The Rise and Fall of Communism (1917-91)

Figure 1.--Karl Marx foresaw Communism ushering in an era of unprecendented prosperity. He blamed war, poverty, and famine on capitalism. The battle cry of Lenin's Bolshevik Revolution was thus 'Peace, Land, and Bread'. The Russian people got neither peace or bread--only American relief saved them from starvation. And the land they had was taken from them by Stalin through collectiviization nd the Ukranian famine. Communism has been at the heart of most of the great tragedies of the 20th century. World War II was not just launched by Hitler, but with Stalin as his principle ally. Many of the great famines of the 20th century were caused by the Communists and in some case such as the Ukarnian famimne engineered by Communists. The greatest famine of all time was caused by Mao in the Great Leap Forward. Communists created vast systems of concentration camps to comtrol the population and benefit from slave labor. The Soviet Gulag is only the most famous. The Cambodian Genocide was the work of Communists, but the deaths pale in comparison to those cused by Stalin and Mao. Economic failure after failure was achieved by one Communist regme after another. Here North Korean children suffer the consequences of the economic failure of Communism. The North before the Communist was the wealtier more prosperous part of Korea. What is truly amazingbis why so many around the world continue to give credence to the the principles of socialist economics that underpin Communism.

The social and state systems of Russia, Yugoslavia, and other Eastern European countries need to be considered by HBC, both the impact of the Communists when they seized power and the aftermath of the fall of Communist regimes. Communism as a social force was founded by Karl Marx in his land mark work Das Kapital. The first Communist state was of course the Soviet Union. The Revolution was a reaction to the privations of World War I (1914-18), in which the Russian people, suffered greviously. The Bolshevicks emerged victorious against a democratic Provisional Government (1917). This led led to a distructive Civil war between Reds and Whites (1918-22). The Bolshevivks proceeded found not only a socialist economy, but a repressive police state under Lenin and more importantly Stalin. It is now recognized by most authors that Stalin's ruthless policies including engineering a famine in the Ukraine resulted in more deaths that even Hitler's Holocaust and other genocidal policies. Stalin at the outbreak of World War II at first entered a partnership with Hitler, but then was invaded (1941). The Great Patriotic War waged by the Russian people was the key factor in the defeat of the German Army (1945). It also left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. The result was the Cold War with American and the European democracies. The internal contridictions and efficencies of the Communist system and the desire of natuonal groups for indepence led to the unraveling of the Stalin's Soviet empire, first in Poland (1989) and finally the Soviet Union itself (1991). The Communists without a maket economy are of course not noted for their fashion sence and fashion industry. There were some ideological constraints on fashion. Often clothing manufacturers just copied Western styles, but there were clothing industries in these countries and fashion developments. Some countries had specialized school fashions and uniforms and the Young Pioners were forme with uniforms.

World Socialist Movement

The central themne of socialism is that the goods produced in society should be held in common and distrubuted equally. This basic idea is not new. Idealized socialist concepts can be identified as early as ancient Greece in Plato's Republic, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and the millenarian movements of medieval Europe. Socialist concepts were expressed as Europe entered the modern era. They can be found in Sir Thomas More's Utopia. We also see Socialist princioles present among the Levellers and other sects that emerged during the English Civil War (1640s). Socialist thought was rife among the Sans-culottes in the early period of the French Revolution, although these principles never became a main focus of the Revolution (1790s). It was not until after the Napoleonic Wars that the term "socialism" appeared and the mocement began to develop as a political force. A primary factor here was the Industrial Revolution which began in Britain during the mid-18th century and spread to Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. From the beginning, Socialism was closely associated with European liberalism. The term Socialism first appeared in France and was quickly adopted by English social reformers (1820s). While the Socialist mobement was an outgrowth of social disparities resulting from the industrial Revolution, early Socialist leaders were wealthy men who expoused utopian concepts, especially the idea that men did not need to be motivated by material rewards and that society could be orgamized around cooperative socities in which workers produced for the benefit of the community as a whole and the produce was distributed equitably. Some of the prominent Socilist utopins were Robert Owen, Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Alexander Herzen and Ferdinand Lassalle. The New Lanark community was one of the early Socialist utopinn communities. The English reformers were more concerned with reordering society than in seizng political power. Liberals in Germany set out to seize power and created a unified, democratic Germany in the Revolutions of 1848. They almost suceeded, but in the end failed. This defeat generated a new train of Socialist thought premised on the ideq of workers seizing political power. Karl Rodbertus-Jagetzow was one of the early theoreticians. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the "Manifesto of the Communist Party" (1848). Marx and Engels developed the foundation for what became known as scientific socialism and which has become referred to as Marxism. Mark developed his ideas in great detail in Das Kapital (1867). The book The book is the Socialist analysis of capitalism. Marx saw socialism as the stage of history and class structure following the inevitable revolution in which the urban proletariat would seize power. After this the state would "wither away" as an unecessary institution. Splits developed in the Socialist movement. The main thread in Western Europe were democratic socialists who believed that power could be achieved democratically through elections. Another group believed tht capatlists would never turn over power and believed that a violent worker uprising was necessary. They became known as Communists. And even more radical offshoot was Anarchism. Socialism did not begin to have a major political impact even after the Revolution of 1848, although liberals wre umportant in some countries. The First International (International Working Men's Association--IWA) was founded in London. Marx addressed the conference. The groups that attemded the conference had little real influence, but serious organizing began--especially in France and Germany. The working class of Paris actually seized power in the city as the Paris Commune after the Franco-Prussian War (1871), althoiugh they were quickly suppressed by the mew French Republic. Cracks began to appear in the First International. Bakunin's IWA was expelled at the Hague Congress (1872) which resulted in the Jura federation. The Marxists eventually abandoned the IWA to the Anarchists, and founded the Second or Socialist International in Paris (1893). Socialist parties by this time were active in most European countries and were beginning to achieve some importance in some countries, especially those in which free elections were held. These were the most modern industrial countries (Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden). The one country in which Scocialist countries had no political success was the United States. Anarchists achieved some success within the trade union movement in some countries (France, Italy, and Spain).

World War I

Russian support for the Serbs was the immediate cause of Germany decalring war in 1914 and launching World War I. No country suffered more from the War than Russia's illprepared and supported peasany army. Casualties on the Eastern front were even grater than on the Western front. The Russian soldiers had little artillery support and were unprotected from German poison gas attacks. Russia's war effort undoubtedly prevented Germany from bringing the full weight of her army to bear against France and gaining victory in the first weeks of the War. Millions of Russian soldiers and civilians died in both the fighting and destruction as well as food shortages on the home front.

Soviet Communism

The first Communist state was of course the Soviet Union. The Revolution was a reaction to the privations of World War I (1914-18), in which the Russian people, suffered greviously. The Bolshevicks emerged victorious against a democratic Provisional Government (1917). The Russian Revolution is often described as a result of social forces that had been developing for centuries. A strong case can be made for the Revolution as a coupd'état that may have never occurred without the leadership of Lenin. [Pipes] The Revolution led to a distructive Civil war between Reds and Whites (1918-22). The Bolshevivks proceeded to found not only a socialist economy, but a repressive police state under Lenin and more importantly Stalin. It is now recognized by most authors that Stalin's ruthless policies including engineering a famine in the Ukraine resulted in more deaths that even Hitler's Holocaust and other genocidal policies. Stalin set up a cult of personality in which the Soviet people were forced to virtaully worship him. The Soviets reported substanial economic and industrial progress. Actually before World War I Russia had a very rapidly growing economy. Some economists suggest that the Russian economy would have developed even more rapidly haf he Bolshevicks not seized control of the economy. Agricultural production after impressive gains durng the NEP of the 1920s declined in the 1930s. The First Five-Year Plan concentrated on heavy industry. Soviet officials announced that the Second Five-Year Plan would focus on housing, transport, consumer goods in an effort to raise the standard of living. [1932]. The late 1920s saw Stalin move to take total control of the Soviet state from his position of power as Chairman of the Communist Party. Popular Sergi Kirov was murdered in 1934. Stalin used this as an excuse for launching a campaign of teror perhaps unequaled in histoy. The Gulag is the system of slave labor camps initially established in 1919 by the Cheka--the secret police established by the Bolshevicks after they seized power from the Russian Provisional Government. The numbers of people incarcerated was realtively limited during the 1920s while Lenin was alive and after his death when Bolsevick leadrs struggled for comtrol. This began to change one Stalin ha seized control of the Soviet Union. Stlalin was in control by 1929 and by the early 1930s the numbers of people incarcerated in the camps of the Gulag began to reach sizeable numbers. The De-Stalinization of the Soviet Union began with Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech at the 20th Party Congress in 1956. There were limits on how far Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders were prepared to go Most had been active participants in he Great Terror. Khrushchev owed his position to Stalin and in agreed with Stalin on many issues. [Taubman] Most Soviet experts after World War II came to see the Soviet Union as a powerful state that was widely supported by its people. Few theorized any thing but a regime that would be powerful challenge to the West for the forseeable future. Few described the Soviet state as one not commanding the allegiance of large numbers of its citizens or one that if pressured would implode. [Pipes] Much of Western Europe in the 1980s was willing to work with the Soviets. Some Europeans were convinced that American oposition to the Soviets would only strengthen Some believed that the Soiviets should be handled Others argued that Soviet arms escalations like IRBMs should not be answered. Chancellor Kohl and President Regan did answer with Persian IIs. The result was of the american pressure was Gorbachev's effort to reform the Soviet system and real Soviet willingness to limit arms. [Pipes]

The Comintern

As Stalin was gaining mastery of the Soviet Union. The question of control over the Communist parties in Western democracies. Stalin's first step was to suspend the annual meetings of Communist International for 6 years. The first step was to drive out the Trotskyists. Next te mantra of "permanent revolution" was changed to "socilaism in one country". This by definition made the revolutionary aspirations in each country secondary to the defense of the Soviet Union. Thus the revolutionary parties were converted to instruments of Soviet foreign policy. Members would did not agree with this change were gradually weeded out, leaders expelled or disposed of. Were in not for the dreadful consequences of this process, what followed was almost comical. Socialist and liberals interested in improving the lives pf workers through legal processes were labeled "social-fascists". Germany Communists were known the coooerate with the NAZIs against reformers, such as in a Berlin tram strike. [Wells, p. 962.] The Communists by opposing moderate governments in Germany palyed into Hitler's hands and were a factor in the NAZI seizure of power (1933). They were the first to be arrested and incarcerated in the new concentragtion camps. The disastrous turn of events in Germany convinced Stalin that a new policy was needed. The result was the Stalin-Laval Pact and a shift in directives. Communist parties had for years throughout Europe preached anti-militarism and anti-imperialism. Suddenly they were ordered by the Seventh Comintern to begin to cooperate with the once revialed Socialists and Liberals and form Popular Fronts against Fascism (1935). They were instructed to support rearmament proposals abnd other policies that they had previously opposed. There were in the 1930s as a result of Stalin's control of Western European (and American) Communist Parties two political groups in virtually every country that were controlled by outside powers, the right wing pro-NAZI Fascists and the the Communists which seem irreconciably opposed. [Wells, p. 962.] As dramatic as the swings in Communist polict were in the early and mid-1930s, even more dramatic swings would be irdered by Stalin in 1939 and 1941.

National Communist Parties

Coomunist parties appeared at different times in different countries and each have their own unique histories. They were primarily formed by radical off-shoots of the wider Socialist movement that developed in the second half of the 19th century. Different namnes were used in different countries. Most Socialist and Communist parties first appeared in Europe. While Socialist parties developed in the late-19th century, Communist Parties mostly appeared after World War I and the Bloshevik seizure of power in Russia (1918). There were radical groups before the Communist such as the Wobblies and Anarchists. Interestingly, the Russian Anarchists, who were of some importance and succeeded in assasinating a tsar, were one of the first groups Lennin moved against after seizing power. The Soviets through the Cheka/NKVD and Comnitern was able to control the Communist parties that developed even in democratic countries. While Communist parties achieved some success in Europe, they had little appeal in the United States. Most American Communists were came from European immigrant families who believed Soviet propagana about constructing an idea society. We have just begun creating pages on national Communist parties. Currently we just have a few such pages: China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Russia, the United states, and Vietnam.

NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggresion Pact

NAZI Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and newly appointed Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov on August 23, 1939, signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. At the time of thesigning, British and French delegations were in Moscow trying to reach an understanding with Stalin. He was convinced, however, that they were tring to draw him into a war with Hitler. The two countries which until that time had been bitter foes, pledged not attack each other. Any problems developing between the two countries were to be delt with amicably. It was last for 10 years. The Pact shocked the world and the purpose was immedietly apparent. It meant that Germany could attack Poland without fear of Soviet intervention. Thus after defeating Poland, Germany did not have to fear a full-scale European war on two fronts. What was not known at the time was that there was a secret protocol to the pact which in effect divided Eastern Europe betwen the two countries. This protocol was discoered after the end of the World War II in 1945. The Soviets continued to deny this protocol until 1989. The NAZIs 8 days after signing the Pact invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, launching World War II. Britain and France declared war September 3. Poland's fate was sealed on September 17, when the Soviets invaded Poland from the east. Although the Soviet's did not enter the War against Britain and France, the Soviets were virtual NAZI allies as they provided large quantaies of strategic materials, especially oil. Communist parties in Britainand France opposedthe war effort. The Communst Party in America opposed President Roosevelt's efforts to expand defense spending and assist Britain and France.

World War II

World War II was launched by the Germans when they invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. At first it was a European war which after he fall of rance it looked like the NAZIs had won. This changed in 1941. Stalin had entered a partnership with Hitler, but then was invaded (June 1941). Hitler's invassion, Operation Barbarossa, was an operation of staggering dimensions whixh rocked the Soviet Union to its core. Despite staggering losses, the Red Army not only held before Miscowand inflicted the first major blow to the Wehrmacht. The NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Japanese attack on Pear Harbor (December 1941) turned the struggle into a world war. This was followed by another winter victory at Stalingrad (December 1942-January 1943). The Soviet in the huge tank battle at Kursk wrestled control of the course of the War from the Germans (July 1943). The Great Patriotic War waged by the Russian people was the key factor in the defeat of the German Army (1945). Often Western historical studies to not give adequate attention to the overwealming role tha the Red Army played in wearing down the Wehrmacht. Thus the Soviets through the Non-Aggression Pact with the NAZs played a role in launching the War. Ironically, it wa the Red Army that played a critical role in defeating the NAZIs.

Body Count

No counry except perhaps China underwent such tumultous change and experieced such a bloody history during the 20th century. Russians primary focus on the Hitler and the German World War II invasion. There are no precise records, but perhaps 25 million Soviet citizens, soldiers and civilians, perished in the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). Stalin and his minions over only a slightly longer period was responsible for killing about the same mumber of Soviet citizens, although again there is no precise accouning. What we do not understand is how Hitler, certainly with every justifuication, can be so reviled, while Stalin whonallied himself wuith Hitler is regarded by large number of Russians with considerable affection and admiration. It would be one thing if Stalin's crimes were not known, but today most Russians are aware that he committed terrible crimes including the murder of millions of his own people.

Cold War

Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman whe he became president in April 1945 began taking a stringer aproach o the Soviets, disturbbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which men Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply critivised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself wih Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the Wat on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Wrestern Europe. Preident Truman decided to support Western Europ ecomomically (the Marshll Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the oviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the ColdWar a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally supressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), Czeselovakia (1978), and several other lesser outbreaks, especially in Poland. There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of tge Cold War was th Cuban Missle Criis (1962). There were efforts to persure detante during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms. It was the example of the West, especially the success of free market economics and political democracy that defeated Communism. [Mandelbaum]

China (1948-49)

The history of Communism in China is essentially China's 20th century history. A Republic was formed under Dr. Sun Yat-sen determined to reform China and build a government that could resist foreign incursions(1911). This set in motion a struggle for power among warlords, Nationalists and Communists. Chang Kai-shek and the nationalists emerged victorious. The Communists were not completely defeated, but after the Long March established themselves in northwestern China. Then the Jpanese attacked, first in Manchuria (1931) and then from bases in Manchuria the Japanese invaded China proper (1937). In many waysthis can be seen as the beginning of World War II. China fought Japan alone until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and British installations (1941) brought America and Britain into the War. China suffered terribly in the War. Much of the country and the major cities were occupied by the Japanese, but despite the commitment of most of the Imperial Army, the Japanese were unable to defeat the Nationalists who retired west to remote Chunking. These cities were occupied by Japan after. China was only liberated after the surrender of Japan (1945). Japan's defeat set in motion a renewed civil war between the Nationalists and Communists. The Communists emerged victorious and established the People's Republic (1948-49). Chang's Nationalists retired to Taiwan.

Eastern Europe

Stalin and his sucessors encountered much more difficulty subjecting the people of Eastern Europe to totalitarian rule than the Russian people. The Soviets brutally supressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), Czecheslovakia (1978), and other outbreaks--especially in Poland. The first revolt broke out in East Germany after the death of Stalin. Efforts to end the mass terror and liberalize the Soviet system were met in East Germany by demands for real democratic rule. Soviet officials concluded that reforms were dangerous and threatened the Soviet system. [Harrison] As a resuly, for three decades efforts at reform were brutally supressed. The Hungarian Revolution ocurred in the midst of Nikita Khruschev's de-Stalinization program. One historian contends that Khruschev did not want to appear weak in the face of Western Operations in Suez, thus explaining the massive use of force in supressing the Hungarian rebellion. [Hitchcock] Finally it was in Eastern Europe that the whole Soviet system would begin unraveling. The Communist regime in Poland was brouhjt down by the very workers it claimed to represent. And it was in the Baltics, the most European area, that the Soviet Union itself began to implode.

Sino-Soviet Split (1960)

One might expect the Soviets to have been strongly supportive of the Chinese Communists. Stalin's early relationwith the Chinese Communists were mixed. There were a range of crosscurrents that complicated fraternal ideological afinity. National interests led Stalin to question the growth of a strong Chinese state which would border lightly populated Siberia. And Stalin sensed from an early stage that he would not be able to control the Chinese Communist Party, unlike the Communist parties in Europe and other countries. And as concern with the Japanese grew, Stalin saw the Kumoingtung as a way of resisting Japanese military expansion. The Comminist victory in the Civil War was, however, presented to the world as another step in the inevitable triumph pf Communism. Mao traveled to Moscow to negotiate the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance (1950). China under the agreement confirmed certain rights to Soviet Union. One example was continued use of the naval base at Luda in Liaoning Province. The Soviets committed to military support, shipments of modern weapons, and a major economic and technological assistance program. This included technical advisers and machinery. China did not question Soviet leadership of the world communist movement. Many Chinese Communists at the time saw the Soviet Union as the model for development, especially because the Soviets turned largely rural Russia into an industrial power. China's participation in the Korean War (1950-53) strengthen China's position in the Communist world as they and not the Soviets intervened directly to support the North Koreans. The U.N.-sponsored trade embargo forced China to trade primarily with the Soviet Bloc. At this stage in their relationship, the Chinese were more closely associated and dependent on a foreign power than at any early period in history. Gradually strains in the Sino-Soviet alliance gradually began to surface. A range of issues were involved, including ideology, security, and economic development. Ironically one factor was the death of Stalin (1953). While Stalin's approach was to control other Communist movements, in China Stalin had immense prestige because of his defeat of Hitler and confrontaltional approch to the Western capitalist countries. Chinese leaders were disturbed by Nikita Khrushchev policies, especially deStalinization announced at the 20th Party Congress (1956). The idea of peaceful coexistence with the Capitalist West was another problem. The Soviet Sputnik launch seems to have strongly impressed Mao as did other early Soviet successes in the Space Race. Like many in the developing world, Mao saw these Soviet achievements as proof that Marxism was a scientific system and that because of this, the world balance of power had shifted in the communists' favor. As he phrased it, "the east wind prevails over the west wind". As a result, rather than Khrushchev's peaceful coexistence, Mao wanted a more militant policy toward the Capitalist West. And other aspects of the Soviet relationship alienated Mao and other Chinese leaders. High on the list was what was seen as a lack of support for the recovery of Taiwan. The Soviets made no effort to placate the Chinese. A Soviet proposal for a joint naval arrangement offended the Chinese (1958). It was couched so as to put China in a subordinate position. The Soviets (who had close relations with India) maintained strict neutrality during the Sino-Indian border disputed (1959). And centrally, the Soviets proved reluctant to honor its commitments to provide nuclear weapons technology. One indication of declining Soviet influnence was Mao's Great Leap forward, a significant departure from the Soviet economic model (1957-60). The first major step in the break between the two Communist powers was the Soviet decesion to withdraw military and technical advisers (1960). For China, the break with the Soviets was not unlike its break with the West after its victory in the Civil War. The Chinese were determined to pursue a policy of self-reliance and independence of action. This was more important than the benefits of technical and economic assistance. And Mao no longer was willing to be seen as Moscow's junior partner.



Young Pioneers

The Young Pioneer movement was the largest youth organizatioin in history. The movement was founded in Soviet Russia. It came to involve virtually all Soviet, eastern European, Chinese, as well as children in Cuba, Nort Korea,and Viet Nam for nearly half a century. It does not, however, appear to be as effective as either the Hitler Youth in totaliatarian NAZI Germany or the Scouts in many democratic countries. HBU knows of much less written about the Young Pioneers and there appear to be far fewer images available of the children in their Pioneer uniforms.

Cambodian Genocide

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, after years of struggle, defeated the Cambodian military and seized the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. What followed was one of the most sinister and senceless acts of genocide ever committed by a government on its own people. The Khmer Rouge's first step was to force all the inhabitants of Phnom Penh no matter what their age or health into the country to work in labor camps. Their goal was to create a Cambodian state of pure communism. One step to achieve that goal was to eliminate all class enemies, maening virtually every Cambodian with any kind of education. Not only were the adults killed, but also their children. Some were killed outright in infamous prisons and the work camps. Most of the murders occurred in the countryside. Victims were taken singly or in groups usually at sunset and executed at nearby killing fields. Some were shot or suffocated with plastic bags. Others had their skulls smashed with shovels, hoes, and iron bars. Documentation of these mrders, if it ever existed, has disappeared. Men and women suspected of serious crimes and accused of treason were brought from the countryside and imprisoned in secrecy at the infamous S-21 prison. There wweere also children executed at S-21. Large numbers of Cambodians died of starvation and overwork. The rejection of western-style medicine in particular caused large numbers of deaths. The Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians, 30 percent of the country's population. The Khmer Rouge closed all the normal institutions of a modern country, including banks, hospitals, schools, and stores. Temples and any exercize of religion was banned. Everyone had to work in the fields for 12-14 hours daily. Children were separated from their parents so that they could be better endoctrinated. The children were recruited as soldiers or worked in mobile work gangs. People had to subsist and do hard labor on a diety of watery soup and a small amount of rice. While the educated were the primary target, many were killed for not working hard enough. Minority ethnic groups were also targeted. Another crime punishable by death was to show sympathy to those being dragged away to their--even family members. All Cambodians had to pledge absolute obbediance to Angka--the Khmer Rouge organization. One of the many distressing aspects of the Cambodian geocide is that the many of the people carrying out the killings were little more than children themselves. Many Khmer Rouge soldiers were peasant boys and girld with little or no education. They were recruited as children and odten had no ties to their family--only Angka. Because of their youth and lack of life experience they believed what leaders told them and carried out orders to kill without question. The Khmer Rouge nightmare ended only when the Vietnamese Army invaded and liberated the country.

Command Economics

In the Soviet Union, the economic plan for each of the 16 republics was drafted centrally in Moscow for a command economy down and included the smallest workshop, factory, and collective farm. The entire nation followed the economic plan and were goverened by the same Party nomenklatura. The entire population was indocrinated with the same ideological ethos, studied the same school curriculum and school books. The entire nation tuned in to the same nightly newsbroadcast at 9:00 pm every evening.


One topic we are particularly interested in is how children fared under communism. This is a very large an complicated topic and of course varied over time and from country to country. There are a wide range of issues which affect children. Communist regimes did place level off disaparities in income by taking away private property and preventing its accumulation. They did attempt to provide minimal income level for families. But because Communist economics was such a disaster, that level was often very low. And in come countries such as Romsanisa, disaterously low. In China, Communist policies led to one of the worst famines in Chinese history with many peridhing. In the Soviet Union, Stalin actually created a famine on purpose in which millions perished. Another topic is education. Generally Communist governments lavished resources on education which expanded educational opportunity. There were some problems here as well. Children with upper or even middle class baxckgrounds were often descrimated against. At the same time, the children of important Party members often received favorable treatment. Some countries created special scholls with particularly enriched programs. Social services are another issue. Many Communist countries opeated orphanages for children that were little removed from horror houses while others were so poorly funded that the children while not physically stunted were emotionally and intelcually stunted. Some Communist countries treated child atheletes with drugs. And several countries used the power id the date to take children away from their parents to force compliance.

Fall of Communism

The internal contridictions and efficencies of the Communist system and the desire of national groups for indepence led to the unraveling of the Stalin's Soviet empire, first in Poland (1989) and finally the Soviet Union itself (1991). The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) increased calls for a more determined U.S. posture which President Reagan pursued. Compeition with the United States put huge strains on the Soviet economy. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to reform the failing economy and develop a more open political system. When these efforts failed, he refused to use the security forces to supress opposition in the Eastern European satellite states or the Soviet Union itself. Our assessment is that the collapse of the Soviet Union largely due to Gorbechev's belief that Communism could be reformed and that the Soviet system could be maintained without the use of military force. This is, however, an emormously complex question any many observers have a wide range of opinions. One reader writes, "The USSR's collapse was not caused by Gorbachev's ideas. Rather the opposite is true. Gorbachev's ideas were brougt to the light because he understood better than anybody else that the the Soviet Union had already negun to collapse." [Ivanov]

Soviet Break-up

North Korea

One of the remaining Communist countries is North Korea. A great deal has been written about Noth Korea's military program, especially its nuclear weapons program. Less is known about the humanitarian nightmare inside the country. Information is tightly controlled by the North Lorean Government. No one has precise statistics, but it is believed that anywhere from 1-3 million people have died in famine that began in the mid-1990s. Although there has been a draught and the country's economic policies have worsened an already dire situation, a mahor cause of the famine appears to be a result of Government policies simiklar to those persued by Stalin in the Ukranian famine. The Goverbment of Kim Jong Il seems determine to use food as a famine for those deemed the least loyal. Notabkly, relief agencies are not allowed to minitor food distribution in the most severely affected areas. North Koreans are desperate to flee their country. An estimated 0.3 million are in hiding in Chima, terrified that the Chinese will repatriate them forcefully, Another 0.2 million people are in the North Korean Gulag in which an estimated 0.4 million people have perished in the last three decades. Kim Il Sung, the current rulers's father set a goal of elininating class enenmies through three generations.


Harrison, Hope. George Washington University. Library of Congress Panel, March 5, 2003.

Hitchcock, William I. The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent (Doubleday), 513p. This is a thought provoking, well researched book. He has gained access to never before used Soviet archives. We do not agree with all of his conclusions. The author in many instances, for example, tends to explain Soviet actions as response to American policies rather than the inherent nature a brutal regime.

Ivanov, Constantine. E-mail message, November 22. 2009.

Mandelbaum, Michael. The Ideas that Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the 21st Century.

Pipes, Richard. VIXI: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (Yale Iniversity Press: 2003), 264p. ("VIXI is Latin for "I lived." His parents managed to excape fom NAZI-occupied Poland. Most of their family perished in the gas chambers. Some describe him as the intelectual archetct of America's victory in the Cold War.)

Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (Norton), 876p.

Webs, H.G. The Outline of History: The Hole Story of Man (Doubleday & Company: New York, 1971), 1103p.


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Created: December 29, 2002
Last updated: 6:59 PM 4/19/2014