"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin." - Ronald Reagan
I don't think Mr. Reagan really meant that anyone who reads Marx and Lenin is a communist (I've read Marx, and I'm no communist), as the second part of the joke gives some important context for the first. Understanding Marx and Lenin usually requires reading them (as I have done), so we can take the first part of the quote to mean someone who reads Marx and Lenin without understanding them. But the second part can be taken literally, even precisely; which is why I find the joke funny. Those who understand Marx and Lenin are anti-communists.
My own history with "The Communist Manifesto"
I read an English translation of "The Communist Manifesto" in December 2012, as a way of doing some opposition study. I am interested in politics, and have a Certificate in Business Economics from Northern Arizona University; so I thought it was important for me to understand this book. The book was written a century and a half earlier in 1848, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. (In the words of the economist Thomas Sowell: "Most people who read 'The Communist Manifesto' probably have no idea that it was written by a couple of young men who had never worked a day in their lives, and who nevertheless spoke boldly in the name of 'the workers.' ")
Why "The Communist Manifesto" was influential (in my opinion)
Although I will grant that the book is well-written, it's also proof that you can influence world history with very little in the way of logic, facts, or good ideas. Like his disciple President Obama, Karl Marx's success is explained by the combination of rhetorical skill with the ignorance of his followers, and the fact that poor people are more vulnerable to utopian fantasies (Marxist or otherwise) that promise alleviation of their suffering.
Title page of "The Communist Manifesto" (1848 edition)
Core doctrines of Marxism (as summarized by Ezra Taft Benson)
I would like to reassure my fellow conservatives that I have not converted to Marxism - if anything, reading "The Communist Manifesto" made me more anti-Marxism than I was before. But in the interest of educating people about this philosophy's fallacies, I will explain some of its core doctrines. I will do so in the words of a former member of the Eisenhower administration - a man who was the leader of my church, until his death in 1994. His name was Ezra Taft Benson.
Ezra Taft Benson
"The false prophets of communism predict a utopian society," says Benson
I quote his words now: "I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their tradition. Communism introduced into the world a substitute for true religion. It is a counterfeit of the gospel plan. The false prophets of Communism predict a utopian society. This, they proclaim, will only be brought about as capitalism and free enterprise are overthrown, private property abolished, the family as a social unit eliminated, all classes abolished, all governments overthrown, and a communal ownership of property in a classless, stateless society established."
Communism is a system of government that is "the opposite of our constitutional government"
Later in that talk, President Benson quoted a warning given to Church members by the First Presidency in 1936: "Communism is not a political party nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government ... We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [shun] Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America."
From left to right -
J. Reuben Clark, Heber J. Grant, and David O. McKay -
the First Presidency in 1936
Communism is a menace to "our peace [and] preservation as a free people"
President Benson also quoted Marion G. Romney in that talk, who wrote that "Communism is Satan's counterfeit for the gospel plan, and ... it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land."
Marion G. Romney
We must not tolerate "accommodation with or appeasement toward" communism
Then President Benson himself added: "We must not tolerate accommodation with or appeasement toward the false system of Communism. We must demand of our elected officials that we not only resist Communism, but that we will take every measure to prevent its intrusion into this hemisphere." (Source: October 1979 General Conference talk)
Cold War context of these words from Benson
This talk was given during the Cold War, when the United States was in a death struggle with communism. Communism no longer controls such a large portion of the world as it did then, so it may not be "the greatest anti-Christ power in the world" anymore. But socialism - the milder version of Marxist philosophy - is even more of a threat today than it was then. Thus, the timely warnings of President Benson are as relevant as ever, and I wholeheartedly endorse them.
Marx and Engels
Scientific objections to Marxist theories (and the actual track record of communism)
Although the foundations of my anti-Marxism are partly religious (as any policy beliefs are), there are also scientific objections to Marxism, based on challenging the dubious factual and theoretical claims of Misters Marx and Engels. I will not go into these things here, because this post is more about policy than economic science - and also because I discussed them in another post, which I link to here. (I will also not go into the actual track record of communism here, because I discuss that in still another post, which I link to here.) But I will say that while I do not wish to debate about Mormonism, atheism, or any other religion (except maybe Marxism itself); I will answer arguments posted here about the fact/theory claims of Marxism (in other words, the science), or its value/policy claims (the "shoulds" and "oughts"). I will also answer arguments about communism's actual track record, if you wish to debate that subject.
Plea for respect in any comments that readers might feel inspired to make here
If you wish to post a dissenting comment, please keep it respectful, and we can have an enjoyable debate about Marxism. If you wish to post a supporting comment, I will welcome that as well.
If you liked this post, you might also like:
Scientific objections to Marxism
Actual track record of communism
Part of a series about
Communism in theory: Why Marxism can never work
The "Communist Manifesto" (and how Marxism got started)
Marx's "labor theory of value" (and why it doesn't work)
Problems with equalizing income (even in theory)
Problems with rewarding good behavior (under communism)
In defense of John Locke: The need for private property
Communism in practice: The results of the experiments
Revolution in Russia: How the madness got started
History's horror stories: The "grand experiments" with communism
Germany and Korea: The experiments that neither side wanted
Civil war in China: How China was divided
Chaos in Cuba: Castro and the communist revolution
Fall of the Wall: The collapse of the Soviet Union
Actually, communism has been tried (and it doesn't work)