While author Dean Dettloff claims to own Marxism's “real and tragic mistakes,” he downplays these to the point of farce. He admits, without elaboration, that “Communism in its socio-political expression has at times caused great human and ecological suffering.” That seems a rather anodyne way to describe decades of imperialism, censorship, and torture; the Gulag archipelago, reeducation camps designed to eradicate the victim's entire personality, and the systematic industrial slaughter of 100 million people (and still counting in North Korea, China, and Cuba).
In this America essay, the plight of Communism's victims is reduced to the level of “ecological suffering.”
Similarly, Dettloff obfuscates about Communism's hatred of religion in general and Christianity in particular. He will allow only that Marxist-Leninists “were committed Enlightenment thinkers, atheists who sometimes assumed religion would fade away in the bright light of scientific reason, and at other times advocated propagandizing against it.”
Had Communists restricted themselves to propaganda, they would have failed before taking power rather than 70 years afterward. The Bolsheviks murdered 2,691 Russian Orthodox priests, 1,962 monks, and 3,447 nuns in 1922 alone. Dettloff obliquely admits Communists persecuted religious people “at different moments in history” - apparently the Marxist equivalent of “some people did something.” In reality, Communist persecution of the Church was near-universal. The same cycle unwound in Spain, Hungary, Albania, North Korea, and Xi Jinping's China. Its boot has fallen on the necks of such luminaries as Cardinal Mindszenty, Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, and an obscure Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla.
Before taking Christian lives, the Communists took their property. Lenin wrote secretly in 1922 that the Politburo must use the Bolshevik-inspired famine as cover to “confiscate all church property with all the ruthless energy we can still muster.” He understood, better than Christians, that without property the Church has no earthly self-defense. Wealth gives its holder agency – which is to say, liberty.
Dettloff attempts to reassure his readers that Communists will only despoil “the rich,” not common people. Abolishing private property does not mean the Red Guard will confiscate “the kinds of things an artisan or farmer might own” but only “the kind of private property that most of us do not have”: businesses, capital goods, etc. This assumes that universal human rights depend on one's class. It overlooks the sacking of Church property, the only opulence most peasants ever saw – property that was truly preserved in common for scores of generations.
More importantly, it again ignores the blood-soaked pages of Communist history. Stalin sent soldiers door-to-door to confiscate all food, utensils – even pets – before starving six million Ukrainians to death in the Holodomor. Had Dettloff been writing 100 years ago, he may be deemed gullible. But with a century of history to draw on, it is hard for Dettloff – a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Christian Studies – to plead ignorance.