On the Killing Fields of Cambodia, workers were often informed by the madmen in charge that “to keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss.” This national proverb defined Pol Pot’s vision of a flawless society: A socialist utopia will be established – with or without you. And that was key to the Khmer Rouge’s devastating Marxist-Leninist crusade to construct an agrarian Shangri-la that killed two million people in a four-year span.
… a workers’ dreamland was not on the horizon.
Following the communist revolution, Cambodia contracted the socialist disease, an illness that promises every envious generation that it is entitled to heaven on earth. Believing the outlandish mendacity, societies voluntarily fell to their knees before a tyrannical brute, giving up their rights and sovereignty. They quickly learned, however, that a workers’ dreamland was not on the horizon. Hell on earth, with torture and suffering, became reality.
Every socialist dictator paints a perfect world. This is when a government is truly dangerous. To realize this blueprint of a harmonious society, the dictator will justify every odious policy, every fiendish act, and every death. As a result, people inevitably will perish at the hands of a socialist regime – either by sharpened bamboo sticks or the defiance of basic economics.
The Khmer Rouge’s Economics
Once the communist forces, led by Pol Pot, seized power in 1975, the Cambodian economy experienced a drastic transformation. Among the new Khmer Rouge government’s first acts were the abolishment of private property and the elimination of money. Pot sought to develop a state of “perfect harmony” that eliminated classes and remedied social injustices.
Within a matter of months, the government confiscated lands and the means of production, shut down businesses, rationed food, and shipped approximately two million people from the cities to the countryside. Like Mao’s China, Cambodia established collectivized communes and instituted forced labor, mandating 12-hour workdays under tumultuous conditions. He organized workers by placing them into three categories: unmarried men, married men and women, and people 40 or older; children younger than 15 grew vegetables and raised chickens.
To ensure compliance, military forces burned down the homes of dissidents and other targeted groups – Western-educated intellectuals, people with glasses, and Buddhist monks – to ensure they didn’t have anything to come back to. Metropolitan areas morphed into ghost towns: no telephones, stores, or post offices.
Despite the government making agriculture the No. 1 source for economic prosperity, Cambodia immediately posted disappointing rice output. Daily rations totaled 570 grams of rice per person, but many would receive as little as 250 grams. It didn’t help when forces destroyed food sources that could not be stored and controlled by the central government. Also, the little amount of rice Cambodia maintained was shipped to China in exchange for military supplies.
But this was only the beginning of the suffering.
As the years went by, the government abolished medicine, prohibited fishing, banned the harvest of mountain leap rice, and forced Cambodians to walk long distances without water. The only meal these victims imbibed was two bowls of rice soup. Malnutrition, starvation, fatigue, and illness were common, killing hundreds of thousands.
Compared to what came next, this was the socialist paradise.
The Killing Fields
The socialist government sponsored genocidal efforts through the Killing Fields, dozens of locations across Cambodia where about one million people were executed and buried. Experts have estimated that 20,000 mass grave sites were filled by a diverse array of people, from Cambodian Christians to those suspected of connections to intellectuals.
Executions were brutal. Ordered to save on bullets, soldiers employed other contemptible methods to murder those presented for “re-education.” Soldiers typically carried poison or sharpened bamboo sticks. Children had their heads bashed against chankiri trees and were thrown into pits with their parents’ bodies. This effectively prevented them from growing up and seeking revenge for the deaths of their mothers and fathers.
A common sight was shackled prisoners digging their own graves. The rotting corpses were easy to spot because the graves were shallow, the victims too weak to shovel.
When you think about socialism’s history, concentration camps, gulags, and labor facilities spring to mind. Any time historians visit a failed Asian or European socialist state, images of skulls and bones become prevalent. Pot’s Cambodia was no different.
It is difficult to comprehend the violence and misery imposed by Marxist zealots such as Pol Pot. Perhaps it was the fatal conceit, subscribed to by other socialist oppressors, that he and a small group of senior leaders could plan, construct, and manage an exemplary nation. It’s akin to today’s enlightened socialists who present such cliché excuses as “it isn’t real socialism,” “socialism would have succeeded if it were implemented correctly,” or “socialism would work if it had the right leader.”
Let’s be clear: This generation’s young, idealistic socialists are not advocating for death camps and killing fields. However, the policies they disseminate on capitalist instruments lead to situations witnessed in Cambodia during the 1970s or the Venezuela of today. Abolishing private property, trade, and prices leads to shortages that turn in to deprivation. Before you know it, a humanitarian crisis unfolds.
Leftists should understand that socialism will never produce complete stability, it will never bring prosperity to all, and it will never transport heaven to earth. It doesn’t matter if it is managed by a beautiful young lady or a bitter old man. Every socialist experiment has proven this. It’s time to abandon the edicts of Das Kapital and slay Frankenstein’s monster once and for all.
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