Karl Marx famously dubbed religion “the opium of the people.”1
The blood-drenched history of communism—that is, full-fledged socialism, as established in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and elsewhere—is thoroughly documented. But despite the horror of socialism’s history, numerous U.S. college professors continue to uphold it as a moral ideal.
The ideal they advocate is not a mixed economy welfare state such as the partial socialism of Sweden or Denmark, or that advocated by Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama. No, these American professors preach the beneficence of Stalin, the rectitude of Soviet Communism, and the evil of capitalism. They do this as tenured professors at respected American universities.
Regardless of the accuracy of Marx’s antireligious claim, a more baleful one is indubitably true: Socialism is the hallucinogen of the intellectuals.
Unfortunately, these hallucinating apologists for mass murderers do not suffer their vices alone. They spend their days and years pushing false history and evil ideas on college students, who, by virtue of their youth, have insufficient knowledge with which to counter the lies.
I write this essay as an open letter to America’s youths, providing them with knowledge they need to combat their professors’ lies.
Socialist theory is grounded largely in the writings of Karl Marx (1818–1883). Marx was a German philosopher and a philosophic materialist, holding that reality consists exclusively of material objects and their activities; in short, everything is physical.
To philosophic materialists, the human “mind” is no more than neural firings in the brain, electrical discharges in the nervous system, and so forth. Human nature, on this view, can be fully explicated in physical-chemical terms. Thoughts, values, and emotions are specific types of material activity, no more.
If everything is matter, then humans are purely physical beings. When they produce goods or services, they do so exclusively by means of manual labor. Who, on this view, creates wealth? Is it the entrepreneurs and the capitalists who invent products or finance their production? Or is it the workers in the factories and the fields—the men and women who use their hands to physically make the goods?
On the premise of materialism, it is the latter. The workers create the goods—but the capitalists own them. This, says Marx, is unjust.
The owners grow wealthy by exploiting the labor of the workers. The owning class is, therefore, the inveterate enemy of the working class. Human society, especially under capitalism, is permeated by social-economic injustice.
Further, the owners use their economic power to buy political influence and thus control the state. They pass laws protecting private property, their ill-gotten wealth that properly belongs to the workers. The workers have no legal recourse by which to recover what is rightfully theirs.
Capitalism, Marx concludes, is a system of institutionalized exploitation. There is but one means to redress the injustice: The workers must rise, a la the Paris street mob of the French Revolution; they must seize the wealth that properly belongs to them, and they must obliterate the capitalists. The owning class will be incarcerated and/or killed. “We have no compassion,” stated Marx. “When our time comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.”2
The essence of Marxist theory is unremitting class warfare. Because these economic classes are groups, not individuals, it is the group—whether the owning class or the working class—that is the unit of moral value.
These fundamentals of Marxist-socialist theory extend, in one form or another, into every version of undiluted socialism. Consider, for instance, National Socialism (Nazism).
The National Socialists held that an individual’s value (or lack of it) is determined by his race, by his genetic lineage, by the ethnic collective into which he is born. A member of the “master race” is morally virtuous; a member of an “inferior race” is morally degenerate.
Whereas Marxists and communists hold economic groups as the units of moral assessment, National Socialists regard racial groups in that manner. Each holds a specified collective—in contrast to the individual—as the basic criterion of value.
According to these and all forms of full-fledged socialism, a person is not an independent being but a cog in a collective. To the National Socialists, a person’s intellect and character are hard-wired into his racial makeup; these are “in the blood.” To the Marxists, a person is born into an economic class, reared in its mores, trained in its worldview, formed by its philosophy. Thus, for both, all of a person’s ideas—whether via nature or nurture—are products of his group identity.
Members of the owning class, for example, conceptualize human society and history differently than do members of the working class. The owners uphold principles of market economics and the law of supply and demand, including for wage rates. The workers, by contrast, support coercion to increase wage rates via mass organization, union power, bloody strikes, and government intervention. The owners maintain that individuals have inalienable rights to property, that the government must protect such rights, and that the initiation of force must be banned. The workers maintain that the initiation of force is justified so long as it redistributes wealth and/or advances social justice. According to Marxist socialism, the owning class has its logic, and the working class has another. Which one is correct? Hitler, let us recall, had an answer regarding which racial group was right; similarly, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and all Marxist-socialist leaders had a response for which economic class was correct. They demonstrated it in practice.
Socialism in Practice
According to Marxist socialism—or communism, for short—the moral imperative is for the working class to triumph in revolution against the owning class. The good is that which furthers this aim, regardless of how many lives are crushed in the process. The only worth possessed by an “individual” is instrumental value in serving this cause.
The Cambodian communists perfectly expressed to their victims this principle: “Losing you is not a loss, and keeping you is no specific gain.”3 Apart from service to the class struggle, an “individual” is nothing, possesses no rights—not even to life—and may be crushed with no more compunction than would follow from squashing a beetle. Given this view of the individual, it is not surprising that the Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communists) murdered more than two million innocent civilians in the course of three and a half years.
The Cambodian communists had learned well from their socialist mentors in Moscow, where Lenin had said that enemies of the working class would be suppressed “like noxious insects.”4 By conservative estimate, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics murdered twenty million civilians for its socialist cause.5 The victims included not only businessmen, industrialists, and bankers, but also Ukrainian peasants, Orthodox priests and nuns, middle-class housewives, even Red Army officers and loyal Communist Party members—anyone regarded as a “class enemy.”
The figure of twenty million murders, along with much of the evidence in this essay, is drawn from The Black Book of Communism, a document based on research into Soviet archives, partially opened for a brief duration during the 1990s. To the extent that evidence proceeds from official Soviet files, the information is “straight from the horse’s mouth.”6 But some researchers have uncovered strong evidence that the number of Soviet victims was substantially higher.
J. Rummel, for example, devoted his career to studying “democide,” mass murder of innocent civilians by their own governments. Rummel estimates that Soviet socialists slaughtered sixty-one million individuals.7 “Old and young, healthy and sick, men and women, even infants and the infirm, were killed in cold blood.”8
Nor did the Soviets necessarily murder their victims quickly; they often did so via methods tortuously slow. One of their favored techniques was deliberate mass starvation.
The Ukrainian Terror Famine of 1932–33 (aka the Holodomor) is a representative example. The essence of this little-known atrocity is that Stalin, in keeping with socialist ideology, opposed the existence of privately owned land held by peasants and sought to force them onto collective farms; the peasants, desiring to retain their property, resisted. Such opposition made them “class enemies” and brought on them Stalin’s retaliation.
In 1932, on pretext that the peasants had failed to meet government-mandated grain quotas, Stalin seized all foodstuffs and let mass starvation ensue. Historian Adam Ulam explains: “Stalin in his fury ordered all the available stocks to be seized, no matter what the consequences for the local population.”9 The socialist regime kept the famine secret, prohibited the import of food to Ukraine, and coercively restrained people from leaving the region.
Historian Robert Conquest writes: “Brigades would . . . make complete formal searches every couple of weeks. Even peas, potatoes and beetroots were finally taken.”10 As people starved to death en masse, the secret police prevented them from procuring food. Conquest reports, “A woman seven months pregnant . . . was caught plucking spring wheat, and beaten with a board, dying soon afterwards.”11 Nor were children spared death by famine. “Nastia Slipenko, a mother with three young children . . . was shot by an armed guard while digging up . . . potatoes by night. The three children then starved to death.”12 The attitude of supervising Party authorities was remorseless: “You won’t be any good if you let pity get the whip-hand. You must learn to feed yourself even if others are dying of hunger.”13
Thus one quarter of the rural population lay dying, supervised by well-fed squads of Party officials.14 The death toll in numbers of individuals murdered? Conquest concretizes it as follows: “In the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this [400-page] book.”15
In the Holodomor—or “extermination by hunger”—the Soviets murdered five to seven million Ukrainians whose “crime” was seeking to retain privately owned farms.16
Stalin’s regime suppressed a 1937 Soviet census and “shot as spies”17 the Census Board because its figures showed fifteen million fewer living souls than authorities had expected. What had happened to the millions of missing persons? Conquest estimates that “premature deaths [that is, murders] due to deportation and famine are believed to amount to at least 10 million.”18
So-called “class enemies” under Marxist socialism have as much chance at life as do so-called “race enemies” under National Socialism.
Lenin, long dead by the time of the Holodomor, had nevertheless rendered a perfect explanation not only of his own crimes19 but of Stalin’s future ones: “When we are reproached with cruelty, we wonder how people can forget the most elementary Marxism.”20 The newspaper of the Soviet secret police made Lenin’s point more graphically: “We reject the old system of morality and ‘humanity’,” it proclaimed. “To us, everything is permitted. . . . Blood? Let blood flow like water . . . and let our flag be blood-red forever!”21
But with the Holodomor, Stalin was just beginning his career as a mass murderer. Soon to come were the Great Terror of 1937–38; the purges of the Communist Party and of the Red Army; the slave labor, torture, and murder in the Gulag system; and more.22 The Black Book of Communism reports that the known murder count for the Great Terror alone is at least 681,000 individuals23—but acknowledges that this number is far from exhaustive; for it is not known how many people perished from torture after arrest or in transit to the gulags, or how many were murdered or died from maltreatment in the camps.24
Another of the many massacres committed by the Soviets was the Katyn Forest slaughter in Poland, in 1940. Here the Soviets murdered between 20,000 and 25,000 Polish Army officers—some 4,400 in the now infamous Katyn Forest in the western USSR near Smolensk—soldiers captured in 1939, when Soviet forces invaded and conquered eastern Poland. These men were reservists called up when the National Socialists invaded Poland, and they represented the elite of young Polish manhood: teachers, lawyers, businessmen, doctors, engineers, and the like.25 In a death warrant personally signed by Stalin, the KGB was ordered to apply to these officers “the supreme penalty: shooting.”26
Their sole “crime” was being of the wrong class. Stalin had these young officers murdered to rid Poland of class enemies who might otherwise be future leaders. The Soviet leader duplicitously denied culpability, artfully blaming the National Socialists. But today the truth is known.27
Nor were Marxist mass murders unique to the Soviet Union. Socialist class warfare arose in China, Cambodia, and North Korea, as well as in other nations.28 By conservative estimate, the number of innocent individuals murdered by Marxist socialists in the 20th century approximates one hundred million,29 which, as historian Martin Malia notes is “the most colossal case of political carnage in history.”30 (The National Socialists slaughtered roughly a quarter that many people.)31
How have American intellectuals responded to these facts?
The American Intellectuals’ Response
What do American intellectuals say regarding these ghastly truths that are now widely known? They can speak for themselves.
Regarding Stalin, Professor J. Arch Getty (University of California, Riverside) writes, “many thousands of innocent people were arrested, imprisoned and sent to labor camps. Thousands were executed.”32 Thousands? John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, experts on Soviet socialism who did extensive research in Soviet archives, write: “Getty absolved Stalin of responsibility for planning mass murder, depicting him as a moderate unable to control an intrabureaucratic struggle that regrettably got out of hand.”33
Regarding the number of people murdered under Stalin, Professor Jerry Hough (Duke University) claims that “a figure in the low hundreds of thousands seems much more probable than one in the high hundreds” and that a lower figure of only “tens of thousands” is “probable.”34
Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick, formerly a professor at the University of Chicago, in a work published by Oxford University Press, says that the maximum number of people killed under Stalin’s socialist regime is in the “low hundreds of thousands.”35
Professor Robert Thurston (Miami University of Ohio), in a 1996 text, published several years after Soviet archives partially opened, also claims that the Soviet murder count stood merely in the hundreds of thousands and expressed dismay at the negative manner in which Stalin is presented, arguing that the dictator was “more human than others have portrayed him,” that he “was not guilty of mass first-degree murder from 1934 to 1941,” and that “he did not plan or carry out a systematic campaign to crush the nation.”36
Professor Grover Furr (Montclair State University) writes: “The greatest historical events . . . in all of human history . . . have been . . . the establishment of societies run by and for the working class in the two great communist revolutions in Russia and China.”37
Professor Theodore Von Laue, formerly of Clark University, acknowledges Soviet terror and murder on a massive scale but regards it as a necessary means in a heroic effort to establish the Soviet Union as an urban, industrialized superpower. He writes: “Viewed in the full historical context Stalin appears as one of the most impressive figures of the twentieth century. . . . Can we then condemn a Russian patriot, determined to surpass the influence and success of Western nations, for wanting in 1920 to spread the Soviet model? . . . However brutal, [Soviet socialism] was a remarkable human achievement despite its flaws.”38
Imagine the (proper) outrage that would ensue if an American professor, writing in a respected academic journal, said, “National Socialism was a remarkable human achievement despite its flaws.” Yet when a professor writes the same of Soviet socialism, we hear nary a whimper of protest.
Regarding American opposition to the Soviets, Professor Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University) writes that “the fervid anticommunism of the early Cold War did tap into something dark and nasty in the human soul.”39 Historian David Caute argues that “American capitalism . . . and liberty had little to fear from domestic Communism.”40 Professor Joel Kovel (Bard University) states that “anti-communism is an exploitation of the deep structures of racism for the purpose of managing threats to capitalist rule.”41 As Haynes and Klehr explain, according to Kovel, it was not communism but rather American Cold War anticommunism that “plunged the world into a nightmare: ‘millions of innocents lie dead, [and] whole societies have been laid to waste.’”42 To such intellectuals, it was not Soviet socialism, but American opposition to it that was irrational, aggressive, and dangerous.
Haynes and Klehr write that, after a 1990 trip to the Soviet Union, Professor Eric Foner (Columbia University), an avowed socialist, complained because “Soviet historians no longer accepted his negative views of America.” Foner was appalled that to younger Russian academics, “America has become the land of liberty and prosperity.” He expressed dismay that “these young Russians even praised Thomas Jefferson and the values of the American Declaration of Independence.”43
Such are the ideas that many professors teach to American college students. Soviet socialism had minor flaws, they claim, but it was essentially good. American capitalism and opposition to socialism was and is heinous. The socialist principle that an individual has no right to his own life, but must live for the state, is virtuous. The capitalist principle that an individual has an inalienable right to his own life, which the state must protect, is evil.
The Obscenity of Socialist Intellectuals’ Evasions
To fully comprehend the viciousness of such professors, consider several related truths. It is not merely that Marxist socialists are history’s most prodigious mass murderers; it is that, like their siblings in atrocity, the National Socialists, they are mass murderers as a matter of confirmed moral principle.
Although socialists are quick to recall rights-violating aspects of American history in their condemnation of capitalism, this is absurdly dishonest. Yes, Americans perpetrated slavery, brutally persecuted blacks throughout the Jim Crow-era, and have committed other injustices. But these moral crimes were in overt violation of their own principles of each individual’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For the Americans to obviate the injustices they perpetrated, they needed not to change their principles but to consistently live by them.
Socialists are another matter.
Given their explicit imperative to annihilate class enemies, socialists perpetrate murderous atrocities as an inalterable result of enacting their fundamental principles. For them to relinquish the bludgeon of brutality and to embrace civilized coexistence would require renouncing the principle of unremitting class warfare—that is, it would require repudiating Marxism. Until and unless socialists are willing to do that, the murders they commit, the murderers they excuse, and the other crimes they perpetrate are both consistent with and necessitated by their foundational precepts.
The moral status of creatures who deny the evil of socialism, defend mass murderers, and assail principled opponents of such murderers is cognitively clear. We can close with a corresponding emotional effect.
It is easy for American intellectuals to swill out lies about socialism to college students from the safety of U.S. campuses. But imagine voicing such deceit to a desperate Ukrainian mother, pleading with you to smuggle her children past the KGB cordons, out of the starvation zones, and into some nation that respects human life. Picture her on her knees, tears streaking hollowed cheeks, two emaciated children, one at each side, pleading for their lives: “Please, mister . . . anything you want . . . sex, anything . . . I know I will die here . . . I’m thirty-one . . . but it is alright, I do not complain . . . but please, take my children . . . I cannot bear to watch them starve to death . . . please . . .”
What would these socialist professors say or do? Would they tell her, in keeping with the words of Professor Robert Thurston quoted above: “It is alright. Do not fear. Comrade Stalin is more human than others have portrayed him. He is not guilty of mass first-degree murder. He would never deliberately starve to death your children.” More likely, they would report her as a class enemy to the secret police, to be beaten and tortured to death, her children left to starve alone, bereft not merely of food but likewise of their mother’s comfort. After all, as Martin Latsis, one of Lenin’s secret police officers, said regarding Marxist socialists: “We don’t make war against any people in particular. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class.”44
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1. Karl Marx, “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1972), 12.
2. Karl Marx, “Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung,” Neue Rheinische Zeitung, May 19, 1849. www.paulbogdanor.com/left/communists.html, “The Communists As They Really Are.” Retrieved August 2, 2016.[groups_can capability="access_html"]
3. Jean-Louis Margolin, “Cambodia: The Country of Disconcerting Crimes,” in Stephane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 597.
4. Martin Malia, “Foreword: The Uses of Atrocity,” The Black Book of Communism, xiv.
5. Courtois, “Introduction: The Crimes of Communism,” The Black Book of Communism, 4.
6. Malia, “Foreword” to Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, xii.
7. R. J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008), 79–89.
8. Rummel, Death by Government, 79.
9. Adam Ulam, “Introduction” to Miron Dolot, Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1985), xi. Dolot, who as a young man survived the Holodomor, provides here an eyewitness account of its extent and its horror.
10. Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 231.
11. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, 231.
12. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, 231.
13. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, 230.
14. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, 3.
15. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, 1.
16. Ulam, “Introduction,” Execution by Hunger, vii.
17. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 487.
18. Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), 96.
19. The number of innocents cruelly murdered under Lenin’s authority is numbing: 50,000 civilians killed in the Crimea in 1920, between 300,000 and 500,000 killed or deported in the Cossack regions of the Don and the Kuban in 1919 and 1920, lists of thousands of civilians each in one town after another executed in 1920 and 1921 for no crime other than belonging to the “possessing classes,” some 8,000 priests, monks, and nuns butchered in 1922, and on the savage orgy of mass murder went. Martin Latsis, one of Lenin’s secret police officers, told his men: “We don’t make war against any people in particular. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class.” In carrying out such class extermination, the Soviets physically forced middle-class women, on their knees, to scrub the toilets of the secret police, then gang-raped them, then put a bullet in their skulls, then left their corpses moldering in mass graves with other such “class enemies.” One of Lenin’s henchmen said that instead of a “People’s Commissariat for Justice” there should be a “People’s Commissariat for Social Extermination.” “Excellent idea,” Lenin countered. “That’s exactly how I see it. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t do to call it that!” Historian, Martin Malia, wrote: “From the start, Lenin expected, indeed wanted, civil war to crush all ‘class enemies.’ . . . So much for the fable of ‘good Lenin/bad Stalin.’” Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, xviii, 8, 62, 100, 102, 105–6, and 126.
20. Quoted in Rummel, Death By Government, 79.
21. Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism, 102.
22. Conquest, The Great Terror, 485–86, 309, 337, and passim. Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History (New York: Doubleday, 2003), pp. xxxix, 92–115, and passim. Robert Conquest, Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps (New York: Viking Press, 1978), 49–66 and 214–31. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 144–79, 565–88, and passim.
23. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 190.
24. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 191.
25. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003), 19.
26. Haynes and Klehr, quoted in In Denial, 21–22. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 211, 369. www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art6.html. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
27. Allen Paul, Katyn: The Untold Story of Stalin’s Polish Massacre (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991), passim.
28. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 463–546, 577–635, and 547–64.
29. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 4.
30. Malia, “Foreword” to Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, x.
31. Rummel, Death by Government, 111–22. Martin Malia, “Foreword” to Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, xi.
32. J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933–1938 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 8. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 17.
33. Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 17.
34. Jerry Hough and Merle Fainsod, How The Soviet Union Is Governed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), 175–77. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 17.
35. Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 157. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 17.
36. Robert Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 193–1941 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 227–28. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 23–24.
37. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 27.
38. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 24, 25, 26.
39. Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998), 46.
40. David Caute, The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge under Truman and Eisenhower (New York: Touchstone Books, 1979), 21.
41. Joel Kovel, Red Hunting in the Promised Land: Anti-Communism and the Making of America (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 74, 95, 233. Quoted in Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 52.
42. Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 52.
43. Haynes and Klehr, In Denial, 39–40.
44. Courtois, The Black Book of Communism, 8.[/groups_can]