that she “Stands with Guo.” If you truly stand with Guo, then you must stand against the socialist authorities that closed her women’s support center.
Fact 4. Socialist states arrest and imprison political prisoners in 2016
A political prisoner is someone who is arrested for speaking out against the socialist government–a right which we take for granted in free countries. It is difficult to forget that Stalin killed millions of people for dissenting against socialism. But here are the shocking current numbers that you may not know: there are 51 political prisoners in Cuba. There are between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners in North Korean labor camps. As of 2015, “there are considerably more than 1,327 cases of current political and religious imprisonment in China.” There are at least 6,730 cases of “prisoners who are known or believed to have been released, or executed, who died while imprisoned or soon after release, or who escaped” in China. Even Vietnam, where the US has just agreed to sell weapons, arrests political dissidents at gunpoint.
Fact 5. Communist countries devastate their natural environments.
In 2007, China became the “world’s largest source of carbon emissions, and the air quality of many of its major cities [still] fails to meet international health standards.” While China has made public efforts to cut through the thick toxic smog that blankets Beijing, it has actually been exporting its pollution to other countries–sweeping its mess under the rug instead of cleaning it up. Like the Soviet communists who tried to export their violent revolutions, “China will address its domestic industrial pollution by relocating some of its highest polluting facilities such as steel, cement, and tanneries to places like Africa.” China’s pursuit of industry and production above all else literally poisons Chinese people, and will prove toxic for the rest of the world.