One would think that the deaths of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il would prompt universal condemnation for the dictatorial communist regimes the former so bravely fought against, and the latter used for self-aggrandizement at the expense of his own citizens. One would be wrong; the condemnation of dictatorial communist regimes is blessedly widespread, but it is by no means universal.
Consider first Neil Clark, who informs us of the following regarding Havel’s struggle:
No one questions that Havel, who went to prison twice, was a brave man who had the courage to stand up for his views. Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place. Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.
These comments are, of course, repulsive beyond belief, in addition to being historically illiterate, but as far as Clark is concerned, no good will come of Havel’s death if people like Clark cannot use it in order to lie about history. Andrew Stuttaford rightly takes Clark to task. So does Johnathan Pearce:
Presumably, [Clark's article] explains why there were millions of downtrodden, poor people attempting to enter the Soviet Empire from such hellholes as West Germany. That explains why East Berlin erected the Wall, to contain the flood of people trying to enter it. Yes, that must have been the reason. (Sarcasm alert).
I guess the fact that the Soviet System created a two-tier society: the Party and Everyone Else, must have escaped Mr Clark’s gimlet-eye attention. Perhaps the Gulag, the shootings of political opponents, the construction of the White Sea Canal (with slave labour), etc, were in fact all features of ensuring that the “needs of the majority” came “first”.
For what it is worth, on a more theoretical level, the horrors of collectivism can be summed up in Marx’s dictum: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. For if you believe that the needs of the majority trump such pesky issues as rights or liberties, then so much the worse for such liberal principles. But in practice, of course, the history of the Communist world was littered with stories of shortages, famines and shabby, crappily produced goods and services.
Make no mistake; however eloquent Stuttaford’s and Pearce’s condemnation of Clark’s drivel, no one will succeed in the effort to make Clark ashamed of what he wrote. The man is clearly ineducable.
Speaking of ineducable, consider Simon Winchester–hidden behind a paywall, so alas, no link–on North Korea:
The State’s founder, Kim Il Sung, claimed that all he wanted for North Korea was to be socialist, and to be left alone. In that regard, the national philosophy of self-reliance known in North Korea as “Juche” is little different from India’s Gandhian version known as “swadeshi”. Just let us get on with it, they said, and without interference, please.
India’s attempt to go it alone failed. So, it seems, has Burma’s. Perhaps inevitably, North Korea’s attempt appears to be tottering. But seeing how South Korea has turned out — its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.
Let’s give the mike to Brian Micklethwait, for a reply:
No bad thing? Competition for commenters: concoct morally disgusting sentences which begin with “For all its faults …”. You’ll struggle to top that one.
One could take that competition and run with it all day. “For all its faults, Nazi Germany was really good on the issue of realizing the health dangers of smoking.” “For all its faults, the Stalinist Soviet Union had itself a leader with an awesome mustache.” “For all its faults, Maoist China did not completely collapse into utter ruin.”
Now, your turn. Don’t be shy; this is a fun game!
Alex Massie is indignant. And who can blame him? Indignation ought to be directed at CNN as well, which has made eliding the facts and missing the point into something of an art form when it comes to North Korea. To be fair, of course, it is entirely possible that CNN is relying on the wrong academic to guide its thinking–or whatever passes for “thinking” at CNN–when it comes to North Korea. But that’s still no excuse, even if it might be an explanation.
I just have a simple request, however. Is it possible that we could ostracize communists–and their fanboys and girls–the way that we would ostracize Nazis and the people who make excuses for them? Could I possibly see that happen before I die of old age? Because that would be nice.