In October 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia brought Karl Marx’ radical economic and political views to life. Communism went from abstract theory to abject reality, from world view to world power. In the subsequent decades, wherever it has succeeded in dominating a country’s political processes, very dramatic and mostly tragic changes have occurred. It is grown old, yet remains as fresh a threat as the latest headlines about North Korea.
Supporters would say that the utopian ends justify the means of bringing about a better society–that you have to break some eggs to make omelets. The death toll represented by those broken eggs is so staggering, as to be nearly uncountable. The Black Book of Communism gives an estimate of 94 million killed in the 20th century. The gory brutality of this “progress” dwarfs the horrors of fascism and has given even ardent supporters pause on occasion. (Whittaker Chambers was a notable example, and his tell all book Witness remains a chilling bestseller from the Cold War era of the 20th century).
Even in places where it has not fully succeeded, such as in the United States and Western Europe, we still struggle with its insidious influences on institutions such as the Church and academia, and with its cultural legacy, including divorce on demand and abortion.
Communism has been an implacable foe of Christianity since its conception in the mind of Karl Marx, who criticized religion as the “opiate of the masses”. He found it guilty of anesthetizing people against the painful realities of their economic oppression by powerful capitalists. Communism has tried to stamp out faith. Places that were once cultural centers of Christian belief, such as Moscow, were decimated. Beginning in Russia, churches were looted, and then destroyed or turned into museums, while the priests who served in them were shot or deported. This pattern repeated itself in China, Vietnam, Korea–Some may recall that Pyongyang in North Korea was once known as the “Jerusalem of the East”.
Ironically, Communism as a governing force is largely fulfilling what a young Bolshevik once furiously predicted of his opponents. Leon Trotsky could have been speaking of all his own poisonous ilk, radical communists then and yet to come, when on October 25, 1917 he spat to the Mensheviks, “You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on – into the dustbin of history!”