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DANIEL VAUGHAN: 100 Years of Communist Mass Tragedy
If the problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of other people’s money, then the problem with communism is that eventually, you run out of people to purge when you need a scapegoat. At some point, everyone ends up dead, and the only thing that remains is the dogma of communism, lingering over the civilizational wreckage like a red plague.
It’s the 100th Anniversary of the October Revolution, when Vladimir Lenin announced he and his comrades had deposed the remnants of the Russian government and installed communism. Lenin ordered the arrest and murder of any government official in his way.
In an address that November, Lenin declared that everyone opposing the Soviet takeover would be smashed: “Arrest and hand over to the revolutionary courts all who dare to injure the people’s cause,” he said.
When you study Lenin’s choice of words in justifying the 1917 revolution, you’re struck by how hard he tries to defend it as a democratic choice for the people. He argues that force is only used to settle a decision made by the people: “The value of the immediate seizure of power will be the defence of the people,” he argues.
But communism was more than a decision on government. Lenin evoked religious connotations to convey communism’s power to save the soul of the Russian people, claiming:
It would be an infinite crime on the part of the revolutionaries were they to let the chance slip, knowing that the salvation of the revolution, the offer of peace, the salvation of Petrograd, salvation from famine, the transfer of the land to the peasants depend upon them.
Lenin tries to present his revolution as having the consent of all of the governed — or at least most. But when you focus in on reality, the only people giving consent are his small group of oligarchs.
Contrast this to the American Revolution, during which the Founders also depended on consent of the governed. They enumerated their list of reasons for splitting from the Crown with the Declaration of Independence, formed a representative body to oversee their effort, and allowed those dissented to remain or leave freely. There were elections, debates, and votes over the entire decision process of the American Revolution.
Lenin, in contrast, evaded all the above when pushing for a revolution.
“We are confronted by problems which are not to be solved by conferences or congresses (even congresses of Soviets), but exclusively by peoples, by the masses, by the struggle of the armed people,” he said. He didn’t even trust communists voting on the revolution: only a complete overthrow.
The notion of the consent of the governed is critical here because it implies that the will of the people is sovereign — not an ideology, thing, or person. If a sovereign people have accepted a form of government, it gives that government legitimacy.
In America, the new government had legitimacy and acceptance from the people. After the revolution, there were debates and votes on the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and how all the new offices and positions operated. Every part of the fledgling new country was subject to public debate.
Lenin never had or gained that level of legitimacy with the USSR. The Soviets continually had to resort to harsh purges, exiles, work camps, propaganda, and intimidation. It’s worth noting that this problem wasn’t unique to Soviet Communism or Lenin and Stalin; it’s been a feature of every communist government since them.
Legitimacy matters with a government. The U.S. government’s legitimacy and the power of its institutions helped it survive through multiple disasters: the Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the Cold War.
Lenin’s revolution could never claim legitimacy, which is why the Soviets resorted to barbarism to remain in power. Their constant struggles with bare necessities like the food supply and basic economics tarnished any claim they had at being saviors for peasants.
Instead of being a revolution for the people, communism devoured the people. Instead of saving the peasants, communism created more. And instead of strengthening a civilization, communism produced ruin.
As we look back on Soviet communism’s hundred-year legacy, and the man that kicked off the revolution, let’s remember it for what it was: an illegitimate governing force responsible for the deaths of millions.
Communism didn’t create statistics; it only produced mass tragedy.
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