As we mark the 100th anniversary of the communist takeover of Russia on November 7, 1917 (October 25, according to the old Russian calendar at the time), it’s worth pondering how the road to communism is paved. After all, its legacy is the murder of more than 100 million victims in the twentieth century alone. What mileposts or trends might we identify on the twisted road to communism?
Obviously there are different factors at play in different cultures and eras. Russia at the time was on a path to great economic and social reforms. But the instability and suffering caused especially by Russia’s involvement in World War I created a window of opportunity for violent overthrow. Vladimir Lenin seized upon this immediately when he arrived out of exile in April that year to fire up the crowds in Saint Petersburg.
Once communism gained a foothold in Russia, it doomed its citizens to lives of scarcity, misery, social distrust, terror, and mass murder. The same goes for China. Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, the Castros, Che Guevara, Joseph Stalin, the Kims of North Korea—all of them were brutal dictators enabled by a system that always places too much power into the hands of too few people. It’s a corrupt and cruel system that allows an elite oligarchy—which Lenin called a “vanguard”—to enslave the entire population.