The next few weeks see the centenary of the October Revolution (commonly referred to as Red October) which kick-started the 74-year existence of the Soviet Union – the rise and fall of a failed communist experiment. This seems a perfect moment to ask, despite an estimated 56-62 million ‘unnatural deaths’ in the USSR overall (34-49 million under Stalin), why the anti-freedom values of communism are still looked upon favourably, glamourized in popular culture and, more worryingly, are pervasive in education.
One answer is that the Marxist doctrine is an intoxicating one. The romantic ideal of the urban proletariat rising up and the communal ownership thereafter is deeply infused with the altruistic mood that is prominent in culture today. This, by the way, is where the guilt-tripping nature of authoritarianism in culture has its roots: do you not care about the little man being exploited? Do you not have any heart? You must support the struggle!
The ideology plays heavily on this altruist complex, and translates into the need to attribute blame to private enterprise and private property for the ills of the oppressed. Marx’s observation about the immoral nature of surplus profit going to bosses and industrialists is one that is rooted in ignorance in two main ways. Firstly, for a well-functioning production chain there is naturally a process of labour division, whereby there would be for example: conceptualisation, design, safety testing and production. The most effective way to do this is for the capitalist to ‘rent out’ the means of production to the less-specialised workers by way of wages. A dictatorship of the proletariat is only just about feasible for industrial goods such as nails (but even then not so much, as government quotas worked on the basis of weight, so size specification went out of the window), but once you get anywhere near some kind of specialised or high end product, the natural withdrawal of the intellect leaves literally nothing to be desired, let alone bought. Secondly, the role of a boss isn’t as simplistic as Marx envisioned (his indictment being that they took profit without exerting labour); they create the enterprise and necessarily create the means of production themselves for this process of ‘renting out’, plan wages, direct company policy and maintain conditions. Ironically, capitalism is a necessary part of the communist transition; the means of production need to exist in order to be ceased, and this is where the leech-like nature of the idea shows its true face. The aforementioned hierarchical structure in a workplace is tolerable because it is voluntary and productive; individuals become socialised in a free market environment. In a heavily socialised economy, on the other hand, they become enslaved to each other and the government.
It is here also that the Marxist-Communist ideal shows itself to be vehemently against human freedom. The call for the abolition of private property naturally breeds enslavement of everyone to everyone else; an impossible and confused system of ownership. A truly free society is one based strictly on the individual right to person and property; the lines are drawn and set literally in the sand, leaving optimum conditions for peace. Conversely, once every action and settling place is set in the context of a ‘commune’, conflict is inherent as everyone has a right to everything; breeding conditions where no one has a right to what would properly be their own and also for an oppressive and dictatorial government to intervene for enforcement.
What I aim to begin deconstructing here is the commonly espoused sentiment that a communist utopia is a great idea that has just never been properly achieved in practice. True, it has never been achieved in practice; the initiation of a communistic system leads necessarily to a hyper-authoritarian state structure. But moreover, it is my contention that communism is actually an inherently bad idea, namely for its emphasis on the complete subordination of individual freedom to the collective.
I was jolted into action to post these short musings by a rather disturbing picture I saw online of Kim Kardashian sporting a red crew neck with a hammer and sickle embossed on the sleeve (the ironies therein are obvious). I would never dispute her, or anyone’s right to wear what they want or express any opinion. I am merely proposing this; that one would make deep considerations before advocating a system based on the complete hampering of liberty, one that holds a deep history of cruelty and injustice.
Image: The corpses of victims of Soviet NKVD murdered in last days of June 1941, just after outbreak of German-Soviet War (NKVD prisoner massacres) and escape of Red Army and NKVD troops from the cities. Here: Lwów, citizens of Lwów are looking for their friends and relatives, previously arrested by NKVD and kept in prison. Image source:
|Jerzy Węgierski “Lwów pod okupacją sowiecką” ( “Lviv under Soviet occupation”) Warszawa 1991, ISBN 83-85195-15-7|