In 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon walked through a replica of a six-room American ranch house that was on display at the American National Exhibition in Moscow.
As the two superpower leaders entered the kitchen area, Nixon pointed to the dishwasher and said, “In America, we like to make life easier for women.” Instead of pointing out the inherent sexism in Nixon’s statement — i.e., the assumption that dirty pots are women’s work — Khrushchev responded with knee-jerk Marxist sophistry: “Your capitalist attitude toward women does not occur under communism.”
Checking out the newfangled gadgets in the kitchen, Khrushchev saw nothing more than a capitalist scheme of planned obsolescence. “Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end,” he told Nixon. “We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.”
The Soviet premier additionally complained that the American exhibit wasn’t complete: “It’s clear to me that the construction workers didn’t manage to finish their work and the exhibit is not put in order. This is what America is capable of, and how long has she existed? Three hundred years? One hundred and fifty years of independence and this is her level?”
Sticking with his view of collectivist superiority, Khrushchev told Nixon he felt sorry for Americans: “If you want to live under capitalism, go ahead, and that’s your question, an internal matter. It doesn’t concern us. We can feel sorry for you, but really, you wouldn’t understand.”
Khrushchev then delivered a flawed forecast to Nixon, a picture of the Soviet Union as a new and dynamic enterprise, a young and scientifically planned system fully capable of burying the ineptness and disorganization of American capitalism on its last legs: “We haven’t quite reached 42 years, and in another seven years we’ll be at the level of America, and after that we’ll go farther. As we pass you by, we’ll wave ‘hi’ to you, and then if you want, we’ll stop and say, ‘Please come along behind us.’ ”
By December of 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union was complete. What Khrushchev didn’t understand is that a system of brute force that demanded individual servitude to the state was no match for a nation that combined democratic freedoms with the vitality of capitalism.
Explaining the monumental failure of the Soviet system and empire, Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, a former official Soviet military historian, stressed that “the roots of the catastrophe lay in the ideology itself, in Leninism.”
All told, the “catastrophe” of attempting to impose a Marxist-Leninist utopia in the Soviet Union resulted in the deaths of as many as 25 million people, according to recently released and hitherto inaccessible Soviet archives — a death toll that was the direct consequence of centrally planned massacres, mass deportations, labor camps, torture and famine.
Many of the grisly details behind this colossal slaughter are recorded in The Black Book of Communism, an 800-page summary by a team of scholars that documents the violence and terror that Soviet leaders employed against their own people.
Within months of his rise to power, Lenin provided the definition of “revolutionary justice” to a workers’ assembly: “If the masses do not rise up spontaneously, none of this will lead to anything. For as long as we fail to treat speculators the way they deserve — with a bullet in the head — we will not get anywhere.”
The targets of this “justice” included shopkeepers, landlords, non-Bolshevik newspapers, non-Bolshevik political parties, the clergy, “counter-revolutionary” civil servants, intellectuals, “aristocrats,” industrial strikers, malingering “pseudoworkers,” entrepreneurs, gun owners, craftsmen, “bourgeois specialists,” landowners, and, most especially, “money grubbing” kulaks, i.e., better-off peasants.
Simply stated, Lenin’s “bullet in the head” form of “justice” was the officially prescribed punishment for any person “belonging to a hostile social class.”
On August 10, 1918, for instance, Lenin telegrammed instructions for dealing with kulaks who were expressing opposition to having their harvests confiscated by the government: “You must make an example of these people: (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. P.S. Find tougher people.”
By the time it was over, the Soviet Union’s “tougher” enforcers had killed millions through forced collectivization and harvest seizures, work camps, gulag colonies, prisons and political executions.
– Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.