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Millions died in North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. One can quibble about the details but not the essentials. The Soviet Union, with its de facto colonies in tow, truly was an evil empire, as President Ronald Reagan opined.
Enemies were killed. Competitors were purged. Resisters were starved. And sometimes people were murdered for the same reason that some Americans get traffic tickets: to fill a quota.
In the Soviet Union, reports political scientist R.J. Rummel: “Murder and arrest quotas did not work well. Where to find the ‘enemies of the people’ they were to shoot was a particularly acute problem for the local NKVD, which had been diligent in uncovering ‘plots.’ They had to resort to shooting those arrested for the most minor civil crimes, those previously arrested and released, and even mothers and wives who appeared at NKVD headquarters for information about their arrested loved ones.”
Symbolically, at least, the entire hideous system disappeared in 1989. The transition spawned manifold practical difficulties, but communism lost any moral claim.
Today communism’s collapse seems to have been inevitable. But it was not obvious then.
Certainly historical forces were working against totalitarian collectivism. The transformational power of capitalism was passing by the communist world. Yet any attempt to tap into the power of the market risked political control.
Equally important, many courageous people believed in freedom and demanded change, often at enormous personal risk. An electrician named Lech Walesa in Poland. A playwright named Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. A novelist named Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and physicist named Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union.
There were other essential players. Pope John Paul II. President Ronald Reagan. And reform communist Mikhail Gorbachev.
Most important were the millions who resisted in innumerable ways year after year. Their efforts culminated in 1989. Average people rose up, causing communist elites to lose their nerve and capitulate.
Stalin would have rolled the tanks over protesters. But Communism no longer motivated even its chief beneficiaries, the nomenklatura, to fight on its behalf.
Change stirred in Hungary and Poland, spread to Czechoslovakia, and then enveloped East Germany. The other communist dominoes, most notably the Soviet Union itself, eventually toppled as well.
BUT IT WAS THE OPENING of the Berlin Wall — stained with the blood of hundreds of East Germans killed while seeking freedom — on the evening of November 9 that dramatically demonstrated that the contest between individual liberty and totalitarian collectivism was over. Freedom had won and now could be expected by all peoples.
Not everything has gone smoothly over the following 16 years. Economies have remained controlled and enfeebled. Political systems have stultified and sometimes regressed.
And communism continues to oppress. China is nominally communist, though the political elite’s embrace of capitalism make it look more fascist in character.
Laos keeps its people poor and under tight control. Cuba fills its prisons with dissidents while its people languish in poverty. North Korea murders and oppresses on an enormous scale.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?