Students praise Communism without historical context

Illustration by Maddi Masterson

By Andrew Hayes

Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto serves an important role in the CORE program at Lewis & Clark, exposing students to a key literary work of the modern era. Many students on campus find Marxism compelling and view it as utopia of sorts. At LC, Communism is celebrated among many students. During fall of 2017, some students threw a “Communist” party, romanticizing the ideal through loud music and celebration.

The LC community encourages liberal ideologies and promotes equality among all people. Many students on campus identify as either liberal or progressive and there have been many past student demonstrations on campus illustrating student support for equity and acceptance. However, student support for Communism in discussion as an ideal without regard for historical precedent creates dissonance.

Are students on campus discussing dictators such as Ho Chi Minh, a Vietnamese revolutionary who arrested or killed 250,000 of his own people? Or Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge who caused the deaths of one-fourth of the population of Cambodia? Even the more obvious examples of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin do not seem to challenge the support of both human freedom and Communist theory. Is it right for students to pick and choose which historical tragedies to condemn, while ignoring so many others that contradict their support of a socioeconomic system that has historically denied universal liberty?

It is important to acknowledge the difference between the implementation of Communism and the results of men who took advantage of it. Marx never intended for the death and suffering of so many nations to occur; his manifesto never detailed the birth of fascism and the western terror of the Red Scare. Nor did Marx foresee the Bosnian Civil War or the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The socioeconomic qualities of Marx’s writing propel equity and security in the workplace. Marxism appears to take care of its citizens in ways that often is not feasible in a capitalist nation.

However, sensitivity towards men who abused these ideals is neither visible nor present on campus. Moving forward with ideals often means accepting why they had previously failed. This does not seem to be stressed in the CORE program nor recognized by students, whose support for Marxism remains unchallenged by its historical precedent.

LC emphasizes the celebration of diverse beliefs and encourages students to challenge their way of thinking. The inclusion of Marx as a required reading emphasizes this. But there must also be recognition of the reasons why Communism historically denied human liberty, if not for thorough inquiry of the subject, then for respect towards the tragedies resembling those that LC students protest today.

Not a single Communist nation has legalized gay marriage. China implemented a policy allowing citizens to have two children after almost four decades of a one-child policy. Communism has historically limited human freedom. Modern day Communist nations continue to deny many rights that are regarded as basic rights to LC students. Where and when do students begin to reconcile their hatred for tyranny and their support for an abused socioeconomic system that allowed tyrants to commit so many tragedies?

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