Question: What is the difference between the Nazis and the Communists?
Answer: One wanted to kill capitalists because they were Jews, while the other wanted to kill Jews because they were capitalists.
Nazism and Communism: The two most murderous political ideologies in the history of political ideology. These two ideologies both had the same basic principle, the idea that there are two kinds of people in the world – one in-group that we should fight for, and one out-group that we should fight against. This principle appeals to our lowest instincts, our pack mentality.
Us versus them.
Good versus evil.
We that ought to live happily ever after, versus them who should all die.
In this anti-humanistic mindset, genocide is unavoidable once the “good guys” has seized the power.
Of course there is a difference. Nazism was dividing people by race, while communism was dividing them by class. Nazism was trying to fight against the imaginary problem of the global Jewish conspiracy, their scapegoats for the real problem of the humiliating terms of the Versailles peace treaty. Communism was trying to fight against their various scapegoats for the real problem of social injustice. But how relevant is this difference, really? A man who honestly fights for Nazism or Communism will fight against something he believe to be a real problem, using methods he believe to be justified. Calling him evil will not make it easier to understand him, only easier to kill him.
Communism made at least three errors that make their ideology ultimately flawed.
1. They failed to truly fight against oppressive social structures, instead taking the easy way out by labeling people as oppressive and then fight these people. The “our category versus their category” mentality doesn’t solve anything; they just ended up reproducing the social injustices they promised their followers to overthrow.
2. They believed that all of society could be understood and handled through one single theory or ideology. This kind of project is doomed to fail. Reality is far more complex than you could ever squeeze into any abstract theory. Marxist or otherwise.
3. They failed to understand human nature. For starters, they failed to take into account that all humans are fallible. We all have prejudices, we all make mistakes, we all lack overview. We need an open political climate to help each other overcome our flaws. Communism did not have the open respectful democracy that a country must have in order to truly develop. Instead, they reproduced the leader-cult system of empires and theocracies throughout history. They casted themselves as kings by divine providence, using manifest destiny and their fantasies about history as their own version of divinity. In this way, communism was very much a religion. Although not a theistic one like Nazism, which mainly favored Christianity but also had some room for worshipping the Norse Pantheon.
In Sweden and Indonesia, it is still sadly common with unreasonable views on genocides relating to communism. In Indonesia, the 1965 genocide against real and suspected communists is still widely accepted, with strong forces in the government fighting against it being recognized as the crime against humanity that it is. In Sweden, it is instead genocides committed by communist regimes that gets defended or written out of history. There are still many teachers and intellectuals that claim that Communism was good, that it merely failed to do the right thing. Both positions are nonsense.
Communists are humans, just like the rest of us. The Suharto regime didn’t make any serious attempts to deradicalize the communists by civilized means. Instead, it used the threat of communism as an excuse to grab power and oppress the people. Today, Indonesia is recovering from this awful regime. It still faces many problems that were caused or made worse by the dictator and his lackeys.
Communism is not good. The communists committed atrocities because of their ideology, not because of it. Good and evil may be nonsense concepts, but good and bad are not. Communism was a bad ideology, and its crimes against humanity should not be excused or kept from the public.
The basic distinction to make is the one between communists and communism. Communists are human beings with human rights. Their belief in an ideology, no matter how flawed, does not change that. Communism, on the other hand, is an ideology. It is not ideologies, religions and other beliefs that have rights, it is their followers that do.