Communism: Learning from the Past and Present

As I have put forth in my previous posts, a socialist government is the best political system to be realized today in the interests of the 99%. But if we are going to move towards having the power taken back from the rich and given to its rightful owners, the workers, we must avoid making the mistakes made by Communist countries today and in the past.

One of the most dangerous actions taken by the radical leftist governments of the past is that they tried to realize unrealistic goals too soon. E.g., China had its “Great Leap Forward,” the Soviets under Stalin always put forth these “5 Year Plans” that hurt the Russian people at the hands of Stalin’s vain attempts at greatness, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million of their countrymen partially due to economic reforms. And these often just occurred to catch up with capitalist countries in the areas of industry, science, military, and infrastructurevtoo fast. Foolish.

The are two reasons why this is true, namely:

  1. Revolutionaries have no idea how to run a country. This often leads to unspeakable hardships and suffering for the reasons mentioned above in the pursuit of grand ideals.
  2. The three countries outlined above, i.e., Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, were ruled under brutal dictators, or very small groups of leaders, who ran authoritarian governments. They involved purges, gulags, and mass murders of so-called “enemies of the people.” And these things are still taking place in North Korea under the rule of the Kim family and their latest criminal, thug leader, Kim Jong Un.

But in terms of the socialist experiment in Cuba, we could learn a lot of positive things from them. The U.S. capitalist media would have you believe that the Castros are no different than Stalin or Un, but what they don’t report are the great strides towards equality taking place in the small island country. E.g., they have redistributed land to the peasants through land reform. Once the Cuban peasants were slaves to rich plantation owners, but as a result of the revolution, the land owned by the corporations and plantation owners has now been divided amongst the people who work the land. And that is just one example of the successful reforms. They have also gotten away from just being a sugar-dominated economy and even become a powerhouse in the research and development of new medicines that are often purchased, yes, by the U.S. government.

Yet this has succeeded by not having some grand goal of building a developing country into a society where they are immediately just as technologically advanced as  the U.S. These are examples of how ideas and policies could be learned from a socialist society to be translated instilled in a more equal America.

So in conclusion, the brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is due to harsh authoritarian governments, not an attempted realization of a fully socialist society. These dictatorships had vain rulers trying to advance mostly Third-World countries into global players too fast. Yet we can look to somewhere like Cuba for positive ideas to enact here in the U.S. in pursuit of a more egalitarian society.

Difficult Decision: History Suggests U.S. Should Not Use Heavy Hand in Syria

As the United States mulls its decision on when and how to intervene in the Syrian Civil War, we must ask the difficult question of whether a heavy U.S. intervention is good for the long-term prospects of the Syrian people.  History would suggest this might seem effective and the right thing to do in the short-term but be a mistake in the more distant future.

The problem with any outside influence intervening in a country’s civil conflict is the reality the losing side will assume they lost solely because of that foreign interference.  The opposition will continue to push, often violently, until they have regained power and relative internal “peace” begins.  The United States has had a very heavy influence in many countries in the post-WWII era so a quick look at some of the results should give us an idea of the long-term success.

Should we or shouldn’t we?
Guatemala

In 1954, the CIA supported a coup d’état that eventually led to a civil war lasting over three decades.  During that time the U.S. supported “government forces and state-sponsored paramilitaries [that] were responsible for over 93 percent of the human rights violations during the war…More than 450 Mayan villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became displaced within Guatemala or refugees. Over 200,000 people, mostly Mayan, lost their lives during the civil war.”  Safe to say this was a failure in the long-run for the U.S. and Guatemala would have almost assuredly been better off without our “help”.

El Salvador

During the civil war in this country, the United States chose to support the side that was also found guilty of egregious human rights violations.  The estimated casualty count: “more than 70,000 people were killed, many in the course of gross violation of their human rights…Despite mostly killing peasants, the Government readily killed any opponent they suspected of sympathy with the guerrillas — clergy (men and women), church lay workers, political activists, journalists, labor unionists (leaders, rank-and-file), medical workers, liberal students and teachers, and human-rights monitors.”  And it appears that the side opposed by the U.S. in that war has now taken power in the democratically elected government.  Another failure for the U.S.

Laos/Cambodia

Both of these countries fought part (Laos) or all (Cambodia) of their civil wars during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam.  The U.S. became involved in the fighting inside the borders of each while bombing both countries during the Vietnam War.  The U.S. supported the eventual losing side in both of these wars and the casualty counts were six figures in each.  Ultimately, two more failures for the U.S.

Chile

The CIA worked to bring about another coup in this country in 1973 which brought notorious human rights violator Pinochet to power.  His estimated damage to the citizens of Chile: “1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.”  Another black-eye on the U.S. record.

Others

Nicaragua’s history contains the familiar story of the United States supporting the losing side in the civil war and that side being in power through elections today.  Afghanistan has been a seesaw for the U.S., at best, and will likely be a very violent place in the years to come.  And the disaster that was the Iraq War might have been the beginning of even more violence to come at a level some are saying will be worse than Syria.  The list seems to continue to grow as the years go by.

Which brings us back to the current question of what to do about Syria?  We all have our own positions on this but one thing seems clear: it is likely to be a “lose-lose” situation for the U.S. government.  If we don’t intervene, a lot of people will die and the world will ask why we did nothing (kind of like how nothing was done to address the recent famine in Somalia that killed 250,000, half of which were children).  If we do intervene, it will fuel the fire of the Syrian government forces, even if they are beaten out of power, and they will likely continue with an insurgent movement long after the power in the country has changed hands.

This situation is a disaster in every way imaginable and whatever decision the Obama administration comes to on this it will likely be the wrong one when we look back on it in the years to come.