Several years ago during a friendly conversation with a family member who had just begun his college studies, the topic of governmental systems came up. Like many students his age, it became clear during our discussion that the principles of socialism and communism had caught his attention. It wasn’t an all-out embrace of the ideology, but more of a curiosity. Pointing to the existence of billionaires living simultaneously in a society with a homelessness problem, it’s easy to blame capitalism for oppressing the less fortunate, and to a young, malleable mind the argument may make sense. He clearly grasped the basic concepts of communism and had a solid understanding of its history. His thinking hit a major snag, however, when I asked, “If communism is so appealing, why do communist countries need to prohibit their citizens from leaving, ala the Berlin Wall?” He responded, “Yeah, I can’t figure that one out.”
The number of nations that continue to practice true communism has diminished significantly over the years. Beginning with Poland’s liberation in 1989 and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union and the other Eastern Bloc nations, citizens living under oppressive regimes throughout the world have rejected communism. Even many countries that continue to call themselves “communist” – such as China, Laos, and Cambodia – have abandoned many aspects of communist ideology, and have shifted to more free-market economies. Consider that according to CNBC, China now claims a total of 878 billionaires, a direct result of their surging economy. In a true communist economy, complete with the requisite totalitarian dictator, there cannot be millionaires – let alone billionaires – unless everyone has the same or similar wealth. Indeed, North Korea, and to a lesser extent Cuba, are essentially the only two remaining examples of true communism. North Korea is a living, breathing political science laboratory for those intent on examining the real-life effects of communism.
The most conspicuous and disturbing aspects of the North Korean experiment in communism are their emigration policies and their totalitarian approaches to disinformation and accountability. North Koreans looking for a better life do not simply login to ZipRecruiter, apply for a job in Seoul, and then load the family into the minivan with the family dog for a scenic drive to a fresh start. Very few North Koreans are permitted to leave the country, and according to MigrationPolicy.org, attempting to depart without permission is considered “an act of treason” punishable by imprisonment in penal camps “where rates of torture and death are notoriously high.” The current way in which North Korea is handling the COVID pandemic is a good example of why they must be so restrictive in allowing citizens to leave. If it was indeed as easy as just getting into the minivan and driving away, no one in their right minds would stay.
North Korea’s handling of COVID is a microcosm of all that is wrong with communism. As the pandemic continues its resurgence across the globe, we learned last week that dictator Kim Jong Un has taken some interesting steps to curb the spread of the virus and its economic impact. Chairman Kim has reportedly ordered the execution of two officials, has implemented a draconian lockdown of its capital Pyongyang and has “banned fishing… at sea to prevent seawater from being infected with the virus.”
The two officials were reportedly executed due to the devaluation in North Korea’s currency amidst the economic downturn, a solution that surely must appeal to America’s own AntiFa crowd. The lockdown in Pyongyang has resulted in severe food shortages, reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s infamous bread lines, a hallmark of communist misery. The prohibition of fishing is wholly indicative of the ignorance that comes with a government-controlled media that serves as an opinion echo chamber. And it was also reported that Chairman Kim and his family had received experimental vaccines from China, before any of their countrymen. Because with communism, everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others. Good for me, but not for thee. Sound familiar?
At a time when many Americans appear to be intoxicated with the promises of socialism, there is much we can learn from examining the actions of a true communist nation. Let’s remember that old adage regarding socialism, a common variation of which is this: When well-behaved capitalists die, they go to heaven, and when well-behaved socialists die, they go to communism. Meanwhile, many on the Left continue to profess their affection for socialism while avoiding the topic of communism, socialism’s older brother.
Make no mistake: it may appear that many in today’s Democratic Party are merely flirting with socialism, but communism itself is a natural progression. And if the outright embrace of socialism is not yet mainstream ideology for Democrats, it’s not far off. A Gallup poll earlier this year found that a remarkable 39% of Americans have a favorable view of socialism.
The most prominent of socialism’s advocates is undoubtedly Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who earlier this year seemed a shoo-in to be the Democratic Party nominee for president, but there are others. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) claims to be a capitalist, but by the end of her presidential campaign was spouting ideas that were virtually indistinguishable from those of Sanders. The venerable Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who enthusiastically endorsed Sanders for president, proudly considers herself a socialist as well, with her Green New Deal that was unveiled early last year sounding more like a socialist manifesto than an environmental strategy.
The progression from socialism to communism is a clear one. Sanders calls himself a socialist, but his affinity for communism is well-documented. The senator literally honeymooned in the Soviet Union in the late-1980s, where he was reportedly seen “bare-chested, and singing ‘This Land is Your Land.'”(A disquieting mental image; apologies for any nightmares.) Sanders has unabashedly proclaimed his admiration for Cuba’s economic system with their “free” health care and education systems. And Sanders was unapologetic in explaining his praise for the Soviet-backed Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega and his human rights violations, arguing, “Didn’t Lincoln curtail basic rights during the Civil War?” Bernie Sanders is one of the leading voices of the Democratic Party, and that voice has been proud to advocate for communism.
The current lesson from North Korea’s actions regarding COVID is a familiar one: in practice, and outside of college classrooms, communism is brutal, communism is oppressive, and communism doesn’t work. We shouldn’t pretend when Democrats try to sugarcoat their coziness with socialism by adding the adjective “democratic” to it that their ambitions end with trying to be more like Denmark. They don’t. Given the chance, those same politicians who lecture us about any impediment they encounter being a “threat to our democracy” would gladly implement full-blown socialism with an eventual transition to communism. And we need not look any further for evidence than North Korea to understand what such a transformation would mean.