But anyway, that's the purpose of my paper. I wrote it to show that people should know what the heck happened in the twentieth century, or else we're going to repeat all the lessons we should have learned back then.
My studies in this field began five years ago, in a conversation with a friend. At one point, she suddenly said, “If only we had given communism a chance…” and ended any potential confidence I might have had in the Canadian education system. Perhaps in Canada, as it is in America, they claim that all ideas are equal, and no one has the right to say that someone else is wrong. This is the death of the intellect. If we are unable to point out anything as wrong, then it therefore follows that nothing is correct. If there is no wrong or right, then there is no reason to think or to make choices, because one path is as good as another. Communism has proved this untrue; it is a path that never should have been taken.
Before I continue, I must forewarn that a simple thesis cannot cover all there is to know about communism. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn proved, three two-inch volumes is insufficient to cover the matter in its entirety. Thus, anything found here is summarized for simplicity's sake. My hope is that this will be an introduction into greater study.
Going on, the first and primary reason for learning about communism is this: All ideas are not equal. Some are good, some are better, and some are just plain bad, regardless of who believes in them. Keeping this in mind, how does communism work as a simple theory?
Communism stands on the base idea that each person works according to their ability, and is distributed to according to need. The person who does not see the problem with this right off is either very innocent or uneducated. Simply put, how does someone distant know what you need? How is this “need” defined? Take the iPod. It was designed and put together by people who legitimately worked hard. However, does anyone really need an iPod? iPods are handy for joggers, but no one needs one. So how is it "distributed", exactly?
The second problem is frequently mentioned: distribution by need goes against human nature. In life, some people are more industrious and others are more relaxed. What if the industrious person doesn't "need" as much? Is it really right that the person who doesn't work as hard gets his share simply for completing his norm and going home? The industrious one gains nothing, because he's already getting what he "needs". This punishes hard work and encourages laziness; it's human nature to do things only when we stand to gain from them.
The third problem with communism the innocent do not see, but is bright neon clear to the powermonger: in a world where each is distributed according to their need, all power goes to the ones doing the distributing. This is demonstrated many times throughout the communist world, in the form of things like work norms, rewarding the politically loyal, and punishing the counter-revolutionary. Making all of life depend on the goodwill of the distributors only insures that the distributors become the rulers.
While understanding the flaws of communism is a good reason to study it, but there is also a far simpler reason: It’s interesting! In this age of reading about zombies and terrorism, the intrigue of living in a world where anyone can be arrested sparks the imagination. It is more thrilling than a horror movie. “The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: ‘You are under arrest.’ If you are arrested, can anything else remain unshattered by this cataclysm? But the darkened mine is incapable of embracing these displacements in our universe, and both the most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life’s experience, can gasp out only: ‘Me? What for?’” ( Solz i3-4).
Arrest is typical in communist systems. The whole country is kept in place by violence, as the government must find a way to make people too afraid to take action. Chapter one of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s massive The Gulag Archipelago is dedicated entirely to arrests, and describes them on an emotional level few historical texts have ever tried to capture. For most families, arrest usually took place at night, when everyone was sure to be asleep (Solz i4). State Security Operatives burst in without so much as wiping their feet on the rug, announcing the subject’s arrest. The victim tries to stuff a few belongings in a bag, but the operatives hurry him and say he will not need his belongings – but he will (Solz i5).
One or two operatives can suffice to rush their victim. The rest commence searching the apartment. They searched through drawers of women’s underwear, chicken coops, toilets, mattresses, teeth fillings, and even the coffins of dead relatives. The “beauty” of the Soviet arrest is that the family and the victim aren’t the only ones tortured by all this. State regulations required that all arrests be accompanied by a civilian witness, who must also be woken up at night for this event, and also is the prisoner’s neighbor: he can warn the rest of the neighbors of the fate that awaits them if they provoke the state (Solz i4-7).
Arrests didn’t always take place at night. Sometimes State Security feared that an arrestee would be able to communicate with his “associates” if they waited too long. So they could pull him aside in public, appearing to be a friend, and quietly take the helpless “rabbit” to the nearest police station (Solz i8). Deceptions were put into place: a soon-to-be victim might have been given tickets to see a show or go on vacation. While traveling to the promised gift, a man would suddenly approach and proclaim to be a long-lost friend. With a quick arm over the victim’s shoulder, the “old friend” snatches him away to the fate he feared most (Solz i9).
But what do people get arrested for? In post-World War II Russia, many arrests were “logical”: they arrested the soldiers that got a glimpse of foreign nations better off than communist Russia, ones that praised German artillery (which was in fact better than Russia’s), or having been imprisoned in a German prison camp. Being foreign to Russia or a returning Russian immigrant was also a reason to be arrested, because foreigners could compare Russia to the outside (Solz i82-85).
Solzhenitsyn was arrested on the German/Soviet front about three months prior to the end of the German side of the war, and was not dramatically separated from his family. Instead he was called into his colonel’s office and had his rank and shoulder boards ripped off (Solz, i18). They had caught him writing a letter to another soldier, referring to Josef Stalin as Pakhan: “Ringleader of the Thieves” (Solz i134). Needless to say, lack of freedom of speech is characteristic of all communist countries.
Former USSR soldier Viktor Suvarov mentions two other important reasons why arrests were made: to keep soldiers in line, and for quotas. When soldiers were arrested, if they were not guilty of making accurate statements about Stalin, they often spent only ten days to three weeks in special prisons meant only for them (Suvarov 12). This is described as almost worse than a normal arrest, as the arrested soldiers volunteered to enlist and must still be loyal to Soviet Russia during the term (Suvarov 22). This happened so often that a soldier’s promotion went through even if he was being jailed (Suvarov 31).
The final reason is the simplest and ugliest of all. The heads of state in Soviet Russia designated that soldiers and policemen had quotas: numbers of people to arrest in a given period. If this quota was not met, then obviously the soldier was slacking in his job (Suvarov 48). This quota system did not in fact make Russia a more moral place. Those criminally inclined simply waited until the end of the soldier’s shifts, when the quotas would already be filled (Suvarov 51).
 Russian names are beautiful works of poetry. However, this thesis does not concern poetry, so in the citations I will be abbreviating Solzhenitsyn’s name to “Solz”. Also, I will be adding lowercase Roman numerals to show which volume of his work I cite.