The great events of the twentieth century are ingrained in the American mind—the World Wars, the atomic bomb, fascism, the Holocaust, and communism. After communism took hold in Russia, various communist regimes popped up in the Third World. It is common knowledge that communism, or the attempt to achieve it, has almost always led to genocide, tyranny, famine, and disease. If communism is a failed ideology, then why was it so popular among the people?
During the Industrial Revolution, the many advances in technology, society, and the sciences were matched by insane working conditions, corruption, social stratification, child labor, and disease. As millions of laborers toiled in the factories, the rich become notoriously powerful, with some even managing to control an entire country’s assets, like in the Banana Republics. In the United States, the election of William McKinley as U.S. President demonstrated the power of corporations over the republic. In the Russian Empire, Tsar Nicholas II freed peasants from serfdom, only for them to become slaves in the factories. As the rich exercised their power, the masses became angry. In the USA, this led to the assassination of William McKinley. In Russia, this led to the riots in 1905, culminating in the February and October Revolutions.
As European powers expanded their empires, they exploited the population and landscape for profit. In the Congo, King Leopold II of Belgium’s policies killed over ten million people. In British India, a total of 35 million people died from 1858 to 1947. In colonized places, the population was angry and equally powerless. The US is also guilty of similar crimes. Although the country never formally colonized anywhere, its actions in Cuba, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala were also catalysts for communism in Central America and the Caribbean.
Post-WWII and Decolonization
In the Second World War, Japan invaded French Indochina. When the Japanese surrendered, the French tried to regain control, but Vietnamese guerrillas repelled them. Twenty years later, the United States also failed to take Vietnam, leading to the unification of Vietnam under a socialist state. This is a prime example of what happened around the world, as people who experienced “colonialist capitalism” had no choice but to turn to communism. In addition, the United States, hiding under the curtain of “containment”*, rigged elections and sponsored coup d’etats in multiple countries around the world. As James W. Loewen from Lies My Teacher Told Me put it, “The United States has often behaved so badly in the Third World that some governments and independence movements saw no alternative but to turn to the USSR.”
*The US used communism to justify coup d’etats, but it was just an example of realpolitik.
What does communism say about capitalism? People flocked to communism because capitalism was, in their eyes, what had caused their problems. Communism was a promising alternative to corporate-controlled states. However, its fall in the 1990s was not absolute, as states in Scandinavia have capitalism blended with socialism. As far as I can see, those countries are prosperous. Communism was not a bad idea. However, humans are complicated, which explains the failure of communism. I feel that a mix of these two systems could be a viable alternative, but I may be making the same mistake as the peasants who chose to support Stalin.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WL_nrwVSi4s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6l6Ck4TKxo https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-35-million-deaths-britain-shashi-tharoor-british-empire-a7627041.html http://www.documentarytube.com/articles/king-leopold-ii--the-man-who-killed-more-than-10-million-people-yet-is-not-not-seen-as-repulsive