Live, Work, Die: A Snapshot of Communism – Part II

Communism spreads in Europe after World War II

After World War II, the world and the continent of Europe were changed forever.  Gone was the savagery of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime.  For the western part of the continent, the difficult rebuilding process began.  For the eastern and central parts of the continent, instead of having the opportunity to heal, another form of tyranny descended upon the people – communism.

The Soviet Union’s march to Berlin during the war meant its armies controlled several Eastern European countries, including Romania.  To ensure allegiance, the Soviet’s installed communist governments in these nations.  With this, tens of millions of people were forced to live under the communist system.

This was the beginning of what would become known as the Cold War with the United States.  By 1946, then former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood the danger of communist occupation.  He declared in a famous speech delivered in Fulton, Missouri on March 5 of that year, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

One Man’s Story

What was it really like to live under communism for the average person?  Like most Americans who have lived their entire lives under the freedom of the United States Constitution, I must look to others for their stories.  One such story is written by John Muntean, who lived in Romania from his birth in 1938 until he was able to get he and his family to American in 1981.  He chronicles this period of his life in his book Willing to Die.

The specifics of Mr. Muntean’s book must be read to be appreciated.  After an early boyhood under Nazi occupation, he chronicles his life surviving Romanian Communism.  After what he experienced and saw around him in Romania, Mr. Muntean risked his life in a hunger strike to get his family out.

Mr. Muntean’s book goes into detail about many aspects of life under communism.  The Communist Party controlled everything and the only way to advance in the Communist Party was to advance its ideology.  Economically, there was no private property and land was forcibly taken by the government when ordered under policies of “collectivization.” Everything, including getting a house or a job, to ones’ salary, had to be approved by various levels of Communist bureaucracy.

Although Romania was known as the “Breadbasket of Europe” before the Communists, people starved as food was held for Communist Party members and sold to other countries. Access to food was used as a way to control the people.

Communism also meant a police state.  Citizens would disappear without explanation, never to be heard from again at the hands of the secret police.  One could never trust anyone, even their own neighbors for fear they might be informants.  As John Muntean describes it, everyone lived under some level of fear.  Bribes would have to be paid to party officials in order to avoid trouble or get special privileges.  Having local connections in the Communist Party structure was important to navigate the multitude of government requirements.

Basic freedoms such as freedom of movement and freedom of information did not exist. Passports were strictly controlled by the government and only Communist controlled media was allowed.  Some Romanians, as in other Eastern European countries listened to Radio Free Europe to receive information outside of Communist control.  Getting caught doing so meant imprisonment.  Voting was mandatory, as was voting for the one Communist candidate.

For communists, religion and God represent a competing value system.  This is not tolerated. In Romania, the only religion that was allowed was the Orthodox Church and this was controlled by the Communists.  Every other religion was controlled by the government’s “Ministry of Cults.”

As a Pentecostal Christian, Mr. Muntean and his family endured extra scrutiny.  His children faced ridicule in school from other children as well as teachers for being Christian.  Mr. Muntean details how he was able to live his faith under communism’s watchful eye and also describes communism’s cruel and inhumane treatment of Christians, including imprisonment, torture, and death.

Mr. Muntean explains communism this way:  “A major teaching of the Marxist Communist doctrine is there is no God, so man is nothing, but matter, to live, work for the party, die, and return to nothing more than a pile of dust.  Everything is done for the party and furtherance of its ideology and power.”

Post World War II Romania was led first by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej until 1965 and then by the brutal Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu pictured above.  The Ceausescu’s met their death by firing squad in 1989.

Under Marxist Communism, the family is not important.  All children were indoctrinated at an early age in communist propaganda.  Children in grades five through seven were required to do manual labor for the state.  Children would rise up in education by how faithful their parents were to the Communist Party.  Because John Muntean’s father had resisted collectivization, his formal education stopped at age 15.

Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to raise the birthrate in Romania, so in 1967 he issued a decree stating every women in Romania under 45 was to have five or more babies, married or not. Woman were required to report for monthly government pregnancy testing.  If a baby was born under three and a half pounds, it was given no medical care.  For the Communist elite, life and death did not matter as long as the agenda was advanced.  If your baby survived and had any sort of disability, the government gave itself the right to take him or her.

As Americans, it is important to recognize that many of our fellow citizens risked their lives to come here.  By gaining a better understanding of communist tyranny, Americans should gain a better understanding of their own country and a greater appreciation of it.

Recommended Reading:

Willing to Die by John Muntean

The Naked Communist by W. Cleon Skousen

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