JP Floru is the Director of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute.
The left’s most common defence is that “real communism was never tried”. It serves to counter the most common attack on it, namely, that is simply doesn’t work. Who will fish if, as is the case in Cuba, the fish is state property?
In fact communism has been tried in so many guises that one has to wonder how many heads this hydra possesses. The common characteristic is that they all claimed to bring freedom, by making their people slaves of the collective. There are gradations; under social-democracy one is merely a part-time slave.
Here is a short overview of some regimes which prided themselves on being good communists:
- USSR under Stalin: 40 to 70 million deaths
- China under Mao: 40 to 70 million deaths – Mao’s Great Famine caused cannibalism
- Cambodia under Pol Pot: 2 to 5 million deaths
- DDR under Honecker: 150-200 climbing the Berlin Wall; 3.5 million Germans fled
- Kim il Sung: 1.5 million deaths
- Castro: 35,000 – 140,000 deaths – Che Guevara was one of the killers
Note: there are obviously many other examples of mass killings under other statist forms of government such as fascism.
All of these communist regimes had Western apologists at one time or another. Some Western leaders were not beyond snubbing courageous Eastern-European dissidents and democrats. In 1991 Boris Yeltsin received a chilly reception at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and Mitterrand refused to meet him at the Elysee. Mitterrand also famously refused to condemn the attempted coup by communist hardliners against Gorbachev in 1991.
The snubbing of freedom fighters by Western leaders continues today; often out of fear that commerce will suffer. President Jacob Zuma’s government of South Africa refused the Dalai Lama an entry visa last October (landing the Tibetan Leader top publicity). Contrast this weasel behaviour with Vaclav Havel, whose last political act was to meet the Dalai Lama on December 10th.
Twenty years ago we witnessed the amazing spectacle of enchained masses liberating themselves and electing their freedom fighters to lead them. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa embodied the indomitable spirit of freedom. Let their examples strengthen today’s freedom fighters, such as Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma; or Shin Dong-hyuk from North Korea, who gave such a moving talk to the Henry Jackson Society here in London last month.
Freedom will always be more inspiring than a prison camp. That is why communism is always bound to be overthrown. I hope North Korea will be next.