People sometimes ask me why I am so dead set against Communism. The answer? In 1952 and 1953 I had a couple of run-ins with wannabe Commies who thought that Communism was great. The run-ins didn’t amount to much, but they taught me what “misinformed fanatic” means.
The problem with Communists living outside the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Soviet Union was that they believed that Communism was actually working. Can’t blame them, I guess; all they had to go on were the writings of Karl Marx and others, and the blatant lies coming out of the Soviet Union. Communism presented itself as the only solution to the longing for liberty and equality. “Get rid of the capitalist fat cats, brothers and sisters!” the Marxists shouted. “Join arms in equality and live off the fat of the land.”
The choice was clear — capitalist slavery or Communist paradise.
The trouble is no one had ever figured out how to make Communism work, and no one ever has. If supply and demand goes up the spout, and private factories morph into public work projects, how do we decide who is going to do what? Where? When? And for how much? How is hard work going to be rewarded? Laziness punished? Sickness handled? Who is going to decide how much of what has to be produced? How many workers will be needed? Where? When? Why?
And on, and on, and on.
When the Russian government fell during World War I, Lenin openly admitted he had no plan of government, just a vision of a workers’ paradise. Then he died prematurely, leaving the barely started job to warm-hearted old Joe Stalin, whose main goal once he had the reins of power in his hands was to keep them there. He accomplished that with the Great Purge, in which an average of 1,000 people were executed every day, for a total — that we know of — of 681,692 loyal Communists.
It wasn’t all Uncle Joe’s fault though. The Russians had never known democracy. It was natural for them to create a state which was the tightest run dictatorship ever spawned. Not only did you have no choice of what job you did, but you had better not complain about it. Nor could you pull up stakes and move. You had an internal passport and you stayed right where it said you belonged — or else.
Perhaps the worst part was what happened to the children. Parents no longer kept infants at home. Kids went into nurseries so that Mama could join the workforce. In the nurseries their heads were stuffed with Communist propaganda — including the duty to rat on Mom and Pop if they said anything out of line. And when the kids trotted off to school things only got worse.
The model was forced upon Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Austria, China, North Korea and many others. It tried worming its way in everywhere, especially in third world countries where desperately poor people thought things couldn’t possibly get worse.
How wrong they were!
Around the world, ignorant peasants and starry eyed “progressives” alike raised the red banner and demanded to be “freed,” never having tasted the well-hidden Russian version of freedom. And many of them WERE freed: Of their homes, their farms, their businesses, their liberty — and their lives if they dared point out that this was not the freedom they asked for.
I’ll give you just one example of the mess the Soviet Union was in. A man and his wife living in a Moscow apartment building had their sink drain plug up. The state plumber who came to “repair” it sawed off the pipe under the sink and told them to put a pail under it.
They dared not say a word about it!
And that’s not the worst story I know, just the shortest.
Right in the middle of all this I was shipped overseas to the nation with the largest percentage of card-carrying Communists in the world — one person in five. Can you guess where it was? Ah! Don’t even try. You’ll never guess because it happens to be a nation with very high intelligence, and we Americans tend to think that brains and anti-Communism go together.
It was Iceland.
Yes, Iceland. All those brains they have? Something about the Black Plague wiping out the ones who couldn’t follow the rules and stay away from other people — or so the theory goes. Is it true? You tell me.
Anyway, Johnny, Iceland was perfect proof to me that brains and common sense are two different things. Common sense takes experience. In 1951 when I arrived in Iceland there were few people outside the Iron Curtain who had actually experienced Communism, and the ones inside weren’t talking.
It made for an interesting year — as you will see next week.