Anti-communism is opposition to communist ideology, organization, or government, on either a theoretical or practical level. In some of the earlier 19th century usages anti-communism referred to people opposed to the growth of independent, self-reliant and often religious communities such as the Oneida and Amana communities. After the October Revolution the first critics of communism were inspired by a conservative point of view, but with the raising of Stalinism many exponents of the left, some ex-communists included, opposed the Soviet Union for its violations of human rights. For much of the period between 1950 and 1991 anticommunism was one of the major components of the containment policy of the United States.
For this last reason the word is sometimes used with a negative meaning to define an opposition to communism schematic and excessive, which doesn't take in consideration the differences between various communist regimes and movements and it is instrumentally used as a political weapon in the clash between West and East. This bias against anticommunism is even due to the opportunistic use of anticommunism made by some authoritarian regimes to persecute dissidents of any political colour.
In fact, the reasons because of several people opposed communism can be very different and sometimes in contrast between them. Conservative and liberal critics of communism often opposes socialism in general or Marxism in general. They are supporters of capitalism and they see communism as a doctrine based on radically wrong arguments. They believe that capitalism gives economic freedom, and regard the lack of property rights under communism as taking away fundamental human rights. Communists respond to this by arguing that the presence of property rights in capitalism takes away other, more important human rights, alluding to the disparities of wealth that all capitalist nations possess, to varying degrees.
Other people oppose communism due to contradictions or errors within communist theory and gaps between communist theory and practice. Many anti-communists feel that the theory is less objectionable than its adherents' actions in power. Democratic socialists as George Orwell or Bertrand Russell and anarchist theorists see communism as a doctrine whose aims are noble but that uses wrong means to attain them. A main critic to communism concerns the lack of individual freedom and democracy in communist states, democracy which is not denied by the communist theory itself (although interpretated in a very different way than that of liberal democracy).
Some anti-communists refer to both Communism and fascism as totalitarianism, seeing a certain degree of similarity between the actions of Communist and fascist governments. It should also be noted that many communists, particularly Trotskyists, use these similarities to argue that those self-proclaimed Communist regimes (which they refer to as Stalinist) were not actually following any sort of Communism at all.
Objections to Communist theory
The central part of Karl Marx's communist theory is historical materialism, which states that human society must necessarily evolve through historical stages due to the contadictions inherent in each stage, with each transition to the next stage (except the last) involving the overthrow of the existing socioeconomic order. The next step after capitalism is socialism, followed ultimately by communism.
Most anti-communists reject the entire concept of historical materialism, or at least do not believe that socialism and communism must follow after capitalism. Some anti-communists question how and why the state is supposed to wither away into a true communist society.
Many critics also see a key error in communist economic theory, which predicts that in countries with free-market economies ("capitalist society"), the rich will inevitably get richer and the poor will get poorer. Anti-communists point to the overall rise in the average standard of living in the industrialized West as proof that contrary to Marx's prediction as, they assert, both the rich and poor have steadily gotten richer. Communists reply that even during periods of great prosperity, the rich are get rich much faster than the poor, and that such periods of prosperity are historical abberations and will be wiped out by future crises of production. Since around 1980, in America a large segment of society has seen wages decline in real terms, despite all the economic growth since then. Communists also argue that the industrialized West profits immensely from the exploitation of the Third World, that the gap between rich and poor capitalist countries has widened greatly over the past hundred years, and that poor capitalist countries vastly outnumber the rich ones. The standard anti-communist reply to the latter argument is pointing out the examples of former Third World countries that have successfully escaped out of poverty in the recent decades under the capitalist system, most notably the Asian Tigers. Anti-communists also cite numerous examples of Third World Communist regimes that failed to achieve development and economic growth and in many cases led their peoples into an even worse misery, for example the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia or the North Korean communist dynasty .
Promise and practice
Anti-communists also object to the actual practices of communist governments in contrast to the stated promises of communism. Many argue that while communism may be an excellent-sounding idea in theory, in practice it is thoroughly incompatible with their view of basic human nature. The view of human nature usually expounded by anti-communists is that while an egalitarian society could be looked at as ideal, it is virtually impossible to achieve. They state that it is human nature to be motivated by personal incentive, and point out that while several Communist leaders have claimed to be working for the common good, many or all of them have been corrupt and totalitarian. Communists retaliate that "human nature" essentially doesn't exist, since human beings are extremely adaptable and have shown themselves to be able to live in a wide variety of social organizations, some similar to communism, throughout history. Communists further argue that greed and selfishness are not a major stumbling block to communism, since a communist society would benefit all and satisfy everyone's self-interest.
Communist parties (sometimes combined with left socialist parties as workers' parties) which have come to power have tended to be rigidly intolerant of political opposition. Most communist countries have shown no signs of advancing from Marx's "socialist" stage of economy to an ideal "communist" stage. Rather, communist governments have been accused of creating a new ruling class (called by Russians the nomenklatura), with powers and privileges far greater than those previously enjoyed by the upper classes in the pre-revolutionary regimes.
The economies of all Communist countries without exception have not surpassed those of Western nations. Communist supporters may point to the fact that those countries were far behind the West to begin with, and they may argue that Communist governments have in fact reduced this pre-existing gap. Also, they often point to Cuba, whose economic performance was arguably better than that of the neighboring countries. During the 1990's, however, Cuba suffered a debilitating economic crisis following the loss of her major trading partners (most notably the Soviet Union), and was forced to allow foreign investments in the tourism market as a means of recovery. Critics of the Castro regime argue that the Cuban Cold War trading arrangements with the USSR amounted to little more than a direct Soviet subsidy to the regime, and that prior to the ascension of Castro, Cuba was actually among the richest Latin American countries. In other cases, such as the separated nations, West Germany and East Germany and North Korea and South Korea, the capitalist portion has advanced far ahead of its Communist counterpart. In the case of East Germany, communists claim that they received the "raw end of the deal," since all the traditional industrial and commercial centers lay in the capitalist part of the country. However, this argument does not hold in the case of Korea, where the Southern part of the country was substantially less developed at the time of division following the Korean War. Also, the anti-communists cite the example of Czechoslovakia, which was among world's most developed industrial countries prior to World War II, but fell far behind the Western nations under the Communist rule.
The hallmark of some Communist economic policies, collective farming, has sometimes been called economically inefficient and often disastrous, especially in the cases of the former Soviet Union, China, and North Korea.
In general, anti-communist economic criticism centers on the belief that Communists ignore the realities of economic life and production in favor of their ideas about how things ought to be done. Anti-communists believe that this leads to economic disruption and poverty and generally see the examples of former Communist nations as supporting the veracity of their views.
Another criticism of Communism is the history of internal repression in Communist-led countries. Joseph Stalin's Soviet regime presided over millions of civilian deaths in purges and famine, as later Soviet governments admitted. In China, Mao Zedong's regime is accused of more extensive bloodshed, compounded by the disruption of economic life through ill-judged revolutionary experiments (see Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution). Vietnam and North Korea have also made use of reeducation camps.
It should be noted, however, that many Communists do not support such repressive actions. In particular, Trotskyists have been virulent critics of the policies carried out by Stalin's Soviet Union and other nations who followed the same model. They refer to these nations as Stalinist rather than Communist, and sometimes call them deformed workers' states. The anti-communists reply that the repression in the early years of the Bolshevik regime, while not as extreme as that during Stalin's reign, was still severe by any reasonable standards, citing the examples such as Dzerzhinsky's secret police, which eliminated numerous political opponents by extrajudicial executions, and the brutal crushing of the Kronstadt and Tambov rebellions. According to them, Trotsky could hardly claim any moral high ground, having been one of the top-ranking Bolshevik leaders during these events.
The anarchist critique of communism comes from a different angle. Anarchists agree with communists that capitalism is a tool for oppression, that it is unjust and that it should be destroyed, one way or another. Anarchists, however, go on to say that all centralized or coercive power (as opposed to just wealth) is ultimately injurious to the individual. Therefore, the concepts of dictatorship of the proletariat, State ownership of the means of production, and other similar tendencies within Marxist thought are anathema to an anarchist, regardless of whether the State in question is democratic. There are, also, strong anti-anarchist tendencies among Marxists (specifically, those who have risen to power in the 20th century - but arguments had been going on between Marxists and anarchists for almost 50 years prior to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917).
Anarchists were glad of the 1917 revolution, as an example of workers taking power for themselves. It quickly became evident, however, that the communists and the anarchists had very different ideas regarding the kind of society they wanted to build there. Anarchist Emma Goldman went to Russia enthusiastic about the revolution and left beginning to write her book My Disillusionment in Russia. Anarchist Victor Serge, in response to the pro-leninist sentiment in the global Left, said, "All right, I can see the broken eggs. Now where's this omelette of yours?"
Anarchists often cite the crushing of the Kronstadt Rebellion, in which the Red Army defeated an embryonic anarchist commune, as a specific example of what was wrong with the Bolshevik government.
During the Spanish Civil War, a pro-Soviet Communist Party gained considerable influence due to the neccessity of aid from the Soviet Union. Communists and liberals on the Republican side fought mainly against the fascists, but also put some effort against the anarchist revolution, ostensibly to bolster the anti-Fascist front (the anarchist response was, "The revolution and the war are inseperable"). The most dramatic action against the anarchists was in May of 1937, when Communist-led police forces attempted to take over a CNT-run telephone building in Barcelona. The telephone workers fought back, setting up barricades and surrounding the Communist "Lenin Barracks ." Five days of street fighting ensued. After all of this, the anarchists began to hate the Communists, and unity became essentially impossible.
Bitter feelings between anarchists and communists are apparent even today in revolutionary circles. Much infighting and arguing occurs as it did in the 19th century between Marx and Bakunin. However, in these times, anarchists and communists may join in protest (at least superficially) on certain issues, such as the recent Iraq War.
Fascism and Anti-Communism
Fascism and "Soviet" Communism are political systems that arose to prominence after World War I. Historians of the period between World War I and World War II such as E.H. Carr and Eric Hobsbawm point out that liberal democracy was under serious stress in this period and seemed to be a doomed philosophy. The success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 resulted in a revolutionary wave across Europe. The socialist movement worldwide split into separate social democratic and Leninist wings with the formation of the Third International prompting severe debates within social democratic parties resulting in supporters of the Russian Revolution splitting to form Communist Parties in most industrialised (and many non-industrialised) nations.
At the end of World War I there were attempted socialist uprisings or threats of socialist uprisings throughout Europe. Most notably in Germany where the Spartacist uprising in Germany led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in January 1919 failed. In Bavaria, Communists successfully overthrew the government and established the Munich Soviet Republic that lasted from 1918-1919. A short lived Soviet government was also established in Hungary under Béla Kun in 1919.
The Russian Revolution also inspired attempted revolutionary movements in Italy with a wave of factory occupations, a strike wave in Britain, the Winnipeg General Strike, the Seattle General Strike and other radical events.
Many historians view fascism as a response to these developments -- a movement that both tried to appeal to the working class and divert them from Marxism and also appealed to capitalists as a bulwark against Bolshevism. Italian fascism founded and led by Benito Mussolini took power with the blessing of Italy's king after years of leftist unrest led many conservatives to fear that a communist revolution was inevitable. Throughout Europe numerous aristocrats and conservative intellecutals as well as capitalists and industrialists lent their support to fascist movements in their countries which arose in emulation of Italian fascism while in Germany numerous right wing nationalist groups arose, particularly out of the post-war Freikorps which were used to crush both the Spartacist uprising and the Munich Soviet.
However, certain anti-communist authors have disputed the view of fascism as a reaction against socialist revolutionary movements and instead stressed what they believed to be essential similarities between communism and fascism in both theory and practice. The noted Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom, argued that various modern totalitarian movements, including fascism and communism, have common philosophical roots, both springing from the opposition to the classical liberalism of the 19th century. Anti-communists arguing from these positions see it as far more than a coincidence that Benito Mussolini himself was an enthusiastic Marxist socialist and a prominent member of the Italian Socialist Party before the World War I, while many philosophical founders of fascism, such as Sergio Panunzio and Giovanni Gentile, came from a Marxist or syndicalist background.
With the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s it seemed that liberalism and the liberal form of capitalism was doomed and Communist and fascist movements swelled. These movements were bitterly opposed to each other and fought each other frequently. The most notable example of this conflict was the Spanish Civil War, which became a proxy war between the fascist countries and their international supporters who backed Franco and the worldwide Communist movement (allied uneasily with anarchists and Trotskyists) who backed the Popular Front and were aided chiefly by the Soviet Union.
Initially, the Soviet Union supported the idea of a coalition with the western powers against Nazi Germany as well as popular fronts in various countries against domestic fascism. This policy was largely unsuccessful due to the distrust shown by the western powers (especially Britain) towards the Soviet Union. The Munich Agreement between Germany, France and Britain heightened Soviet fears that the western powers were endeavoring to force them to bear the brunt of a war against Nazism. The Soviets changed their policy and negotiated a non-aggression pact with Germany, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. The Soviets later argued that this was necessary to buy them time to prepare for an expected war with Germany. However, some critics question this claim, pointing out that along with a non-aggression clause, the pact also laid out extensive economic cooperation between the Soviets and Germans, in the form of the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement, providing Nazi Germany some of the materials it needed to build its war machine. This detail is used by the aforementioned critics to argue that Stalin expected the war to be waged solely between Germany and the Western Allies, with the Soviet Union keeping its neutrality while its two greatest enemies fought each other.
Whatever the case, it is clear that Stalin did not expect the Germans to attack until 1942, so he was taken by surprise when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Fascism and communism reverted to their relationship as lethal enemies - with the war, in the eyes of both sides, becoming one between their respective ideologies.
Anticommunism in the United States and Cold War
The first major manifestation of anti-communism in the United States occurred 1919-1920 in the Red Scare led by Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer.
Following World War II and the rise of the Soviet Union many of the objections to Communism took on an added urgency because of the stated Communist view that the ideology was universal. The fear of many anti-Communists within the United States was that Communism would triumph throughout the entire world and eventually be a direct threat to the government of the United States. This view led to the domino theory in which a Communist takeover in any nation could not be tolerated because it would lead to a chain reaction which would result in a triumph of world communism. There were fears that powerful nations like the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China were using their power to forcibly assimilate other countries into communist rule, in a new form of imperialism. The Soviet Union's expansion into Central Europe after World War II was seen as evidence of this. These actions prompted many politicians to adopt a kind of pragmatic anti-Communism, opposing the ideology as a way of limiting the expansion of the Soviet Empire. The US policy of halting further Communist expansion came to be known as containment.
The United States government has usually motivated its anti-communism by citing the human rights record of some Communist states, most notably the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, Maoist China, the short-lived Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia led by Pol Pot and North Korea.
Anti-communism became significantly muted after the fall of the Soviet Union and communist backed regimes in Central Europe in 1991, and the fear of a worldwide Communist takeover is no longer a serious concern. Remnants of anti-communism remain, however, in United States foreign policy toward Cuba, the People's Republic of China, and North Korea. In the case of Cuba, the United States continues to maintain economic sanctions against the island in a policy which is sharply criticized outside of the United States, but which has substantial support in the US, particularly from the conservative wing of American politics.
Due to American trade interests in China, much of the United States foreign policy establishment does not regard China as Communist in any meaningful sense. Nevertheless, there is some hostility toward China, particularly among conservative Congressional Republicans which can be regarded as remnants of anti-communism. North Korea remains staunchly Stalinist and economically isolationist, and tensions between the country and the US have heightened as the result of reports that it is stockpiling nuclear weapons.
Repression and Anti-Communism
After the October Revolution, allied intervention troops tried to crush the revolution. In the summer of 1918, some 13,000 American soldiers, 44,000 British, 13,000 French, and 80,000 Japanese were fighting against Red Army. In addition, the these countries provided significant financial and material help to White Movement (e.g., USA provided $500,000, 400,000 rifles, etc.).
Communist political parties and organizations were actively persecuted by conservative governments in Eastern Europe after the failed communist revolutions around 1920, in Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe, in Japan during World War II, in China by the Kuomintang in the 1920s and 1930s, in post-war Taiwan and South Korea, in Latin America by various right-wing military regimes (Pinochet in Chile, Dirty War in Argentina, civil war in El Salvador, etc), and in many other places and instances.
There was also some anticommunist political repression in the United States, most notably in the Red Scare of the 1920s and the McCarthyist era after World War II. Communists and communist sympathizers often emphasize the persecution of their political movement by "reactionary" forces, which they feel is being downplayed by capitalist governments. Anticommunists respond to this by pointing out that communist governments have often used similar methods to deal with their political enemies, including fellow communists (indeed, the repression of fellow communists is often brought up as an argument for the idea that such governments were not actually communistic). Regarding this issue, the opinions of Communists are divided: some of them support the actions of those communist governments on the grounds that they were necessary in order to deal with dangerous terrorists and criminals, while other communists agree that such actions cannot be justified and put in question the self-proclaimed communist nature of the governments willing to carry them out.
Little is known about anticommunist massacres after World War II, not least because of the efforts by the anticommunist regimes to cover up such events. Such a massacre happened on the island of Jeju (South Korea) in April 1948. The estimations about the number of victims range from 30.000 to 140.000. Another example is the 228 Incident in Taiwan in 1947, which until recently was considered a taboo subject even in private.
During cold war many dictatorial regimes, often supported by the US, used the fear of communism as a mean of legitimation (Pinochet's Chile, for example) or an excuse to persecute its opponents. The worst case was probably that of General Suharto in Indonesia who, using the excuse of foiling a failed Communist coup d'etat attempt, seized executive power and killed about 2 million people in his mass purges arresting more than 200,000 other people on merely being suspected of being involved with the coup. Most communists, alleged communists and so-called " enemies of the state" were sentenced to death (although some of the executions were delayed to 1990). The alleged or demonstrated complicity of the CIA with these regimes seriously discredited anticommunism and the pretense of the US to represent a "Free World".
Criticisms of Anti-Communism
Proponents of communism in capitalist countries tend to challenge the accuracy of anti-communist claims. A common rebuttal of anticommunism is that communist countries had created a new ruling class and thus were not in fact communist. This is a view first put forward by Trotskyists in the 1930s, and today it is accepted by the majority of western communists. Indeed, most modern communists do acknowledge failings on the part of communist governments, saying that Marxism is clearly against these dictators' practices.
Anticommunists respond to these claims by saying that they believe communist states are totalitarian by nature, and that in Marxist theory too much power is given to the state. They point out that several communist governments have existed, but none have been considered democracies. Anticommunists also question if a classless communist society can truly be achieved.
Some anticommunists, particularly those with libertarian leanings, extend their criticisms well beyond Soviet-style communism, associating it with any state-run activity beyond the most minimal. People who support a mixed economy where some services are supplied by government-run institutions, such as what takes place in social-democrat countries, resent the association with communism.
Some writers and historians object to anti-communists' comparisons of communism to fascism (under the blanket term "totalitarianism", which they believe to be incorrect). They cite historical evidence, such as the fact that the Soviet Union fought against Hitler during World War II and said that fascism was the enemy of communism (a view that was shared by Hitler himself, who was one of the most virulent anti-communists of the time), while many anti-communists in occupied Europe took the side of Nazi Germany (others, however, placed anti-fascism or national independence above their dislike of communism).
Yet another objection to anti-communism which became more widely advanced in the 1970s was that in pursuit of anti-communism, the United States was conducting a foreign policy in which it supported people and governments that sometimes egregiously violated human rights, which it saw as lesser evils than communism. In order to justify these actions, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick stated the Kirkpatrick doctrine which argued there was a difference between totalitarian regimes and authoritarian regimes.
Many staunchly anti-Communist regimes have been dictatorial and guilty of egregious human rights abuses, oppression, and sometimes genocide. These may include Nazis, secular Middle Eastern dictatorships in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the Sudan, right-wing military juntas in Latin America, the apartheid regime in South Africa, anticommunists regimes in the Far East as Suharto's Indonesia and the governments of various African nations during times of great bloodshed, e.g. Idi Amin in Uganda and the genocidaire Hutu regime in Rwanda. Citing governments like these as evidence, communists claim that much Cold War policy was driven by simple anti-communism and a disregard for problems in nations ruled by anti-communist but undemocratic governments.
Various Western countries, the United States first and foremost, are also often accused of denial of political or labour rights, racism, oppression and violence, support for governments which presided over mass killings, torture and detention of political opponents, or engagement with regimes (usually on the basis of their shared anti-communism) which practised genocide or racial segregation.
Nevertheless, anti-communists generally believe such claims to be of an "and you are lynching negroes" variety. They argue that while capitalist governments may have some faults, Communist ones are worse. Many also state that they disapprove of some actions undertaken by anti-Communist leaders, the defeat of communism and Soviet influence during the Cold War was a top priority. Some also believe that it is easier for countries previously ruled by an authoritarian, anti-Communist government to transition into a democracy, while it is more difficult for a totalitarian Communist nation to do so.
The communists take the other side in claiming which government is more flawed, stating that while Communist governments may have had some faults, capitalist ones are worse. They also claim that in some former Communist countries, conditions were better before its collapse. An example used in this argument is Russia, which has faced a bumpy transition to capitalism and has a 25% poverty rate.
Ironically, many anti-communists were too focused on the perceived challenges of Communism to notice its internal problems, and few anti-communists were able to predict the fall of the Soviet Union even as late as the mid-1980s.
This section lists a number of significant intellectual, political, and military opponents of communism. Note that there is a certain overlap between the listed categories. For example, many prominent political dissidents in the former Communist countries, like Vaclav Havel, are also renowned for challenging the theory and practice of Communist regimes in their writings.
The persons listed are not classified by their own ideological positions from which they opposed communism, and clashes between their views were often no less severe than their opposition to communism. For example, neo-liberal thinkers like Hayek harshly criticized socialists like Orwell, and vice versa, despite their common opposition to communism. Most anti-communists in the 1930s and 1940s were also staunch opponents of fascism, even though anti-communism played an important part in the success of fascism in Europe; however, during the Cold War, anti-communism did lead some people who had previously ciriticsed fascism to support fascist dictators like Augusto Pinochet in Chile.
Notable Anti-Communist thinkers
Notable dissidents in various communist regimes
See also Category:Soviet dissidents.
Anti-Communist statesmen and military leaders
Last updated: 05-21-2005 05:07:00