MEDWAY, Massachusetts — Extreme political ideologies such as communism and fascism have a longstanding history with poverty due to their authoritarian and often dictatorial policies. Everything in life requires moderation, and the government is no exception. Moving too far left or right can have dire consequences for citizens. Historically, Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Mao’s China and the Soviet Union have demonstrated the death and destruction these ideologies create when combined with tyrannical leaders. This kind of corruption is still taking place today, most notably under communist dictator Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Thus, it is important to expose the economic consequences of these regimes and what can be done to prevent them.
The Similarities Between Fascism and Communism
Both communism and fascism embody “a utopian vision” for the future in which everyone is equal and happiness abounds. In order to achieve this, some leaders in support of these ideologies believe that it is necessary to dismantle all progress and start again Both ideologies disassemble traditional ideas of morality and the difference between good and evil. Once traditional constructs are removed, the leader then determines what is right and wrong.
Vladimir Tismaneanu is a professor of comparative politics at the University of Maryland. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Professor Tismaneanu explained that without Lenin’s use of Communism as a political weapon, which resulted in the Russian Revolution in October 1917, totalitarianism would not appear as it is today. Meaning, the course of Western civilization and world history would have evolved differently.
Capitalism, albeit “an imperfect system,” recognizes what Karl Marx missed. When the means of production are socialized, the incentive to work is undermined. This, in turn, produces poverty instead of intended wealth. Fascism possesses similar aspects of state control seen in communism but denounces liberalism. Instead, it centers around ultranationalist leadership that knows no limits of violence to meet the ends of internal cleansing and external expansion.
Communism and Poverty: Mao’s China
Mao Zedong, the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party is the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Yet, the majority of people know very little about him and the history of his policies in China. Approximately 65 million Chinese citizens died during Mao’s reign. Anyone who got in the way of his Communist vision was either executed, jailed or starved to death.
The most disturbing measure was his collectivization of the entire Chinese agricultural industry, called The Great Leap Forward. Grain production numbers suffered from corrupt reporting and horrendous methods of farming were implemented as many successful tea plantations converted to rice fields. In combination with the lack of food distribution, this created the worst famine in human history. Starvation deaths wiped out more than 50% of the population in some villages. In total 30 to 40 million Chinese citizens died between 1959 to 1961 due to extreme famine.
Communism and Poverty: The Soviet Union
As recently as 1990, a year before the fall of the Soviet Union, poverty among Russian citizens was rampant. Poor economic policies passed down from the times of Lenin and Stalin created generational poverty throughout the nation. Perhaps the most notable was the elimination of private property. Social mobility among most Russian citizens was non-existent from the time Lenin took power until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The elderly population in the Soviet Union was destitute one year prior to the collapse. Many were only provided two to three rubles a day. They were forced to live in the underpass of bridges and beg for spare change. Younger citizens of working age were often found sleeping on benches or in public restrooms. Tens of millions of Soviets suffered through shortages of food, shelter and almost every imaginable human necessity. However, no one dared to speak out in fear of retaliation, an almost certain fate of imprisonment or execution.
Fascism’s Ties to Poverty: Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
The Borgen Project spoke with Professor Bernard Dobski, a Professor of Political Science at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts. The conversation revolved around the ills of communism and fascism and their relationship to poverty. According to Professor Dobski, the consequences of fascist Italy are often overlooked as “the Italians didn’t pose the kind of military threat to the civilized world that other superpowers did.”
According to Professor Dobski, “the newly re-armed military” already had a difficult enough time conquering parts of Eastern Africa following the end of World War I. Thus, the lead-up to World War II and the horrors inflicted on the Italian people as a symptom of poverty and dictatorship were largely overlooked. Additionally, Professor Dobski notes that the Italians were not responsible for the Holocaust. However, they laid the groundwork for national socialism that would later have ties to Nazi Germany at the outset of World War II.
The Future of Extreme Political Ideologies and Prevention
Unfortunately, extreme political ideologies still exist today that impair one’s quality of life and social mobility. According to Professor Dobski, “the current communist regime in North Korea is literally reversing human progress due to poor nutrition and extreme poverty as the average North Korean is three inches shorter than much earlier generations.”
The best thing that one can do to prevent extreme political ideologies is to educate themselves and vote using one’s best judgment, according to Professor Dobski. Conducting diligent research and voting are two of the ways to ensure people receive just treatment.
– Curtis McGonigle