This year marks the hundredth anniversary of one of the worst mistakes ever made: the Communist revolution in Russia.
Communist regimes went on to kill about 100 million people. Most died in famines after socialist tyrants forced people to practice inefficient collective farming. Millions of others were executed in political purges.
Yet when the Russian Revolution happened, people both inside and outside Russia were excited. Crowds cheered Lenin. No longer would nobles rule; no longer would capitalists exploit workers. Now the people would prosper together.
British journalist Theodore Rothstein wrote, “The undivided sway of the Imperialist nightmare is at an end …(there will be) rule of the labouring classes.”
But you can’t have government plan every aspect of people’s lives and expect things to go well. Instead, you get bureaucratic planning commissions and secret police.
That won’t stop some Americans from celebrating Communism’s anniversary.
A day of anti-Trump protests is scheduled for Nov. 4, and I’m sure some protestors will wave hammer-and-sickle flags. Some will wear Che Guevara shirts.
A few commentators will call the protesters “idealistic” but impractical. They shouldn’t. We should call them supporters of mass murder.
Lenin ordered the hanging of 100 property owners at the very start of the Revolution, saying people needed to see the deaths of “landlords, rich men, bloodsuckers.”
Mass murder and starvation rapidly increased the death toll after that.
It wasn’t exactly what philosopher Karl Marx had in mind, but it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Marx’s writing is filled with comparisons of capitalists to werewolves and other predators who must be destroyed.
Marx admitted that capitalism is productive but said that “capital obtains this ability only by constantly sucking in living labor as its soul, vampire-like.”
Even as the Russian regime killed millions, some journalists and intellectuals covered up the crimes.
Stalin kept most media out, so few Americans knew that millions were starving, but New York Times writer Walter Duranty saw it first-hand.
Yet he “covered up Stalin’s crimes,” says Tom Palmer of the Atlas Network, a group that promotes free-market ideas around the world.
Because Duranty wanted to support “the cause,” he wrote that “report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda.”
Duranty “saw the truckloads of bodies,” says Palmer, yet, “he wrote on the front page of The New York Times how wonderful everything was.” He even got a Pulitzer Prize for it.
In some ways, times haven’t changed that much. This year, the Times ran a series of essays commemorating the anniversary of Russian Communism, including one piece arguing that sex was better in the Soviet Union because the Revolution destroyed macho capitalist culture.
At least The New York Times eventually admitted that Duranty’s work was “some of the worst reporting in this newspaper,” but the Pulitzer committee never withdrew its prize.
Communism kills wherever it’s practiced. But people still people believe. Making a videoon Communism’s hundredth anniversary, I interviewed Lily Tang Williams, who grew up under the regime in China.
“Mao was like a god to me,” she recounts. “In the morning, we were encouraged to chant and to confess to dear Chairman Mao.”
Under Mao, Williams nearly starved. “I was so hungry. My uncle taught me how to trap rats. But the problem is, everybody is trying to catch rats. Rats run out, too.”
Still, she says she was so brainwashed by Communist propaganda that she “cried my eyes out when Mao died.”
But then, “when I was college student, I met a U.S. exchange student … He showed me a pocket Constitution and Declaration of Independence. A light bulb came on!”
For the first time, she realized, “I have rights … natural rights that cannot be taken away. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
She escaped to the United States. Now she says her mission in life is to teach Americans the importance of liberty.
I think her message is wiser than that of Karl Marx, Lenin and Stalin.
“Big, powerful government, it’s very scary,” she warns. “It will keep growing like cancer, will never stop. If you empower government, not the individuals, we’re going to lose this free country!”
In order to make the deadliest ideology of the 20th century palatable to young Americans, “Communism for Kids” is coming to a bookstore near you.
This newly released book from MIT Press “proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism.”
The death toll from communist regimes in the 20th century is well-documented. One study found that more people were killed under communism than homicide and genocide combined, and only 9 million more people were killed in World War I and World War II combined than under governments of this ideology.
Another study showed how the mass killings of civilians by their own governments took an immediate nosedive after the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism.
According to the Amazon synopsis, the book weaves a fairy tale of “jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers.”
It is bewildering why MIT Press would publish a book that cutesies up the political creed that gave the world Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and many more of the world’s most prolific mass murderers. None of these brutal dictators are mentioned in the book, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Communism seemingly gets a pass to be reimagined as a sweet fable while it’s inconceivable that a book called “Fascism for Kids” would ever be printed by a reputable publisher.
Marion Smith of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation wrote, according to The Washington Free Beacon:
While I can imagine a book so titled that would make a valuable contribution to a reader’s understanding of the truth about communism, the book MIT Press published is not it. ‘Communism for Kids’ whitewashes and infantilizes ideas that, when put into action, have cost more than 100 million lives.
This odd attempt to get kids into communism is unlikely to spawn a new generation of true believers on its own, but it does highlight the growing problem for younger Americans who are generally clueless about even recent history.
As The Daily Signal previously reported, a study from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials, in particular, are stunningly ignorant about what occurred under the Soviet Union and other communist regimes just a generation ago.
One-third of millennials surveyed actually believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Soviet dictator Stalin.
If one truly wants to teach young Americans what communism is really about, it would be better to hand them a copy of the classic “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell.
The book is an allegory—using farm animals as stand-ins—about the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia a century ago. The revolutionary promise of “all animals are equal” is used to overthrow farmers, but quickly turns into a new, even more oppressive tyranny under animal overlords
A reign of forced labor, intimidation, and terror puts the animals under the thumb of their new masters—their ideals used to prop up an all-powerful regime. The refashioned creed becomes “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In the end, human, or rather “animal,” nature proved to be more powerful than any ideology.
As the Roman poet Horace once said: “You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she will ever hurry back.”
This lesson from Orwell would be a much better way to teach young people about destructive ideology than a fanciful account of how “true” communism—minus the mean authoritarian stuff and mass murder—would be truly grand.
It seems communism is back in vogue at The New York Times.
A sad but common issue in the modern West is that progressives have created a fanciful and distorted picture of socialism to make it seem like an intriguing alternative to American-style capitalism.
Ikea socialism—with Sweden as the model—is an utterly distorted, but at least understandable, example for leftists to trot out as a demonstration of success.
And it’s even a bit amusing how they try to dance around the fact that Venezuela—which is utterly collapsing and egregiously abusing human rights—is a socialist country they praised just 10 years ago.
But The New York Times now has actually found a way to create fanciful notions of Soviet-style authoritarianism—and whimsical tales of its influence in America—in a new section dedicated to the “Red Century,” which explores “the history and legacy of communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.”
While some of the pieces explore the horrors and failures of communist rule, others delve into topics that would seem funny if the subject matter weren’t so horrifying.
For instance, the Times ran what can aptly be described as a “puff piece” on Vladimir Lenin, the man who led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and is linked to the death and murder of millions of people.
The article, titled “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” paints the man as some kind of Siberian John Muir, and incredibly concludes that leaving “landscapes on this planet where humans do not tread” was the Soviet dictator’s “legacy.”
As absurd as that piece was, the Times managed to outdo itself with another article on, no joke, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.”
This piece is an idealized account of how life under an absolutist government could be liberating and possibly a better model for the feminist movement.
The author wrote:
Those comrades’ insistence on government intervention may seem heavy-handed to our postmodern sensibilities, but sometimes necessary social change—which soon comes to be seen as the natural order of things—needs an emancipation proclamation from above.
The absurdly romanticized account of life under tyrannical government explains little of the hopelessness of a system where an individual has no hope and no future.
These examples certainly weren’t the first, or the worst, instances of the Times engaging in communist revisionism. One of the most egregious examples of “fake news” in the mid-20th century was conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty in the 1930s.
Duranty, who was the Times’ Moscow bureau chief, wrote a series of glowing pieces about the USSR’s policies under General Secretary Josef Stalin in 1931.
While millions of people were starving in Ukraine, Duranty reported back that things were going swimmingly under the communist regime despite a few bumps in the road.
“Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please,” Duranty wrote. “Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.”
He attacked reports that portrayed the Soviet policies in a negative light as “malignant propaganda.”
Though the total number of deaths due to forced starvation in the Holodomor is unknown, estimates are generally around 3 million from 1932 to 1933.
It would be good on The New York Times if it ran a piece about Duranty’s egregious reporting and disinformation campaign that gave Americans a distorted picture of communist reality, but, alas, that hasn’t happened amid the various fables about socialist “successes.”
It may seem easy to dismiss The New York Times accounts as eyerolling fantasies of the left trying to defend a broken ideology, but the danger of this historical revisionism is real.
Dangerous Historical Fantasy
A worrying study sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials are generally clueless about communism.
“Just 37 percent of millennials had a ‘very unfavorable’ view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall,” according to a Daily Signal report.
Perhaps even worse, a full third of millennials say they think that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Stalin.
Historical ignorance of communism’s crimes is ultimately dangerous.
As The New York Times joins with others to peddle a warped image of what communism is really about, generations that have never witnessed its horror may be lulled into buying the clichéd line that “real communism has never been tried.”
As historian Sean McMeekin wrote in his book, “The Russian Revolution,” after communism’s “century of well-catalogued disasters … no one should have the excuse of ignorance.”
Communist revival is growing in Western countries even as it is nearly extinct in places it was tried. This is folly fueled by historical blindness.
“Today’s Western socialists, dreaming of a world where private property and inequality are outlawed, where rational economic development is planned by far-seeing intellectuals, should be careful what they wish for,” McMeekin wrote. “They may just get it.”
If you think Latin American communism and idyllic subsistence farming is the way to go, boy does South America have a nation for you.
You might think it’s the 1950s or the middle of the Cold War when American-style capitalist democracy was waging a war against Soviet-style communism. It seems that everywhere you look, the market has spoken, for better or for worse. Russia has gleaming steel towers and a stock exchange. China is like the biggest thing since sliced bread apparently, with Davos going so far as to herald it as the poster child of globalization at this year’s World Economic Forum. Even Cuba is inching its way out of Castro-style communism by opening up to the United States. Meanwhile, across the sea in Venezuela, the Socialists United Party (PSUV) of the late Hugo Chavez is sticking to their narrative of savior Simon Bolivar and how the powers of a repressive, foreign capitalist system is bad, very bad, for the lumpen proletariat of South America. Communism is clearly better.
Too bad for Venezuela that PSUV has squandered much of the country’s wealth, sending some of it into south Florida housing. Their central bank has $10 billion left to its name. They can keep raising the minimum wage, but where is all of this money coming from? Venezuela is nowhere near becoming a socialist-democratic society like Europe, with state run health care and free colleges and high taxes to pay for the best of it all. Venezuela is running out of middle income people to tax. The rich are either in Miami, Spain, Italy, or working for PSUV. (Or spending all their money on private security.)
Yet, despite the fact that the evidence is clear — socialism is not working in Venezuela — its leader Nicolas Maduro is hellbent on making it happen. It’s 2017, and communism is back, baby!
This week moved Venezuela closer to a communist autocracy. Maduro called for a constituent assembly of allies, which appears to be yet another step towards staying in power forever. Speaking at a May Day rally on Monday, Maduro told state employees and PSUV fans that a new constitution was needed to protect the state from a “coup d’etat”.
There are no details on why Maduro needs to re-write the constitution other than to turn Venezuelan democracy into something more closely related to communism. He says the opposition is waging an economic war against him, as if the millions of people who have marched against PSUV since September are shooting themselves in the foot by hoarding food, medicines, and forcing oil prices so low that oil firm PDVSA is hanging by a thread. This narrative of economic warfare is the narrative of foreign colonial powers versus the indigenous population. It is a narrative of old world banana republics, popularized by the late Hugo Chavez who had $150 oil to save him. PDVSA had a lot of money then. The government took that money and redistributed to the poor. It was a good game. You win the hearts and minds of a large portion of the population, and you even gain support among the middle class who own stores and dental shops that now catered to a lower class that had money to spend.
Those days are gone.
“We assume this represents at best a distraction technique to avoid the election cycles or a worst an attempt to further consolidate power,” says Siobhan Morden, managing director for Nomura Securities in New York about Maduro’s latest power grab.
The constituent assembly is really a move towards one-party rule. It is formed via “communes or workers” as opposed to the democratically elected political parties. It escalates the political crisis to a new phase of intensity with the risk of backlash from the diplomatic community, led by the Organization of American States, or OAS. Venezuela isn’t worried about the backlash from foreign political entities, especially ones with strong ties to Washington.
Long time Chavez supporter, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy Research in Washington pointed out recently in a Huffington Post editorial that Venezuela has no friends in the OAS and is right to leave it.
“Venezuela needs a negotiated solution because it is still a polarized society,” he says, pointing out that some 25% of the population still support Maduro, which is more than can be said for Brazil, Mexico and Colombia’s presidents. The problem there is that 75% do not support him, at the very least, which is not a polarization of society at all. It is quite an obvious and massive disdain for the ruling PSUV.
Moreover, corruption is so deeply embedded in the government, and touches so many actors within the ruling system, including ranking members of the military, that there is too much at stake for these individuals to let PSUV throw in the towel.
“It appears unlikely that we will see any substantive change of government in the short term, and even if Maduro steps aside, a change in leadership will not necessarily equate to a change in government, in which case the same story is likely to prevail,” write Center for Strategic and International Studies analysts led by Adam Sieminski in a note on May 1.
Everything in Venezuela politics today uses the language of communism, from “collectives” to actual “communes” that are part of the executive branch. Sources in Caracas tell me that armed collectives keep the urban poor at bay, making it harder for them to join protesters in the streets. This has made it easier for PSUV to say that the opposition represents a bourgeoisie that does not have the poor’s interest in mind.
It’s not clear why Maduro chose to announce a revamp of the constitution in favor of one-party rule. He could’ve just waited for protest fatigue.
The local headlines reflect skepticism on the constituent assembly process with the member participation based upon direct selection from within the “Communal Power” registered by the Minister of the Popular Power of the Communes.
Venezuela is rebranding itself into a communist state. Maduro’s constituent assembly is just another step in that direction.
The New York Times recently published an “opinion piece” from radical feminist Vivian Gornick where she spoke glowingly of communism, describing it as “inspirational” ideology despite it being responsible for the deaths of 100,000,000+ people.
Why does the mainstream media continually publish vapid articles like “When Communism Inspired Americans” which only serve to whitewash the bloody history of a murderous ideology? WATCH VIDEO HERE
How many victims has communism claimed? The answer depends on how you define victim. In one sense, every man or woman living under a communist regime is a victim, since this tyrannical ideology restricts their rights and denies their human dignity. Under this definition, in China alone there are almost 1.4 billion current victims of communism, not to mention the approximately 130 million victims in Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and Laos. This amounts to one in five people alive today. Add in the several generations that suffered under Soviet tyranny and top it up with the other countries of the communist bloc and the number of victims runs into the billions.
A narrower definition of victim would be limited to those people whose lives were suddenly extinguished or dramatically foreshortened by the acts and policies of communist states. Historiographical debates regarding intentionality aside, it is reasonable to go beyond direct executions and include here state policies whose implementation could reasonably have been expected to result in the deaths of innocents. Stalin’s policies of forcible food requisitions in Ukraine, for example, led to famine; and mass deportations to Siberia without adequate cold weather provisions resulted in the deaths of millions. The examples go on.
Understandably, the numbers involved in this tally are subject to disagreement. Some interpretation of the historical and political record is required, and differences may arise based on definition, methodology, or bias. There are scholars who seek to minimize the numbers of the dead, and others who seek to maximize it. Given that many of communism’s victims died anonymously without record, there will never be a comprehensive list of names of the victims of communism, so we will always have to rely upon estimates.
Without seeking to establish the relative scholarly value of any particular estimate, it is a valuable exercise simply to observe how widely they range, as even the lowest estimates represent a profound moral indictment of the communist political system.
Perhaps the most widely known estimates are those provided in The Black Book of Communism (1997), which are as follows:
North Korea: 2,000,000
Eastern Europe: 1,000,000
Latin America: 150,000
International Movements not in power: 10,000
When the book was published, the estimated total number of deaths was 94,360,000. Over the last 19 years, many scholars have re-examined the history of communist states and sought to establish revised and more precise estimates of communism’s human toll. For instance, in Mao’s Great Famine (2010), Frank Dikötter estimates that 45,000,000 Chinese perished—rather than the 30,000,000 commonly estimated—as a result of the famine that lasted from 1958 to 1962 and was directly attributable to the decisions of Chinese Communist leaders. The earliest years of the People’s Republic, from 1949 to 1953, are also being reassessed after long being considered a revolutionary golden age.
A brief survey returns the following high and low estimates for the number of people who died at the hand of communist regimes:
China: 29,000,000 (Brzezinski) to 78,860,000 (Li)
USSR: 7,000,000 (Tolz) to 69,500,000 (Panin)
North Korea: 1,600,000 (Rummel, Lethal Politics; figure for killings) to 3,500,000 (Hwang Jang-Yop, cited in AFP; figure for famine)
Cambodia: 740,000 (Vickery) to 3,300,000 (Math Ly, cited in AP)
Africa: 1,700,000 (Black Book) to 2,000,000 (Fitzgerald; Ethiopia only)
Afghanistan: 670,000 (Zucchino) to 2,000,000 (Katz)
Eastern Europe: 1,000,000
Vietnam: 1,000,000 (Black Book) to 1,670,000 (Rummel, Death by Government)
Latin America: 150,000
International Movements not in power: 10,000
The combined range based on the estimates considered, which derive from scholarly works, works of journalism, memoirs, and government-provided figures, spans from 42,870,000 to 161,990,000. While reasonable people will disagree in good faith on where the true number happens to lie, any number within this range ought to provoke horror and condemnation. And as previously mentioned, these figures estimate only the number of people who perished, not those who were merely tortured, maimed, imprisoned, relocated, expropriated, impoverished, or bereaved. These many millions are victims of communism too. The commonly cited figure of the deaths caused by communist regimes, 100 million, falls midway through this range of estimates. As scholars continue to research the history of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and other communist regimes, and as they gain access to previously inaccessible records, the scale of communist crimes will gradually come into even sharper focus.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.
Courtois, Stéphane, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartošek, and Jean-Louis Marolin. The Black Book of Communism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
“Cambodians Recall Massacres.” AP, May 22, 1987.
Fitzgerald, Mary Anne. “Tyrant for the taking.” The Times (London), April 20, 1991.
Katz, Lee Michael. “Afghanistan’s President is Ousted.” USA Today, April 17, 1992.
Li, Cheng-Chung. The Question of Human Rights on China Mainland. Republic of China: World Anti-Communist League, 1979.
Panin, Dimitri. Translated by John Moore. The Notebooks of Sologdin. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
Rummel, R. J. Death by Government. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.
Rummel, R. J. Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1990.
Tolz, Vera. “Ministry of Security Official Gives New Figures for Stalin’s Victims.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Report. May 1, 1992. (The figure of seven million direct executions under Stalin, given by a member of the security services heading a commission for rehabilitation, may be taken as an absolute baseline figure to which should be added the many deaths suffered by labor camp inmates and the deaths preceding and following the Stalin period.)
“Top defector says famine has killed over three million Koreans.” Agence France Presse, March 13, 1999.
Vickery, Michael. Cambodia 1975 – 1982. Boston: South End Press, 1984.
Zucchino, David. “’The Americans … They Just Drop Their Bombs and Leave.’” Los Angeles Times, June 2, 2002.
Matthew White’s website Necrometrics provides a useful compilation of scholarly estimates of the death toll of major historical events.
Recently the President visited Vietnam. He relaxed trade on weapons with the country.
I believe that this is some experimental tactic to put Vietnam at odds against China. However the data is frightening …”Vietnam between 2011 and 2015 was the eighth-largest weapons importer in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. ” [U.S. News & World Report Andrew Soergel]
Dale why should I care? Read Seth Lipsky ‘s piece and you’ll get it …
Between North Korea, Red China, Cuba and Vietnam, it’s a bit of a trick telling one lingering vestige from another. How about the lingering vestige of the Communist Party? When are we going to end that?
It’s not my intention here to re-litigate the Vietnam War. (In my opinion, history will vindicate the hawks and go hard on the Congress, where America’s hard-earned battlefield victory was given away in pursuit of an illusory peace.)
Yet it’s just bizarre that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry seem to think that our embargo was more of a problem than the Communism itself. Even if Red China is itching for a war in the South China Sea.
Arms to Vietnam have a certain logic. It’s like Winston Churchill saying, when the Nazis entered Stalin’s Russia, that if Hitler invaded Hell, he’d at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.
In Southeast Asia, the theory is that the Communists in China are more of a threat to American interests than the Communists in Vietnam, China’s traditional foe. Yet Obama is denying that the end of the arms embargo is linked to China.
It was, he insisted, based on “our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam.” But he has brushed aside all sorts of red flags about the nature of the regime.
Human Rights Watch sent him a letter nearly a month ago, warning of what he was dealing with in Vietnam’s Communist camarilla. It called Vietnam’s government “one of the most repressive in the world.”
It noted that expression, association and assembly are “extremely limited,” that the press is controlled and censored and that the Communist Party “controls all public institutions and uses them to maintain its hold on power.”
Human Rights Watch characterized the elections in Vietnam as “a form of political theater.” The president with whom Obama has been treating, Tran Dai Quang, it noted, is the thug who headed Vietnam’s “notorious Ministry of Public Security.”
In Hanoi this week, Obama insisted that any arms deals would have to meet the usual requirements, including human rights. But who believes him after the hash he made of the Iranian appeasement?
Obama doesn’t seem to grasp that the Communism is the human-rights violation. Speaking to students in Argentina two months ago, he brushed off the distinction between capitalism and Communism as “interesting intellectual arguments.”
“Just choose from what works,” Obama said. It was one of the most ridiculous comments of his presidency, given that if the century since the Bolshevik revolution has taught us anything, it’s that we know which one works.
Even the Communists know. They just don’t know — or care — what makes capitalism work. That’s the comprehension that liberty and prosperity are linked. There’s no difference between economic and political freedom.
Oh, there were fine words when Quang and Obama made their toasts in Hanoi. The Vietnamese president quoted the appeal to President Harry Truman from the father of Vietnam’s Communist revolution, Ho Chi Minh.
Ho appealed for American support for independence. America refused in part because he was without standing. He had long since become a Communist agent. He had never stood before his people in an election.
The leaders who have done that are to be found in, say, South Korea and the free Chinese republic of Taiwan.
They have built prosperous countries, where political parties contend, newspapers cover them and people can worship God. And come and go.
No doubt China is the bigger strategic threat, but it would be ironic if we arm Vietnam and it goes into a fight with the Chinese. American rockets could be falling on Chinese Communists instead of Chicom rockets falling on Americans.
Then again, our selling arms to Vietnam could well result in the Communist regime there using them against the Vietnamese people, including those in the South to whom we once supplied arms — and gave 58,209 American lives — to secure their lingering vestige of liberty.