Cathy Young on the Left's Soft Spot For Communism



The motives behind the reluctance of the left, including many liberals, to fully acknowledge communism's evil are stated with startling candor by the late leftist writer/journalist Daniel Singer in a 1999 essay in The Nation reviewing The Black Book of Communism, the monumental study of communist terror and repression compiled by a team of historians. Such a one-sided account, Singer lamented—missing the good bits such as "enthusiasm, construction, the spread of education and social advancement"—makes it impossible to understand why so many Western leftists were drawn to communism and willing to overlook its crimes. Besides, he wrote, communism's record of atrocity was being used to discredit "the possibility of radical transformation" and force people to resign themselves to the status quo. In other words: coming to grips with communism's true nature makes the Western left look bad and discourages the quest for utopia. For all the revelations of its bloody crimes, writes Cathy Young, the romanticized view of communism as a failed but noble venture has yet to get a stake through the heart.