After the fall of the Czarist government in 1917, Vladimir Lenin, founder and leader of the Bolshevik Party, returned to Russia to seize power. The Marxists who would eventually rule Russia first met in 1898. Calling themselves the Russian Socialist Democratic Labour Party, the group would later split in 1903, and the Bolsheviks were born. Bolshevik means "majority."
However, in spite of this, Lenin knew that his party lacked the support of anywhere close to a majority (even after chanting "we are the 99!") to replace the provisional government that followed the early days of the revolution.
By late 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and plunged Russia into a three-year civil war. The Bolsheviks' efforts were not just military. As noted in "The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union," "The Bolsheviks were also fighting a political and social war to convince the people of Russia that socialism was the best system for them."
For centuries, Russia was ruled by a czarist autocracy (not to be confused with the Obama administration). At the turn of the 20th century, the vast majority of Russians — more than 90 percent by some accounts — lived as nothing more than peasants, while the Russian elites and nobles lived in extravagant luxury. Such inequality highly motivated the revolutionaries and quickly made them quite popular.
Led by Lenin and motivated by Marx, the Bolsheviks envisioned a classless society, thus private property was outlawed and confiscated. Land and industry was seized by the state or socialized. Banks, railroads, farms, and factories were nationalized.
The Bolshevik Party soon became the Communist Party, and an all-out propaganda campaign continued to preach the benefits of socialism.
Early on, realizing that, though the revolution had succeeded, they still had widespread enemies, the Bolsheviks established a police force, the Cheka (which later became the KGB), to combat their political opponents. Of course, Lenin never believed in a fairly elected government. He felt that those who had the best interests of the people at heart — he and his loyal supporters — should govern. Thus, as he had forecasted, Lenin resorted to violent suppression of those who opposed him.
Following Lenin, Stalin only escalated the persecution. Thus, the Russian people traded one type of tyranny and oppression for another. They traded one ruling class of elites, the aristocracy, for another, the Communist Party elite.
One of Stalin's successors was Leonid Brezhnev. Admiring her son's massive vacation home, Brezhnev's mother nervously remarked, "Well, it's good, Leonid ... but what will happen if the (Communists) come back?"
Ignoring history and common sense, "occupiers" rail against the wealthy in America. "Ultimately, the bourgeoisie (capitalist ruling class) won't go without violent means," declared a speaker at an Occupy Los Angeles rally. He continued, "Revolution! Yes, revolution that is led by the working class. Long live revolution! Long live socialism!"
What fools! Never has so much wealth (and power) been concentrated in the hands of so few as there is under socialist regimes. The Soviet Union is the classic historical lesson. Occupiers decry capitalist "greed" yet ignore the greed of those who would use the force and power of big government to confiscate the wealth of one citizen to give it to another.
Never have so many lived under abject poverty as those suffering under socialism. Never have so many suffered and died as those who were subjected to socialist leaders claiming to have their "best interests at heart." On the other hand, never have so many been lifted out of poverty and prospered as those with the economic freedom that capitalism allows.
Consider some of the richest Americans today. Bill Gates sprang from an upper-middle class family to become the wealthiest man in the world. Steve Jobs was adopted by a machinist and an accountant. Dropping out of college after only one semester, Jobs slept on the floor of friends' homes and returned Coke bottles for food money. At his death, Forbes listed his net worth at $7 billion.
Sam Walton waited tables and later worked for JC Penny, making $75 a month. He borrowed money from his father-in-law to purchase his first store. His three surviving children each have a net worth of over $20 billion.
Time and again, these stories have played out in America. Only under the economic freedom seen in America can someone experience such a rise. These men (and women) have enriched not only themselves, but millions of other Americans along with them. Jobs have been created and communities built with the entrepreneurs that America empowers.
Now, of course, this is not to say that becoming a wealthy person is the highest ideal under American liberty. Also obviously, such liberty does not always mean that life is just and fair for everyone.
However, as I have said before, and as history teaches us, the tyranny of big government is far worse than the sins of free men.
Trevor Grant Thomas is a Hall County resident and frequent columnist.