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Anti-communism

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Anti-communism is opposition to communist ideology, organization, or government, on either a theoretical or practical level. For much of the period between 1950 and 1991, it was one of the major components of the containment policy of the United States.

Some people oppose communism due to what they perceive as 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. 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.

Many anti-communists 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.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Objections to Communist theory
3 Promise and Practice
4 Fascism and Anti-Communism
5 Repression and Anti-Communism
6 Criticisms of Anti-Communism
7 See also

History

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 2 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 and the short-lived Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia led by Pol Pot, which was later overthrown by invading Vietnamese Communists.

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 Communist and economically isolationist, and tensions between the country and the US have heightened as the result of reports that it is stockpiling nuclear weapons.

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 respond to this by pointing out that even so, the rich are getting richer much faster than the poor, causing a growing gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. Particularly during the decades of the '80s and '90s, the US saw increasing gaps between the rich and the poor.

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 privileges parallel to those in the overthrown "capitalist" societies.

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 cases such as Cuba, whose economic performance is actually better than that of similar neighboring countries (Cuba is ahead of most of its Latin American neighbors, but far behind the United States.) 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 mass foreign tourism as a means to recover. 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. However, particularly 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.

The hallmark of some Communist economic policies, collective farming, has generally proven to be economically inefficient and often disastrous, especially in 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 certain 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 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.

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 that lasted from 1918-1919. A short lived soviet government was also established in Hungary under Bela 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.

Most 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.

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. Stalin expected the Germans not to attack until 1942, but the pact ended in 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and 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.

Repression and Anti-Communism

Communist political parties and organizations were active 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 anti-Communist 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. Anti-communists respond to this by pointing out that Communist governments have often used similar methods to deal with their political enemies. 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.

Criticisms of Anti-Communism

Proponents of communism in capitalist countries tend to challenge the accuracy of anti-communist claims. A common rebuttal of anti-communism 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 1930's, 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. A useful comparison would be the Catholic Church's Inquisition which is generally seen as a fundamental error in the history of the church.

Anti-communists 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. Anti-communists also question if a classless communist society without a ruling class can be achieved.

Some anti-communists, 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 Sudan, right-wing military juntas in Latin America, the apartheid regime in South Africa, 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, and 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 "" 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.

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.

See also