Scarcity, terror, and the mass murder of more than 100 million victims are communism’s main contributions to human history. As we mark the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia on November 7, we should never forget that legacy. Communism is a fount of human misery and death. Few today really understand what that system of so-called government is all about.
In a nutshell, communism enforces a privileged elite’s centralization of power. This means it always puts too much power into the hands of too few people. They tend to weasel their way into power as their ventriloquized agitators use talking points like “justice” and “equality” while promoting a false illusion of public support.
So, how would it ever be possible for a free society like America to succumb to such tyrannical forces? I think we’ve spent precious little time trying to dissect and understand this process. So, in this three-part series, I hope to map out six stages that lead us into this dangerous direction. Within each phase, several trends take hold. I’ll discuss the trends in more detail in parts II and III.
There is a lot of overlap among the phases, but I think they can be roughly identified as: 1.) Laying the groundwork; 2.) Propaganda; 3.) Agitation; 4.) State takeover of society’s institutions; 5.) Coercing conformity; and 6.) Final solutions. But first let’s look a bit more closely at what communism really means for human beings.
‘Power Kills. Absolute Power Kills Absolutely’
Thousands of texts examine and analyze communism ideologically, historically, economically, and so on. It always amounts to a bait-and-switch scheme hatched by egomaniacs who want to dictate to everybody. Why? Because it’s all about the consolidation of power by a tiny elite—in Vladimir Lenin’s words, “the vanguard”—who claim to promote equality and justice and blah, blah, blah.
But once communism gets its foot in the door and you don’t get with their program, it promises you death in a variety of forms: economic death, social death, and literal death. That’s predictable whenever you put too much power into the hands of too few people. And that’s why we should always firmly oppose any system that demands the consolidation and centralization of power.
Although communist and socialist governments murdered well more than 100 million people in the course of the twentieth century, that number spikes even further when you include the practical bedfellows of communism, like Nazism and fascism, for example. According to the calculations of Professor R. J. Rummel, author of “Death by Government,” totalitarian regimes snuffed out approximately 169 million lives in the twentieth century alone. That number is more than four times higher than the 38 million deaths—civilian as well as military—caused by all of the twentieth century wars combined.
As Rummel states: “Power kills. Absolute power kills absolutely.” The common thread that runs through communist and fascist ideologies is their totalitarian nature, which means they control people by breeding scarcity, ignorance, human misery, social distrust, the constant threat of social isolation, and death to dissenters. All in the name of justice and equality.
They cannot abide any checks or balances, particularly checks on government power as reflected in the U.S. Bill of Rights. They fight de-centralization of power, which allows localities and states true self-governance. Such restraints on the centralized power of the state stand in the way of achieving the goal of communism: absolute state power over every single human being.
Lenin’s Blood-Soaked Legacy
It should astonish us to realize that the obsessions of a few wild-eyed revolutionaries can blue-pill whole populations of peaceful citizens. But it’s all a matter of conjuring up illusions and mass delusions, no matter the brand of totalitarianism. Lenin was a fiery orator of propaganda, as was Adolph Hitler.
To achieve absolute power, Lenin focused on fomenting a class war, while Hitler set his sights on a race war. Either way, the divide-and-conquer modus operandi of fascist and communist demagogues is pretty much the same, no matter what each side might claim about the other. Their propaganda content may differ, but not so much their divide-and-conquer methods. Attitudes of supremacy come in a virtual rainbow of flavors and colors.
As Saul Alinsky taught and the agitprop of groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center illustrates so perfectly, the goal of all such radicals is to seize power by fueling resentment and hatred among people through various forms of “consciousness”—particularly class and race consciousness. That’s what identity politics is all about. That division is a key tool for totalitarians in their conquest of the people. Once their organizations breed enough ill will, the “masses”—made up of mostly alienated individuals—can be baited and mobilized to do the bidding of power elites, with a rhetorical veneer claiming justice and equality.
Most of today’s enlisted rioters—groups that call themselves things like “Indivisible,” “Anti-Fascist,” “Stop Patriarchy,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Refuse Fascism,” or moveon.org—are pretty much unabashedly communist (or just plain fascist) in their goals and aims and tactics. The chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA, for example, founded Refuse Fascism. It’s a pro-violence group that planned street theater on November 4, with the stated goal of overturning the 2016 election and taking out the Trump administration.
If you’re a true student of history, you can see that this is an old movie: mobs of disaffected, alienated people being exploited and mobilized by power elites. Unfortunately, very few Americans today, especially younger generations, are inquisitive students of history.
Certain sports figures, for example, claim to be exercising their First Amendment rights by showing hostility towards the American flag during the national anthem, based on a superficial understanding of history. They don’t realize the net effect of their actions is to show hostility against the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, for which the flag stands. Perhaps they don’t understand how their actions are easily exploited by those who would ultimately deprive everyone, including themselves, of all freedom of expression. Without freedom of expression, we all become slaves to the forces of tyranny. Sadly, using freedom to destroy freedom is an old tactic of all totalitarians.
Six Phases to Unfreedom
Many of the social trends we see today point to dangerous conditions in which a totalitarian system like communism can rear its ugly head again. If enough folks don’t push back against these developments, tyranny can secure a foothold. So let’s try to clarify some of these patterns so we might better confront them and preserve freedom for everybody.
At least two dozen major trends have unfolded over the years and continue to unfold that indicate an erosion of human freedom and the growth of a centralized power. I’ve grouped them into six different phases, even though there is a lot of overlap. I’m sure you can add many more major developments to the list. Below are summaries of the phases as well as the trends within each phase, as I see them.
1. Laying the Groundwork
This is usually a generational or decades-long process, in which minds can be closed to reason and more influenced by emotion and propaganda. This happens in many ways: through the mass bureaucratization of life that allows for policies that promote polarization, dependency, and human isolation; through disabling independent thinking by educational fads that actually cultivate ignorance and shun content knowledge; through the attack on the humanities in both K-12 and higher education; and through the lack of general knowledge about how mass psychology works.
All the while, as new communications technologies develop and proliferate, they are embedded into the groundwork that promotes tyranny over liberty. Through the effects of these trends, people become less open to logic, and more persuaded by the proliferation of images and emotional appeals, cemented by groupthink.
2. Manufacturing Propaganda
Propaganda has always been with us, and always will be. But as people become less able to discern fact from fiction, propaganda feeds on itself more intensely. As emotions trump facts, propaganda tends to become more forceful and more focused on driving people to agitate for collectivist agendas. It takes a multitude of forms, but the Orwellian manipulation of language is always the key to thought reform.
Then, journalists increasingly become propagandists, and promote illusions of alternative realities. This includes the revision of history, as well as trends such as gender ideology, which pushes to de-sex everybody in the eyes of the law. As propaganda takes the form of political correctness, it threatens people with social rejection if they don’t conform to the politically correct agendas. In this way, it induces self-censorship and preference falsification to create the illusion of public opinion support for its agendas. Political correctness is the sort of agitprop that can grow a cult mindset in the population.
3. Agitating the Masses
Once the groundwork has been laid and propaganda absorbed by enough people, agitation can proliferate. As Lenin made clear, agitation and propaganda go together and are absolutely essential to communist revolutions. As that sort of agitation becomes more prevalent in public life, there’s more speed on the road to totalitarianism.
Agitation can involve protests, parades, marches, and demonstrations. It also involves organized shout-downs of legislators and a hundred other means of trying to affect public policy by influencing public opinion. During this phase, imitative behaviors proliferate (such as we’ve seen among NFL players during the national anthem). It seems that hatred and frustration are more palpable everywhere in the society.
Indeed, the media, Hollywood, and academia—and the Southern Poverty Law Center—would have us focus on nothing else. We see iconoclasm in this phase, as in the defacing of public statues and national monuments. The education establishment becomes involved in politically agitating children, creating confusion and frustration, and even cultivating hostility towards their parents if they aren’t with the program.
4. Consolidating the Takeover of Society’s Institutions
About 100 years ago, the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci introduced his theory of “cultural hegemony,” which cast cultural institutions as the enemy, claiming they were used to maintain power. So the key to achieving communism in the West was through destroying its culture, not through promoting socialist economic policies that had little appeal in the West. This would require a “long march through the institutions” of society, destroying them from within so communism could fill the vacuum.
Radicals of the 1960s like Herbert Marcuse and Alinsky picked up on this theme, noting that “the system” (i.e., American freedom) could only be destroyed from within once radical operatives had control over society’s institutions. The deep state is one example that’s been building through decades of bureaucratic bloat, with operatives embedded throughout the government, including in the military and intelligence agencies. And, of course, the cultural takeover of the media, academia, and entertainment is both broad and deep.
But, most importantly, the mediating institutions have been relentlessly attacked. Those are the institutions that protect the individual from encroachment by the state, particularly the family, the church, and all voluntary and civic associations. We can see and feel especially how the family has been eroded today. All of these institutions have been deeply affected by statist forces, rendering them more vulnerable than ever to total absorption by the mass state, a prerequisite for communism.
5. Forcing Conformity
This is perhaps the most unsettling phase, when otherwise discerning people who have been duped by the rhetoric of social justice finally awaken to the deceit within the agitprop. This is the stage in which you are told to conform and convert—or else. We see small shop owners threatened with financial ruin if they don’t disavow their faith. We see Catholic nuns, like Little Sisters of the Poor, threatened for not disavowing their faith. We see echoes of Maoist-style “struggle sessions”—otherwise known as sessions of criticism and self-criticism—as college students are forced to admit to white privilege simply because they had happy childhoods.
False confessions proliferate, along with apologies and recantations for showing even the slightest hint of a politically incorrect viewpoint. A surveillance state can grow with new technologies being used for data mining. At the same time, human resources departments start telling employees to report for discipline any politically incorrect private conversation that they might overhear.
Millennial celebrity Lena Dunham modeled a Soviet-style surveillance state by tweeting to American Airlines that she overheard two flight attendants having a “transphobic” conversation for which they should be punished. The practice of ritual defamation—smears such as “bigot,” “racist,” “KKK”—become commonplace. And, perhaps most chilling, psychiatry is used as a political weapon.
6. The ‘Final Solutions’ Phase
Of course we aren’t there. Not yet, anyway. But perhaps you’ll agree that we should always be aware of the lessons of history if we don’t want to repeat its more unsavory chapters. In the last phase, which is fast and furious, totalitarian elites let loose their inclination to brutally eliminate their perceived enemies.
It happens in what Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov identified as the “normalization” stage, after subversion of a nation is complete. It’s as though they can’t do anything but eliminate their perceived enemies because they just don’t know how to do anything else. The body count in the Soviet gulag state, including reigns of terrors and purges intended to rid the country of counter-revolutionaries, was in the tens of millions.
In this phase, violence is considered simply a necessary means to achieving the goal of centralized power. There is not even a pretense of due process or respect for free speech. Yet there are pretexts given for eliminating perceived enemies, excuses that have the perpetrators projecting their own intentions upon their victims. That’s an old and tragic story.
‘Confirm Thy Soul in Self-Control, Thy Liberty in Law’
America is still a free nation with laws on the books that protect individuals from abuses by the state. But we should be very disturbed by the emergence of trends that, if left unchecked, would lead to the consolidation of centralized power by elites who would abolish the Bill of Rights. Communism, as well as fascism and all such forms of totalitarianism, is the natural product of such unchecked trends.
So when people disrespect the American flag “because oppression,” they tend to be clueless that their freedom to do so is extremely fragile. Freedom must be fought for, tooth and nail. Then it must be appreciated and nurtured, never taken for granted.
We are still in the fight to preserve freedom. But when we review the preponderance of trends that point us in that direction, we ought to pay attention to the symptoms and work to reverse those trends. We ought to be looking hard for a cure, or at least a path to sanity and balance.
This means filling the vacuum of ignorance with knowledge and teaching students how to dispassionately assess information and process it on their own rather than rely on emotion and groupthink—and finding a way to do so quickly. It means cultivating respect for reality over pseudo-reality. It means reaching out in goodwill to others, no matter their political persuasion, to de-fang the polarization causing so much alienation and unhappiness in our society.
All of these trends, which I’ll explore in more detail in Parts II and III, will lead to absolute power, if left unchecked. Centralized power, as crystallized in the political system of Communism, has always led to scarcity, distrust, death, and just plain human misery. It really does deserve to be buried in the ash heap of history.
As we try to stem such tides, I hope we can take to heart these lines from the second verse of Katherine Lee Bates’ grand hymn, “America the Beautiful”: “America, America, God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law.”
Individual freedom cannot survive if it isn’t balanced with a widespread sense of personal responsibility, self-regulation, self-governance, and the rule of law that allows for dispassionate due process is critical to preventing the loss of liberty that comes via its abuse. In the overall pattern of human history, this is the road less-traveled. But as America has proven, it is the only road that allows for mending flaws and the pursuit of happiness.