The Scars of Communism

The ongoing impact of a radical ideology

Disclaimer: The following article does not represent the views of The Argosy, Mt. A, or any other entity other than the author.

On December 26, 1991, declaration no. 142-H was passed, enacting the formal dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Cold War was officially over. Though the communist system was finally purged from Europe, it persisted elsewhere on the map, and the scars left in Europe by communism ran deep.  

Best exemplifying the ongoing division between the former Soviet bloc and the West is Germany, a nation split by ideology. Another is North and South Korea, a country still divided along ideological lines. However, why are these two states suited to compare the communist and capitalist systems? In both cases, many external variables are insignificant; the main split is along political and economic lines. In these two states, communism and capitalism are the key dividing factors.  

Although Germany is formally re-unified, former East German areas to this day have a 26% lower real wage (the amount of pay received by an individual after factoring in inflation rate) than western Germany, and most German multinationals are headquartered in West Germany. Moreover, more often than not, East Germany votes in favour of the right-wing AFD party, a party largely unpopular in West Germany. Ultimately, the economic system in East Germany was hindered by decades of communist mismanagement while the West reaped the benefits of the American-led global free market system. The scars run so deep that even the soccer teams of East Germany had to close after having to compete with the dominant West German clubs.  

Population-wise, it is no surprise that the East is declining in population faster than the West, likely due to the smaller job market in the East driving out-migration to the West or abroad. According to a Pew Research Centre study, Western Germans are happier with their lives and more optimistic about the future than Eastern Germans. Finally, those in the East are more likely to be atheists than those in the West, no doubt as a byproduct of the suppression of organized religion in the East under Communist rule. 

As for North and South Korea, one only needs to look at a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night to see the dichotomy between North and South Korea. The lights are on in South Korea, while only those in Pyongyang and some other minor cities are in the North. As a result of the North’s dynastic rule of the Kim family, North Koreans find themselves in a position where they must do whatever they can to feed themselves. As is the case in every communist country, the North Korean elite are well-fed and live a life of luxury, while the people who are theoretically running the state face a daily struggle for survival. There is a reason, and a very good one at that, that North Koreans flee to the South rather than vice versa.  

Until the 70s, the North was just as, if not more prosperous than the South. However, inefficient bureaucracy and mismanagement of food rations severely weakened the North Korean economic output. Meanwhile, the South Koreans were rapidly becoming one of the “Asian Tigers,” enjoying significant economic growth and development as part of the American-led global trade system. 

Though an attractive proposition in theory, communism has never been and will likely never be implemented as Marx dreamt of. The evidence is in, and conclusions can be drawn. I believe the free market has shown itself to be the superior economic system, and democracy such as that in the United Kingdom is the superior political system, whatever faults can be attributed to it. To the Communist utopians, good on you for caring about the little guy. I think you should keep fighting for them. Fight, however, for the proven system that has lifted the most people out of poverty ever: capitalism. Even though some have made unimaginable sums of money from bugs in the capitalist system, the tyranny of making too much money pales in comparison to the tyranny of the communist dictatorship, especially for the little guy.

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