A very moving film shown here at Heritage this week, Red Terror on the Amber Coast, made an important point about the Soviet need to destroy individualism in order to impose collectivization on the Lithuanian peasants. The abolition of the individual was necessary for the communist Utopia.
The people of Lithuania had this forced upon them, but even in Russia and even among the true believers this individuality had to be extinguished. The people were sapped of their identities along with their property in order that they would submit to the slavery which once had been seen as a worker’s paradise. One in six Lithuanians were murdered or sent to the Gulag as part of this campaign.
Similarly, in Ukraine terror and murder were used for this reason: to destroy the individual spirit. Cathy Young reminds us in an article at the Weekly Standard that the Ukrainian famine was no accident and constituted genocide. Stalin, she reminded us, “knowingly used hunger to punish resistance and beat the peasantry into submission”. Few seem to consider the evils of the communist vision; they would rather see it as a failed but noble experiment. But, the ideology itself inherently requires the killing off of individualism. This is evil in itself, even if it had somehow “worked.”
In America we have a pride in freedom and individuality. Our founding fathers spoke of the rights of the individual, not the “people” as a whole. This has been a great inspiration for those who were living under the opposite rule of law. Adam Michnik, a Polish leader of the revolutionary Solidarity party, explained why American ideals were more inspirational for dissidents than those of other countries:
“The American Revolution appears to embody simply an idea of freedom without utopia. Following Thomas Paine, it is based on the natural right of the people to determine their own fate. It consciously relinquishes the notion of a perfect, conflict-free society in favor of one based on equal opportunity, equality before the law, religious freedom, and the rule of law.”
Whenever this American ideal of individuality and individual freedom comes under attack, whether by a collective-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment or by a collectivist redefining of the American Dream, we must resist it. Individual freedom and individual rights are our only chance to retain our liberty, prosperity and our way of life.
To learn about and remember those murdered by this awful ideology, stop by the website of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.