Ethan Yang ’20
This Thursday, Nov. 7, will mark the 102nd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, an event that established the first communist nation, the Soviet Union. When we think of Marxist countries today, the barely functioning People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) probably comes to mind. More the subject of comedies and memes than anything else. Countries like China and Vietnam have adopted successful market reforms. The ideas of the Bolshevik Revolution have largely been relegated to the dustbin of history. However, Socialism and right wing nationalism are again on the rise all over the world. We should take this week as we should every year to reflect on how disgusting of an ideology Communism is, the damage it has done, most importantly to reaffirm our quest for liberty.
There are a variety of ways one could attack Communism and collectivist ideologies more generally. I could bring up statistics; like the fact over 100 million people have died and countless more brutally harmed as a result of communist policies in the 20th century. 65 million in China alone and 20 million in the Soviet Union. Countless people persecuted for trivial reasons by people like Che Guevara in Cuba. Disastrous industrial policies like the Great Leap Forward that killed over 40 million in 4 years in China. However, I’ll play devil’s advocate and say nobody actually knows the true death count, nor have I put much effort into examining the methodology behind those numbers. I could also make an argument on political theory and policy. Communism is going to cause mass-starvation and brutal human rights violations if you’ve taken some basic economics and law classes, you would know. Centrally-planned economies are incapable of managing the countless transactions and preferences that exist in society. Free markets are by far the best mechanism. Placing power under the rule of law via a strong constitution as well as separating powers horizontally and vertically is a textbook way to prevent tyranny. Communist governments clearly do not do that. However, I think I just put half the school to sleep by explaining this. The main reason why I oppose this terrible ideology and stand firmly under the banner of liberty is because my family knows firsthand what Communism does.
My mother was born in Cambodia, and saw the brutal rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a far left regime that ended up killing almost a quarter of the Cambodian population in a span of four years. When they came to power, they targeted ethnic Chinese civilians, such as my mother’s family. Not only were they racist, they were envious of our financial wellbeing, because my mother’s family, and many other Chinese residents, operated small businesses. In the great spirit of the workers’ revolution and smashing capitalism, they raped, pillaged, and destroyed communities. My family, like many others, were rounded up and sent to concentration camps soon to be dubbed “The Killing Fields”. My mother, still a small child, was forced to build a hut out of whatever she could find. Mass starvation soon ensued as the economy was absolutely devastated and sealed off by the socialist policies of the Khmer Rouge. While people were starving, the leaders of this people’s republic horded food and resources for themselves. A common theme amongst any socialist regime, which is why the Venezuelan president Maduro has grown fatter even as his own people starve. While starvation ravaged the country, countless people were murdered and tortured, entire houses were filled with the skeletons of those who perished in them. My mother eventually escaped and found refuge here in America, the beacon of freedom for the unfree world, but only after a perilous journey.
If I could have you take away anything from this story it’s this: human liberty is a precious commodity that we must guard jealously. History is but a back and forth struggle between the individual and the state, prosperity and poverty. We know that free markets, private property, and limited government together are capable of creating the most prosperity for the most people. Further, the greatest minority in the world is the individual and to have social justice is to emancipate the individual, not artificially constructed groups. Finally, we must remind those who wish to rule over us and take our freedom that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Those are the keys to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not Communism or Fascism, or National Socialism. Human liberty rests in the human heart and as long as it lies there, I know that there will always be a place for people like my mother to find refuge.