Paul Kengor shows a stunning lack of familiarity (willful or otherwise) with world history when he describes Marxism and the role it has played. I’ve previously published a video commentary about Kengor’s presentation. To summarize a few points here:
1. Of Marx’s influence after 1850, Kengor asserts that “nothing much came of it until Vladimir Lenin took power in Russia in 1917” (aside from discussion in “intellectual circles.”) This is completely false—Marxism had a huge influence in Europe in the decades before 1917. Progressive laws were passed (e.g. working conditions, women’s rights), labor unions were formed, the German Social Democratic Party was established, the British Labor Party, and much more. Marxism was one of the biggest political movements Europe has ever seen.
2. At the time of the Russian Revolution, Russia was very impoverished, illiterate, and devoid of modern infrastructure. By 1936, the Soviet Union had become a world industrial power; the entire country now had electric power, running water, literacy, universal employment, and modern housing. It had the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, and life expectancy had shot up. All that Kengor has to say is that “life got worse” under socialism.
3. The Chinese Communist Party has lifted 700 million people out of poverty. China has the second-largest economy in the world.
4. Compare Cuba with other developing countries like Haiti or the Dominican Republic, or simply compare it now with the level of development pre-Castro. The Cuban health-care system is studied around the world for its achievements.
5. In a weak attempt to discredit Marx’s work, Kengor claims Marx’s writings included “no data.” An even cursory glance at his most famous book, Das Kapital, reveals that it was completely full of data and economic statistics.
6. Kengor insists that Marxists believe in violent revolution. A closer read of specific cases internationally shows a different pattern, where new, peaceably-formed Marxist governments are attacked by antagonistic Western-aligned groups. As examples, the Communists in China repeatedly sought to form a coalition government with the KMT and took power in a civil war only after being barred from peacefully participating in elections. And in Chile, the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende was overthrown by a US-backed coup. The various Bolivarian Marxist governments of Latin America came to power via the ballot box, not via armed violence.
You get the picture. Kengor isn’t actually interested in history; rather, he clearly has an axe to grind, and the tired old talking points are all that matters. Marx’s ideas about resisting capitalist exploitation are inconvenient, and regular citizens should be brainwashed into believing Marxism is the most evil and toxic thing on the planet.
Still pursuing that glorious Cold War…
Caleb Maupin is an independent journalist and political analyst.