On the anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, The New York Times wished the creator of scientific socialism a happy birthday and published an opinion column stating that he was “right.” Indeed, he was. But not with respect to the reality in which we live, but in his imagination, which required a “new man” that lacked free will.
The column suggested that “the key factor in Marx’s intellectual legacy in our current society is not philosophy”, but “criticism”, or what he described in 1843 as “the ruthless criticism of everything that exists.”
This criticism begins with human nature itself. To create the “new man” necessary for Communism, in which individuals stop focusing on themselves, and start focusing on the proletariat; in order to put Marxist theory into practice, forced labor camps have been necessary. The younger the prisoners are, the better.
Far from ending exploitation, as he predicted, exploitation became the rule of the land in Communist regimes. Only instead of exploitation perpetrated by the capitalist system, which socialists always attribute to their capitalist enemies, socialists make exploitation the cornerstone of their revolution.
In the case of Cuba, secondary schools were closed and children between 12 and 17 were taken away from their families to work in agriculture. The fruit of their labor guaranteed them housing, education, and food, but neither they nor their family received a salary in return.
Up until November 2016, after decades as official policy, Cuban teenagers produced 9,3 billion hours of work without pay. Little by little, this system has disappeared, not because of humanitarian issues, or socialist ideals, but because of the transportation costs involved.
Minors from the province of Matanzas were sent to the citrus region of Jagüey Grande to harvest fruit and cut grass with machetes. Boys broke stones with a pickaxe to prepare the land for farming. They were called the pickaxe brigade. “Imagine Snow White’s dwarfs and you can imagine what they looked like,” explains Bárbara Travieso, a Cuban exile from Matanzas.
In Havana, where her husband grew up, children harvested fruit. He explains that the strawberry crops were surrounded by armed guards. “Children were forbidden to eat the strawberries and the guards inspected their mouths after work to see if they were red, which would tell them if kids had eaten strawberries secretly.”
Such methods were not only reserved for minors. The Military Support Units for Production (UMAP) served so that both homosexual and religious adults (who still suffer persecution) could “rectify their behavior.” Because to love anyone or anything more than the revolution, be it someone of your own sex or God, was typical of bourgeois and therefore a distraction for the proletarian revolution. Che Guevara himself said “work will make you men.”
For those who seek to distance political socialism from theoretical Marxism, it has been useful to link its implementation to its leaders. We talk about Chavism, Castroism, Stalinism, Maoism, but we hide the underlying ideology. Even when we talk about Nazism, we do not call it by its full name “National Socialism”.
Both in history and in politics, socialism has been removed from the equation to hide the main ideological component of the failed revolutions: broken lives, poverty, hunger, and cold – even in hot climates like Cuba in the middle of the Caribbean-, caused by the lack of resources due to a centralized system, where the economy is managed in a centralized manner and the bureaucracy involved does not take responsibility for everyone, so that those who do not promote the revolution are discarded by the system.
Trotsky himself, leader of the Red Army in the Soviet Union, enshrined a principle in the Constitution of 1918: “The old principle: he who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: he who does not obey shall not eat.”
This policy culminated in the Holodomor, “the artificial famine”, when 7 million Ukrainians lost their lives for refusing to give up their private property for the Marxist principle of “redistribution of wealth.”
The New York Times: apologists for totalitarianism
It was precisely by hiding the Holodomor that The New York Times begins its history of whitewashing totalitarianism. Walter Duranty, the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent, won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest award, despite having denied the massive hunger suffered by the Ukrainians that cost millions of lives.
He wrote that “any report on a famine in Russia today is an exaggeration or malignant propaganda“, and that “there is no hunger or death due to starvation, but there is a high mortality rate due to diseases and malnutrition.”
However, in a statement to the British Embassy, as well as in a letter to his Communist colleague Eugene Lyons, he reported that the Ukrainian population was “decimated”, indicating that between six and seven million perished. He claimed that “the conditions are bad, but there is no hunger… But, to put it brutally, you can not make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
That is, to achieve revolution, certain sacrifices are necessary, such as hunger, destruction, and massive death tolls. Therefore, Duranty became known as Stalin’s #1 “useful idiot”.
Duranty did not only cover up the crimes of socialism, he also openly denounced whoever wrote about the famine. He accused them of being “anti-Bolshevik” and “reactionary” propagandists. For example, when Cardinal Innitzer of Vienna asked for international help, after announcing that the Ukrainian famine was claiming millions of lives, which led the survivors to commit infanticide and cannibalism (a phenomenon that happened earlier in Russia under Lenin), Duranty, through The New York Times, offered the official Soviet response: “in the Soviet Union we do not have cannibals or cardinals.”
Though some of The Times’ editors have later openly criticized his reporting as “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper”, he remained part of the team for another decade after reporting “lightly” on one of human history’s darkest, most covered up chapters.
The New York Times also whitewashed socialism when Fidel Castro came to power, and when he died;in addition to offering up a pop art tribute to the Cuban dicator. But the most grotesque piece was in August of last year, when they published an article explaining “why women had better sex under socialism“, arguing that the more guarantees the state gives to women, the more sexual enjoyment they have.
This recalls a quote by Ronald Reagan when the Berlin wall fell: “Socialists ignore the side of man that is the spirit. They can provide shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you are sick, everything that is guaranteed to a prisoner or slave. They do not understand that we also dream.”
Of course, the journalist who idealized the “red nostalgia” from the comfort of the United States, did not have the pleasure of experiencing socialism first hand: the shortage of contraceptives in Venezuela that led to the opening of a black market for abortion pills, nor the infanticide committed by Russian and Ukrainian mothers, some who even killed their children or fed them with human flesh, so that they would not die of hunger during the times of Lenin.
Duranty associates pleasure with the “tranquility” of state dependence, instead of the freedom to choose when, how, with whom and where; forgetting that freedom of movement is the first to be suppressed under socialism.
We still see this with Cuban rafters today, an situation which the philosopher Revel has commented on: “What marks the failure of Communism is not the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but its construction in 1961. It was proof that real socialism had reached a degree of decay, such that it was necessary to lock up those who wanted to leave to prevent them from fleeing.”