Communism--I just don't get it.

So we’ve been studying the Cold War in history recently and–I just don’t get it. Why is Communism held as such a horrible thing? It’s just another government, as far as I can see. This opposition to Communism seems about as rational to me as if democrats held the same view toward republicans–it just doesn’t seem rational to me. Can someone explain it?

Communism is horrible because it precludes free will.

As an insult (‘pinko commie’), it probably stems from the cold war, when Americans and Soviets flaunted their hatred of each other, and were encouraged to look upon the other’s politics and way of life as inferior.

As a system of government… it’s a neat idea in theory, but doesn’t work so well in practice, I guess. Everything that everyone produces and every bit of money they make goes to the government, who decides what to do with it and how to redistribute it. If the government isn’t completely honest about it, they can line their own pockets instead of giving decent amounts back to the people and providing social services like health care and education, so you can end up with a few fat cats ruling a lot of poor, unhealthy, and uneducated people.

Another problem (although I don’t know if this is an observed phenomenon, or just something made up for propaganda) is that there will always be people who decide not to work because they know they’ll get the same amount back from the government anyways. So you have less productive people in the society, again reducing the total amount of money and resources available to each individual.

I wonder which communist countries have been the most successful (by capitalist standards, anyways, i.e. compared to the US or Canada or the UK, where we keep most of our money and pay a portion of it to the government) in terms of keeping the majority of their populations healthy and well-fed and literate.

How so? I apologize for my utter ignorance–I’ve never understood politics and we’ve only learned that communism is bad because the US said so.

My above post was directed at Texican, btw…I’m slow in the posting today

I don’t know how they choose their leaders, so it may lie in that. But they have no less free will in turning over all the money they make than we do in paying our taxes that are less than 100%.

Ugh, here comes some flamin’

The reason WE viewed communism as evil is kinda twofold

One, the Soviet communist movement had the goal of world revolution. We weren’t to keen on that, staring over Germany at hordes of military forces.

Two, there was a strong backlash against socialist reform after FDR.

That is pretty much it. The brainwashing transformed Communism as a whole into this horribly evil thing, even though it is just a form of government. The fact that communist nations tend to be largely single-party dictatorships doesn’t help. Communism as an economic/social system doesn’t preclude anything, but like democracy and capitalism, it can be taken in many horrible ways.

The harshest opposition to communism in the US (and amongst our allies) came as a result of the governments that implemented it, not necessarily as a result of an ingrained opposition to the theory. Communism is sort of an end-game to socialism (this is not an exact definition, merely a simplification) - socialism in the extreme. Most people dislike extremist positions, even if they agree with the underlying principle involved.

In just about all nations there had been some sort of a socialist push, either a call for out-and-out socialism, or a move to incorporate some of their ideals into the existing governments; welfare programs, graduated income taxes, and universla health care are all examples of this push. Most (if not all) nations have accepted some of these programs.

However, the communist nations (at least the larger ones) have engaged in a sort of expansionistic tendency that the US and our allies found to be distasteful. This was accentuated by the most obvious example - that of the USSR directly after the second World War. This imperialist expansion was a terrifying reminder for much of Europe and the world of the Nazi expansionism. Couple this with the purges of intellectuals and opposition members by Stalin and you’ll see why this was particularly disagreeable to the US and allies. It is with this in mind that the Cold War began - which, of course, would fuel hatred for other communist nations.

For a little insight that demonstrates it all very well, the Soviets never ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and America never ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, IIRC.

Read Marx’s Communist Manifesto; then read about the history of the Soviet Union.

The problem is basically with the results Communism has produced. For an interesting example (famous, but not to the degree it deserves), check out the book “Harvest of Sorrow” by Robert Conquest.

In the first place, the Communist regimes have been headed by ruthless dictators, for the most part. But the utopian concept of equality for all just doesn’t work out in practice. There has to be private enterprise, with the survival of the fittest. If there’s no incentive to work and do a good job, then people won’t. If the government is to be the only owner and doler of jobs, and decide who is going to do what, the human spirit is somewhat diminished, along with free will.

If Kerenski had not lost the prime minister position to Lenin, Russia would not have been Communistic, but socialistic, which are two different concepts. But Kerenski and the “whites” did lose, and the Soviet of Peoples’ Commissars prevailed. Lenin carried through a major distribution of land and nationalized property and the banks. His attempts to accomplish economic revolution while waging civil war led to famine and the virtual collapse of Russia’s economy. In his dying days, he warned the country of Stalin, but was helpless to prevent Stalin’s obtaining power after his death in 1924.

Stalin enforced his views of achieving “Socialism in One Country” through trials in 1935-8 in which many veterans and army leaders were charged with treason and condemned. Stalin had relied on indirect control until 1941 when he became Prime Minister. It was this Stalinistic Communism which took over European and Asian countries after WWII, setting up puppet governments, and which we tried, eventually, to stop, but was facilitated by the terms of the Yalta agreement.

Castro turned to the Stalin communism after he was, in his mind at least, spurned by us. Cuba turned from bad to worse after he took over, but he did have some noble ideas, such as ridding the country of all of our casinos, Mafia influence and our overwhelming presence, in general. But in doing so, he took over property owned by US persons and corporations without compensation.

So, socialism in and of itself, may not be so bad, but the Communistic version has no redeeming features.

hehe, lets not get into Cuba. That is a whole other barrel of monkeys.

You find the following discussions interesting:

**BuckleberryFerry,**It might be instructive to read Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Although fictional, I think you can see the parallels between Rand’s tale and the way Communism developed over the 20th Century.

Another good (and mercifully shorter) book would be Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

Formal economic & political treatises have their place, but I think such fiction can better reveal the psychology behind such government structures. The theory (Marxism, Dialectic Materialism) and the practice can be radically different.

To elaborate, Marx & Engels thought it was a waste for factory owners (“capitalists”) to take a percentage of the profits from the workers who actually produced the goods. They theorized that, if the profit motive were removed, factories would continuously churn out and stockpile shoes, for example, and when someone needed a shoe, he would go to the pile and take what he needed. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Sounds good, eh? If only human nature could be removed from the equation, it might work. In reality, if there is no incentive (profit) for the factory to make shoes, they tend to turn out very few and of low quality. That’s the supply side. On the demand side, if shoes are very cheap, many people would take as many as they could grab. Since the cost is not a disincentive and the supply is theoretically unlimited, why not?

Economists like to say the “market signals” are missing. Without the possibility of greater profit, the factory doesn’t invest in new equipment and design better (or fancier) shoes or styles. And if the price is held artificially low, the consumer has no incentive to buy fewer shoes. Communist stores are typically in a boom/bust (mostly bust) cycle, and the supply rarely matches the demand.

Of course, this is an economic argument, and there are other aspects of Communism that fail, also. Don’t get me started. :slight_smile:

No, Zagadka, it’s the same barrel. The OP asks about why communism is held in such low regard among capitlist countries. Cuba is a communist country.

samarm is right. There’s already a ton of info available.

Communism is offensive as it is a totalilarian system which suppresses freedom of speech, religion and association. It is, besides, a fundamentally flawed theory of economics in the abstract and, in actual practice, a grossly inefficient method for managing the affairs of a state.

While all of this is demonstrably true, none of it, really, accounts for the animus traditionally expressed towards Communism in the United States. These same objections can be made against numerous non-Communist states such as Iran under the Shah, the Philippines under Marcos, and any number of undemocratic or marginally democratic third world nations towards which the U. S. remains extremely friendly. Neither does it account for why Yugoslavia, a Communist dictatorship, was given extensive military aid by the United States throughout the Cold War, or why China has not held in the same disdain as the Soviet Union was since Nixon established trade relations with it.

Since the 19th Century Communism has served as a convenient boogie man for the reactionary elements in American society, with pretty much anything which is not in the immediate self-interest of the very rich being denounced as Communism.

In the 1880s when the 40 hour work week was first argued for by labor unions, both the 40 hour work week and labor unions in general were widely denounced as Communist plots.

Similarly, in the 1950s and 60s many conservatives insisted that the civil rights movement was, in the main, a Communist front operation. When he signed the bill making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday, a reporter asked President Reagan if this meant he no longer believed that Dr. King was a Communist agent. He said that he wasn’t sure, but he supposed that people would know the truth in a hundred years.

Following the end of World War II, the U. S. found itself in a unique position of economic strength. A view of the world was adopted by the Truman Administration and subsequent presidencies in which the world could be divided into the U.S. and its major industrial trading partners, the Soviet bloc with which we were in competition, and impoverished non-Communist nations, the so-called “third world”. American policy was to do whatever it could to maintain “stability” (which often meant dictatorial repression) among nations which the U.S. found it lucrative to trade with, and in which U.S. corporations could take substantial control of natural resources. This was actually discussed openly in State Department documents in the Truman era, which disparaged the idea of supporting “abstractions” such as democracy.

While Americans in general care a great deal about democracy and justice, it has long been U.S. policy to aggressively pursue the immediate short-term economic interests of American and international corporations by influencing the internal affairs of underdeveloped countries. This has come ahead of any interest in promoting self-determination, respect for human rights or the economic well-being of the natives. During Woodrow Wilson’s presidency the U.S. invaded and conquered Haiti, not because of any threat to the U.S. or any change in the Haitian government, but because it was feared that the failing economy there would force the government to default on its debts to the U.S. Major Smellie Butler (later Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps) was appointed “administrator” of the country, and the U.S. remained in control of Haiti until early in the FDR adminsitration.

What was new after World War II was that such conduct became a worldwide policy, and opposition to Communism was continually used as an excuse.

America’s relations with Chile serve as a striking example. During the 1964 presidential election in Chile the U.S. spent more money financing the conservative candidate who beat Salvadore Allende than the Democratic and Republican parties combined spent on the contest between Johnson and Goldwater.

Allende was elected in the next presidential election despite U.S. efforts. Although the country maintained free elections, freedom of the press, free labor unions, freedom of relgion and private property rights, Allende and his government were invariably referred to in the U. S. as “Marxist”. Mostly this seemed to mean that his administration nationalized the copper industry and raised the cost of Chilean copper to market prices after a period of decades in which American companies bought copper there at bargain basement prices, an arrangement which was benifical to a wealthy elect American trade helped keep in power, but which was detrimental to Chile as a whole.

The U. S. government has since acknowledged that the CIA had “some” involvement in the military coup which ousted the democratically elected government in Chile and replaced it with a right wing dictatorship.

Another illustration of how ecomoic self-interest dominates and defines American foreign policy is the contrasting attitude of the U.S. towards China and China. China is seen as, among other things, a collossal future market for American cigarettes. Cuba is seen as, among other things, a future location for American-owned tobacco farms.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union America’s policy of putting immediate economic self-interest first has remained largely the same, except that opposition to Communism cannot be used as readily as an excuse, and the nations of the former Soviet bloc are now also viewed as targets for economic exploitation.

In recent years the U.S. State Department has expressed
“surprise” that the approach it took after the break-up of the Soviet Union was not benificial to the great majority of people in the former Soviet bloc. This was the subject of an interesting PBS Frontline documentary a couple of years back, in which numerous State Department officials shed copious crocodile tears.

The U.S. encouraged the governments of Russia and other newly freed nations to distribute assets such as banks and oil companies quickly, thereby concentrating resources into a few hands, rather than taking time first to ensure the rule of law and sound economic policies. This has resulted in even greater poverty and the formation of wealthy oligarchies with which American businesses can deal to their advantage. In fact, the U.S. helped engineer precisely the kind of conditions from which American corporations already benefited throughout the third world.

A good introductory primer on these issues is a short book by Noam Chomsky entitled What Uncle Sam Really Wants. One can learn a great deal from his well-documented factual exposition even if you don’t sympathize with his politics.

slipster, would you like to write my history paper? ::grin:: I wish I had the same grasp on history that all you people do!

So, in other words, you started this thread so you could get us to do your homework.

Perhaps the reason we have a better grasp on history is that we lived through it.