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Ralph Reiland

Hellish results of seeking heaven on Earth

| Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Pro-communist demonstrators marking the 82nd anniversary of Russia's Bolshevik Revolution carry Soviet flags during a November 1999 march in downtown Moscow. (AP Photo)
Pro-communist demonstrators marking the 82nd anniversary of Russia's Bolshevik Revolution carry Soviet flags during a November 1999 march in downtown Moscow. (AP Photo)

“The Christian … imagines the better future of the human species … in the image of heavenly joy… . We, on the other hand, will have this heaven on earth,” wrote Moses Hess in his “A Communist Confession of Faith.”

Hess, a Jewish French philosopher and a founder of Labor Zionism, was saying that pie in the sky, while pleasant to imagine, could be beyond our reach, while righteousness on Earth and universal fraternity might well be achieved through collectivized production and equitable distribution.

Joe Hill, union organizer and songwriter, was saying the same thing in his “The Preacher and the Slave,” written as a parody of the hymn “In the Sweet Bye and Bye” and first published in the “Little Red Songbook” in 1911. Among the lyrics:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,

Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right,

But when asked how 'bout something to eat,

They will answer with voices so sweet

You will eat, bye and bye,

In that glorious land above the sky,

Work and pray, live on hay,

You'll get pie in the sky when you die

And the starvation army they play,

And they sing and they clap and they pray,

Till they get all your coin on the drum,

Then they tell you when you're on the bum

If you fight hard for children and wife,

Try to get something good in this life,

You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,

When you die you will sure go to hell

Workingmen of all countries unite,

Side by side we for freedom will fight,

When the world and its wealth we have gained,

To the grafters we'll sing this refrain

You will eat, bye and bye,

When you've learned how to cook and to fry,

Chop some wood, e_SSSqtwill do you good,

And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye

The collectivist dreams of easy abundance, general righteousness, the birth of a “New Man,” heaven on Earth, scientific economic development, socialist democracy and universal fraternity, wherever the ideology of communism was established, soon led to mass terror, crime, repression and the inequalities and abuse inherent in despotism and autocracies.

“The Black Book of Communism,” by distinguished authors based in Europe, in 1999 documented in official detail — utilizing then-newly-available Soviet-bloc archives — the torture, famines, terror, mass deportations, crimes against national cultures and massacres committed by communist regimes over the prior seven decades.

The total death toll approached 100 million people: China, 65 million; USSR, 20 million; North Korea, 2 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Latin America, 150,000; communist parties/movements not in power, 10,000.

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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