The above headline appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week. Oddly enough last week we celebrated 5 centuries ago when Martin Luther’s 95 theses began the Protestant Reformation which emancipated individuals from the control of the Catholic Church. This releasing of individual freedom, led to the application of Biblical capitalism, which has elevated so many out of poverty. But this week, one century ago modern communism was founded with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Was this good or bad? The article subtitle gives us a hint by stating, “The Bolshevik plague that began in Russia was the greatest catastrophe in human history.”
The article continues…Armed Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg—100 years ago this week and arrested ministers of Russia’s provisional government. They set in motion a chain of events that would kill millions and inflict a near-fatal wound on Western civilization. The revolutionaries’ capture of train stations, post offices and telegraphs took place as the city slept and resembled a changing of the guard. But when residents of the Russian capital awoke, they found they were living in a different universe.
Although the Bolsheviks called for the abolition of private property, their real goal was spiritual: to translate Marxist-Leninist ideology into reality. For the first time, a state was created that was based explicitly on atheism and claimed infallibility. This was totally incompatible with Western civilization, which presumes the existence of a higher power over and above society and the state. The Bolshevik coup degraded the individual and turned them into a cog in the machinery of the state. Communists committed murder on such a scale as to all but eliminate the value of life and to destroy the individual conscience in survivors.
Such convictions set the stage for decades of murder on an industrial scale. In total, no fewer than 20 million Soviet citizens were put to death by the regime or died as a direct result of its repressive policies. This does not include the millions who died in the wars, epidemics and famines that were predictable consequences of Bolshevik policies, if not directly caused by them. The victims include 200,000 killed during the Red Terror (1918-22); 11 million dead from famine and dekulakization; 700,000 executed during the Great Terror (1937-38); 400,000 more executed between 1929 and 1953; 1.6 million dead during forced population transfers; and a minimum 2.7 million dead in the Gulag, labor colonies and special settlements.
If we add to this list the deaths caused by communist regimes that the Soviet Union created and supported—including those in Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia—the total number of victims is closer to 100 million. That makes communism the greatest catastrophe in human history.
The assumption was that communism, a socialist system of forced collective ownership, was virtuous in itself. When the killing became too obvious to deny, Western intellectual sympathizers excused what was happening because of the Soviets’ supposed noble intentions. Their reasoning was simple: Capitalism was unjust; socialism would end this injustice; so socialism had to be supported unconditionally, notwithstanding any amount of its own injustice.
As I have stated in these blogs capitalism is not perfect, but the principles are Biblical and lead people to experience God’s blessing and lift them out of poverty. Yes…there is a danger of greed tainting these Biblical principles, but the alternatives of socialism and communism continue to demonstrate failure both morally and economically (Venezuela and Cuba).
I would not take the time to write about the failure of socialism and communism, as it seems to be obvious to all who lived through their failure; however I continue to observe the millennial generation flirting with these economic systems. Likely this is because of the influence of socialist university intellectuals and also the fact that they did not live through this onerous time of world history to observe it.
Source: 100 Years of Communism—and 100 Million Dead. The Bolshevik plague that began in Russia was the greatest catastrophe in human history. Satter. D. Wall Street Journal. November 7, 2017. Mr. Satter is the author of “Age of Delirium: the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union” (Yale).