Rothbard on Communism: Something Sensible
By Bryan Caplan
As a rule, I find Rothbard’s take on the history of Marxism-Leninism to be misguided, if not absurd. But these paragraphs from Rothbard’s 102-page critique of a now-forgotten American history textbook are excellent:
This is all he says of the nature of the Communist movement: the Communists, he says, were “a band of professional revolutionaries,” who “started making it [the Soviet Union] the base for a campaign of world conquest.” I can think of no more absurd and inadequate treatment of the Communist movement. What has happened is that the Communists are defined as simply a band of people who decided that they want to conquer the world. This type of “Fu Manchu” treatment ignores the crucial fact of what Communism is: Communism is militant Marxism–it is the attempt to carry through Marxist revolution, to establish a thoroughgoing, 100 percent, proletarian-led, socialism. Communism, then, is socialism militant.
How can it be that DeHuszar introduces the subject of Communism while giving no indication that its meaning and goal is Marxian socialism? Because to do so would mean that (a) Communism is simply a wing, a variant, of socialism; and (b) that socialism, in turn, is statism rampant, statism pushed to a logical conclusion. In short, DeHuszar’s version of “Communism” permits him to lead the reader into a simplistic World War III (so far in the form of a “cold war”) against a mysterious gangster enemy, a set of foreign devils who simply want to “conquer the world” (i.e., like Fu Manchu). Were the reader to find out that Communism is a variant of socialism, and socialism is, in turn, statism writ large, then he is likely to turn his attention from prosecuting a war against a set of foreign devils called “Communists” (along with their so-called “agents” at home) to the larger and more domestic problem of socialism and statism.
Which reminds me: The oddest thing I’ve noticed about conservative anti-Communism is how rarely conservatives mention any of the Marxist-Leninists’ most horrible crimes – the collectivization famines, dekulakization, the slave labor camps, the mass deportations. It’s puzzling. If you were blissfully unaware of these horrors, what exactly would motivate you to become a fervent anti-Communist?