Tag Archives: communism

New Trotsky Biography

Robert Service’s new biography of Trotsky is reviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Having read Service’s excellent biography of Lenin a few years ago, this seems like a book worth reading. Joshua Rubenstein’s thoughtful review touches on some thoughts about socialism and socialists.

Socialism had three major failings. The first is what economists study most closely. It is the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism, because of the rejection of prices and money as a medium of exchange. Whether you support socialist ideals or not, it is literally impossible to achieve. Do away with prices and currency, and they will emerge in a different form. They are part of human society.

The second aspect of socialism intrigues philosophers: socialism genuinely sought to change human nature itself. People as they currently are are in no shape to realize Marx’s vision of communist society. So part of the communist program was to actively mold and change people so that vision could one day become a reality.

Before Marx came along, Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia were also written about societies with a fundamentally changed human nature. More, knowing his ideal to be impossible, coined the word “utopia,” which literally means “no place.” His book is a pleasant dream (for a collectivist at least), but More knew it was one that could ever come true. We are they way we are. And we’re stuck that way, for better or worse.

This leads us to the third aspect of socialism, which most concerns Trotsky. This is, for me, the most remarkable part, and the most chilling. It is the sheer violence that accompanied Marxism-Leninism everywhere it was tried. And I mean everywhere. Every single country to adopt communism had a checkered human rights record. No exceptions. Not one had anything resembling freedom of speech or press, or due process, or property rights.

Most historians now estimate that communist governments killed around 100,000,000 people. Mostly their own citizens. At no other point in human history have governments been so murderous of their own people. No other ideology has had consequences so bloody as Marxism and its variants.

One reason for the violence is that it allowed the governments to maintain power; resistance is less likely when the prevailing climate is of fear. Another is that human nature is stubborn. If it is to be changed, force is required. But, of course, the basic tenets of humanity are immutable. We are who we are.

Communist leaders, including Trotsky, were simply chilling. Many of them come off as sadists. They seemed to actually enjoy bloodshed. Revel in it. Yet Trotsky still has his admirers today. They need to answer for why they look up to someone who would even have thoughts like the following, let alone give voice to such brutish impulses in public speeches:

“The strength of the French Revolution,” he shouted to a group of revolutionary sailors, “was in the machine that made the enemies of the people shorter by a head. This is a fine device. We must have it in every city.” And have it they did. Once in power, Trotsky advocated show trials and the execution of political prisoners; he suppressed other socialist parties and independent trade unions; he pushed for the censorship of art that did not support the revolution; and he created the institutions of repression that were later turned against him and his followers.


20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall fell twenty years ago today. CEI released a video to mark the occasion.

See also Fred Smith’s writeup, re-posted here in its entirety:

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down. Today marks the twentieth anniversary of that great day – one of the greatest in the history of human freedom. Communism in Germany finally collapsed, setting off a domino effect that would reach Moscow within two years. Families torn apart for nearly three decades came together in tearful, happy reunions as the world watched. The Cold War was finally, mercifully, ending.

Many historians cite World War I as the twentieth century’s opening act. Sixteen million souls died in that war over nothing. Two of the nations it toppled became the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Communist and fascist governments would combine to kill more than one hundred million people over the next seven decades. Those needless deaths are the twentieth century’s legacy, every bit as much as the transistor or rock ‘n roll.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was that short, bloody century’s coda.

November 9, 1989 was also the start of something better. It was a nation’s way of saying that it was ready to move on to better times. To a new world defined not by oppression, ideology, and servitude, but by freedom. Sweet, precious, fragile freedom. Seeing the footage on the news was like witnessing something being born. The hope and potential that surround every birth were glimmering in people’s eyes. It was beautiful.

What Berlin’s people did on that day also inspired half a continent to send the same message to their leaders. What a noble achievement. How worthy of commemoration, now that twenty years have passed.

What a shame, then, that this milestone has been treated more like a millstone by the media. Reporters more concerned with today’s news cycle are giving at best perfunctory attention to a day that showed us all that is good about humanity.

To partially right that wrong, CEI has produced a short video commemorating what the Berlin Wall’s fall symbolizes. I hope you will watch it and enjoy it. Of course, it is hard to convey in a few short minutes what the people living in that Wall’s shadow went through for 29 long years.

So put yourself in their shoes. Think what they thought. Look right in the eyes of those separated families as they try to catch glimpses of each other over that wall. And the people who risked their lives escaping. And the soldier carrying back the body of someone who didn’t make it. What was going through his mind as he carried out his grisly task? That might give you an idea of what the Berlin Wall meant.

We all need to remember the Berlin Wall. We need to say to each other, “Never again.” And we have to mean it.