Communism- How did it happen?
Until the years after WWII, nobody had much reason to pay much attention to Russia. It was known to be experimenting with a political system called communism or Marxism after centuries of iron rule by a series of Czars.
The notion of an ideological war to be called a "Cold War" had never been known in history. Setting the stage of it is the subject of this chapter.
The Soviet Union at the end of WWII was impoverished and largely destroyed.Stalin had no way to wage war on anyone else even after receiving enormous amounts of U.S. military aid and foodstuffs. The communist camp nonetheless managed to secure control of Eastern Europe thanks to diplomatic mistakes at Yalta and Potsdam. The U.S. also helped put in place a four way control of Berlin with an expected corridor of access from the West. The Russians closed this route and forced the infamous "Berlin Airlift" of 1948. That forced the Russians to relent and open the way for supplies and shipments to and from the West so that Berlin lived, but as a city that became divided by a wall of even greater infamy. That wall stood for over 28 years until the collapse of communist control of Eastern Europe.
With a series of five year programs since 1924, Stalin had forced the many Soviet peoples to choose between slavery to the state and death. The reduced population managed to rebuild a socialist managed economy complete with absolute thought control as well. The intellectual elite of the Soviet Union were allowed special political privileges in housing, food and consumer good availability at special prices. All others worked to do what the planners demanded of them to survive while the all powerful state built a new military might. Thanks to an endless array of military secrets stolen by agents and collaborators, the Soviets built a massive Navy, Air Force and Army complete with tanks, artillery and the way to secure control of rebellious states.
Few Americans failed to understand WWII as an ideological war. Yes, they knew that Fascism was bad because it made people slaves of the state. Freedom was an accepted part of life in America even among those that enjoyed the least amount of it. Minorities fought and died alongside of all others in a battle to avenge the Japanese sneak attack and the German menace. They fought for revenge and for protection of the American way of life. They did not know much about the other form of statism, as was found in Russia and had very little connection to it, although certain intellectual groups were already dedicated to communism as a cause. Some already knew that socialism, a word that is not quite synonymous, required the government to own the means of production and that had no appeal among the opinion leaders in America, as it was a land of opportunity for individuals, not a land to be run by professionals in government.
It is worth noting here that the Nazi party embraced socialism too! Of course, they were not opposed to capitalism at the same time as long as the government controlled both the means of obtaining capital and the socialistic thoughts about how to use it in the name of the people, but really for the benefit of the leaders. Both communism and fascism shared this common facade but approached it from opposite directions. Of course, Hitler was a racist touting an Aryan race as that needed for the superior class while Stalin was content to be a dictator representing the biggest class- the proletariat.
So, Americans came to the joy of victory in 1945, largely unaware that a larger war was looming that would pit communism against, for want of a better word, capitalism. Of course, it was the communists that gave us this awkward but simple idea of conflict over two words- one to stand for the class struggle as defined by the communists and the other to be called capitalism, as if it stood for a system of government aimed at helping the rich exploit the poor. The ideological battle lines were thus more defined by one side than the other.
American freedom of thought was shared in Europe and the communists managed to infiltrate and promote their ideology with dedicated effort. The enemies were never well organized to point out the failures of communism and the major camp of its believers worked in great secrecy. The closed society of the Soviet Union was literally 'walled in' to keep its people and/or information not approved by the state from getting out. If Hitler's propaganda machine was effective under the leadership of Goebbels, it was amateurish when compared to that of the Soviets! With such control of its contacts with the rest of the world, the western world tended to know only what the Soviet government wanted to be known, and always in the way that made it look good. Dissent within the Soviet government was not tolerated or heard.
The absolute control of Joseph Stalin from 1924 until he died in 1953 left the world then with very little objective means of judging which side of the ideological war represented the better choice for society. Of course, the western thinking was tied closely to the Judeo-Christian concepts that related to a higher authority over man called God. The Soviets and all communists were clearly atheists and therefore not among those to be preferred. Still, many western liberal thinkers had to wonder if the communists might not really have some better ideas?
The first opportunity to gain meaningful insight into the performance of the Russian social experiment was produced almost by accident. Among the pantheon of Soviet heroes from Marx, to Engels, to Lenin, to Stalin, none of them ever wrote to extol how well the communist system was working in terms of human freedom or standard of living for the masses. Of course, only Stalin ever presided over a live experiment for an extended period of time. From what we now know about Stalin, always suspected by some, it is clear that he didn't want to do any objective writing that would have critiqued his tenure and stewardship. He did attempt to write some about communist economic theory, but it was not written for global distribution to be critiqued by other economists with the freedom to provide an honest review without concern for the life of the reviewer!
Stalin died on Mar. 5, 1953, and the resulting power vacuum was filled by a "collective leadership," consisting primarily of Khrushchev, Lavrenti Beria, Nikolai Bulganin, Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Lazar Kaganovich. Malenkov was named premier and first secretary of the Communist party. In September Khrushchev assumed the position of first secretary of the Communist party. The collective leadership was not long in existence. Beria was forced out of the party in July 1953 (and later executed). In 1955, Malenkov was replaced as premier by Bulganin, who was nominated to the post by Khrushchev.
Finally Khrushchev became the recognized leader from his post as first secretary and his post in the ruling body. Others came to accept that he had the same authority as Stalin had enjoyed, although Khrushchev worked hard to show that he expected to lead and gain consensus. He lost that honorable position after some of his policies showed signs of failure and he was relieved to be replaced by Brezhnev, who first ruled the country in tandem with Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin and later as the first among the "collective leadership" of the party.
During the period, later to be called one of stagnation, Brezhnev chose to ignore his former mentor, Khrushchev and this allowed an unusual memoir to be written.
A reading of Russian political history, prepared during this strange period of Russian history, was drafted by a major leader, who lived and had time to write a meaningful history, after leaving office alive, did not happen from 1917 until 1964, when Nikita Khrushchev was removed from office without dying or being murdered. Strangely, he was allowed to write because he was an Icon of enormous magnitude in the Soviet Union at that time. Brezhnev stayed in office for 18 years mostly because he controlled the strings of power himself and all avoided risking rebuke in the same way as had been true from 1924 and thereafter!
Brezhnev was followed by a succession of lesser men that did not last long as they lacked the power of a Stalin or a Khrushchev to make their power last. They were uniformly old when selected and probably that was the only safe way for the selectors to feel comfortable with their action. Not until Gorbachev came to power was there a leader that might have put any restriction on what Khrushchev could write about, and he became the author of 'glasnost' as a policy of opening the door for critical works to be written safely. By this time, the 1970 book "Khrushchev Remembers" had already been smuggled out of Russia and translated.
One gets the feeling upon reading Khrushchev that he found communism to be an enormous waste of time and effort, as millions of hours of work were lost to endless meetings aimed at promoting the communist ideology. Party members were the main victims of this waste, but the masses were treated to a lot of it too. However, it seems that the party did not believe that the masses could ever understand all that was important to the members of the party. They just had to trust that the party would see to it that the state acted in every instance to promote the general welfare. If it ever seemed (as it often did) that actions were not in the interests of one or more individuals, one had to know that others took such action for the greater good of the 'motherland'. Individual wants, needs, or complaints were always to be subordinated or ignored, if any excuse of this sort could be put forth. It usually was!
Although Khrushchev documents not only his own career, he provides a large body of evidence to show how the communist ideology gave him and others power to control the lives and deaths of millions. From the terrible Civil War of the 20's to the use of slave labor to build the Moscow subways; or the systematic killing of whole races that stood in the way of the collectivization of farming that reduced productivity to levels never achieved again before the communist collapse; Khrushchev never once stopped to write and wonder if his career and that of others, many of whom innocently perished in terrible purges for misdeeds never considered, much less enacted, had achieved a worthwhile end?
He largely overlooked the fight with equally fervent communists from Yugoslavia who refused to accept Moscow as the center for all global communism to be planned by the supreme power. Milovan Djilas understood Stalin well and stood his ground with Tito to avoid loss of their supreme power.
Writing of the essence of communism, he wrote, “Contemporary communism is that type of totalitarianism which consists of three basic factors for controlling the people. The first is power; the second is ownership; and the third is ideology. They are monopolized by the one and only political party, or- according to my previous explanation and terminology - by a new class; and at present, by the oligarchy of that party or of that class. No totalitarian system in history, not even a contemporary one- with the exception of Communism- has succeded in incorporating simultaneously all these factors for controlling the people to this degree” says Djilas on P-66 of “The New Class”.
Stalin was dead by the time that Khrushchev had to abandon the idea of leading a global essence from a central control in Moscow. This almost made the ideal impossible to achieve by itself- not withstanding the opposition of the perceived enemies. Djilas devotes a chapter on P-173 to the subject of National Communism and he points out that a split with Russia by Yugoslavia was driven by the fact that each enjoys different history and surroundings and therefore a single monolithic system with control in Moscow ala Stalin is simply not possible.
Khrushchev chronicles what he thought were an endless stream of successes and died proud that he had provided a leading role that brought evidence to the world that the Soviet Union was a super-power that would soon "bury you" as he boasted with his shoe being used to hammer the point home on the roster of the U.N. in NYC. It is important to note that in his memoirs, Khrushchev clarified his use of the words "bury you". He didn't mean it in a 'war-like' literal sense. What he was trying to say was that the socialistic system based upon communism's ability to rule in the name of the people meant that all would inevitably benefit with a higher average standard of living that would surpass the performance of what he called the 'capitalist' world, that all would clamor to copy the Soviet system. Twenty years later he was dead and so to was any evidence of the Soviet system providing so much more for its people!
He finished his book with a message of confidence claiming that soon the borders would be open to allow the stupid to go to the capitalist world to learn of their mistake before coming home to the safety and security of the Soviet State. His examination of the period of many years during which would be defectors were mostly fenced in was explained by the claim that the State could not afford a 'brain-drain' while it was building its Utopian systems, but that after fifty years, it could afford to open the borders. His words:
"Now, fifty years later, we've got to stop designing our border policy for the sake of keeping the dregs and scums inside our country. We must start thinking about the people who don't deserve to be called 'scum', people who might undergo a temporary vacillation in their convictions, or who might want to try out the capitalist hell, some aspects of which might still appear attractive to our less stable elements. We can't keep fencing these people in. We've got to give them the chance to find out themselves what the world is like.
If we don't change our position in this regard, I'm afraid we will discredit the Marxist/Leninist ideals on which our Soviet way of life is based."
It never occurred to him that if the gates were opened to let the 'scum' out, he would find that the best people would be the first to leave! Living in a special world as a privileged leader, he never believed that any right thinking person would want to think that they could enjoy a better living elsewhere. Of course, not many have the means even now to leave and make a living elsewhere. Most love their homeland and want to make it work for them. It certainly has not been easy for most in the post downfall days. Much is missing and with a Godless sense of morality having been the standard for seventy years, how can anyone expect the loss of state driven enforced morality to continue without a state that kills those that don't obey?
Khrushchev also provided an appendix of his famous secret speech to the Soviet 20th Party Congress as the evidence that he was the one to contribute the medicine to correct the major fault during his lifetime of service. The 'cult of personality' was an aberration to Khrushchev that he witnessed and had to live with; but, he was certain that the mistake would never be repeated and that the glorious achievements of the building years since the great patriotic war would soon provide plenty for all. He must have expected the rest of the world to watch with envy and follow suit.
If he had lived to see the failure that was to come just twenty one years later, he would have been able to die of apoplexy over the failure of the socialist system to outproduce and out invent the rest of the world. He never learned the lesson of the power of free enterprise when people are free to make choices on their own. Why did he fail to learn what men like David Horowitz eventually found out? One could find many points to help explain why Khrushchev lived his life without learning why the Lenin-Marx concept was wrong. Aside from character quirks or environmental concerns of where, when, and how Khrushchev lived, there are at least two profound facts of life that he never had a chance to learn:
First, the Communist party ideology assumes that a 'class war' between the peasants, workers and the bourgeoisie is now and always has and always will be the natural state of life without communism. Any student of European history at the time of Marx will understand how easy such a position could be taken as a normal circumstance. It is even possible to witness some evidences of similar nature in the U.S. in its own history; but, that tendency has always been tempered in the American dream by the second difference...
The second point relates to the fact that a different brand of Judeo-Christian relationship between peoples of different social, economic or cultural classification exists in America than was commonly found in Europe's past and more so in Russia. This relationship explains why most Americans are quite comfortable mixing in any and all social, economic or even political settings. We have opinions, and prejudices, but are on the whole a lot more tolerant than Khrushchev could have ever expected us to be with each other. As long as we have enjoyed a healthy reverence for the Almighty God as being more important than the almighty dollar, we have been a people that are not easily divided into Marxist class type of thinking.
As an atheist, Khrushchev can only be, at best, a humanist- full of love for his fellow man - as long as they obey his concept of ideology. If not, then elimination by death is not personal - just a practical necessity for the good of the entire nation! The lives of such persons are not sacred to the party or the government or to Khrushchev. Had he lived with David Horowitz after his retirement....no, he could not have done that! He died thinking he was right and never had to admit that his education was incomplete.
In meeting with Eisenhower, he could see economic advantage of slowing down the cold war's demands for governmental budgeting of excessive funds for the military. What he never learned was that American enterprise will generate whatever resource is needed by building a larger organism. Khrushchev thought in the way of almost all bureaucrats- how do we divide a finite pie? He did not see the dynamic ability of free enterprise at work and could not because he forced himself to think only in terms of the foe of socialism being capitalism. One is a movement with a political sense of direction; the other is a living organism, directed by millions of individuals who make free choices to save or invest. As these words are being written, four times as many workers in America own stock as belong to labor unions!
So, we can see to this point how communism happened in Russia and if we read all of Khrushchev you can see how it spread to a few other places. Strangely, he did not recognize China as a communist country because they didn't comprehend the class war idea. In fact, Mao and Chiang Kai Shek both studied communism in Moscow at the same time and Mao loved the idea of leading in the name of the people. So, he used the concept of being the leader of the proletariat- the chief worker against the enemy. But, he never swallowed the lie of calling the enemy capitalist! The Chinese never fell for that line and they know that capital is needed to make things happen. They did try to socialize industry and as elsewhere it fails to produce. So, China speaks of communism, but lets enterprise use capital to make things happen. They still have a long ways to go to make it as successful as free enterprise.
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