What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: ruishidalong
Yesterday marked two decades since the Berlin Wall came crashing down. As a visual representation of the larger “Iron Curtain”, Berlin’s wall served as a symbol of the separation of and forced isolation by the Eastern Bloc. In the minds of people throughout the world, its slow and eventual removal was not only a restoration of important freedoms, but a significant step in the eradication of Communism.
In this historical and monumental event we find an example of the power of symbolic representation. Many people equated (and still equate) such physical barriers with the tyrannical impositions of communist countries; since the walls are no more, then Communism must no longer be a threat, right?
Leaving aside the obvious examples of countries who currently have forms of government that embrace the ideology and structure of Communism (China, Cuba, etc.), we must ask: did Communism die out when the Berlin Wall fell? And are physical barriers the correct point of reference for evaluating the existence of this nefarious political philosophy?
To answer this question, it is important to understand the difference between Communism (big C) and communism (little c). A country need not have only one party, authoritarian and brutal rule, and a popularized Marxist belief system to be communist. These elements are indeed found in Communist states, but the verbal affirmation of adopting this system of government is not required (nor politically advantageous) to promote communist practices and programs within a government of some other form.
The elements of communism can be implemented by individuals living under any form of government; our own Republic has been contaminated with such a rotting disease for decades. While the heavy hand of a dictator is easily seen (and more keenly felt), the communist policies of leaders of so-called “free nations” are more difficult to detect and more subtle in their application. Consider, for reference, the words of Mr. Communist himself, Karl Marx. In his Manifesto of the Communist Party, he lists the ten planks upon which Communism must be founded:
- Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
- A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
- Abolition of all right of inheritance.
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
- Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
- Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
- Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
- Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of the population over the country.
- Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.
The astute political observer will note (hopefully, with great sadness) that several of these items have weaved themselves into our own laws, here in a country that some people still erroneously believe is a bastion of liberty for the world. The Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain are gone, thankfully, but despite these emotional experiences, the principles and policies that Communism espouses have slowly become infused in nearly every government throughout the world. Communism did not fail—it simply changed strategies, went underground, and wrapped itself in flowery, emotional language to eventually be welcomed with open arms by the very people who previously had decried its existence when presented from the other side of a wall, in a deep red color, by men with angry voices.
While we (rightly) praise the removal of these physical barriers, we are tolerating the creation of new ones all around us. Whether on social, cultural, economic, political, or intellectual subjects, elected and appointed officials alike are building, brick by brick, to slowly and surreptitiously erect new walls. These walls owe their existence to our collective refusal to recognize and reject the policies that serve as the foundation for their existence. If we, like those in Germany decades ago, wait for actual barricades to be formed before we will repudiate the elements of communism that serve as their foundation, then we, too, will find ourselves as pawns of the State—controlled, corralled, and denied the liberties we currently claim to possess and enjoy.