Sunday, April 17, 2016

History's horror stories: The “grand experiments” with communism

Americans have rightly been interested in their own country's history for a long time - both for the moving stories it contains, and for the secrets of its success. But we have long been interested in the stories of less successful countries as well, and we have a never-ending fascination with historical horror stories like those found in Nazi Germany. It is well that we pay them attention; because along with a careful study of the secrets of our own success, it is good to have a healthy knowledge of the causes of other countries' failures; and how the terrible events so tragically found in other countries could have been allowed to happen.

Iron Curtain, 1949 - border between the two Germanies

In that spirit, I set out to talk about another of history's "horror stories" - a story not as well-known as that of Nazi Germany, but one of vital importance nonetheless; which may be even more topical in this day, due to the expanding socialism found within our own country today. I speak of the experiences of other countries with the horrors of communism.

Potsdam Conference, 1945 - a meeting between America and Britain on the one hand, and the Soviet Union on the other

They are a cautionary tale for those of us living in the industrialized world. The results are all the more moving because of the unique situation of the countries I will focus on, which were divided right down the middle, after the cataclysmic events of the Second World War. In each of these regions, one part of each country was lucky enough to be free, while the other side was condemned to live in a cold and bleak "trial run" of a system, whose results ultimately failed to measure up to its creators' lofty aspirations.

Czech hedgehogs at Berlin Wall, 1961

The story is not an uplifting one, and the results of these epic experiments - so grand in scale - are at times bitterly (and even painfully) sobering. Nonetheless, this stark and dramatic contrast between the respective portions of these divided regions is striking; with the difference between glorious capitalist prosperity on the one hand, and grinding communist poverty on the other - a difference like night and day.

Soviet and American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie - Berlin Wall, 1961

They are a historical testimony about the true effects of communism, which teach a lesson too expensive to be forgotten, and too frightening to be repeated. So without further ado, here is my in-depth examination of the "grand experiments" with communism. What it lacks in uplift, it makes up for in truth. (View it if you dare.)

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)

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