Not too long ago I had the misfortune of waiting for a bus that was never to arrive and I figured flipping through the Manitoban would help pass the time. I don’t often do this because in my experience there is always at least one article that seems to defy even the most basic sagacity, an article whose very premise is so flawed it boggles the mind to read it. I was not disappointed. That week’s choice offering was called “The Plan” by Rob McGregor (Sept. 28, 2010), a self described “anarchist.” The irreconcilable contradiction of his label, however, was soon buried under a mountain of adolescent naivety and dangerous idealism. Ironically, I was in Mr. McGregor’s class last year when we were both starting law school here at Robson Hall, and my classmates and I remember him well.
Unfortunately, McGregor is but one of many people on campus who push pro-communist and pro-socialist ideology. It always strikes me as odd, however, that these people feel entitled to talk as if life would be better off in another failed socialist experiment, yet they have no experience living under a true socialist regime. My parents were born in the Czech Republic — then known as Czechoslovakia.
To provide a brief historical context, Czechoslovakia was a country established in 1918 out of the chaos that was the post-First World War Austro-Hungarian Empire. Annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, then subsequently overrun by Stalin’s Soviet armies, things where not looking good for the young country, and they only got worse. In 1948, a coup d’état brought the Communists into power in Czechoslovakia, where they ruthlessly imposed their will until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
The true darkness began in 1968 when the Communist Warsaw Pact Armies invaded. This began a period now known as “normalization,” a cruel joke to say the least. This period mirrored the oppression in Communist regimes everywhere; those who opposed the totalitarian regime were imprisoned. Those who did not support the regime were also denied the chance to travel freely, were prevented from obtaining gainful employment, or even having educational opportunities. All these restrictions enforced the primary theme of socialist states: denial of an individual’s freedoms. The root of communism’s weakness is its fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. Above all, humans are individually oriented, and artificially contrived restrictions on our individual freedom inherently restrict our motivation to thrive in a competitive world.
The case against socialism and communism is not only limited to its political influence, the economic model also leaves much to be desired. Centrally planned economies, while productive in theory, fail horridly in practice and have lead to the slow deaths of hundreds of millions of the people they aimed to empower. Through its failure to reward productive effort, communist economies create work environments in which there are no incentives to do any more than the bare minimum. Furthermore, without material rewards for productivity, innovation or even invention, workers rarely if ever have the opportunity to reach their full potential. To make matters worse, the extreme redistribution of wealth, which socialist ideologies purport, is in direct conflict with voluntary free trade, which is arguably responsible for the prosperity much of the world now enjoys.
Eventually, my parents risked imprisonment by fleeing the Communist state with little more than the clothes on their backs and came to Canada to build a better life. As the millions of victims of Communism can attest, and as my own parents could tell you, a life under Communism is not a life worth living. This is a fact that has been exemplified by the innumerable masses of people that have risked certain death to escape a Communist existence. Those living in First-World countries who naively promote Communist ideology without understanding its past consequences need to realize that almost none of us have ever lived in a totalitarian state, so to make comparisons between our system of government to the likes of truly undemocratic states like North Korea or Cuba is quite insulting to those who have suffered true subjugation in these countries.
This is something that everyone who promotes socialist and communist ideologies without having lived in the way they are ascribing should remember the next time they attempt to influence others. This is not to say that McGregor’s opinion is unimportant, but perhaps he should stick with giving advice on issues in which he has direct experience.
Jan Musil is a second-year law student at the U of M.