Communists Rarely Conceded Power Willingly

By Clayton, Larry | The Tuscaloosa News, March 31, 2012 | Go to article overview

Communists Rarely Conceded Power Willingly


Clayton, Larry, The Tuscaloosa News


The 20th century was not only the "American century," which witnessed the triumph of capitalism and democracy, it was the century that communism triumphed across much of the world.

The two political, economic, social, and ideological systems clashed often as their champions struggled to dominate their own countries, and, indeed, the world.

At the end of the 20th century, the old Soviet Union, led by Russia, broke up, and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall symbolized the collapse of the world wide center of communism. It survived in China, and is still the official political organization of that vast country, but the capitalist way of life is rapidly changing China from monolithic communism to a hybrid state.

Communism has survived in other countries, Cuba and North Korea for example, but the ideological struggle between capitalism and communism is not the determining factor in our world today.

Socialism, on the other hand, is very much alive and competing with capitalism, and the two sometimes occupy the same stage amicably, as long as neither demands total political control.

Modern communism is distinguished from modern socialism by the need for absolute control. A useful clich, for example, is that all communists are by definition socialists, but not all socialists are communists.

Like the Soviet Union, other nations have turned back communism and restored democratic structures and forms of capitalism. But rarely has communism relinquished control for power easily, sometimes without a bloody struggle.

The word "totalitarian" is often associated with communist regimes, meaning they demand total control. The government (most often described as the "state") controls all means of economic production and distribution, the press and religion, and determines pretty much how one lives.

Today most countries combine private and public economic activities, enfranchise the people through democratic structures and republican forms of government (even with vestigial monarchies in place, such as Great Britain), and deal with the problems of today - - nuclear deterrence, globalization, environmental degradation, religious fanaticism -- within a desire for or reality of representative government.

That is, the nations are governed by elected officials who must answer to the people regularly.

There are also old fashioned dictatorships that give lip service to serving the needs of the "nation," (a loose term, like the "people") but in fact -- like Libya, Syria, Iran, etc. -- are most interested in wielding and keeping power. Populists flourish in these environments.

When a nation falls under communism -- and most 20th century communist regimes came to power via revolutions -- those regimes usually become totalitarian in practice.

And when nations or, more specifically, the people within those nations have determined to rid themselves of communism, the resulting warfare has often been long and bloody.

Once in power, those in power are reluctant to relinquish power.

This happened in Chile between 1970-1973 and a short consideration of that history is instructive.

Briefly, in 1970, the Chileans elected a socialist president, Salvador Allende. Socialism ran deep in the Chilean political fabric and he was elected in what was generally considered a fair and honest election. Other socialists had served as Chilean presidents in the past, although centrists were most popular.

Allende, a physician by profession, believed in his socialism with a passion, but he was also determined to govern democratically.

However, his partisans -- radicals of the political left -- pushed progressively for more and more radical solutions to the "Chilean problem," which many saw as an unequal distribution of wealth and power. …

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