One hundred years ago today, an armed insurrection in Petrograd, Russia, marked the beginning of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Seventy-four years later, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved.
For every one of the 27,077 days in between, at minimum and on average, 739 (up to 2,216 by some estimates) Soviet citizens died at the hands of the Soviet government*. On average, a minimum of 31 (to 92) were killed every hour of each of those days. What drove this twisted disregard for human life? In one word: Marxism. Remembering Communism’s Bloody Century
Karl Marx envisioned a new era of freedom and plenty, and its precondition was destroying the “wage slavery” and exploitation of capitalism. As he and his collaborator Friedrich Engels declared in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, our theory “may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”
Following Marx’s simple dictum, Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. All the products of individual labor belonged to the State. All wages were determined by the State.
Money, Method, and the Market Process – Ludwig von Mises:
In such a socialist universe everything will be planned by the supreme authority and to the individual “comrades” no other sphere of action will be left than unconditional surrender to the will of their masters. The comrades will drudge, but all the yield of their endeavors will be at the disposal of the high authority. Such is the ideal of socialism or communism… The individual comrade will enjoy what the supreme authority assigns to him for his consumption and enjoyment. Everything else, all material factors of production, will be owned by the authority…
If one does not permit individuals to keep as their property the things produced…, one removes any incentive to create such things… Thus the anti-property (i.e., socialist or communist) authors had to construct … a society in which all men are forced to obey unconditionally the orders issued from a central authority…
The irony of using the term “wage slavery” was apparently lost on Marx.
The sine qua non property right is ownership of one’s self, including the right to the product of one’s own labor and the right to one’s own thoughts. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that “abolition of private property” includes rejection of self ownership. Marxist State property necessarily includes individual human beings.
Across time, across cultures and embodied in dozens of leaders, it is precisely from the rejection of private property that the miseries of Marxism, communism and socialism flow.
Directly as a result of Marx’s prescription, ninety-four million, and counting, people died at the hands of their own governments. It is this long and bloody record – of the Soviet, Chinese, Cambodian, North Korean, Vietnamese, Cuban and Venezuelan Marxists – against which capitalism must be measured by anyone who desires to replace it with Marxism.
It is fashionable, in fact it’s the last refuge, for the defenders of Marxism to claim its depradations are due to flawed implementation. “Stalin’s Soviet Union didn’t have real Communism.” “Mao’s China didn’t have real Marxism.” Etc.. How many times do we have to run this sick experiment before the lesson sticks?
Whoever rose to the top in any of these aspiring utopias would have faced the same choices. An ideology that denies self ownership compels substantially similar, abominable decisions, no matter the personal virtue (if such a thing can even be said of anyone who desires such power over others) of the rulers.
It’s not the messengers, it’s the message.
Edit: Soviet death figures modified to account for the range of estimates (20-60 million). 11:50AM
Intro to Perennial Classics Edition by Edward Ericson: Solzhenitsyn publicized an estimate of 60 million.