Over time we have made patently clear that we deeply dislike Communist systems (and any other political system for that matter). But we never really fully explained why. Today we are going to take that topic head on. And no, this is not an obsolete topic because Socialism is in reality Communism-light trending toward Communism. However, we promised you that we won't lie. Thus, you won't find propaganda in here, just reality and it will surprise you. To task.
THE ISSUE OF FREEDOM
Yes, Western political propaganda bombarded people with anti-Communist slogans for…well… pretty much ever since the end of the second world war. There was no freedom under Communism. Period.
And that was it.
But was it?
Communism wasn't a monolithic system. Different countries and regions under communist control (i.e. the USSR and its satellite countries) had vastly different policies and behaviours. We must also take into consideration that those places went through different phases throughout their history.
Geographically speaking, for example, the most western-like communist country was by far Yugoslavia (under the permanent president Tito), where many citizens commuted on a daily basis into Germany to work there! That's right. Getting out of Yugoslavia was easy, yet most of its population chose to continue living there!
On the other hand, Romania (under the General Secretary Ceaușescu) was arguably one of the most oppressive and brutal communist regimes surpassing even Stalin's rule (which is quite difficult to believe). If you want to know more, search Wikipedia for Nicolae Ceaușescu.
Historically speaking, it could be argued that the most murderous and repressive era was Stalinism. The number of people he murdered can't even be estimated accurately, but they are at least 10 million people before WWII. Yes. Before WWII. See for example Wikipedia for "Extermination by hunger" or "Holodomor" or "Great Purge".
The least repressive era is difficult to gauge being the contenders Hungary (under Alexander Dubček) during his program of "Socialism with a human face" and Russia under Mikhail Gorbachev.
HOW MUCH FREEDOM?
As we said before, freedom varied wildly between geographic locations and times. But even during the most repressive regimes, there was always a group of people who supported them. Granted. Some of these people did so out of fear, but many more did and continue to do so based on the achievements that the regime produced. It may sound strange, but even today there are many people in Russia who yearn for Stalin!
You have to understand that under Communism there was freedom. The problem was that it was tightly controlled through terror.
Do yourself a favour and speak with somebody who lived under Communism. They will tell you that yes! Throughout it they were fed more-or-less OK, they had shelter, clothes, work, free schooling, free health care, holydays, vacations, some luxuries and so on. Communism as totalitarian as it was, was not a political system that strived to create robots. People had different degrees of freedom and even advantages that are almost unheard of in the West, even today!
For example, in several countries there was life-long economic support for single mothers. Real support.
Maternal and/or parental leave of absences due to births or adoptions were quite long. There was widespread recognition for talents and skills, particularly in science. In a sense there was a process of meritocracy, where the best and most talented people received unprecedented support.
As a matter of fact, even Karol Woytiwa (the pope) was very careful when criticizing communism because he knew from experience (he was born under Communism in Poland) that communism did, in fact, struggle to give workers a decent living (whether or not it achieved it is an entirely different matter). That was the good side of communism and people remember it even today. Many people, regular people, who lived under communism will tell you so, if you bother asking. We strongly recommend you do so bypassing propaganda and vested interests altogether.
But all this freedom was wrapped in fear and terror. Communism was a system which attempted to create "the new man". At least at a theoretical level. In order to so achieve, a complete re-education of people was necessary until the final evolution takes over. Meanwhile, while waiting for the evolution to happen, people needed to be controlled through a brutal dictatorship and many communists said so. This is also a matter of historical record. It is just that their version of dictatorship was "the party" as opposed to "the democratic system".
This terror was designed to support "the party" because it was necessary while waiting for evolution. Thus, this terror was directed towards supporting the political views and theories of the party. It is for this reason that this terror was mostly directed towards thoughts and not so much towards actions. Communists needed to control people at the ideological level first, because they knew that without a firm ideology there could not be an organized counter-revolution. There is a parallel here between our own theory of political evolution in the sense that a new political theory is one of its key ingredients. Communists did not want just any political evolution but a specific one, one that was forecasted by Marx and Lenin.
The practical expression of this terror was the fear to speak freely and not so much the fear to do things freely. People under communism were able to do a great deal of things on their own, so long they did not express any opposition to the theories of the party. They were able to travel (though in many countries only limited distances), determine what to buy, who to see, how to socialize and so on. Yes, there were restrictions but they were always based on ideological parameters, not physical ones. The terror was in saying something inappropriate or knowing somebody who said something inappropriate.
Terror also varied wildly. Some countries such as Romania, were infamous for the ruthless efficiency of their "Department of State Security", the Securitate. On the other hand, in other countries, their "security apparatus" attempted to distance themselves from Moscow (and the KGB) as much as possible. For example, have you ever heard of Sigurimi (the Albanian Directorate of State Security) or the UDBA (the Yugoslavian State Security Administration)? Of course not. Although they were both ruthless and effective, they were orders of magnitude less repressive than their counterparts.
Freedom under communism existed although with a variety of degrees and points of view. From this perspective many former communist citizens do remember happier days for very good reasons indeed! Don't be fooled into a belief that communism did nothing right; it did.
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.