Looking back on the 20th century, we can clearly understand that Marxism was a failure. Yet, still today many find themselves advocating for the same Marxist systems that caused the deaths of millions. Is it leaps of logic that allows for such justifications, or is Marx’s prophetic utopia of the proletariat truly right around the corner?
Nate Galt | United States
The De Long Islands is a group of small, rocky islands in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, off the coast of Russia. During Soviet times, the islands were used as weather stations to better understand the Arctic climate. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, the weather stations were abandoned. Even though the archipelago may be desolate and uninhabited, its discovery has quite an interesting backstory. The island group is named after George W. De Long, a largely forgotten American explorer who risked life and limb to find a warm water route to the North Pole.
On July 8, 1879, De Long’s ship, the U.S.S. Jeannette, departed with 33 crew members from the harbor of San Francisco. They were searching for an “open polar route” to the North Pole, which had been a popular theory for centuries. The naval commander had experience in far northern waters and knew that winter would be coming when he would pass through the Bering Strait. Although his ship had a reinforced hull to prevent the Arctic ice from cracking it, he was not sure if it would last throughout the whole winter. In September 1879, the Jeannette was trapped in the ice in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, near the 75th parallel north. The ship’s commander and crew still did not lose hope, even in these dangerous conditions. The current would push the trapped ship towards an island in May of the next year, which would be the first time the crew saw dry land for an entire year. The sighting of the island was a relief for many crew members and boosted their morale. The crew hoped that the onset of the Arctic summer would free their ship from the thick pack ice, allowing them to continue their expedition. They would journey northwest, following their plan to find the “open polar route” to the North Pole.
Unfortunately for them, the U.S.S. Jeannette would still be trapped inside the ice, which was starting to crack its hull. On the evening of June 12, 1880, the ship would sink just north of the 77th parallel. Desperate and running out of options, the crew took three lifeboats and followed the orders of their commander, De Long, to head over to the Lena River delta. He predicted that there would be numerous native Yakut villages which would provide his men with food and shelter. In order to keep their slim hope of survival alive, they needed to brave the harsh winds and march over the frozen East Siberian Sea, all while hauling their boats. They displayed a strong sense of camaraderie, knowing that they needed to support each other if they wanted to have a sliver of a chance at life.
In July, the party spotted small uninhabited islands with cliffs and named them after their ship and after De Long’s family. De Long claimed these newly discovered islands for the United States and planted an American flag on the largest one. Following a brief rest, they set out on foot again. Since the ice was melting, the men had to use their boats in order to get to the Russian coast. Melville, the group’s engineer, was placed in command of one lifeboat, while Lieutenant Chipp, a naval officer, was made the captain of the smallest boat. The third lifeboat was piloted by De Long himself. Everyone was ordered to stay together, no matter how terrible the conditions became. Unfortunately, on September 12, strong gale-force winds tore the group apart. Hope was quickly dwindling for all three parties. The De Long party tried to maintain their path towards the Lena delta and proceeded to land at its northernmost extremity.
De Long kept meticulous records of his experience, from the unique wildlife to the frigid climate of the region. He noted that food was running out, writing in his journal that “there was nothing to eat but a spoonful of glycerine.” The men were in poor physical condition, with many barely walking a mile per day. Even though their decreasing food rations were replenished by shooting the occasional reindeer or bird, morale was low. One by one, De Long’s men were falling, either due to frostbite or starvation. The first casualty of the expedition came on October 6. As the harsh, biting Siberian winter set in, more men died. The last three men desperately tried to set up camp on higher ground. De Long was among them, and on the last day of October 1880, he passed away. Chipp’s party was never found, and it is assumed that the crew disappeared in the frigid waters of the East Siberian Sea due to their boat capsizing. Melville’s vessel landed at the southeastern part of the enormous river delta. He soon found a sizable native Yakut village and rested there. He ordered that everyone in his party except for two of the fittest crewmen should go to the large city of Yakutsk, which was upstream. Melville wanted to search for De Long but had to wait for the biting cold to ease. He began his search in mid- to late March, when the river ice would have melted, bringing along two of his men and two natives. In a village, a group of natives brought Melville several notes written by expedition members. When he discovered De Long’s body, he found several artifacts as well as his commander’s diary. This journal would be invaluable as there were detailed descriptions of everything that his commander’s party had encountered. All but one body of the group would be recovered and buried on top of a hill in the middle of the river delta. Melville heaped some rocks over the men’s graves and planted a large wooden cross over them to mark their resting place. For one more month, he unsuccessfully tried to find any news about Chipp and his men. He returned to Yakutsk in May and began his long journey back to the United States.
Only 13 of the 33 men that originally sailed from the U.S. survived the perilous expedition. Their return was celebrated by the American public, as their ordeals were not at all in vain. Public interest in the expedition had been high since the crew’s departure. Besides discovering new islands and sailing through uncharted waters, the crew of the USS Jeannette dismantled the theory of an “open polar sea” and the absence of currents in the Arctic Ocean. Early cartographers mapping the Arctic believed that there were no currents in this ocean. As a result of the crew of the Jeannette being trapped in ice that was floating with a current, this myth was debunked. This would change far northern exploration forever, as following explorers learned from the mistakes of De Long and used his journal entries to plan future voyages. The party’s treacherous journey in the high north was commemorated with a memorial cross in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Their exploration would be the first of its kind, as no one had made so many discoveries about the North Pole and the waters around it up to this point. De Long’s contribution was great, but if it weren’t for Melville’s determination and commitment to find his shipmates, we would not have learned all we know today. Melville had given the scientific world so much by recovering artifacts, especially the notes of his comrades and De Long’s diary. The men risked life and limb solely to prove a theory and ended up doing much more. Significant stories like these frequently fall through the cracks of history and should never be forgotten.
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Daniel Szewc | Poland
Many question the morality of the USA’s decision to maintain a strong relationship with the Republic of Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. How can the bastion of global democracy associate itself with a well-established theocracy, as well as what seems like one that poised to adopt a similar model? Geostrategy isn’t as simple as it may seem- one cannot only ally with whomever they deem as morally correct. This is most apparent during the geopolitical equivalents of tectonic shifts, ie wars- when new realities rise and fall so often. If ideology were the only factor, it is almost certain that the USSR and the Third Reich would never sign the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Thus, ideological barriers crumble even in cases of the most confirmed enemies, under the unstoppable forces that garner geopolitical interests of nations, in this case, the German and Soviet ones.
In the case of America and Turkey, there are two major reasons as to why they maintain a love-hate relationship. One of these reasons was what caused Russia to annex the Crimean peninsula- that is, the strategic advantages of holding the straits of Bosforus and Dardanelle, with Istanbul/historical Constantinople as the epicenter of political control of the region. If Turkey was to lose control of the city, Russia would fulfill its historical dream of becoming a naval AND Orthodox Christian supreme power by annexing Constantinople. Why? There are two reasons. The first is that Russia feels the moral obligation of restoring it’s religious capital, as the title of Tsar came from Imperial Russia roots are based in the tradition of Eastern Rome. Securing Constantinople would create a complete monopoly on Orthodoxy for Russia, which perfectly fits in with their pan-Slavic aspirations of the 19th century. It was this time in which Russia fought an exceptionally underestimated war with Turkey. The outcome of this war proved that Russia was for the first time capable of being taken down by a European power. Surprisingly, Turkey, being foreign in its culture and civilization to Europe received the support of Sardinia, the UK, and France during the Crimean war of 1853. A new threat to European imperialism emerged for with Constantinople, Russia would be able to partake in the colonization of Africa, having finally gained access to the Mediterranean, as well as potentially conquer Greece. Russian influence in the Mediterranean would allow them to control not only Austria’s trade through the Black Sea but also its access to trade in the Adriatic Sea. After crushing what was then the only strong Germanic state, Russia was uninhibited in its path to becoming the sole power of Europe… except for the Poles.
In contrast to Slovaks, Czechs, and Croats, Poles were the only people who felt even more violated by Russia than by Germanic nations. Of course, Russia tried to loosen its grip on the Poles after the Vienna Congress, thinking that stirring up pro-Russian sentiment was possible. Yet the Poles resisted, causing Russia to act self detrimentally, crushing rebellions and with them Russia’s chances of peacefully uniting all Slavs under one banner. The goal of uniting Slavic groups was becoming less and less possible, considering that what later became Austria-Hungary gave Galicia, a region which is now part of both Poland and Ukraine, extreme autonomy. This could have been done with the goal of dismantling Russia’s plans. While Poles fought against the potential threat of Russian dominance, Prussia grew in power, and with it, grew the UK’s safety from another invasion by France. At their own disadvantage, the British failed to consider that the Prussian identity was inherently against the last factor keeping Russia away from hegemony- the Second Reich also had an extreme anti-Polish set of policies. Although it seemed like a stronger Prussia was a potential safeguard against Russia.
Now, Turkey will have an even greater potential impact on Russia- the construction of the Istanbul Canal will finally make it possible for large navy vessels to enter the Black Sea, letting Russia’s soft underbelly to the East of Ukraine become an easy target for an American offensive. To be clear, it is not that America favors Turkey and its regime, which controls the straits, but just like it’s predecessors in marine power, France and the UK, it must secure access to the straits for its own gain. It is for this reason that the US is seeking to maintain a partnership with Turkey.
Yet how does America make sure that Turkey doesn’t become too strong? Using Saudi Arabia. With the house of Saud controlling what was formerly much of the South-East of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is kept strong enough to disrupt Russia’s Mediterranean trade if necessary, whilst too weak to control the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, explains why the USA cannot let Saudi Arabia fail. If Saudi Arabia lost influence, Turkey would become too strong and could monopolise the West’s counter-influence to Iran and Russia.
For an insight into the struggle for world dominance between Russia, China, and the USA, I suggest these works:
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Nate Galt | United States
Joseph Stalin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics after the death of its founder, Vladimir Lenin, until his own death in 1953. His rule caused millions of deaths in his own country. Stalin was born in Georgia, which was under the control of the Russian Empire. He changed his name from “Jugashvili” to “Stalin,” meaning “man of steel.” He did rule with an iron fist, becoming most famous for his leadership of the Red Army in World War II and for his brutal repression of his political opponents. Commissars, army officials, dissidents, and other perceived rivals of Stalin were either sent to “gulag” prison labor camps in Siberia or were simply executed. Stalin was a dictator who resorted to totalitarian measures, directly ordering the deaths of millions of people.
His totalitarian regime’s victims were not limited to his political opponents. When the Soviet dictator realized that Ukraine was drifting more towards the West, he decided to implement a famine known as the “Holodomor” in Ukrainian. His officers took the vast majority of food from certain parts of Ukraine. A survivor of this genocide recounts the story to a special U.S. government committee. She stated that “all the train stations were overflowing with starving, dying people” and that “there wasn’t a dog, a cat, or a sparrow in our village.” People resorted to cannibalism to survive. The evidence of Stalin’s rule causing the deaths of millions of Ukrainians cannot be denied.
At the beginning of Stalin’s rise to power after the bloody Russian Revolution, he wanted to make sure that he would remain General Secretary of the Communist Party and leader of the U.S.S.R. Part of his plan to do so was his elimination of any opposition. One of his strongest opponents was the Russian Orthodox Church. He wished to “completely eliminate” all religion and wanted more persecution of the clergy, going as far as imprisoning many Catholic bishops in western Ukraine. Joseph Stalin’s rule repressed religion and aimed for its destruction. He even destroyed several historic churches to build monuments and palaces dedicated to the glory of his rule and to his country, a clear sign that Stalin did not respect freedom of religion.
When the German Reich attacked the Soviet Union as a part of Operation Barbarossa, breaking the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Stalin was caught by surprise. Adolf Hitler’s offensive was quick and deadly. Western Soviet cities like Kiev and Minsk soon fell under the control of the Reich. Stalin spoke to his people, saying that the “Great Patriotic War” was a matter of life and death for the people of the U.S.S.R. He wanted absolutely “no mercy for the enemy” and stated that any cowards or traitors should be shot on sight. The Nazi-Soviet war of attrition raged on, with millions of men, women, and children mercilessly slaughtered. After key turning-point battles such as Stalingrad, the Third Reich was forced to retreat.
After the fall of the Nazi capital of Berlin on May 9, 1945, Stalin and the Allies were victorious. After the war, propaganda pamphlets owed the destruction of fascism to Stalin. The cruel dictator’s leadership during the war may have saved his country. Stalin’s supporters and communists point to the Allied victory as a good deed of his. They also point to the fact that the Russian literacy rate skyrocketed during his rule. They say that the economy grew during Stalin’s reign. He implemented a series of five-year plans in order to further industrialize the Soviet Union, hoping to produce more electricity, steel, coal, and oil. The Soviet Union certainly played a major role in World War II and the economy had a noticeable upturn; however, this fact should not distract anyone from the fact that Stalin murdered millions.
While Stalin’s modernizations could be considered a slight success, there were millions of victims of his authoritarian, oppressive regime. Low estimates put all non-wartime casualties at 10 million while the highest estimates state that Stalin was responsible for the death of 35 million people. Joseph Stalin’s methods of maintaining power were totalitarian. He kept the populace in line by the threat of execution or sentencing to a Siberian “gulag” labor camp. Tens of thousands died in these cruel camps as a result of several factors, such as the biting cold, fatigue, or starvation. In all, while Joseph Stalin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and attempted to modernize it, the primary result of his regime is the murder of millions of innocent people. There are thousands of pieces of evidence that prove that these deaths were caused by the government of the U.S.S.R. Despite certain improvements in Russian education, the economy, and the victory in the deadliest war to ever have been fought, the death toll is too great to ignore.
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Daniel Szewc | Poland
There are multiple reasons why China, a country which had to endure the dictatorship of a communist even worse than Stalin, Zedong Mao, managed to lift itself from the ashes, whilst Soviet Russia couldn’t do it.
To get the elephant out of the room, the only variable that is inherently more favorable to China than it is for Russia is geography. After WW2, the USSR’s access to warm water ports was the best in all of Russia’s history, yet it is undeniable that there was a muzzle on the bear. The Greenland-Iceland-UK triangle in the North Atlantic, Bosphorus, and Dardanelle, and the Danish straits being controlled by NATO all stood in the USSR’s way. The American Navy, which stood ready to invade the Eastern Russia coastline, also prevented the USSR from having complete territorial control.
In contrast, the People’s Republic of China had a better situation- an underperforming India busy with Pakistan to the South East, impoverished people to the South, and devastated Japan to the West. This allowed the Revolutionary Army of China to concentrate less on defending its borders than the USSR had to.
Economy and Ideology
From the era of Xiaoping Deng seizing power in the Middle Kingdom, China was an active participant in the global market, since they accepted revisionist Marxist doctrines. In practice, they became communist in name only- the gray market was allowed to flourish, and redistribution was minimized, but the authoritarian control maintained. Gorbachev’s, Jaruzelski’s and Kohl’s “opening to the West”, meant a lack of accepting Western cultural demoralization and the slow economic shift to the left, that is still making its way to this day. China, on the other hand, became America and Europe’s supplier of goods, therefore a complete blockade of them would drastically lower the living standards in America and Europe, and cause Westerners to rise up against their governments. Extreme tariffs against goods produced in the USSR would have a minimal effect, simply because Americans did not prefer Soviet products, and the USSR’s products were unfit for American consumption.
To further explain in how much of an disadvantage China was originally, it is enough to say that they didn’t enjoy de facto home rule for the period of European colonisation, even though the Chinese emperor did de jure administer most of it’s territory- in comparison, the only era that could be remotely called “non-home rule” since the Dimitriadis (an era of Polish foreign rule in Russia during the early 17th century) was the Bolshevik rule- most of the party’s presidium was Jewish during that time, even though most people may not know it- Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) and Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) for example, were the grandkids of Orthodox Jews and changed their surnames to aliases to hide their roots.
China’s line of attack based itself upon prior experiences that they have learned from- as Otto von Bismarck said: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”
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