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Why Has the Appeal of Communism Endured for So Many?

By Editorial Staff
Published April 5, 2008

by Patrick J. Buchanan

The year just ended, 1987, marred the 70th anniversary of the coming to power of Lenin’s party. In the remarkable seven decades since the storming of the Winter Palace, that party has compiled a catalogue of crimes unique in human history.

A partial rendering would include the murder of the czar’s family; destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church; the forgotten holocaust in the Ukraine; the forced famine of the ’30s; Stalin’s purges; the Hitler-Stalin pact; the rape of the Baltic states; the unprovoked attack on Finland; the Katyn massacre of the Polish officers; the deceptions of Yalta; the crushing of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters and the Prague Spring; the Gulag Archipelago; and the war of genocide against the Afghan people now entering its ninth year.

And, after all this terror, what has Marxist economics produced? From China to Cuba, from Ethiopia to Vietnam, one bankrupt state after another. And, for those same decades, Moscow has persecuted Russia’s greatest men of letters, like Solzhenitsyn, and Pastsernak, and driven her greatest artists, like Nureyev and Baryshnikov, into exile.

Despite this abominable history, however, communism retains a certain magnetism in the West. In elite American universities, some professors still proudly call themselves Marxist. From their pulpits, Christian clergymen decry any U.S. effort to remove Communist regimes in Grenada, Nicaragua and Angola. In Europe, writers and intellectuals generally believe Gorbachev’s regime is a greater friend of peace than the United States.

How do we explain this continuing suspension of disbelief, despite the manifest crimes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Col. Mengistu and Pol Pot?

The answer, I think does not lie in a lack of knowledge about the Communist record, but, rather, in the presence of a form of religious belief.

The “Political Pilgrims” of whom Paul Hollander writes, those “useful idiots” who go abroad to Communist lands and come home singing the praises of the Brave New World, from Lincoln Steffens to Jane Fonda, do not see the misery, tyranny and moral squalor – because that is not what they went to see.

Their sudden new “faith in the atrocious systems they have just seen firsthand fills an emptiness in the soul caused by the loss of faith in the animating ideas and ideals of their own civilization. Their enthusiasm is that of the convert, because, in their hearts, they have been converted. They have, in a real sense, changed sides.

Nor should this be unexpected in our age of disbelief. Lost souls do not stay lost; they find a new faith. Ideology often fills the void left by a dying religious belief.

Communism is, in the last analysis, a Christian heresy, and it has the magnetism of a heresy. Where Christianity teaches that we are all children of God, with God-given human rights, destined for a heavenly kingdom, communism teaches there is no God, that life begins and ends here, that the Communist state is man’s teacher and guide, that building paradise is the business of this world.

To those in the West who have lost faith in Judeo-Christian values, traditions and beliefs and, indeed, have come to despise their Western heritage, Communists, no matter how brutal in practice, will always have the appeal of men of action who do more than talk; thus, the party will never lack for secret admirers and self-appointed public defenders in the West.

Indeed, the alienated son who hates his father and finds happiness in his father’s economic ruin is not different in attitude from the Americans who exulted in the final victories of the North Vietnamese Communists over the allies of their own country.

Seven years after his assassination, Somoza remains a reviled figure, though his crimes against the Nicaraguan people do not remotely approach the scale or scope of those committed by the decadent Sandinistas, whose survival seems the constant concern of the American Left. Why ? Because Somoza was on our side; and the Sandinistas, most emphatically, are not.

And it is, I am persuaded, not some deep-seated love of the downtrodden Xhosa or Zulu that has caused America’s press and clergy to insist upon the most severe of sanctions upon South Africa. (After all, Ndebele, Hutu, Tutsi, Ibo and countless tribal peoples have been massacred in far greater numbers in modern Africa, without a peep of protest from these same sources.)

The spirit driving the anti-apartheid coalition worldwide is not love at all; it is hatred, and not just hatred of apartheid, but hatred of the Boer, hatred of Botha, his party and people, hatred of the 19th century idea they embody – the idea that the Christian West, because of the superiority of its values and the civilization those values produced, has an inherent right to rule over other peoples.

Oddly, today, it is the Soviets who have taken up Kipling’s “white man’s burden,” who openly proclaim their inherent right to rule mankind, based upon their correct reading of history, and their party’s predestined role in that history. Meanwhile, we Westerners have taken to preaching such 20th century notions as non-intervention and the equality of all states and “making the world safe for diversity,” in JFK’s phrase, even though that diversity, as often as not, includes a Fidel Castro as well as an Idi Amin.


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