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Communists’ pseudo-science that wiped out 300 lakh people – and how it is related to Coronavirus

Since farmers are in the news these days, I thought I would tell this story of the Communist war on biology and agricultural science in general.

The history of Communism is mostly a history of mass murderers. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and the like. But, with active connivance of historians and media, the Communists have come out of this with their reputation completely unscathed. Instead, the left has been able to hitch its wagon to ideas such as human rights, science and rationality. When the issue of mass murder comes up, if at all, the Communists get away with blaming a few individuals. Even though these individuals were celebrated heroes (and are still celebrated heroes) in the Communist pantheon. The core Communist principles themselves are protected from all reproach. Marxism is still taken seriously as a legitimate branch of thought, taught in colleges and universities. Real experts, who get real awards and are consulted on real policies, still engage openly with Marxism.

Since farmers are in the news these days, I thought I would tell this story of the Communist war on biology and agricultural science in general. As you will see, the story is really not funny, because there are 300 lakh innocent victims here. Indeed, when it comes to killing people, Marxist pseudoscience is even worse than Hitler. Perhaps it will give pause to the few thousand hard working farmers camped out on the borders of Delhi, with red hammer and sickle flags for company.

When a farmer plants their crop, they sow at regular intervals in the field, so that each individual finds enough soil to grow. Common knowledge, right? Not if you know official Marxist doctrine. The Marxist rejected the idea that individual crops would be so selfish. Each crop wanting a separate space for itself is too much like capitalism to be true. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead, the Marxists argued that the wheat crops should be planted close together, so that they could all learn to share the nutrients in the soil. Once the crops “learned” to share the available space, water and nutrients, they would work together to produce a bumper yield. Again, you read that correctly.

Unfortunately, I am not joking. I am giving you the official view of Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the 1930s and 1940s. The Communist party rejected genetics itself, including the existence of genes. Instead, they officially embraced their pseudo-scientific theory, which they called Lysenkoism. This was named after the star director of the Soviet Academy, a “scientist” by the name of Tromfin Lysenko.

Powered by the ideas of Lysenko, the Communist Party went about coming up with a new science of agriculture, based on Marxist principles. If the crops did not “want” to share space, they could be “taught” to do so. Once these crops were properly “educated” in Marxist principles, they would pass these ideas to their kids. Yes, I am talking about maize and wheat crops passing down the teachings of Marxism to the seedlings that would grow from their seeds. Once these crops learned to share and cooperate, they would no longer need fertilizer or protection from the elements.

The Communist Party went to town with these new ideas. The Soviets officially declared that genetics was a “bourgeois pseudo-science.” Anyone who disagreed just had to be an enemy of the people. Biologists in Communist countries finishing their PhDs had to compulsorily say in their doctoral theses that their findings had confirmed Lysenkoism. Some 3000 scientists who criticized Lysenkoism were thrown into prison camp. These included Nikolai Vavilov, the former head of what became the Soviet Academy of Sciences, who was sentenced to death.

Yes, the Communist Party was dead serious about wiping out the science of genetics. “Dead” being the most important word here.

It gets crazier, by the way. The Marxists also believed that any species could be changed into any other by the right amount of persuasion. Marxist theory said that natural born characteristics were not important and conditioning was everything. For instance, they concluded that a bird of any species can turn their young into cuckoo birds by feeding them hairy caterpillars. Some scientists must have told the Communists that the cuckoo bird is infamous for laying its eggs in others nests. Those scientists were imprisoned.

The Communists threw thousands of scientists in jail. They forced all others to reject genetics. The Communist press wrote that Lysenkoism has transformed Siberia into a land of milk and honey. But the one thing that Communists could not do was make Lysenkoism actually work. The collective farms in the Soviet Union adopted Lysenko’s methods and crop yields fell. Obviously. Communist China adopted these policies and got its own great famines.

The final death toll? 300 lakh people.

Well, at least that was in the past, right? Modern Communists act nice and cuddly. They talk about human rights, wokeness and stuff. Perhaps it does not matter today what the Communists did in the last century.

Yes, but not as much as you would think. Those famines ravaged China in the 1950s and 1960s and everyone ran out of food. In an act of desperation, the Communist Party began encouraging common people to get into the forests and start eating exotic animals. To hunt and kill anything they could find; just to satisfy their hunger. Indeed, eating exotic wild animals is not part of China’s great traditions. It is a Communist legacy, started in famine times of the 1950s and 60s, that has now taken root among the population.

And I suppose we all know today what can go wrong starting from exotic meat markets in China.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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