November 30, 2010
On June 12, 2007, the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech during the much-publicized opening of the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington DC. Bush’s speech included the usual nonsense one would expect to hear surrounding the opening of such a museum, including a reference to the alleged “100 million victims of communism,” a nonsensical claim made popular by the Black Book of Communism. Naturally he also likened communism to his present enemies, ignoring the fact that the US repeatedly supported Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Cold War against “communism.” We should expect no less—during the Cold War the American government used the idea of an international communist conspiracy to justify countless military interventions and CIA shenanigans. Now they have the international terrorist conspiracy; so why not just crown one the successor of the other?
The American Party of Labor doesn’t necessarily feel the need to write a long response condemning the inaccuracy, ignorance and fallaciousness of the whole accusation. The hypocrisy is simply too obvious. After all, it is not difficult to point out how many people perished in the process of building the capitalist system, or how many nations were wiped out and brutally colonized in the process of accumulation which led to modern capitalism. We also don’t need to point out that the strength of the U.S. economy owes much to countries like China and Vietnam. Any Marxist-Leninist knows that both of these countries turned revisionist and neither can really be called socialist in any Marxist sense. However, do not forget that those who accuse Marxism of 100 million murders thought nothing of lumping in various left-wing and sometimes even nationalistic movements with communists; they would certainly think nothing of including even modern-day “communist” China in that group. What’s more, the infrastructure upon which contemporary capitalist China’s massive commerce is built is based on the work of Mao, the man with whom Richard Nixon shook hands and they blame for anything from 40-70 million deaths, supposedly the bulk of the 100 million figure. To some Cold Warriors, even non-aligned regimes such as that of Iran’s Mosaddegh, Iraq’s Kassim or Chile’s Allende were far too close to the communists or Marxism to escape the wrath of the Free World’s intelligence services. By their standards America’s best buddy China has to be included.
Hypocrisy is to be expected from radical anti-communist pundits. These are the same people that turn a blind eye to hundreds of millions of deaths due to capitalism, either directly or indirectly, which continues to this day in many countries, while insisting that a famine occurring under any socialist government is a direct result of communist policies despite any history of famine or agricultural problems said country may have. With all the depopulation in the former Eastern Bloc today, with all the needless death, uncertainty, ethnic wars, prostitution and sex slavery, where is the righteous moral indignation of the body-counters?
This work is also not intended to give another exhausting examination of the faulty reasoning and methodology used in finding such ludicrous numbers. Rabid anti-communist reactionaries always have, and always will, resort to emotional, hypocritical, idealistic and often hysterical arguments. There is simply no concept large or idiotic enough which reactionaries would not try to put out with a straight face. That they will accuse communists of a crime while ignoring an almost identical event happening under a capitalist regime is not surprising in the least. That they will ignore all historical context surrounding events and apply to “communist” standards which they apply nowhere else is no surprise either. Likewise, we of the APL will not do here what we will doubtlessly do in later issues of the Revolutionary Spirit, and bring up archival research by J. Arch Getty, Mark Tauger and a host of other sources—including many times our own government—regarding the true nature of Marxism-Leninism. Debunking these commonplace and sometimes hundred-year-old accusations is something a communist should be able to do, and in future, lengthier issues we will contribute further to that effort to the greatest extent possible. Right now, we will simply stress that more often than not, the accusation leveled at any particular socialist regime has had its historical counterpart occurring in a capitalist country at some time, often with an infinitely larger amount of brutality.
As the compulsion to lash out at these constantly re-emerging accusations, which continue to spring like heads from a Hydra, becomes more severe, perhaps it’s time to consider what is going on behind these accusations. What is the cultural mechanism at work here? Deep within is a powerful lesson about class, class consciousness and in general an issue of perspective. Why do anti-communist reactionaries, and in particular anti-communist philosophers, pundits and intellectuals engage in such glaring hypocrisy? To put it simply, from their perspective they do not. They do not acknowledge the crimes of capitalism, or if they do acknowledge one particular problem they are likely to reduce the argument and attribute the problem to some person, group or something otherwise vague rather than to attribute the problem as inherent the system of capitalism. It’s not as if they ignore mass slaughter or famine under non-socialist or non-communist regimes, it’s just that these things are simply regarded as unfortunate tragedies or aberrations, usually the fault of some single person or a small cabal. That however, does not explain the whole story. This is a question of legitimacy—when one understands the perspective of the bourgeoisie, or at least the perspective they have been promoting and continue to promote; you eventually realize that the 100 million deaths attributed to communism are not necessary.
What matters is not about how many people died or how many were killed; what matters is who was wielding the force. In the context of that epiphany, one realizes that for these people, one death under Marxism-Leninism or even revisionism would be too many. If one remembers the Manifesto, they remember that the ruling ideas of any age have always been the ideas of its ruling class. This can be applied to concepts like morality, i.e., what is considered acceptable and what is considered “good” and “bad.” The revolutions of the bourgeoisie against the ruling feudal aristocracy were challenging ideas that had been around for centuries. Concepts like divine right, natural hierarchies and what the role of the church should be were challenged. Imagine how you would view the rising capitalist class if were you a member of the feudal aristocracy. From the perspective of the ruling class, that is, the class which wields authority, challenges to that authority are automatically illegitimate. If a conflict should arise between these two classes (as they did), to whom do you think those having the ruling class perspective of the era would have attributed all the bloodshed involved on both sides? Of course the ruling class attributes the death to the revolutionaries—they tried to upset the natural order. If extreme cruelty and brutality are carried out in suppression of the revolutionary class, they brought it on themselves. It’s no secret that those on top are the ones most concerned with “stability” and “order.”
When we take this lesson into consideration, it becomes clear that to many Cold Warriors and their allies, it’s not a matter of who killed whom, when or why. One side’s killing is generally legitimate while the others’ is not. There are exceptions. Except for various Neo-Nazis and fellow travelers, Cold Warriors and rabid anti-communists generally will not abide such an aberration as the Holocaust, for example. Instead, the Holocaust is portrayed as sweeping in terms of who it affected and is reduced so that the entire history of fascism in Europe revolves around a few “evil men” like Hitler and his henchmen. The role that capitalism, big business and even “left-wing” social-democratic parties had in aiding and encouraging Hitler and the Axis is ignored in favor of the ludicrous and audacious likening of Hitler and his Nazis to Stalin and the Bolsheviks. Aside from the occasional undeniable atrocity by a non-communist regime, which is often reduced to a certain collection of personalities and never discussed in the context of the capitalist system, for anti-communists any atrocity committed in the name of fighting communism is legitimate.
The historical examples of Korea and Vietnam are relevant to this topic. In both countries, the communists consisted of partisans who at one time were fighting the enemy of the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands. In the case of Korea, the partisans had been fighting the Japanese occupiers for quite some time. In Vietnam, the guerillas did devote a great deal of time to fighting the French under Japanese administration, but this had more to do with the situation wherein the Japanese were for the time being allowing the French to run the colony without too much interference. In both scenarios, the U.S. maneuvered to manipulate and prevent democratic votes which would have united Korea and Vietnam, respectively. Now we all know the result of this; the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In the case of Korea, there is a plethora of evidence that blame for the war cannot so easily be laid at the feet of Kim Il-Sung. If the reader cannot agree with the APL’s assertion that the attack was the response of numerous and repeated armed incursions and public threats from the South, then one should at least acknowledge the evidence of those incursions and say honestly that the North had far more reason to invade South Korea than the U.S. had to invade Iraq.
In Vietnam, the war began as an insurrection led by the National Liberation Front. To a rabid anti-communist of virtually any stripe, any and all bloodshed in these wars can be laid at the feet of the communists. Never mind the fact that the U.S. allowed right-wing nationalists in Korea the opportunity of suppressing the people’s councils and in effect allowed many former pro-Japanese collaborators to subvert the will of the Korean nation. That was necessary—the alternative was a victory for communism. The same is the case with South Vietnam. Forget Diem’s corruption, ineptitude and murder, and forget that America devastated the Vietnamese country side, turned the cities into whorehouses and killed several million of those they were supposedly trying to protect. That doesn’t matter—the communists started it, and when the communists didn’t necessarily start a conflict, their mere presence justifies repression. If they resist that repression, they and anyone caught in the crossfire become fair game.
That is the mentality; one could speculate on how consciously they apply this formula. Surely the authors of the Black Book of Communism and those like them must have sat around at some point imagining all the conflicts involving “communism” as per their definition, in the 20th century. It is also not difficult to imagine that before they set out on such a task, they had already decided that communism is directly responsible for an alarmingly high amount of deaths. After that, it is a matter of trying to calculate. How many people died in this conflict? How many of those can be attributed to communism? There have to be limits. These scholars could not take something like World War II, calculate how many casualties the Red Army caused and claim that they were all “deaths due to communism.” However, the issue of people dying under a communist government, whether revisionist or not, gives one a lot more room to maneuver. Since famines, usually seen as natural phenomena even though they are structurally commonplace and easily preventable in capitalist countries, are claimed to be directly attributable to government policy under communism, that is seen as fair game. Another advantage of the “Holocaust by hunger” angle is that you can use deceptive methods to calculate death tolls. After all, who is going to check demographic records for the country in question to see if the numbers you put forward add up?
All that being said, it’s hard to believe that these people sit around and consciously say; “I’m going to use faulty logic and flawed methodology to over-inflate death rates in communist countries and then attribute all those deaths to communism as an ideology regardless of vast ideological and political differences between said states!” After all, they don’t need to do that because the mentality they have is that communism, being opposed to the ruling order, is automatically illegal and illegitimate. Non-socialist countries favored by anti-communists can persecute and execute people, particularly if they are believed to be communists, because that is their right to defend their state and the general concept of law and order.
Marxist-Leninist governments and revisionist governments, despite wielding state power, are not granted this same right no matter how egregious the offender. If the charge is serious, like treason, we are led to believe that the victim must have been falsely accused and was surely innocent. For any other political prisoner, we are to assume that they were all morally upright, pure-as-snow dissidents, speaking out against the soul-crushing iron fist of communism. When one reads about the Phoenix Project in Vietnam, some have claimed that it took somewhere around 30,000 lives. It has also been claimed that the vast majority of people who were taken in during the Project’s run never returned, and that the vast majority of victims were either totally innocent or simply rank-and-file types. No issue is ever made public about this project though, since South Vietnam’s sovereign state had to be protected from communism! With enough time one could imagine dozens of other historical examples that fit this mold.
Another key aspect of this mentality is the ideology of the anti-communists in question. Often, irresponsible labels such as “fascists” are thrown around, but to be fair many of these people may be simply mainstream conservatives or even liberals. It helps to read more of the specific author’s works, particularly those works in which the author writes at length about their political history and values, if available. Therein you can get an idea of their perspective, and that perspective can often shine a light on the mentality which serves as the topic of this article. How do these people portray the ruling class in a certain revolution or conflict? Are they portrayed as “natural betters,” as fascists often love to imply, or could they be portrayed as somewhat repressive but more or less benevolent? What is their treatment on the subject of appropriation of private property? Is it simply nationalized or is it repeatedly referred to as theft or plunder? What is the treatment of the masses? Are they portrayed as ignorant and simply deceived, or are all those loyal to a particular communist movement portrayed as the dregs of a particular country? Consider these matters when you read self-righteous anti-communist literature; they help us to understand the mentality of the ruling class and their intellectuals.
There is one more important aspect of this kind of mentality as well, which centers on the morality behind the issue. Anti-Marxists on the left-wing often attack capitalism, even more so since the end of the Eastern Bloc. Yet at the same time they are notorious for applying an absolutist view toward “human rights,” ignoring the class character of those rights and often simply equating targeted capitalist regimes with socialist ones. Moral equivalence can be derailed by comparing the two alleged “crimes.” Is it a good analogy? How do the actual death tolls in question compare? Which side was more arbitrary, and so forth. Socialist revolution is, like all revolutions before, a long and bloody struggle. Creating a better, real democracy means taking power from those who currently hold it and distributing it to a wider base of people; those who currently hold that power aren’t going to give it up without a fight. Hard-pressed one would be to find a ruling class in history that willingly and consciously gave up its power without bloodshed. This is why it is called class struggle and not “class tea party.” Thus we can look at something like the Civil War and determine that despite the havoc and bloodshed they wrought, the Unionists had the moral high ground in that particular conflict. They were the progressive force.
We can say the same when we discuss any kind of repression which occurs under capitalist and communist regimes. That repression occurred under socialist regimes is undeniable. The question is who was repressed, why, and how. In terms of human and social development, if a capitalist and a socialist state use their instruments of force to preserve their respective states, is the socialist state not the moral victor seeing that it seeks to create a progressive society and its repression is in favor of the masses rather than the minority? Of course, that’s when your anti-communist opponent, with self-righteous feigned moral indignation asks, “Are you saying the ends justify the means?” Look them in the eye and say “yes” with confidence. For what means have they to defend their repression, which continues even to this day? What ends justified the means of killing tens of thousands of Iraqis? Does the ruling class even have ends to begin with? Ultimately capitalist repression occurs in the interest of preserving the power of a few, at the expense of the many, and in general preserving a system that is clearly not anywhere near the full potential of humanity in terms of democracy and civilization. The ends of ending that system and creating something that is more humane all around does indeed justify the means of socialist revolution, and the fact that this will entail bloodshed is not the will of the masses or communists but rather a realistic understanding of what the ruling class will oppose on the revolutionary people in defense of its power.
So why is understanding this mentality important in the first place? For people new to Marxism-Leninism, it is a good lesson in the very concept of class and how people of different classes generally have radically opposing perspectives based on their position in society. What might seem grossly unfair, illogical, immoral or repressive to the masses might seem harmless, desirable or simply a law of nature to those on top of society, depending on the issue. Upon realizing that, from the difference of perspectives follows the understanding as to the necessity of revolution and the seizure of state power. Words like “freedom” and “democracy” will be tossed around by all opponents of all stripes, both parried by the question “for whom, for which class?”
What is apparent is that the only freedom the ruling class is truly concerned about is the right to private property, the right to exploit, to preserve their privileges and so on. This is nothing new to Marxist-Leninists. While that is the case, the bourgeoisie are not stupid. When putting forth their ideological arguments and attacks on communism, they’re basically going to mention everything under the sun but ideology itself. After all, the right of private property doesn’t sound so sacred to the vast majority of people, whom do not own such property in the first place. That doesn’t get young men to join the military and get shot full of holes fighting a “communist” threat. No, it needs to be about religion, human rights, freedom of speech, morality, democracy and anything that will keep the proletariat from noticing the chasm between them and the bourgeoisie, and the contradiction which is bound up in that relationship.
Arguing about dead bodies with anti-communists may not be a complete waste of time, but in general it is useless because they cannot be made to see their hypocrisy. If they could, they wouldn’t be trying to hang communism on body counts. After all, capitalism has accounted for far more than 100 million deaths were we to apply the standards used against communism, and that death toll continues to this day. This continues, not in the interest of building a new society which would ultimately be better for the vast majority of humanity, but simply to preserve and advance the profit demands of a privileged few. Like Zeno’s paradox, there is virtually no way that communists, were they to establish significant influence again in the near future, would be able to create a death toll on par with capitalism even if they tried. Besides that simple fact, many of the accusations bound up with the 100 million are based on faulty reasoning, flawed methodology, unsubstantiated claims, accusations toward regimes which were not Marxist-Leninist and sometimes just outright deception. Lastly, when one considers the historical conditions of the two socialist countries, the USSR and Albania, both struggled to overcome historical problems with backwardness, industrialization and defense from foreign invasion (in the case of the USSR, there was also overcoming of famine). Both more or less succeeded in that realm. More importantly, the idea of attacking modern-day communists over something like collectivization in the Soviet Union is sheer idiocy. Communists do not aim to “go back” to any kind of society as their opponents allege. There is no need to replicate on every exact level the societies that existed within the context of those countries in order to replicate all the essential tenets of anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism.
The important thing is to recognize that kind of mentality amongst the opponents of Marxism-Leninism. No matter how many claims you debunk, no matter how many comparisons you can bring up, it makes no difference, because in their mind their reasoning used to connect communism with these deaths is legitimate. Repression used in the name of fighting Marxism, real or phony, is legitimate, and is the application and defense of law and order. The lesson being that conciliatory positions will not sate the extreme hatred these people have for a society that has the very real potential of being more fair and democratic. Once you accept that argument, without exposing the mentality and the framework these people try to construct around such debates, they control the terms. If you’ve accepted that framework, whatever your proposal is, it can be linked to communism and communism will always be linked with nothing but death and repression. By all means, continue debunking ridiculous claims of anti-communists whenever and wherever you may find them, in any way you can.
Yet, victory lies not simply in defeating individual claims like some kind of historical-ideological game, but rather in exposing the audience to the rationale behind those arguments, thus providing a clear image and example of class consciousness and contradiction. Give the fanatics enough rope and they hang themselves. Their memorial, for example, does nothing but immortalize their dishonesty, hypocrisy, arrogance and idiocy in stone.
Consider the following quotes, in regards to 20th century Russian history: “The greater the terror, the greater our victories.” Then, this little gem: “We must save Russia! Even if we have to set fire to half of it and shed the blood of three-fourths of all the Russians!” Exactly who said such inflammatory words? Perhaps it was Dzerzhinsky? Yagoda? Yezhov or Beria? Or, maybe they are from the bourgeoisie’s devil incarnate, J.V. Stalin? If you guessed any of those names, you would be wrong. Actually, you would be wrong if you had named anyone associated with the Bolsheviks or the communist movement in general. The reason being that the quotes above came from General Lavr Kornilov, a famous military leader of the White Guards. This quote sounds an awful lot like “the ends justify the means” to my ears, the same dictum for which communists have been routinely condemned by their opponents.
Ultimately, the practice of debunking the accusations of anti-communists in regards to atrocities and body counts is usually unproductive. It is always important to do so in the interests of promoting accurate history and refuting lies which serve a system of exploitation, if only for the sake of the bystanders among the working class. Yet, without elaborating on the class character of these accusations, these debates can be little more than a historical pie-fight with atrocity accusations flying back and forth. Let us not for a moment deny that excesses have been committed by regimes which were indeed socialist and Marxist-Leninist in character. The idea that any state or society in the throes of revolution and faced with annihilation could possibly correctly differentiate from real threats and more-or-less harmless individuals is sheer insanity. Certainly no capitalist state does so to this day, and the “War on Terror” provides plenty of examples to that end. What the working class really needs to get out of our debates with anti-communists are lessons on class consciousness and how the use of state power is viewed by people with opposing interests.
There are a few insights which can be added regarding common phrases that are often brought up in relation to these various accusations and in debates with anti-communists. For a contemporary example of the use of the catchphrase in propaganda, consider the slogan, “Support the Troops.” When “support” for “the troops” is brought up in American political debates, everyone immediately starts pontificating as to who is actually supporting the troops and who supports them more. Nobody thinks to stop the debate and ask as to just what “supporting the troops” means. The power of that simple phrase is such that it confounds even some of the most educated opponents of Bush’s war. That example having been given, let us look at a common catchphrase in relation to the history of communism in the 20th century. This is the common accusation that wherever socialist revolutionaries take power, they always wipe out the intelligentsia either by death or imprisonment, conveying the idea of cutting off the head of society so as to establish total mental control over a population. Echoes of that high school reading list novel 1984 are palpable. Too bad the anti-communists throwing that rock are taking refuge in a glass house.
Firstly, did communism have no intelligentsia? Bookcases could be filled with tomes detailing the extermination of leftist and Marxist intellectuals worldwide by regimes ranging from fascist to liberal “democratic.” This position of anti-communists borders on schizophrenia. Ironically, another common catchphrase is the suggestion that Marxists are usually nothing but student radicals and intellectuals severed from the reality of the working class which they wish to lead. Yet, when the issue of the intelligentsia is brought up as an accusation against communist regimes, it is often portrayed as the action of ignorant, uneducated masses overthrowing their “natural betters,” the ill-defined intellectuals being their rightful intellectual leaders. It cannot be both ways; either the anti-communists can continue asserting ideas that communism is the fanciful dream of pure intellectuals, or it is a revolt of the unwashed masses against such intellectuals.
This also naturally leads to the question, should we be so alarmed at the reality of intellectuals and intelligentsia being made casualties of such a decisive struggle between an out-dated exploitive society and a new progressive one? I venture to say that we should not, stemming from my firm belief that with the advent of capitalism mankind would do well to “grow up” and realize that individuals who pose great danger to human life need not be limited to those who wear military uniforms. Without digressing onto the serious issue of hypocrisy associated with the International Tribunal for war crimes, it is high time we recognize that men in suits such as George Soros or Abramovich have clearly caused far more physical damage and suffering in the world than a General Gotovina or Mladic. This realization is not intended to reduce blame on actual war criminals worldwide, but rather to simply point out that death and destruction in the modern world can be caused far outside of the military sphere of civilization, and of course we also realize that the nature of capitalism often drives those wars which do break out so frequently. Just as we ought to recognize international businessman as being capable of as much, if not more destruction as a General responsible for war crimes, so too, should we recognize that intellectuals, journalists, professors and even schoolteachers are not necessarily innocent bystanders in the decisive struggle between two forms of civilization.
Parallel to war of arms is the war of ideas, the latter often driving the former. It is in the intellectual realm that the justification for creating a new society or preserving the old one is formed. Young men would rarely risk their life and limb to fight a war far from home on the pay they get, were there no ideas in which they had been indoctrinated often long before they decide to join the military. A person’s decision to vote for this or that candidate in an election hinges on the information they receive or the lack thereof, as well as the ideological slant which accompanies that information. A population’s support, tacit approval, or passive acceptance of an overseas military adventure hinges on the same. In that context, would it be wrong merely to suggest that perhaps members of the press who deliberately or even out of negligence aid aggressive military action, should be held to some degree of accountability? In relation to the Iraq War, many mainstream journalists spoke up long after the beginning of hostilities to talk about how they were intimidated and wooed by the military and the Bush Administration. This is nonsense of course; look at the coverage they gave running up to the war and compare it with public opinions around the time these members of the press started expressing regret. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million are now dead, but the American press is sorry!
What of professors? If you are familiar with David Horowitz, you already know that the right-wing certainly doesn’t see them as being harmless individuals. Conservative pundits have been making allegations of a conspiracy of liberal professors corrupting the minds of America’s youth for over a decade now. They are accused of anything from giving moral support to terrorists, to being communists, to being terrorists and traitors themselves. Clearly, the bourgeoisie itself understands the influence that intellectuals can have on society, especially in academia. Their assertions about the dominance of liberal professors are demonstrably false, far more so in regards to their claims about “Marxist” professors. Nonetheless, they recognize the need to hold the ground of academia and dominate the intelligentsia in the interests of shaping society to fit their needs. As already mentioned, in the past reactionary regimes and movements were more than willing to physically liquidate the intelligentsia in academia if it served their ends.
Why is it assumed that the liquidation or imprisonment under a socialist or revisionist regime is a great travesty of justice? If states fighting a socialist insurgent movement were justified in doing the same to Marxist intellectuals on the accusation that they were agitators leading and building the insurgent movement, the worker’s movement should enjoy the same privilege. We should accept the casualties incurred to our intelligentsia as par for the course in revolutionary struggle, but by this same token we should not bear such accusations against our movement without pointing out these basic facts. Just as a university professor may agitate students to embrace the Marxist cause, so did reactionary intellectuals in socialist states agitate in hopes of inspiring some part of the masses to revolt against the new state. If the ideology of anti-communists, from liberal “human rights” absolutists to right-wing crypto-fascists, is rational, if it is mature, it would recognize these simple historical facts and accept the fact that in a struggle that encompasses all of society and human civilization, casualties will not be limited to men of arms.
Our aim is not to justify wholesale persecution of intelligentsia, nor would we suggest that all intellectuals repressed under revisionist or actual socialist regimes were fanatical agitators against the state. Excesses did happen and they will happen in the future. Since a better form of society is the end goal of communists, we do have a responsibility to recognize these facts and modify our actions so as to pre-empt and avoid such excesses in the future. History has proven time and time again that reaction will not hesitate to murder anyone to the left of whatever position they require during a time of revolution. They will do so because as the ruling establishment they have at their disposal all means but no end other than the preservation of the status quo. The quotes with which the article opened demonstrate the mentality of those who serve the interests of the ruling class.
This topic leads us back to the issue of legitimacy, murder and imprisonment. The earlier quotes from the White Guard general Lavr Kornilov came from a military opponent of the October Revolution; in short, this represents a piece of the mentality of those opposed to the Bolsheviks. There is no mention of “human rights,” “freedom of speech,” “dissent” or “democracy” there, but a simple expression of the will to slaughter three-fourths of the Russians and set fire to half of Russia in the interests of “saving” her, which in reality meant preserving Russia‘s existence as a backward and ignorant near-feudal state. The quote will remind some of another infamous line which originated from the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” This was the mentality that the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union faced.
In this context, is it really surprising or abhorrent that people who were or even thought to be associated with reaction faced repression? If a communist insurgent leader somewhere in the world voiced similar words prior to the opening of their revolutionary campaign, would not the government forces be lauded for putting the revolt down with all means necessary? The struggle facing the Bolsheviks, particularly in the Stalin era, was a matter of total annihilation. Nationalist traitors, be they mercenaries to the Axis invaders or clergy and intelligentsia inspiring and justifying the actions of the former, had good reason to come under suspicion and face the repression of the Soviet government. In fact, were any capitalist state facing the same grave situation we should expect no less severe treatment; and we should also understand that just as civilians may be caught in the crossfire of wars, so can intellectuals find themselves the victims of repression aimed at preserving state power.
In the end, it all comes down to who wins the struggle. A major fundamental of Marxism-Leninism is the seizure of state power by the working class. Just as a bourgeois state has its instruments to maintain its control, the working class must have its own through which it exercises state power in its interests, so long as the social conditions continue to make the state as we know it a necessity. Bourgeois “democracy” had and still has its share of political prisoners and victims, and this has always been in the interest of maintaining the integrity of the state. So it has been with socialist regimes who rightfully sought to preserve worker’s power through the state. That they ultimately failed to preserve that power makes a very profound point. The ramblings of revered “dissidents” had real-world consequences for hundreds of millions worldwide, and perhaps they would have never been heard had they no treasonous benefactors such as Khrushchev.
All ‘dissidents’ shot or locked up under socialist regimes, guilty or innocent, suffered their fates on the basis that they were a threat to the state and nation, and often was the case that while their guilt might not be genuine, the grave external and internal threats did indeed exist. By stark contrast, take a look at the statistics of people arrested and imprisoned in the U.S. on charges of drug possession and use, going back for decades. Imprisoning someone on the suspicion of conspiring to overthrow the government has a bit more legitimacy in any state than locking a teenager up with violent offenders over some marijuana. The American War on Drugs has led to countless deaths, imprisonment on a massive scale, and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted—almost all of its force of it directed against African-Americans, youth and the poor. If the “human rights” or “civil liberties” crowd want to throw stones, this is certainly not a matter of apples and oranges. It merely better highlights the “we can do it but you can’t” mentality of anti-communists; that not only do they see bourgeois regimes’ efforts to preserve their state power from internal threats as being justified while it is not the case for socialist regimes, they also will often totally ignore millions of arrests and imprisonment over drug possession and use. At best totally harmless not only to the state but the individual, and at worst a harmful personal decision.
Reiterating the subject, one should not flinch in answering the accusations of anti-communists. However, it is crucial that one not accept their framework. It is utterly pointless to get dragged into a debate where the accusation can apply so readily to the opposition without even discussing the details. Modern parlance gives us these words like “intelligentsia,” “human rights,” “civil liberties,” and “democracy”; not simple words with universally-understood definitions, but rather loaded words which hold intrinsic value while their true nature in relation with physical reality is not to be discussed. Whenever specific accusations of anti-communists are refuted with facts, they will always take refuge behind those words, so why not pre-empt them? Capitalism and its ideals survive to this day not because they are correct, but because they have built up a framework of ideas which are not being sufficiently questioned.
Leaders preach democracy and freedom, but what you’re not supposed to do is ask for a definition or compare that definition to observable reality. Thus it is quite necessary to consider that rather than continually refuting anti-communist accusations, it is far more beneficial to attack the very grounds on which such accusations are made. Seeing that the past is done, and it is we and not they who carry the burden of learning from past mistakes, endless debate over past events real or imagined is in a practical sense, useless to the proletariat. It is far more useful to shatter the myths which preserve the system in its present form, to expose the hypocrisy and class character of the opposition and its ideas. They who label and accuse us do so from their glass houses. Pick up a rock.
No society on earth locks away its citizens with such consistency and in such massive numbers as the United States of America, which has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. The total number of people incarcerated in American jails reached 2,424,279 in 2008, including 1,518,559 federal and state prisoners, 13,576 territorial prisons, 785,556 local jails, 9,957 in ICE facilities, 1,651 in military facilities, 2,135 prisoners in jails in Amerindian nations, 92,845 in juvenile facilities and an alleged several thousand in foreign, secret and overseas prisons (1). If one includes people on probation or parole, the number inflates to 8 million people. Despite being home to only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. houses a staggering 25% of the world’s prisoners. Despite having a population several times larger than the United States, China imprisons about 700,000 less people than the U.S. does. The situation is worsened when you consider that a disproportionate amount of these prisoners are ethnic minorities, targeted by a racist and unjust system. Conditions have dramatically worsened since the enactment of Reaganite drug laws (2) in the 1980s, which have become the main tool for the legal suppression of American ethnic and national minorities. Blacks make up approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but account for nearly half its prison population.
Drug laws flow from popular prejudices – opium fell out of favor as its use became associated with Chinese-Americans and marijuana was illegalized when its use began to feature prominently in jazz music, a predominantly African-American culture (3). Similarly, when crack cocaine began to appear in the United States' African-American communities, its possession was made one of the most severe crimes a person could commit. Unlike, say, marijuana laws, federal crack cocaine laws target small-time dealers rather than suppliers or users. As such, 82% of citizens arrested and sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws are African-Americans, although 2/3 of crack users are white. Powdered cocaine, which is much more expensive and less common in poor and ethnically diverse communities, has far less harsh sentencing; under federal law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine earns a defendant the same sentence one receives for being caught selling 500 grams of powdered cocaine (4). Even the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in a report to Congress on cocaine laws, admitted that crack laws “appear to be harsher and more severe for racial minorities than others as a result of this law,” resulting in “unfairness and inconsistency” (5). Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch elaborates:
"The racial disparities in the rates of drug arrests culminate in dramatic racial disproportions among incarcerated drug offenders. At least two-thirds of drug arrests result in a criminal conviction. Many convicted drug offenders are sentenced to incarceration: an estimated 67 percent of convicted felony drug defendants are sentenced to jail or prison. The likelihood of incarceration increases if the defendant has a prior conviction. Since blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites on drug charges, they are more likely to acquire the convictions that ultimately lead to higher rates of incarceration. Although the data in this backgrounder indicate that blacks represent about one-third of drug arrests, they constitute 46 percent of persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts. Among black defendants convicted of drug offenses, 71 percent received sentences to incarceration in contrast to 63 percent of convicted white drug offenders. Human Rights Watch’s analysis of prison admission data for 2003 revealed that relative to population, blacks are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses” (6).
There is simply no question that a dramatic racial disproportion of the incarcerated population exists in the United States of America. The proportions of African-Americans imprisoned are disproportionate in literally every single state in the United States. Hispanic Americans, too, are unfairly victimized, but more so by the United States’ recent turn towards extreme anti-Mexican chauvinism. In Arizona, a law was passed allowing police officers to arrest citizens suspected to be in the state illegally who do not have citizenship papers on their person. It is the state’s Hispanic population that must bear this law as police officers hunt the group of people most generally association with illegal immigration. In this case, Mexican-Americans and those who “appear” to be Mexican-American. Similar legislation was passed in the small town of Fremont, Nebraska, making it illegal to employ or rent housing to illegal immigrants. (7) This measure was taken to combat a rising Hispanic population, which now constitutes 8% of Fremont’s citizens.
Off the books, too, bourgeois law comes down most harshly on ethnic minorities, as racial profiling on an enormous scale has become a standard practice from New York to California, (8) (9) where ethnic minorities are several times more likely to be pulled over and searched by police officers than their white counterparts. Such all-too-common instances of police officers targeting minorities are part of the reason African-American men are incarcerated at a rate almost 6 times higher than white men (6). These and countless other disparities in the United States legal system wreak untold havoc upon the lives of ethnic minorities in the U.S. In 2008, 11% of African-American children and 3.5% of Hispanic-American children had parents who were incarcerated; less than one half of a percent of white children could say the same (6). In 2001, African-American men had a 32.2% chance of being sent to prison in their lifetimes, while Latino men had a 17.2% chance, and Caucasian men only had a 5.6% chance. The effects these horrific prison rates have on culture and families in minority communities cannot be estimated.
From here, society seeks to systematically alienate and remove minorities from participation in society. Felons can be denied the right to vote, turned down for jobs and generally excluded from their communities. As minorities in the United States are so much more likely to be stopped, arrested, brought to trial and convicted of felony charges than white Americans, this teeming mass of institutional racism cannot be viewed in a more positive light than previous atrocities like the “Black Codes” and Jim Crow laws. It is this that is especially appalling about the United States’ ironically named “justice system” – despite centuries of maturation of ideas and concepts, it is still a cheap tool wielded by the wealthy ruling class to oppress and exclude minorities and the poor from society.
1) Justice Policy Institute Report: The Punishing Decade, & U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin NCJ 219416 – Prisoners in 2006. (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1763).
“For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.”
–Karl Marx, “The Communist Manifesto”
Since 1989, the prophets of capital have proclaimed the coming of an age of peace, prosperity, freedom and human rights. Like most of their proclamations, nothing could be further from the truth. Human society has not become more compassionate or more respectful of human rights, nor has it become any less barbaric than a few decades ago. In fact in our modern world, it is estimated that there may be anywhere between 12 to 27 million people in some form of literal slavery. These forms of slavery include anything from debt slavery, where one is told they must work to pay off a debt incurred, usually via a human trafficker, to outright ownership of human beings. Of all the forms of human slavery currently in existence today, the one which still receives little attention in the press is sex trafficking. This generally takes the form of prostitution, but it may involve forced marriage or pornography as well. Sex slavery goes hand-in-hand with human trafficking, where victims are often promised jobs abroad only to find that they have been deceived. Their passports are taken, they are told they owe someone a large amount of money for their travel expenses and upkeep, and they are forced to work the debt off in a brothel. In some countries such as Moldova, girls have been literally snatched off the street on the way to or from school. The woman or girl in question may be auctioned off to another owner, and often there is an intermediary “training” process which involves brutal rape and humiliation as the thugs teach the women how to please clients. It is without hyperbole one of the most terrible offenses against womankind, and under capitalism it thrives.
Prostitution has often been referred to as “the world’s oldest profession.” This saying does not acknowledge the reality, that prostitution is rarely a profession but rather a last desperate attempt to survive in societies dominated by men. Where that is not the case, slavery has often been behind the prostitution business. If prostitution is so old, why do we need to focus more attention on it today? Isn’t it just part and parcel of the general horror that is capitalism? To answer these questions, we need to look at how sex slavery has changed in the modern world. There are several key factors which distinguish modern slavery from outdated forms. One obvious difference is the price; today a human being can be “bought” for as little as $100 in some countries, whereas a slave in 1850 would fetch a price equal to four times that much. Another key difference is that capitalism, together with prostitution (including legal prostitution in some countries) has made slavery more profitable. In 19th century America, profit off of slave labor took the form of an agricultural product. This meant that when one bought a slave, it was necessary to look after that slave for a long period of time until the master had realized a profit above or at least equal to what he paid for that slave. A sex trafficker on the other hand buys a woman, and within a few weeks he has already made back the money he spent on her—the rest becomes his profit. When she is dead or can no longer “work” for the pimp, he doesn’t need to wait for some boat to cross the Atlantic. The “hooks,” which consist of fake ads and agencies which promise foreign jobs or study opportunities are always baited.
The sex industry itself is one of the most profitable in the world. Just as capitalism transforms all aspects of life, it has transformed sex as well. Modern prostitution, including its legalized form, literally transforms a person’s body into a commodity. Just as commodities today trade on a global scale, so too do human beings. Capitalism has even provided Westerners and other well-to-do men with a sex tourism industry, letting the scum of the earth sample girls of virtually any ethnicity. In fact to be sure, this trade is not limited to women and girls but even boys as well. Held captive in a foreign country, often having experienced violence and threats of further violence, the victims of human trafficking may be forced to see as much as thirty clients a day, and the punishment for refusing to fulfill any sick fantasy can be severe, even lethal.
There is another key factor to consider when thinking about the problem of sex trafficking. Forced prostitution and sex slavery have flourished for decades, if not centuries, throughout the undeveloped world. Typically, forced prostitution tends to thrive in failed states under military occupation by foreign troops, for example under the aegis of the United Nations or NATO. It exists wherever the armies or fleets of developed countries use base or port facilities. It also thrives in countries that have large numbers of foreign expats from wealthy nations. Yet while this plague has been with the so-called Third World for centuries, its appearance in the formerly socialist and revisionist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia since 1989-91 comes as quite a shock for some. The formerly socialist countries, and most of the revisionist ones, actually managed to more or less eradicate prostitution during most of their existence, to the point where some Soviet citizens who traveled to the West after WWII could hardly believe that such a “profession” existed. At least one whole generation grew up not really knowing what prostitution was. The fact that since 1989 these Eastern Bloc and Central Asian countries have become hotbeds of sex slavery and trafficking also shatters the myth that capitalism has brought “human dignity,” “human rights,” and a generally better standard of living to people allegedly suffering under socialism.
In the global human trafficking trade, countries are often divided into three different categories. Source countries are those which provide the victims. Ukraine serves as a good example of a source country. With an estimated 120,000 men (who are typically used as construction or agricultural laborers), women and children trafficked abroad since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it tops any other former Soviet republic as a source nation. Some countries are transit countries, meaning that people are often trafficked through them on the way to some buyer abroad. It is often in these transit countries, such as those of the Balkans, where “training” might take place. Lastly, there are destination countries, where the women or girls are forced to work in brothels and on the street. Popular destinations are the Middle East, Western Europe, East Asia, the U.S. and Canada and wherever prostitution is in high demand, such as in popular tourist or business destinations. Again, military bases and occupations also provide major demand. It is also important to note that some countries may have all three functions at one time; Russia for example is a source, transit and destination nation.
The contrast between the formerly socialist nations and their status today is stark, and highlights the horror of modern capitalism for women, but at the same time we must not ignore the plight of tens of millions of women and girls in China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In fact, before the trafficking in Eastern European and Central Asian women, victims were usually from Asia and Africa. The fact that these other countries did not experience a socialist society and thus suffered an uninterrupted history of sexual exploitation does not mean that the plight of their women should be dismissed, even temporarily.
All of this leads us to the inevitable question of why Marxist-Leninists need to speak out more emphatically on this issue. Indeed, the APL has rarely found much specific treatment of the subject in the documents of various Marxist parties or organizations. At least one party, the revisionist Communist Party of Great Britain, advocates the legalization of prostitution, naively believing that once legalized these “sex workers” will be able to form unions and trafficking will end. To those familiar with the trade, this idea is little more than a delusion. Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations need to take a hard line stance against women trafficking and sexual slavery for a number of reasons, outlined below. In addition to these reasons, we will include some responses to common arguments from capitalist apologists and misguided “leftists” alike.
We need look no further than the Communist Manifesto to see Marx’s advocacy for eliminating prostitution “public and private.” Coupled with Marx’s other words on families, children and male-female relations, we see that Marx understood that prostitution exists in other, not-so-apparent forms. It is bound up in the oppression of women and centuries of a human society that has treated women as property and a means of entertainment and breeding. Still, from a Marxist-Leninist perspective it should be quite clear that if we oppose capitalism on the grounds that it converts workers and thus humans into “appendages” of machines, surely we must oppose that which turns the worker’s entire body into a commodity to be sold, especially against their will.
It is usually at this point that an apologist for the status quo, even some self-styled “leftists,” come forward and tell us that while they are opposed to sex slavery, many prostitutes choose their lifestyle. This in a way is true, but even if we exclude those who are literally forced by violence to work in this industry it would be ridiculous to ignore the fact that millions are involved not because they have a desire to do so, and especially not because they have some kind of personal greed and low morality, as idiotic libertarians and other reactionaries suggest, but rather out of economic necessity—in fact, survival. Many are orphans, homeless and sometimes cut off from their families. Westerners often assume that because there are local women who “go into business for themselves” and make large amounts of money in the escort business, the same must be true for millions of foreign women. In fact it borders on racism to suggest that the high rate of prostitution and trafficking among the women of Asia, Latin America or Africa is due to some inherent desire toward that profession which is lacking among Western women. Indeed, the fact that Eastern Europe and Central Asia have become major source countries for human trafficking and sex slavery, yet hardly had prostitution at all prior to the collapse of the USSR, makes the thought absurd. How realistic is it to believe that millions of women since 1991, for little apparent reason, decided to work in prostitution for pimps who abuse and exploit them?
Next there is what can be called the “feminist” argument regarding prostitution, called so only in the sense that it is advocated by some, but not all, feminists. The argument goes something along the lines of this: “We should refer to prostitution as ‘sex work,’ and the prostitutes themselves as ‘sex workers.’ This will reduce the shame these women suffer.” This argument is typical of various identity politics movements; rather than actually try to change a bad situation, they believe that changing the words and thus the way people think about it will actually amount to concrete change. The fact is that no other name can take away the humiliation that these women suffer, and many among the ruling class, often in countries with legalized prostitution, also welcome this idea of “sex work.” If it has any effect on social consciousness at all, it merely reinforces that it is perfectly normal to use a human being as entertainment without even considering how they got in that particular situation in the first place.
Here we come to the issue of legalization and “sex worker” unions. First, it is important to differentiate between the legalization of prostitution and the decriminalization of prostitutes. The former means legitimizing pimps as normal businessmen, whereas the latter means that women involved in prostitution are not penalized. The latter is very important because one factor keeping trafficked women in bondage is their inability to go to the police without being imprisoned. Legalizing prostitution has not helped fight trafficking; in fact it has increased the practice as it creates demand not only for more sex and thus more girls, but also cheaper sex and sex without restrictions like condoms. Even in countries where prostitution is legal and regulated, traffickers can profit by providing cheaper sex (as low as 50 Euros in some cases), as well as underage girls and boys. When prostitution is legalized it is very easy to conceal the true nature of the relationship between the pimp and the victim, making it seem as though she came willingly and that she is well-paid. This is even easier when the victim does not speak the local language. In a report provided by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women entitled “Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution: And a Legal Response to the Demand for Prostitution,” the author, Janice Raymond, provides the following pertinent information on the link between legalization and trafficking:
“Legalized or decriminalized prostitution industries are one of the root causes of sex trafficking. One argument for legalizing prostitution in the Netherlands was that legalization would help to end the exploitation of desperate immigrant women who had been trafficked there for prostitution. However, one report found that 80% of women in the brothels of the Netherlands were trafficked from other countries (Budapest Group, 1999) (1). In 1994, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) stated that in the Netherlands alone, ‘nearly 70 % of trafficked women were from CEEC [Central and Eastern European Countries]’ (IOM, 1995, p. 4).
The government of the Netherlands presents itself as a champion of anti-trafficking policies and programs, yet it has removed every legal impediment to pimping, procuring and brothels. In the year 2000, the Dutch Ministry of Justice argued in favor of a legal quota of foreign ‘sex workers,’ because the Dutch prostitution market demanded a variety of ‘bodies’ [Dutting, 2001, p. 16]. Also in 2000, the Dutch government sought and received a judgment from the European Court recognizing prostitution as an economic activity, thereby enabling women from the European Union and former Soviet bloc countries to obtain working permits as ‘sex workers’ in the Dutch sex industry if they could prove that they are self employed. Non-governmental organizations [NGOs] in Europe report that traffickers use the work permits to bring foreign women into the Dutch prostitution industry, masking the fact that women have been trafficked, by coaching them to describe themselves as independent ‘migrant sex workers’ [Personal Communication, Representative of the International Human Rights Network, 1999].”
As we can see, legalization cannot solve the problem. Marxist-Leninists are those who fight against the commoditization of human beings in any form. Another compelling reason why Marxist-Leninists must take up the fight against this kind of sexual exploitation is because it is not simply part of the woman question, but also the national question. How can there be an equality of nations when some nations provide thousands of girls for the pleasure of richer nations? Is there any justice in the idea that a Dutch girl may have hundreds of career opportunities available to her while a girl in the Ukraine or Thailand must consider prostitution as a viable option in life? Is it right that in some countries, Ukraine, Russia and other former Soviet countries have become so firmly associated with prostitution that the term “Natasha” has been coined as a slang term for prostitute? Were Germany or perhaps the U.K. beset with such an economic disaster that large portions of their young women found themselves in prostitution at home and abroad, would they still defend legalization and the “sex industry” so enthusiastically? Would it be too far-fetched to suggest that the reason why superficial bourgeois morality has made an about-face in favor of legal prostitution may have something to do with the fact that in the destination countries, the women are not native-born but rather Eastern European, African, East Asian or Latin American? Liberal values preach women’s rights for Western women, while less fortunate foreign women get treated like commodities.
As we continue to move away from the argument against legalization toward ever more compelling reasons why Marxist-Leninist parties should be at the forefront of the struggle against trafficking, let us again consider the ex-Eastern Bloc, and what has occurred since the fall of the USSR. The new capitalist class promised the people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia peace, prosperity and freedom. What they have actually brought is crime, corruption, hopelessness, instability, dictatorships, ethnic wars, humiliation, racism and literal slavery. The American/European establishment has for quite some time put much stock in the idea that they represent the leading force for human rights and all that is good in the world. Women trafficking and sexual slavery exposes this fraud like no other evidence could. It is no secret that rich Western bastions of “human rights” tend to be among the most prolific destination countries for sex slaves, but also provide a large portion of the sex tourists. If that weren’t enough, these nations and the international organizations they lead, via their economic and military policies, create and sustain the conditions in which trafficking and prostitution can thrive. When confronted with the reality of women trafficking, many enlightened European governments have favored or defended legalization, and/or simply washed their hands of the problem by claiming that the illegal acts against the women occurred outside their borders. In short, modern sex slavery is what reveals most vividly that the emperor is naked; this is to say that the cult of human rights, civil society and all empty phrases of modern capitalism are utterly worthless and false.
Next, we Marxist-Leninists are uniquely suited to lead this fight because we have a better understanding of the roots of this problem. If we ask why Ukraine suffers so much trafficking and prostitution, we need look no further than the fact that the majority of Ukraine’s unemployed have been women. Whereas the USSR provided quality health care, education, and employment in the past, young women cannot count on these anymore. They are at the mercy of the capitalist system. What this shows us is that if we think within the terms of the capitalist system, were we to somehow instantly liberate every Ukrainian girl or woman in prostitution, many of them would still be in a state of poverty, instability and in many cases homelessness. It is not in the interests of the capitalist class of Ukraine or Europe to provide these women with jobs and health care. It is in their interests to maintain a reserve army of labor, which in turn means a large mass of unemployed. What concerns the European, American and Russian ruling class is that Ukraine provides cheap labor and resources and a market for their goods. From their point of view, cheap women are just icing on the cake.
Capitalism also contributes to this trade in two other significant ways, though there are many more. Among the more significant are imperialism and military occupations. In his groundbreaking book The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade, Viktor Malarek details how intervention in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo, created a huge market for the human traffickers. In one chapter he describes an outdoor “market” in Bosnia at night where girls are auctioned off to various pimps. He poses a very interesting rhetorical question in one chapter, noting how during the Balkan wars there was a media obsession with mass rape as a war crime, yet after the wars were over, rape was going on all over the Balkans every night but nobody was interested anymore. Why would they be when the rapists weren’t already well-demonized Serbs but rather Americans, Canadians, Germans and other Europeans, or in other words, the “good guys?” Mass rape occurred on all sides during the Balkan wars, but the Western media wasn’t interested in the mass rape that occurred afterward, and which continues to this day.
The third significant factor to consider in the relationship between capitalism and sex slavery is organized crime, which is the soil in which the weed of trafficking grows. People tend to think of organized crime as something going back many centuries. In a sense this is true, but it helps to ask ourselves what gangsters truly are. What is the stereotypical defense that every gangster uses? “I’m just a businessman!” Indeed, most gangsters are businessmen, differentiated from other businessmen only by the fact that some of their business violates the law of the land. Yet it is their legitimate businesses, real or fake, which provide them the resources on which they thrive. Capitalist society bends over backwards for property owners, and Mafiosi are in fact property owners. The revenue generated from businesses both legal and illegal help afford top-notch legal support and a myriad of ways to conceal their illicit actions through intermediaries. This is why street criminals tend to get caught and locked up while mafia dons often succeed for decades without ever being indicted. When property is expropriated, and the political system is in the hands of an armed working class, organized crime gangs will no longer be able to arise because the soil in which they grow will have been eroded away. Moreover the revolution, wherever it may occur, will not only expropriate but physically exterminate the parasitical criminal enterprises.
This brings us to a final point, namely that Marxist-Leninists must come to the forefront of this fight not only because we see the big picture as to the causes of the problem of sexual exploitation, but also because we can offer a real, permanent solution to this plague. We did it once before and we can do it again. Organizations which fight against trafficking, like organizations which fight against any number of social ills, tend to view these problems within a vacuum, or at least they do not think to seek for the real causes within the very capitalist system itself. The work of these organizations and individuals who fight trafficking is admirable indeed, but we cannot delude ourselves into believing that charity and non-government organizations alone could ever even put a dent in the trafficking industry as a whole. These organizations tend to be limited by the fact that they are non-political and often in order to secure funding they must necessarily be non-political. Who provides funds for these organizations? Of course there are small donations but often the major grants come from either rich capitalists or organizations they have set up, often for the purpose of tax deductions. This should not be interpreted an attack on the organizations on the front line fighting against trafficking, it simply means we have to understand that while rich businessmen may donate large amounts to charity, whether to avoid taxes or to assuage a guilty conscious and attract positive attention to themselves, they will never support changes to the economic system in those suffering nations which would eliminate the problems altogether. Some of those very same businessmen may be responsible, at least in part, for the conditions in some of the source countries. We must also not forget that charity, relief and “nation-building” have become major businesses, industries even, and if any country should find a sustainable, permanent solution to its problems, its market for relief agencies would dry up.
Those who honestly work against sex trafficking and human trafficking, be they journalists, volunteers, teachers or religious clergy, are most often honest, and even heroic. Though they face a seemingly impossible task on their own, it is a shame that more Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations have not joined in this fight. We should be working with those honest individuals, explaining to them why we must seek a permanent solution rather than just treating the symptoms. Again, these organizations are, by nature of their business, non-political. Yet the only permanent solution to this plague is a political, economic, and cultural solution. Women must be liberated, people must have the right to work, the right to health care and education and the right to shelter. Private property and the criminal scum who take advantage of the benefits it provides must be abolished. To this end, we must also remember that just as we understand that the ruling class will not permit the social order to be upset via peaceful means, organized crime and human trafficking will not go without a fight either. The struggle against human trafficking and sex slavery must eventually evolve from the passive tactics of the organizations which treat victims to militant tactics of an armed populace ready to take vengeance on the pimps and traffickers. In some countries this may have to become a sort of war within the larger struggle of revolution. Communist parties in countries which are destination countries should take a more overt stand on the issue if they have not already, while those in source countries need to spend more time educating and training women to be strong, confident, defiant, and militant; they cannot rely on the protection of men. If the revolution fails women, then we have already failed halfway.
The author would like to close this article with the recollection of a story by way of Malarek’s The Natashas. It is the story of Olenka, a Ukrainian girl who found herself imprisoned in a bar in Tuzla, forced to serve various U.N. soldiers and employees for $50 a session (the money went straight to the pimp), as much as fifteen times a day. There were soldiers of various nationalities including Americans, British, French and German. This she suffered from the age of seventeen; she was told that if she did not do as she was told, she would be beaten to death. Often times she begged the clients to call the police for her, yet they refused. In total she estimated that she may have been raped 1800 times. Knowing how these women are typically forced to work, this is entirely plausible. This story doesn’t crop up when one sees something in the media about sex trafficking as one would expect.
The author has read other stories and accounts before, but for some reason I keep coming back to this one. I think of this story every time I hear some champion of the free market praising the capitalist system. I think of it every time I hear the expats and liberals in Eastern Europe praising the fall of the Soviet Union, socialism and the “freedom” that it has supposedly brought. I think of it when the same people fill their eyes with crocodile tears and speak of the “victims of the crimes of communism,” noting how easy it is for these hypocrites to get emotional over dead people they never knew while they could care less about living people so long as they aren’t businessmen or investors. I think of this story when I hear politicians of the Euro/American establishment preach about human rights while their soldiers enjoy more girls just like Olenka. I remember this story when I hear Ukrainian and Russian nationalists boast egotistically about their nations, ignoring the humiliation of half their population.
I remember this story when I hear any of those things and as you can imagine, I get pretty filled with righteous anger. I hope the reader will feel the same way. As materialists, we Marxists-Leninists often try to stand back and analyze society from an impersonal, unemotional standpoint. Still, when we speak about exploitation sometimes we need to connect on a more personal level; we need to understand the evils of capitalism beyond the cold calculation of constant and variable capital and surplus labor. We need to think of the millions of working class women and girls of Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and even the U.S. and Canada, and the hellish nightmare they go through as they find themselves literally bought and sold as commodities.
Women’s liberation cannot be some slogan, some abstract idea. If we are going to speak about women’s liberation, we must consider some of the concrete forms in which women are exploited and dominated, in other words, what are women to be liberated from. Clearly, sexual slavery and human trafficking is one of the heaviest chains wrapped around millions, if not tens of millions of women and girls worldwide. All revolutionaries, male and female, are charged with breaking those chains.
“The entire party and country should hurl into the fire and break the neck of anyone who dared trample underfoot the scared edict of the party on the defense of women's rights.”
–Enver Hoxha, 1967
Malarek, Viktor. The Natashas: Inside the Global Sex Trade, Arcade Publishing, 2004.
Raymond, Janice G. “Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution And a Legal Response to the Demand for Prostitution” (http://action.web.ca/home/catw/attach/10%20Reasons%209-15-03%20FINAL%5B1%5D.doc).
“Invisible: Slavery Today” National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. (http://www.freedomcenter.org/slavery-today/).
APPENDIX A: Line of the American Party of Labor on Sex Trafficking & Prostitution.
The American Party of Labor takes a resolute stand on this issue—zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Women, and men for that matter, are not meant to be commodities for the entertainment of those with money.
APPENDIX B: Organizations Fighting Against Human Trafficking & Sex Slavery
La Strada International Organization: http://lastradainternational.org/
Not For Sale Campaign: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/
A.L.E.R.T. (Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking): http://traffickingaz.org/
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women: http://www.catwinternational.org/index.php
By Prairie Fire of the APL
Utopian ideologies that reject the revolutionary model are plentiful on the political left-wing. One theory in particular, one that states that class struggle is not necessary and that capitalism doesn’t need to be overthrown, has made itself widespread. The answer, according to this theory, is for masses of people to simply walk away from capitalism and choose not to participate in the capitalist system via commune living and small-scale sustenance farming. By doing this, proponents of this theory of small commune living believe that they will be able to form a movement which will grow to be quite large in numbers, one which the capitalists will then not be able to resist. There are many different forms of this brand of thinking, and it thus does not have a proper name. Likewise, there is no particularly label given to the ideology or movement behind such thinking. In light of this fact, and because the commune theory centers around a common theme of “escaping” from, or “walking away” from, capitalism, for lack of a better term we will refer to this tendency as “social-escapism.”
Frequently, social-escapism and commune living is presented as a method of organization and a way to rally political forces, but more often than not it is also presented as a viable alternative to capitalism. This is a widely prevailing tendency that is dangerous in that it leads otherwise well- informed, politically active comrades away from class struggle and into the rural areas to grow beets and carrots; in other words, away from revolution and into the abyss of this social-escapism. In reality, the theory that small communes could pose a threat to the capitalist system is nothing more than a petty-bourgeois pipe dream. To demonstrate this, we will give a fictional example of a commune-dwelling scenario in order to counter notions of small commune economies as being a viable alternative to capitalism. In this scenario, let us say that some of these like-minded people got together, went out to the rural areas, acquired some land and shelter and started growing their own food. Perhaps they also raise bees for honey, possibly livestock, and perhaps even have obtained electricity from the use of solar panels. In this scenario, a form of anarchist councilism has prevailed as the organizational/legislative model and the people are blissful—this is the vision of “social-escapism.” Now, here are some of the flaws with this theory.
First of all, under a system of capitalism it is not possible for an individual, or even for a collective of individuals, to purchase a single plot of land in perpetuity. Even if this group of Utopians “owned the land” that they were cultivating and living on they would still have to pay property taxes. This insight by itself throws a stick into the machinery of this dream already. The taxation levied by the capitalist government on these “social-escapists” is the first of many jarring realities they would have to face, a blunt reminder that they are most certainly not “withdrawn” from capitalism as they might think they are. They are not separated from the system, no matter how rural their surroundings. Although property taxes can be quite low, especially for uncultivated land, this introduces a new variable into the lives of those who are trying to avoid participating in the capitalist system: expenses. These expenses give rise to a necessity for currency in order to continue the upkeep and operation of the commune and farmlands. The social-escapists may deal with this problem in many ways. In the event that some or all of their membership have to resume wage labor employment to raise funds, their whole attempt at walking away from capitalism becomes moot. If this does become the case, the commune dwellers are as dependent on selling their wage labor as before and are still firmly tied to the capitalist world and system.
More than likely the commune dwellers will sell part of the fruits of their labor. For the sake of argument, let us say that these commodities would include vegetables, honey, unique crafts and fresh bakery products. Now we can see the rise of another fatal error of the commune: commodity production. All of the sudden, rather than selling their surplus at their own leisure and discretion, the social-escapists start to produce products and designate entire sections of their garden produce as commodities to be sold for profit, supposedly to help keep the commune going. So, now that the commune dwellers sell some of their fruits, perhaps at local farmers markets, they have acquired a limited income for the commune.
With income comes income tax. Once again, the capitalist class, whom the social-escapists didn’t think it was necessary to defeat, levies taxes from the commune dwellers. More taxes become more expenses and more expenses lead to the commune dwellers being forced to sell more of their produce, which was formerly geared towards the needs of the commune, to continue the upkeep of the commune. Perhaps to accomplish this, the commune dwellers purchase advanced machinery to help increase the harvest. This turns out to be yet another expense, especially when fuel and insurance are concerned. The commune dwellers are forced to expand gardens and produce more homemade products solely for the purpose of commodity production. The materials needed to produce these may bring another expense. They are also forced to find more outlets to sell their wares, to increase commodity production and expand into as many markets as possible. More and more, the communal economy acquires symptoms of capitalism.
It is reasonable to assume that the commune would have a vehicle of some sort, almost definitely gas-powered. Even though social-escapists are typically lifestylists who prefer bicycles and other emission-free modes of conveyance, bicycles are impractical for long-range travel (especially to and from a rural area) and for the transportation of goods. Bicycles are especially impractical in the winter in most of the northern hemisphere. Because of these factors, they are most likely to have a vehicle to start with, or the commune will purchase one when the necessity of commodity production forces them to adopt one. The very act of purchasing a vehicle may place more weight on the budget of the commune. Vehicle ownership, of course, leads to more expenses, including fuel, repairs and auto insurance. The commune dwellers will require a legal vehicle to use, even if they only have one. Ergo, they will accept all of the costs that go with it. More costs mean more expenses. The strain on the commune may force a member to have to take on a job, in which case it is quite clear that they have not escaped capitalism. At this point also, the commune dwellers will need to perform actions for the capitalist authorities, such as registering and possessing a valid driver’s license. How can any individual or collective claim to not be reliant on the system when they are subject to its rules and regulations?
It is very difficult to feed an entire family only on what you produce, let alone provide for a group of people, large or small. By this time, the commune is producing largely for profit, trying to juggle the needs of the membership with the demands for currency. The availability of food becomes more and more scarce, as it has to be sold to pay for upkeep; this leaves commune members hungry. How are they going to feed their members? They must buy groceries from the outside, which means yet another expense. Take into consideration also that human beings regularly become sick. If one of the commune becomes sick or seriously injured, what do they plan to do? Herbal teas and home remedies only go so far—if a human has appendicitis, he/she will need serious surgery. Assuming that everyone on the commune has the possibility to get sick or injured, that would mean that every person would require a health care card, which is yet another monthly expense. If they don’t live in a country that had socialized medicine, it would be even worse, because they would have to pay even more for an HMO or insurance. More expenses means more demands for currency (health care for upwards of ten people can add up to quite a sum), and yet another bond is forged between the commune and the very world and social system that they are trying to escape. In reality, the sheer weight of the contradictions and financial demands on the commune would have forced the social-escapists to either become wage slaves, defeating the whole purpose of the commune, or devote the overwhelming majority of their productive forces to commodity production for profit. Even if hypothetically they are able to maintain a level of commodity production in exchange for currency and cover their operating costs, by that time capitalism has triumphed. The goal of the commune has shifted from self-sustenance to profit, and the commune members are not only completely subject to all of the rules and regulations of the capitalist state, but they are tax-paying citizens of it. What began as a self-sustaining commune has become a commercial farm; the social-escapists, in the eyes of the capitalist state that they reside in, are simply farmers, economically indistinguishable from other farmers enthralled by the system.
Keep in mind that this is a very austere estimate; we didn’t factor in any miscellaneous expenses or ”habits” that the commune members may nurse, all of which lead to miscellaneous demands upon the commune for currency. The above estimate assumes that the social-escapists do not smoke, drink or engage in any other form of leisure that would require repeat purchases of commodities. A cigarette habit alone consumes ten dollars a day from most smokers. If the commune has ten smokers out of the whole, that’s one hundred dollars a day. Even assuming that these social-escapists live a minimalistic, utilitarian lifestyle, they are still doomed. In the event that the social-escapists abandon the law-abiding road, they may prolong their existence in a valiant “Robin Hood” style, but they are still doomed. Whether they evade taxes, poach wildlife, squat on property, grow illegal crops like marijuana (for profit and/or personal use) or engage in any other type of illegal activity, they guarantee that their commune will be stamped out by force and that their membership will be arrested. Even if they initially manage to evade notice of the illegal activities committed by their commune, it makes little difference—the longer that they continue the existence of the commune and the illegal activities along with it, the more certain the reality is that they will be caught. Eventually the day will come when capitalist police forces will remind these Utopians who is really in charge of the system; capitalists do not fool around when it comes to tax evasion. Aside from this, being a bandit upon the system is still a form of reliance and dependency.
There you have it: from the best of intentions to probable dissolution within less than a decade. The commune economy is doomed to failure. Not a single one of these communal social-experiments attempted in the past have survived. The most important point to expose about the flawed nature of this social-escapism is that it does not actually aim to escape capitalism; it aims to co-exist with it. Perhaps this is the fundamental flaw of the entire notion. What the social-escapists aim to do is occupy a plot of land/geographical area, which is already claimed by capitalists, and try and survive there without being bothered by any of the forces of capitalism. For their part, the self-stated ambition of the social-escapists is not to make any effort to defeat capitalism, so therefore the true aspiration of the social-escapists is hermit-like co-existence of their own socio-economic system with that of the global capitalism. This is a large part of where the theory falls flat, as historically speaking, at no point in history has capitalism ever co-existed with a separate economic system.
Capitalism brought about the defeat of feudalism in the advanced colonial countries (the American and French Revolutions, etc.), swept away tribalism in colonial nations and fiercely sabotaged all past experiments in the building of socialism. By their very nature, with their lust for new markets to expand into as well as new sources of capital and resources to exploit, capitalism can never coexist side-by-side with any other system, and from its place of global dominance it will allow no upstarts. In addition to this naive and erroneous desire to coexist and be left in seclusion as social hermits of this Earth, among all left-wing political tendencies this social-escapism is a current that is the bringer of revolutionary defeatism. The commune system is not inherently reactionary or always doomed to failure, but we cannot escape, walk away from or coexist with capitalism. The only way to end the tyranny of this capitalist system is to cast it down from its perch, and the only way to do that is, and always has been, to have a revolution by the masses to assume political power. Utopian escapism and naive hermit individualism will only lead in circles, back on your knees to the very system you tried to escape.