Communism prior to Marx
The word and idea of communism predates Karl Marx and first arises out of Enlightenment ideas that would fully express themselves in the French Revolution. French philosopher Victor d'Hupay in his 1777 book Projet de communauté philosophe, advanced Enlightenment principles that are the basis of a communist philosophy defined as a lifestyle called a "commune" that advises to "share all economic and material products between members of the commune, so that all benefit equally from each other's work". Communists are initially defined as those living in the commune.
The Jacobins, supported the idea of redistributing wealth equally among the people, including Jean-Paul Marat and Gracchus Babeuf. Babeuf was involved in the Conspiracy of the Equals of 1796 intending to establish a revolutionary regime based on communal ownership, egalitarianism and the redistribution of property. The plot was however detected and he and several others involved were arrested and executed, but there attempt would inspire radicals in the future.
Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, the Communist League, and the Communist Manifesto
On February 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx with the assistance and patronage of Friedrich Engels is published. This political pamphlet was commissioned by the Communist League which had come into existence in 1847and is considered the first Marxist party.
The darker aspects of Marxism had already been self evident to some of his contemporaries as early as 1844 as Joshua Dill, the Assistant Director of Publications at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, documented in in the September 15, 2017 article "Communism: A bad idea even in 1844."
The Manifesto didn't offer anything new in communist theory, but a synthesis of these ideas packaged in a way that made it readily accessible, unlike some of other Marxist works such as Das Kapital.
They were also blessed by some good timing because the tract predicted that revolution was imminent, a natural outcome of materialist historical processes, and within days of the publication, coincidentally, revolutions broke out first in France and then across Europe, but were put down by conservative forces.
Third time was the charm for totalitarianism: The Three Internationals
Three international communist networks that span over a century sought to establish a global political network to destroy existing political orders around the world.
The First International, also known as the International Workingmen's Association (IWA) 1864–1876 aimed at uniting a variety of different left-wing socialist, communist and anarchist political groups and trade union organizations that were all based on the working class and class struggle. It was founded in 1864 in London. The first congress was held two years later in 1866 in Geneva, Switzerland. This network had over five million members but it split in 1872 over conflicts between communist and anarchist factions and dissolved in 1876.
The Second International was founded on July 14, 1889 and excluded the anarchists. Their influence is still felt today around the world and important days of action were set up by them. In 1889 they declared May 1st as International Workers' Day. In 1910 they declared March 19th International Women's Day but then changed the day to March 8th to celebrate the women's marches during the Russian Revolution in 1917. They campaigned for the eight hour work day. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had been a member since 1905.
The Second international dissolved in 1916 over differences of how to respond to World War One but formed again in 1923 and a version of it continues to the present as the Socialist International. There were three primary divisions: parties that remained loyal to their nation state, anti-war socialists, and communists like Lenin who sought to exploit the war to unleash worldwide revolution with a redefinition that would come to be known as Marxism-Leninism in which a vanguard party leads the change to a communist future.
The first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin on October 2, 1920 in a speech to Russian communist youth stated: "The class struggle is continuing and it is our task to subordinate all interests to that struggle. Our communist morality is also subordinated to that task. We say: morality is what serves to destroy the old exploiting society and to unite all the working people around the proletariat, which is building up a new, communist society." This is at the heart of communist morality, the ends justify the means, a profound immorality and a pillar of international communism.
The Third International was founded by Lenin in 1915 and held its first of seven world congresses on March 2, 1919 and was also known as the Communist International, and was known by its abbreviated form the Comintern. It was an international communist organization that advocated world communism. The International intended to fight "by all available means, including armed force, for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and for the creation of an international Soviet republic as a transition stage to the complete abolition of the State". The communists came to power in Russia on November 7, 1917. The Comintern was officially dissolved by Joseph Stalin in 1943 to calm the fears of his non-communist allies, but this totalitarian network remained intact but not as visible.
The power of propaganda
The Communists were excellent at diagnosing problems in society and using propaganda to exploit them, even if their solutions did not improve them. The Communist Manifesto is a perfect example of this. However they also operated in international totalitarian networks to spread the propaganda and to engage in coordinated international campaigns to achieve political power. These innovations would give communists an organizational and message advantage over traditional political parties.
|Totalitarian networks and propaganda pioneer: Wilhelm Münzenberg|
The pioneer in totalitarian networks was Wilhelm "Willi" Münzenberg who impacted much of the 20th century. Münzenberg met the Russian communist revolutionary Lenin in Bern, Switzerland in 1915. It was León Trotsky who recognized in Münzenberg the talent to organize clandestine networks from almost nothing. He was part of the original Bolshevik network prior to the 1917 revolution. Following the arrival of the Soviets to power and the COMINTERN as a means to disseminate the Soviet revolution and consolidate dominance of Marxism-Leninism over the global Left; Münzenberg also used it to organize cultural power and further expand international influence.
The first congress of the Communist International included delegates from communist or socialist parties from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, Armenia, France, Switzerland, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands among other countries. In 1921 Münzenberg became the director of clandestine operations of propaganda aimed at the West. To create networks of supporters Münzenberg used all the resources propaganda from high culture to the most basic. He organized the media: film, radio, theater, books, magazines, and newspapers. He was able to connect to and use all types of formers of opinion respected by the public: writers, artists, actors, priests, ministers, teachers, businessmen, scientists, and psychologists.
The Münzenberg network was one of the key factors for the direction taken in political attitudes that operated in the 1930s. He manipulated and influenced public opinion using a network of writers and intellectuals such as: Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Lillian Hellman, George Grosz, Erwin Piscator, André Malraux, André Gide, Bertolt Brecht, Dorothy Parker to Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt. He organized protest marches, politicized writers conferences, politicized art festivals, ad hoc committees signed by famous celebrities for causes without end.
These networks are still active today and have operated over the years in campaigns for Angela Davis (1970), Mumia Abdul Jamal (1982-2011), the Cuban Five (2000- 2014) just to name a few high profile cases.
|Edmund Burke and Roger Scruton|
It is no accident that modern conservatism is traced back to a profound and nuanced rejection of the French Revolution of 1789 found in the writings of Edmund Burke, and especially Reflections on the Revolution in France published in November of 1790. Burke knew the basis and structure of a traditional society and the threat of revolution to these important social structures that make civilization both possible and tolerable. This critique of the Revolution applies to Communism, and the followers of Edmund Burke, and Roger Scruton, one of his intellectual descendants in an essay titled "What can Europe learn from communism?"explained one of the great errors of communism and the fragile superiority of democracy in a free society.
"The great error of the communists was to eliminate opposition, to conscript the people into a ‘unity’ that they had not chosen and were not allowed to question. The great benefit of democracy is that it makes opposition possible and also legitimate. But this has the consequence that, in a democracy, more than half the people at any moment might be living under a government that they did not choose, maybe a government that they hate. What makes that possible? Why do democracies not break down, under the pressure of popular dissent? The answer is simple: they don’t break down because the loyalty of the citizen is not towards the government, but towards something higher, something that is shared between all the citizens, regardless of their political beliefs and inclinations. This higher thing is the nation, the entity to which we all belong, and which defines the first-person plural of democratic politics."The results time and time again when communists take power and dissent is outlawed and elections no longer contest power between political parties, but only to ratify fidelity to the ruling class, the end results are piles of dead bodies, destroyed societies, and generations of mistrust among the survivors. Despite the claims made about education and healthcare in these regimes, children have been treated horribly. The paradox of communism is that it spawns societies that are profoundly antisocial. Police states with informants spying on neighbors does not build social bonds, but paranoia and distrust.
Communists today embrace this statement when they dispute the death count of 100 million victims of communism, and manufacture their own numbers, including millions of victims of communism, in their lists claiming over a billion dead due to capitalism.
1. Weirdly enough none of those deaths happen in "capitalist" countries— Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) August 24, 2020
2. Longevity & survival have improved at breathtaking pace *everywhere* over the past century. But yes, "capitalism hasn't saved enough people" totally = "all the people capitalism has killed" https://t.co/beD343Q6fX
Responding to some false claims against capitalism
Beware of the small print used by the communists. Out of the 1.6 billion deaths they blame on Capitalism a fair amount can be challenged, but some are just absurd. Consider the following taken from the embedded Tweet above in small print:
the Hitler Stalin Pact and over the next month launched invasions from each country dividing up Poland and starting WW2. Therefore, the dead in that war can be laid at the feet of fascism and communism, not capitalism. However, if liberal capitalist regimes like the United States had not supplied billions in aid to the USSR, after the Nazis double crossed Stalin and invaded Russia in June 1941, the outcome of the war might have been very different.
The claim that India between 1947 and 1990 had a "capitalist policy" is not true. The first elected leader of an independent India was Jawaharlal Nehru and he was a democratic socialist who believed that "Socialism is after all not only a way of life, but a certain scientific approach to social and economic problems." India under Nehru nationalized the means of production and the banks, but despite being a socialist regime, it remained a democracy. This meant that opposition parties were able to run for office in contested elections, and there was a free press to report on the economic failures of socialism. To call this a "capitalist policy" is a falsehood.
Worse yet the Famine of 1932-33 (Kulak policy and weather) was a famine manufactured by Josef Stalin. It is a crime of communism, and to blame it on capitalism is a lie.
The Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in a communist revolution with backing from Beijing in 1975 and were forced out of power by the Soviet backed Vietnamese in 1979 and in the space of less than four years killed over 2 million people, or a third of the entire population. They were and are true believing communists who carried out a radical and profound revolution.
Lastly, the communists blame capitalism for over 306 million deaths due to cigarettes between 1960 and 2011. Capitalism did not force individuals to buy and consume cigarettes. Liberal democracies carried out public campaigns against cigarette smoking and restricted its use, and taxed it heavily.
What is equally interesting and not mentioned is that cigarette smoking is also widespread in communist regimes that do not have capitalism, and in China it was tobacco production that drove their economy in the early 1990s. People freely choosing to smoke, and other bad habits cannot be blamed on capitalism.
People not statistics
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics."
Therefore will highlight specific victims of communism from around the world over different decades.
Milada Horakova of Czechoslovakia (1950)
|Milada Horakova at her show trial in 1950|
Milada Horakova was hanged with three others in Prague’s Pankrac Prison as a spy and traitor to the Communist Czechoslovakian government on June 27, 1950. She was a lawyer, social democrat, and a prominent feminist in the interwar and postwar periods. She had been a member of the Czech resistance to the Nazi occupation of her homeland and survived a Nazi prison. After Czechoslovakia was liberated from the Nazis in 1945 by the Soviets she became a member of parliament in 1946 but resigned her seat after the Communist coup of 1948. However she refused to abandon her country.
Adam D. E. Watkins in his 2010 paper "The Show Trial of J U Dr. Milada Horáková: The Catalyst for Social Revolution in Communist Czechoslovakia, 1950" explains the importance of the show trial in gutting democratic traditions and replacing them with Stalinism:
The study deconstructs the show trial’s influence on inducing a country to foster the Communist movement against decades of democratic traditions. The research reveals the impact of the show trial of Dr. Milada Horáková in 1950 and how it was instrumental in reforming a society, marked the beginning of Stalinism, and ushered forth a perverted system of justice leading to a cultural transformation after the Communist putsch. Furthermore, the revolution truncated intellectual thought and signified the end of many social movements – including the women’s rights movementAccording to D. E. Watkings Horáková was seen by the public as a symbol of the First Republic and of democracy. Unlike others who did break under the relentless psychological and physical torture she never did. The communists tried to edit her testimony for propaganda purposes but as Radio Prague in their 2005 report on the discovery of the unedited tapes of her trial:
[S]he faced her show trial with calm and defiance, refusing to be broken. Audio recordings - intended to be used by the Communists for propaganda purposes - were mostly never aired, for the large part because for the Party's purposes, they were unusable.Because she refused to cooperate her punishment was particularly severe, even for the death penalty. In 2007 her prosecutor Ludmila Brozova-Polednova who in 1950 had helped to condemn Horakova to death, now 86, was tried as an accomplice to murder. During the trial Radio Prague reported that a note written by an anonymous eye-witness to Milada Horakova's execution quoted the young prosecutor recommending: "Don't break her neck on the noose, Suffocate the bitch - and the others too." Milada Horáková was executed in Pankrác Prison on 27 June 1950 by a particularly torturous method: "intentionally slow strangulation, which according to historians took 15 minutes. She was 48 years old." The urn with her ashes was never given to her family nor is it known what became of them.
|Milada Horáková: 25 December 1901, Prague – 27 June 1950, Prague|
In a letter to her 16 year old teenage daughter Milada explained why she had refused to compromise with evil. Her daughter received the letter 40 years later after the end of communist rule:
The reason was not that I loved you little; I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good … by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well. … Don’t be frightened and sad because I am not coming back any more. Learn, my child, to look at life early as a serious matter. Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. Become accustomed to that soon, but don’t let it defeat you. Decide to fight.June 27th, the day of Milada Horakova's execution is now recognized in the Czech Republic as “Commemoration day for the victims of the Communist regime.”
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1975)
|Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I|
Emperor Haile Selassie's internationalist views led to Ethiopia becoming a charter member of the United Nations, and his political thought and experience in promoting multilateralism and collective security are still viewed as part of his enduring legacy. Despite inspiring the founding of a religion that today has up to 800,000 followers he remained an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian until his death.
|Raul Castro & Fidel Castro with close ally Mengistu Haile Mariam|
Less than a decade after Mengistu fled into exile on November 5, 2000, Haile Selassie was given an Imperial funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Bob Marley's widow, Rita Marley, participated in the funeral.
Laura Inés Pollán of Cuba (2011)
|Laura Pollán, founding leader of the Ladies in White|
Laura Pollán became a dissident when her husband Hector Maseda was imprisoned during the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 along with more than 75 other activists and civil society members. She was one of the founders of the Ladies in White and challenged the Castro regime on the streets of Cuba. Following brutal repression in an effort to prevent them from marching through the streets of Havana Laura Pollan directly and nonviolently challenged the regime: "We will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us.
Despite all the efforts of the Cuban communist dictatorship that has a monopoly over force and the mass media in Cuba, Laura was able with a small group of courageous women to take to the streets and demonstrate. Not once or twice but on a weekly basis since her husband was unjustly imprisoned in March of 2003. The dictatorship did everything they could to stop them, including brute violence. Bruises and broken bones did not deter these ladies and they continued marching with casts and slings.
Over a 100,000 people dressed in white took to the streets in Miami in the spring of 2010 to protest the violence against these women led by Gloria Estefan, who had organized the demonstration in solidarity with this movement.
|Laura's husband marches with Ladies in White carrying image of his murdered wife|
Five days before she became suddenly deathly ill, as the violence and threats escalated, she let the dictatorship know that: "We are not going to stop. If they have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close."
On October 14, 2011, Laura Pollan, one of the founders of the human rights movement the Ladies in White died after years of suffering physical and psychological assaults against her person. Finally, she would become a victim of the Cuban healthcare system that following the Castroite dictum of inside the revolution everything outside of it nothing - would suffer and die in a matter of days while under the supervision of doctors who were revolutionaries first and doctors second. A Cuban doctor, who reviewed her case file, described it as a death by purposeful medical neglect.
Liu Xiaobo of China (2017)
|Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo who died imprisoned in China in 2017|
But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my "June Second Hunger Strike Declaration" twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.
Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo was arrested on June 23, 2009 and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China that has been signed by hundreds of individuals from all walks of life throughout the country. On December 25, 2009 Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights. The Beijing High Court rejected his appeal on February 11, 2010."
|Liu Xiaobo with his wife, Liu Xia|
The similarities, I would say, are in the basic structure of human rights reflected in a democratic system, which of course the regime doesn’t want. The regime wishes for the dictatorship of one party. I think this is where Charter 08 and Charter 77 are similar: they have similar targets and similar messages to deliver to the [respective] regimes.On February 3, 2010 both Czech and Slovak members of parliament nominated Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination was also endorsed by Vaclav Havel and many of the former spokespersons of Charter 77. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Herta Müller, in a letter to the Nobel Foundation on behalf of Liu Xiaobo wrote:
I have urgent request to make to you today. As you know, Vaclav Havel nominated the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010.[...]I, too, believe that Liu Xiaobo deserves the Nobel Peace Prize because in the face of countless threats from the Chinese regime and great risk to his life, he has fought unerringly for the freedom of the individual.Eight months after the rejection of his appeal on October 8, 2010 the Nobel Committee in Norway awarded this Chinese dissident and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience the Nobel Peace Prize despite threats from the Chinese regime. As December 10th, the day for the ceremony to recognize the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, approached the Chinese regime engaged in a human rights crackdown in Mainland China. Neither he or his wife, Liu Xia, who has been kept under house arrest, were allowed to attend. The actress Liv Ullman read the final statement that Liu Xiaobo read out at his December 2009 trial titled: "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement" already mentioned and cited above.
Unjustly imprisoned for over eight years China's Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiabo was seriously ill in mid 2017 and although granted medical parole continued to be arbitrarily detained, although in a hospital diagnosed with terminal liver cancer his access and movement continued to be restricted. His wife, Liu Xia said that her husband, according to The Guardian, "cannot be given surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy," allegedly "because the cancer is so advanced." Chinese Human Rights Defenders reports that individuals in custody, like Liu Xiaobo, had been denied medical treatment in what is a life threatening form of torture.
Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, 2017. Four days later on July 17, 2017 the man who had received the Nobel Prize on Xiaobo's behalf in Oslo, Dr. Yang Jianli in Washington, DC, at the monument to the Victims of Communism in an act of remembrance, spoke of his friend and the culpability of the Chinese communist regime.
Milada Horakova, a feminist, was a member of the Czech resistance to Nazism. H.I.M. Haile Selassie, the lion of Judah, resisted the Fascist invasion of his homeland Ethiopia and warned the world of its threat. Laura Inés Pollán Toledo was a school teacher, turned human rights activist, to free her husband, a journalist jailed for his writings. Liu Xiaobo was a literary critic, poet and human rights activist who advocated for nonviolent change in his homeland. He was also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. They were all murdered by communist regimes through executions or other nefarious means. These are four cases out of the over 100 million lives murdered by communist regimes.In April 1989, when the Tiananmen democracy movement just broke out, he returned to Beijing from New York and became the most important intellectual leader of the movement. After the Tiananmen Massacre, he shouldered both moral and political responsibilities and continued to fight from inside China while many others left the country and even abandoned the movement. He was in and out prison and spent half of the past 28 years after the Tiananmen Massacre in incarceration. Never wavering in spirit, he shared the sufferings of his compatriots and gave his life for them. He is a martyr and saint. Yes. Liu Xiaobo is a martyr and saint who possesses a moral authority that his persecutors can only envy. His legacy of love, justice, peace and sacrifice will surely far outlive the deeds of those who persecuted him. That is exactly why the leaders of China are so afraid of him, so afraid of his words and deeds, and so afraid of his legacy. They are afraid of the inevitable comparison between Liu Xiaobo’s Chinese dream and Xi Jinping’s; they are afraid of the unavoidable likening of the Chinese Communist regime to the Nazis regime because Liu Xiaobo has been the first Nobel Peace Prize winner who died under confinement since Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist and an opponent of the Nazis, who died in 1938.
It can happen here
However, it is early enough in the process that a non-violent and moral stand of resistance to these forces can stop them before they take and consolidate power, but one cannot live in denial.
1) In a scene that played out several times Monday, a Black Lives Matter protest that began in Columbia Heights confronted White diners outside D.C. restaurants, chanting “White silence is violence!” and demanding White diners show their solidarity. #DCProtests pic.twitter.com/fJbPM76vb0— Fredrick Kunkle WaPo (@KunkleFredrick) August 25, 2020