film / tv / streaming / politics / web / celeb/ industry / video / love / lists / think pieces / misc / about / cbr
film / tv / politics / web / celeb


Communism's Blood Drenched Flood

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Pajiba Storytellers | April 3, 2014 |

When you write or teach about communism, it’s a careful path you have to walk. Communism was the most brutal and inhuman ideology that has ever been deployed upon this earth. It represented the antithesis of everything that made civilization what it was for thousands of years. Civilization at its heart, is striving. It is celebrating, however imperfectly, strength and ambition. It tries to construct something where there was nothing. It is mankind clawing up from the mud of unconsciousness to scratch a mark upon the universe.

Going back far enough, our ancestors were rocks. Civilization is the most gorgeous arrogance of ambition conceivable: dust that dares dance by sheer force of will.

The most horrible of ideologies, yes even the fascists, got this much right. As vile their beliefs, as destructive and misguided their attempts, at least they got that slightest bit right. They thought ambition was a good thing.

Communism was premised on the opposite. It posited that society was terribly unjust, and through the perfect sort of logic that makes serial killers swoon, came to the conclusion that therefore anyone who was anyone in the old society was complicit in its crimes. Sounds fair, right? Except you’re not thinking with proper gusto, you’re not considering what that means when taken all the way to the logical extremes. Sure you want to hang the princes and lawyers and bankers, who wouldn’t? But they’re but the tip of the corruption.

Everyone who has anything more than the lowest of the low is patently corrupted, all the way down to the peasant who has a second room to his hovel. Never mind that he has it because he scrimped and saved, worked into the night building it himself. That sort of excuse is the excuse used by the master classes to justify their wealth. No, he has a second room because he is a class traitor, because he is complicit with the system. And once you’ve accepted that a system is hopelessly corrupt, then it only follows that anyone who has managed to accomplish anything whatsoever within its confines must also be corrupt.

And so those with the tiniest of ambitions are dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, to meet a bullet or a death march or be worked to death in the tundra.

That’s the one side of communism. But there’s another side. Not a side that excuses it, or makes some hideous argument that it was for the greater good. And certainly not that na├»ve refrain that communism would work had Lenin and Stalin not bent it towards horror. Go read some Marx, read about the Terror, and know that communism was tried in all its dark glory.

No, the other side, the far more difficult side, is explaining why it happened. See, it’s easy to explain horror, but it’s a lot more challenging to explain why it happens. Why its victims are not only instrumental in its construction, but celebrate it and look back on it with fond nostalgia. The difficult side is seeing that people got exactly what they were looking for, that they weren’t hoodwinked by would-be tyrants that turned the devouring machine back upon them.

It’s a fine line to walk. Either you show the horror, and the fact that people supported it is unbelievable, or you explain why people chose it, in which case you are speaking sympathetically of the unmarked graves of millions.

George Kennan said it best, I think. At his heart he was always more a poet than a statesman, and in another life he would have written novels to be counted with Hemingway and Faulkner:

“And the strange thing was that for all my contempt for the falseness and hatefulness and demagoguery of communism, I had a strange desire to cry when I first saw those ranks of people marching along the street—ill-dressed, slouching, brutalized people.

It was the first time in my life that I have ever caught a hint of the real truth upon which the little group of spiteful parasites in Moscow feeds, of the truth that these ignorant, unpleasant people were after all human beings; that they were, after centuries of mute despair, for the first time attempting to express and to assert themselves; that under the manifold hokus-pokus of the red flags and the revolutionary ritual they had found something they considered to be essentially their own, something that they believed in, and were proud of; that tomorrow, just as yesterday, these same people would again be mutely absorbed in the work of the world, with barges, railways, drays, factories, street-cars, and what not, while other people—the industrialists and journalists and politicians—gathered the fruits of their labors and held the center of the stage; but that today was their day, and they were marching under their banner, sullied and cheapened as that banner might be; that they were marching sullenly and defiantly, but with hope and a tremendous earnestness.

Here, it seemed to me, was certainly error and hatefulness and pathos; but here, also, was seriousness and idealism.”

I teach it this way. Remember the financial crisis of a couple of years ago? Would anyone other than the finance bankers actually have wept if we’d strung up all the finance bankers? You get it, you get that little hot flash that justice would have been done, whether you want to admit it or not. Now imagine those bankers have ruled for a thousand years, that the law enthrones their lofty perch for generations beyond counting. And that the same laws say that you will never be anything, and neither will your children, or your children’s children. They will crash the economy again and again, the desolate masses losing their homes, their hopes, their lives. And yet they still play their fiddles.

Would you stop at the bankers then? Or would you burn down that entire system, whether it was individually just or not, and root out the cancer in your world? Seize society for you and yours.

Twain observed of the French Revolution, that small deluge before the floods of the 20th century:

“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror’, if we could but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred million; but our shudders are all for the “horrors of the… momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief terror that we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror - that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

There’s a story in this that hasn’t been told yet properly, because we’ve filed away communism onto the dustbin of history, which might be the greatest mistake we’ve ever made. Much of the social justice we have in the West, the institutions that separate us from the world of Upton Sinclair, was built either indirectly or directly upon the abject fear of communism that gripped people with power. They were the Marxists of the elites, who had read those words, saw what was coming, and made whatever compromises they had to in order to ensure the nightmare would not come to pass, even if that meant equality, and social security, and masses that lived more than a breath from utter desolation.

To forget that fear, is to let society slide backwards. And if it slides too far, then the blood drenched flood will break again.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here and order his novel here.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

Bradley Cooper Is Really Pissed Off about the End of 'How I Met Your Mother' | 'The Americans' - 'Behind the Red Door': In the Bedroom

The Pajiba Store


Privacy Policy