Communism was one of the most high-minded, noble ideas in human history. It was also one of the most catastrophic – an eternal testament to the saying that “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”. It offers some of the most profound lessons from history. We must reflect on this tragedy for many years before we learn its lessons in any fullness.
I suspect not many of you know that 36 to 45 million people starved to death in China under the rule of Mao Zedong. That is similar to the number of people who died in World War Two (40 to 50 million). But the number of deaths in the Great Famine (1958-1961) is not the worst of its horrors. For me, it is what the people did when faced with starvation. They did unspeakable things. They descended into bestiality, into utter savagery.
It just reminds us painfully that when human beings cannot even meet their most basic necessities, all human dignity is lost. All civilisation crumbles, and people become like animals. It reminds us of the hard reality that if a country does not take good care of its bread-and-butter concerns and attain economic security, then there is no point talking about things like democracy and human rights.
It is stories like this that convince me that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his fellow Old Guard leaders were right to pursue development before democracy.
Be warned before reading the article below: it is truly gut-wrenching.
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