Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What’s Communism All About

After 30 years, the Cambodian people are now hoping to see justice done to the still-living leadership of Khmer Rouge (Reds), the perpetrators of the “killing fields”:

Led by the late Pol Pot, the regime [the Khmer Rouge] was responsible for the deaths of millions of ordinary Cambodians during a four-year reign of terror…Its aim was to create a Communist utopia but instead the regime forced Cambodians into a living hell.

I’m hoping that this event might lead to a much needed re-assessment of the impact of Communism. Perhaps it’s no accident that some of the greatest genocidal butchers of history – Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot – were all committed, idealistic Communists. By some estimates, Communist idealogues murdered 100 million of their own people.

This raises the question: “Is there something endemic to Communism that leads to genocide?” I want to argue affirmatively:

1. According to them, the problem wasn’t to be found in human nature and our rejection of God, but only in certain humans – the rich and the ruling classes. The Communists divided the world into two classes of people – the good guys (the workers) and the bad (the capitalists). With this simplistic analysis, a “clear” solution emerged – change or eliminate the bad guys. However, changing people is difficult; eliminating them is easier and cost-effective.

2. Communist regimes inevitably turn dictatorial. “The Party was always correct,” and “nothing was more criminal than differing with the party leadership.” (The Tragedy of Cambodian History, D. Chandler). Consequently, there could be no accountability or examination of their policies, or any consideration of the things of conscience.

3. Communism adopted an unrealistic optimism. They convinced themselves that they could do “away with all oppression, exploitation, socioeconomic inequalities and class distinctions…in a single absolute stroke.” (Chandler, 280) If a permanent utopia could be achieved so easily, the murder of vast numbers of people to achieve this goal became justifiable. Lenin had been asked, “What is morality under Communism?” He answered, “Anything that promotes the Revolution is good. Anything that holds it back is bad.” Likewise, “In the early stages of the [Khmer Rouge] regime it was said, ‘those who stand in the path of revolution will be crushed beneath it.’” (Chandler, 254) Consequently, “violence became a virtue. Waging war became prestigious. So did smashing the enemies of the party.” (Chandler 242)

4. One of the things holding back the Revolution was religion. Therefore, God-based religion had to go, at whatever the price. However, with the elimination of religion, the human being was relegated to a mere pawn – an expendable object – to achieve the goals of the glorious Revolution, a greater good than any group of expendable individuals. The Transcendent, which imparted unalienable meaning to the individual, didn’t exist. Humanity was merely the product of evolution along with the pig, cow and mosquito.

5. Along with the destruction of religion, because of the surpassing value of their vision, Communism also sought to destroy other institutions that might have exerted a moderating influence on the violence. The family was systematically undermined. “Cambodians thirteen and fourteen years old were often taken from their homes in liberated areas and subjected to short indoctrination courses from which they emerged…’fierce in their condemnation of the old ways, contemptuous of traditional customs, and ardently opposed to religion and parental authority.’” (Chandler, 243)

6. They had convinced themselves that they were the vanguard of something great. “The Red Khmers stressed that Cambodia’s revolution was pure, unprecedented and autonomous.” (Chandler, 249) This conviction enabled them to justify all sorts of horrors – whether lying, manipulation or genocide.

Today, Communism has assumed a new persona. They no longer sound the call for violent revolution and have become more relational. The bad guys are no longer the capitalists, and the good guys are no longer simply the workers of the world. Instead, the new bad guys are the exploiters (the religious and the “ruling bureaucracy”) and the good are the exploited. Here’s how one Marxist Humanist newspaper puts it:

• “We stand for the development of new human relations, what Marx first called a new Humanism…to all who struggle for freedom…It is our aim…to promote the firmest unity among the workers, Blacks and other minorities, women, youth and those intellectuals who have broken with the ruling bureaucracy of both capital and labor.” (Constitution of “News and Letters”)

The sides have slightly shifted, but the solution remains the same – intimidate and silence those opposed to change until the good guys come to power. And then we’ll have our utopia!

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