By Naphtali Rivkin:
The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) is not, as some might charitably suspect, an anachronistic vestige of 19th Century pseudo-intellectualism. After all, CPUSA has a twitter account now. Nor is the CPUSA, as some might cynically accuse, a thinly veiled cabal of foreign agents. Modernity has so outpaced the vocabulary of communist societies that it would be difficult to take seriously a North Korean or Cuban agitator. Rather, it seems as if the CPUSA has evolved into a banal and toothless support group for dejected Bernie Sanders supporters, or a vague metaphorical lapel pin for aging hippies and budding freshmen. The rudderless and desperate state of CPUSA could almost make an anti-communist miss Joseph Conrad’s smoke-filled anarchist dens and the Spy vs. Spy stakes of Whittaker Chambers. For in its relative 21st Century ambiguity and irrelevance, the CPUSA actually poses a greater threat to the memory of communism’s victims than ever before.
The CPUSA’s recent instructional video, entitled “What is Marxism?”, is a far cry from the high-gloss propaganda that once seduced American students and government officials into joining the Soviet cause. The roughly five-minute video features the Chair of the Washington State CPUSA, Marc Brodine, narrating over a PowerPoint presentation. In an effort to appeal to youth (one supposes), he rewrites the lyrics to a popular song, and monotonously reads, “it’s all about that class, ‘bout that class, class struggle.” Marc Brodine elaborates on his use of the term “class struggle” in such broad and vague strokes that an uninitiated viewer, like a student searching YouTube for a quick summary of Marxism, might easily come to believe that Marxism drove all the liberal advances of the 20th Century.
“Class struggle is about the labor movements and other worker’s movements,” says Brodine. “Class struggle is about the many racial and gender civil rights movements, the women’s movement, the youth and seniors’ movements, and the environmental, immigrants’ rights, and peace movements.” By using the word “about” in a causal and positive way, Brodine implies that Marxism and communism facilitated all that is good about non-communist societies. A middle-school student who watches CPUSA’s YouTube video, in preparation for an oral presentation on Marxism, might be forgiven for telling his classmates that communism is an ideology of peace, tolerance, and freedom.
Brodine does get one thing right though: “communism is not an abstract dogma.” Communism has been, and by its definition must be, implemented in practice. The practice of ideological Marxism has victimized over 100 million people in the last 100 years. Communism in practice engenders violence, bigotry, and slavery; it generates repression, imprisonment, and murder. That the Communist Party USA has the luxury of implying otherwise is a testament to the freedoms enjoyed by all in liberal societies.
It is left to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to memorialize the 100 million victims of communism worldwide, and to educate people about the atrocities that communist societies continue to commit. To that end, VOC will break down the CPUSA’s message piece by piece, and answer the question, “What is Marxism?”
“The Labor Movement and Other Worker’s Movements.”
In the CPUSA’s official party platform, “The Road to Socialism USA,” it says that it struggles for “wages, hours, benefits, working conditions, job security, and jobs.” The American communists are not wrong to fight for these things. It is a natural capitalist impulse to desire higher wages and benefits with shorter hours, improved working conditions, and increased job security. That is why 21 Century liberal democracies can boast the highest living standards and wages in the history of humanity. Policies about what constitutes a fair wage or how many hours of work a day employers should expect of their employees differ from liberal democracy to liberal democracy. That these debates have and continue to take place within healthy free market societies demonstrates that such societies care about the economic and physical wellbeing of their citizens.
Communism is not, nor has it ever been, a negotiation over minimum wage or labor union rights. The real difference between the free market and communism is in the way each perceives the individual human being. Communism sees human beings as objects acted upon by forces like “history,” “capital,” and “government.” Political and economic liberalism sees human beings as subjects exercising free will, and who thereby drive history, create capital, and choose governments. Communism is an ideology that views and treats human beings as a means, akin to coal or steel or electricity, and thus deny the agency and dignity inherent in each individual.
In every communist society of the last 100 years, the working class has been worse off economically than it has been in the free market societies of the same era. Working class purchasing power, social mobility, economic freedom, and access to necessary services has never been better than it is now in 21st century liberal democracies. This raises the question: why does the CPUSA still exist? If the noblest aims of capitalism serve the working class, then why does the CPUSA continue to advocate for “The Road to Socialism USA?”
Free markets, like the individual human beings that make them up, exist in a constant state of flux. If the market fluctuates dramatically, workers can feel insecure about their jobs and assets, which is when the false security of communism might become attractive. It is a natural impulse to desire a job that can never be taken away. Human beings want security. But communism peddles so-called security in exchange for freedom, at a price so high that it constitutes slavery.
The reality for most workers in communist societies is that while they cannot be fired from their jobs, they cannot quit either. Every communist society has constructed some form of forced labor camps, where millions of people were bound to slavery with complete certainty that they would be “employed” tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Even in communist countries where labor camps no longer exist, the central government controls the economic trajectory of the country. This means that a worker in a communist country does not have the freedom to quit his or her job in pursuit of better opportunities. A worker in a communist country cannot move from one place of employment to another without special permission. A worker in a communist country could be left destitute and jobless if he or she does not comply with the government bosses’ every whim. A worker in a communist country, like any slave, has never known the freedom to worry about job security.
“The Many Racial and Gender Civil Rights Movements.”
Since communism first took hold a 100 years ago, liberal democracies around the world have expanded suffrage to all races and sexes. That this expansion sometimes came at great cost and pain is a shame, but our protracted democratic struggle against racism, sexism, and xenophobia is a testament to the truly free character of liberal democracies. The true mark of a free society is that it will tolerate even people who say the wrong things.
In communist societies, all people are equal because nobody is truly enfranchised, empowered, or tolerated, no matter their gender, race, sex, or belief. In communist countries, there is only one acceptable way to be; only one acceptable way to vote; only one acceptable way to think; and only one acceptable way to speak. The millions and millions of people who dared deviate from the preapproved path of communism were repressed, imprisoned, or murdered by the communist authorities.
In an effort to make everyone “the same,” communism kills people who are different. In many cases, the effort to create a uniform society results in genocidal ethnic cleansing, like the Soviet Union’s murder of Crimean Tatars. Often, the xenophobia endemic to communist empires manifests itself in “cultural genocide.” Such was the case with the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In the case of both China and the Soviet Union, communism was an excuse for an ethnic majority to dominate and persecute ethnic minorities.
“The Women’s Movement.”
A rape epidemic swept through Eastern Europe when communist forces took control after WWII, with government officials sanctioning or evening encouraging the “conquest” of local women by the victorious Russian forces. Under communist control, the state treats women like factories that supply communist society with its population. Depending on the needs of specific communist states, women are either pressured into giving birth or threatened into curbing reproduction.
In Soviet Russia, fertility propaganda abounded, telling women that it was their patriotic duty to reproduce so that their sons could supply the Soviet armies. In Communist China, forced abortion and sterilization are common, even in the 21st century, in order to enforce China’s one or two child limitation on women.
Women do not control their bodies or destinies in communist countries. On paper, Marx romanticized communal families. In practice, communal families manifest themselves as communal control over a woman’s reproductive and sexual rights.
“The Youth and Senior’s Movements.”
Communism is a totalitarian system that claims to govern the totality of an individual’s life, controlling each minute from cradle to grave. Ambitious young people in communist societies can expect to become fodder for expansionist wars, or state-sanctioned murderers who turn a blind eye to the suffering of their neighbors. Seniors in communist societies can only hope and pray (if such things are permitted under communism’s atheistic policy) that their medical needs are met with something other than indifference and negligence.
Mass mobilizations of marching youth are a hallmark of totalitarian and communist dictatorships the world over. They epitomize the indoctrination efforts of communist leaders, eager to secure the blind loyalty, zeal, and energy that young people can offer. To that end, communist schools spend hours a day making students memorize false histories, failed economic policies, and useless doctrine. Shaping the minds of children is a great responsibility, which is why warping the minds of children is a great sin.
Every single communist society—even ethnically homogeneous ones like North Korea and Cuba—have instituted “reeducation programs” that are designed to turn regular citizens into new “communist people.” When communist economic policies created a devastating famine from 1958 to 1961, Mao Zedong infamously instructed his officials to “educate the peasants to eat less.” His words encapsulate the murderous intolerance of communist “education” programs around the world. Communist societies pride themselves on the stoic martyrdom of their philosophy, to which they expect every person to conform, or else, die.
Communism does not have much use for its seniors, who are seen as a drain on the resources of the state. Some cultures with communist governments may revere and honor their elders, but the states’ communist policies prevent seniors from gaining access to the expensive medical treatment that they need. In the 20th Century, communist societies refused to spend money on transplants, cancer research, and other life-saving medical technology that liberal democracies considered indispensable in our effort to preserve human life at all costs. In the 21st Century, communist states that do not cooperate in the free exchange of information common amongst liberal democracies fall far short of modern medical standards. Thus, communism sacrifices scientific development, intellectual integrity, its youth, and its seniors to the party, regime, and ideology.
“The Environmental, Immigrants’ Rights, and Peace Movements.”
While liberal democracies have passed increasingly strict legislation and oversight regulating pollution, natural resource use, and environmental concerns, communist countries have made entire cities and swathes of land toxic to life. From the Soviet Union’s multiple nuclear disasters to the thick cloud of industrial smog that blocks out the sun over Chinese cities to the pilfering of natural resources in the captive nations of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, communist societies have always prioritized industry over environmental concerns.
It is difficult to say why communist countries have harmed their own natural environments. Perhaps communism damages the natural environment because communist laws do not regulate powerful political leaders who demand higher levels of production. Perhaps Marx’s lionization of the proletariat factory worker explains communism’s propensity for destroying beautiful natural landscapes in the name of “progress” and “industry.” Maybe the racism inherent in nationalistic communism permits empires like Soviet Russia and China to extract the natural resources of neighboring states at alarming rates.
When communist countries find themselves short on natural resources, they use their armies to invade other countries and confiscate those resources. Communist countries have used their armies to violently put down democratic and peaceful demonstrations in foreign countries all across the world. Even Cuba, the smallest communist country by population, has sent soldiers to Africa in order to assist communists in the Angolan Civil War. That communism’s wars create homeless victims, immigrants, and refugees all over the world seems not to concern communist regimes.
In fact, communism seems to thrive on the chaos that its wars cause. The violence of communist countries is an integral part of the Marxist doctrine. Marx insists that the communist revolutions—and the march of humanity through history—can only occur through violence and bloodshed. Communism is steeped in blood and war to its very foundation, and feeds off the displacement and human suffering that it causes. It is left to us, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, to remind people of communism’s past and present so that communism will not have a future on this earth.