Many leftists, including revolutionary leftists, don’t seem to understand that all revolutions must deal with counter-revolution.
All communist revolutions were under deadly assault from the very beginning. This assault continued without let up throughout their entire existence. This is the reality of all revolutions. They are never left in peace to develop on their own.
We don’t know how the great communist revolutions of the 20th century would have played out if they had been left in peace. Surely at least some, maybe most, of the violence and repression for which they are so profligately condemned would never have occurred. Counter-revolution itself surely bears much of the blame for revolutionary violence.
Here is just a brief overview:
Russia. The Russian Revolution itself was almost bloodless, but immediately it came under murderous assault. Numerous capitalist nations—including Britain, France, Japan, and the United States—invaded Bolshevik Russia to “strangle the infant in the crib.” They also provided massive support to internal counter-revolutionary forces. The result was a civil war that killed millions.
The Soviet Union. Two decades later the Soviet Union was invaded again, this time by Nazi Germany. Although Nazism is usually portrayed as driven by antisemitism, this is only a half-truth, because anticommunism was also one of Hitler’s great obsessions. Indeed, fascism in its various forms was widely supported by the European ruling classes as a defense against the increasing power and militancy of the left. Britain and France collaborated with Hitler’s rise to power, yielding to his ambitions in the German-speaking areas of Western Europe with the expectation that he would then turn his aggressions on the Soviet Union. World War Two was in a real sense an anticommunist war.
The Cold War. Following World War Two, when the United States and the Soviet Union had been allies, the US turned almost at once to a policy of hostile confrontation with communism. The US sought to isolate and encapsulate the entire Communist Bloc: the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Vietnam, and later Cuba. The Soviet Union was ringed by US military bases and was compelled to compete with the militarily more powerful United States in a decades-long “arms race” specifically intended to economically sap and bankrupt the Soviet Union.
China. The Chinese Revolution fought for decades against both Japanese imperialism and US-backed right-wing forces. When the revolution was victorious and independent China was declared, it was immediately besieged by the United States and its allies. For decades it faced constant military threat and economic strangulation.
Korea. When the Japanese were driven from Korea, the US divided Korea at the 38th parallel, isolating the communist-led independence forces in the north and suppressing the independence movement in the south. The south was saddled with an American-imposed regime ruled by former Japanese collaborators. A brutal civil war ensued in the south, with the unpopular regime executing hundreds of thousands of political opponents. This was a highly unstable situation, and a full-scale war broke out between the two halves of Korean. The US intervened to defend its client regime and then invaded the north; China intervened to defend its ally. The ensuing “total war” waged by the US left the Korean peninsula devastated and killed millions. Korea remains divided to this day, with North Korea under almost total siege by the US.
Vietnam. After the Japanese were defeated and expelled from Indochina, newly independent Vietnam was immediately attacked by France which sought to reclaim its former colony. A long and bloody war—in which France was backed by the US—led to millions of deaths. When the French were defeated, Vietnam was divided like Korea, with the communist-led independence movement segregated in the north while an American-sponsored regime was established in the south. And like Korea, this unstable situation led to war, with the US once again invading and defending its client regime. US warfare devastated all of Indochina—Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia—and millions died.
Cuba. Soon after the Cuban Revolution, the US sponsored an invasion by proxy forces to overthrow the revolution. When this failed, the US attempted to isolate and economically strangle Cuba. The siege continues to this day.
Communist regimes only survived these assaults because they were tough and because they armored themselves to withstand the attacks. This made them more repressive and regimented. But surrounded by an aggressively hostile capitalist world, nothing else would have worked.
But the very fact that they survived, and that they successfully liberated, rebuilt, and modernized their societies—under unimaginably harsh conditions—is itself an astounding accomplishment and testimony to how robust and effective communist societies can be.