What's with all the Communists?

My family came from the Soviet Union. Both my grandparents from my mother's and father's side were doctors, my aunt was a PhD chemist, father was a mechanical engineer, mother was a librarian – yet we still were constantly struggling to make ends meet. My father and uncle had to deliver propaganda on weekends for extra money, when my brother and I were young my parents had trouble finding us food. We came to this country to escape that. To study, work hard and reach out true potential. So it troubles me greatly to see the rise in the US of the same ideology we fled.

The communist party actually used to have some clout in the US.

In its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s it had a strong network across the country, scoring several local election successes. Three Democratic congressmen were secretly Communist Party members.
— http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26126325

That all waned in the latter part of the 20th century as people discovered the oppressive practices of USSR and, after it eventually fell.  Unfortunately, communism is now making a comeback. This time among millenials.

A few of my friends have told me they've noticed a re-birth and romanticizing of communism in their areas; the condemnation of a free market economy.  The prevailing attitude seems to be “America is flawed, capitalism is flawed, it’s all built the rich taking advantage of the poor so fuck the system”. The national trends point to this as well. At least among America's youth. 

Just over half of millennials (55 percent) believe communism was and still is a problem, compared with 80 percent of Baby Boomers and 91 percent of elderly Americans. Only 37 percent of millennials have a “very unfavorable” view of communism, while 57 percent of the rest of Americans do....Of those who are familiar with Lenin, 25 percent view him favorably.
— http://thefederalist.com/2016/10/17/survey-finds-high-support-communism-among-millennials/

I see it in articles, Facebook and Reddit comments, and the increasing attitude of anti-capitalist sentiment. Just look at the last democratic primary and the popularity of Senator Bernie Sander, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist. He unprecedented levels of support all over the country. Much of it with millennials. This is the same person who went on his honeymoon in the USSR!

In a way, this shouldn't surprise anyone. Today's youth are comprised of people who grew up, and in many ways are still living in, in an era of financial uncertainty. This coupled with exploding student loans, lower wages and seemingly never-ending war is difficult to swallow. Especially when seeing this against the backdrop of corporate bailouts and an increasing divide between the rich and poor. It's difficult to gain perspective in this environment. So here are a few fun facts to remind us:

  • More people died under communist Russia than under fascist Germany. Around 20 million but figures range as high as 60 million.
  • Mao’s great leap forward killed 45 people when he tried to embrace communism during the early years of the Chinese communist party.
  • Pol Pot was responsible for around 2 Million deaths, in a fucking country of 8 million

In Venezuela, a modern socialist state, the crisis is reaching critical mass:

70 percent report that they’ve stopped consuming types of food they consider important, and 85 percent of families in at-risk areas report they are eating less.
— https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/06/01/venezuelas-hunger-crisis-is-for-real/?utm_term=.d0b3b6ddc3be

While communism and socialism differ somewhat, they're closely related and similar enough to both scare me. The reason is that they are academically superior ideologies. In theoretical setting, they will almost always sound better than competing principles. Both imply an ethically superior approach to profit and wealth distribution. Both are intoxicating against the backdrop of amoral free market capitalism. “Everyone is be equal, no rich or poor”;“the means of production should be owned collectively”. Who can argue? Sounds awesome!

As great as they sound, these are not ideologies that come naturally to people. In order to be adopted on a mass scale, they usually need to be forced by dictatorial regimes. As the saying goes, "power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely". People continue to insist that “this time it will be different”. But each time the results have been the same. Death, starvation, and ruin.

Consequently, the reverence for these "isms" is an outlook usually not shared by immigrants who actually came from countries where Socialist and/or Communist ideologies are put into practice - whether millennial or not. Such people know their perils. It’s mostly prevalent in American-born citizens. People who don’t understand the dangers posed.

By “understand” I don’t mean talking or reading about it. I mean by living in it. The constant fear of persecution, starvation and general helplessness. Hearing their families talk about going to the store to buy food, only to find empty shelves. Seeing smart, educated people ridiculed by tyrants. Seeing entire generations of people suffering needlessly.

As proof of this, even the government in China seems to have gotten the hint and are turning away from such ideals. Seeing the tragedies that unfolded under Chairmen Mao, the country has pretty much all but abandoned communism. Instead, they recognize and embrace capitalism and trade as a way to lift people out of poverty. And it's working. There are now an estimated 200 million middle class in China!

by 2022 over 550 million people in China will be considered middle class. That would make China’s middle class alone big enough to be the third-most populous country in the world.
— http://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-middle-class-is-exploding-2016-8

I visited southern China in 2013 to tour factories on a business trip.  It was surely a trans-formative experience. For one, I realized just how many people were employed by free trade. Entire cities were dedicated to specific products. There was ceramic city, stainless steel sink city, faucet city etc. Virtually all of these goods went overseas. I was also surprised at the amount of private business ownership - most certainly NOT a communist or socialist idea. But what most surprised me was that NONE anything I saw existed just a few decades ago.

44% of the world population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of poor people in the world has declined very fast—in fact, faster than ever before in world history. In 32 years, the share of people living in extreme poverty was divided by 4, reaching levels below 11% in 2013. Although the World Bank estimates for 2015 are not yet available, the projections suggest that the incidence of extreme poverty has fallen below 10% for that year.
— https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty/

What happened over the last 30 years? Increase in free trade and the decreased influence of communism. Not just in China, but all over the world. Western countries, enabled by the prospects of free trade and capitalism, began investing in areas that are poor to make products cheaper. Sure, you can look at this as unethical, but to the local people and their governments it’s a way of building wealth. All of a sudden, areas where prospects were poor – most people making a living on farming, are now finding themselves the center of economic activity. This makes it all the more baffling that anyone is still embracing the flawed ideologies of Karl Marx from a hundred years ago.

Look, I'm not advocating for total free-market capitalism. We do need regulations and protections for people. I'm also not advocating for a survival-of-the fittest approach where the poorest among us are left to fend for themselves. I will even go so far as to admit that there ARE countries who have successfully implemented SOME socialist ideologies. But there's a big difference between a heavily taxed welfare state such as those in Europe and one where the government exercises total control over economic activity. The US might be able to survive the former. It will almost certainly fall apart with the latter. 

At the end of the day Communism, at least, is still at the fringe of politics In America. Socialism is also kept at bay for now. But then again history tells us they've always started out as the underdog.