An acquaintance of mine was telling me yesterday all about his experience with communism. He grew up in communist Poland and managed to escape when he was fairly young (his sister came later, mother not).
Here are a couple of interesting bits of emphasis he put on his experiences and those of his family:
Under the communist regimes there was always a lot of infighting. Like a constant civil war, between the underground who valued freedom and the comrades who purported to be in charge. In fact, his perspective was that the infighting was more of the fighting than the official battles out on the front lines of WWII.
The real patriots turned out to be the underground, anti-government freedom fighters. The official heroes often turned out to have been involved in corruption or brutality.
He refers to escaping to the west as “escaping to paradise” (he didn’t even make a point of it—he just literally referred to it that way, saying something like “and then I escaped to paradise, and …”). His mother and sister were not so fortunate, and his family was fragmented. This sort of tragedy was commonplace.
Communist Russia was more brutal than fascist Germany. Just because they were an ally with the west doesn’t mean they were nice guys. For example, his mother and sister always hid when the Russian soldiers were around because they raped the women as they passed through. The Germans were forbidden. (I think most of us know that Stalin was a nasty guy already, but when I think of WWII I’m initially thinking mostly about Germany and Hitler.)
The economics of communism didn’t work well at all. Stores never had anything. The shelves were always empty. Getting things like meat was a really special treat. You had to stand in line for days to get anything unusual (e.g. furniture), and then what you got was whatever happened to be available.
His sister says that listening to Obama speak sounds just like communist propaganda, and it freaks her out.
Some of this might seem a bit one-sided and extreme, but it’s another perspective to consider. And who couldn’t use a reminder that far left authoritarianism (commies) is at least as bad as far right authoritarianism (fascists). The fact that we’ve been under right-wing authoritarians might make it attractive to some to react with strong left-wing authoritarianism. They both suck, it’s freedom that we need to restore, and protect. The fact that many people think only in terms of “left” and “right” is very dangerous.
I was also reminded of just how nasty things could get. Politics isn’t just about horse-race-beauty-contest-tabloid-material— it’s the real world, and it could get really fucking nasty if we let our government get out of control. And if we wait until it’s already out of control before we do anything about it, we’re in deep doo-doo. Well, it sorta feels like it already is. Hmm..