â€œCommunismâ€ was a word and a concept that in many ways formed the basis for the Cold War as it was fought by the West. In that function the word meant oppression, Gulag, torture, executions and most other horrors one could think of. From a very specific semantic perspective thatâ€™s of course true.
For a more precise definition of communism as an ideology one should rather consult Marx and the other founders of the doctrine. Then one immediately finds the central creed: â€œFrom each according to his ability, to each according to his needâ€. One also finds that communism was an emancipatory movement aimed at freeing workers from wage slavery. Solidarity, righteousness and equality were moral cornerstones of the ideology.
In real life it turned out to become something completely different. Lenin put an end to the Worker’s Councils as one of his first actions; then he installed the dictatorship of the Proletariat, thus sending anything that resembled real communism down the drain. He may have had his reasons; for instance that his regime otherwise may not have survived the civil war in which the reactionary side was strongly backed by large troops from western powers. But anyway: real communism disappeared in Russia before it had even started.
Still both East and West kept on using the false concept â€œcommunismâ€, but for contradictory reasons. Soviet used the word to benefit from the positive connotation it had been given by Marx and the Communist Internationals among others; the capitalist world used it to make people connect solidarity, righteousness and equality with the horrors taking place in the â€œcommunistâ€ states.
And this way of using the word still goes on. I was provoked to write this postcard by a younger editorial writer â€“ Erik Helmerson – in Swedenâ€™s most important paper, Dagens Nyheter. Although he was barely more than a downy young man when â€œcommunismâ€ disappeared from most of the world he is still obsessed with this phenomenon. With a gun pointed at his head, he writes, he would admit that Nazism was worse than Communism but he rejects both. This is a skewed and supposedly deliberate way to defame egalitarianism by equating it with an ideology whose very essence and core was the extermination of Jews, communists, mentally ill and other human beings they deemed to be inferior.
Some literate conservatives have realized the discrepancy in comparing Nazism and Communism on these grounds (maybe because they have read some books and thought for a while). Some of them have then chosen another line of defense, namely that a really Communist society cannot be achieved by other means than violence and coercion (â€œthe road to Hell is paved with good intentionsâ€ is one popular excuse). The reason would be the conservative tendency to think that humans are born somewhat evil, and has to be coerced to become altruistic (which anyway, according to their world view, isn’t necessary at all).
Hopefully this tells us more about conservatives than about humanity as a whole. The idea that no noble ends could be accomplished without people being forced by a dictatorial power is not just utterly defeatist, but truly stupid. People in general wouldn’t say that such bad ethics apply to themselves, and the absolutism of the thesis is refuted daily by human activities around the world.
There is another corollary to Helmersonâ€™s poor thinking that never appears in mainstream contexts. If Communism as an ideology has proven intolerable because of what dictators have made in its name, what about Capitalism, Christianity and other ones of our own doctrines?
During more than half the last century most of the atrocities in the world have been carried out by us in the white, capitalist and Christian world, lead by the United States. Our illegal and immoral wars have left millions of murdered human beings behind and devastated whole countries. We have supported dictators who have murdered further millions of their citizens; we have overthrown dozens of democratically elected politicians and installed vicious dictators, just to mention some the most obvious misdeeds comparable to those in the â€œCommunistâ€ world. If Helmerson’s logic and practice had any value the conclusion would have been that Capitalism and Christianity are criminal ideologies.
But luckily thatâ€™s not the case. The key to the question is that our anti-Communists also are anti-intellectuals to an appropriate degree.