Communism

November 7 as Victims of Communism Day

While I have long advocated using May 1 for this purpose, November 7 is a worthy alternative candidate, if it can attract a broader consensus.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Bones of tortured prisoners. Kolyma Gulag, USSR (Nikolai Nikitin, Tass).

Since 2007, I have advocated designating May 1 as an international Victims of Communism Day. The May 1 date was not my original idea, but I have probably devoted more time and effort to it than any other commentator. In my view, May 1 is the best possible date for this purpose because it is the day that communists themselves used to celebrate their ideology, and because it is associated with communism as a global phenomenon, not with any particular communist regime, such as that of the USSR or China. However, I have also long recognized that it might make sense to adapt another date for Victims of Communism Day, if it turns out that some other date can attract a broader consensus behind it. The best should not be the enemy of the good.

As detailed in my May 1 post this year, November 7 is probably the best such alternative, and in recent years it has begun to attract considerable support. Unlike May 1, this choice is unlikely to be contested by trade unionists and other devotees of the pre-communist May 1 holiday. While I remain unpersuaded by their objections on substantive grounds, pragmatic considerations suggest that an alternative date is worth considering, if it can sidestep this debate, and thereby attract broader support.

For that reason, I am doing a Victims of Communism Day post today, in addition to the one I did on May 1. If November 7 continues to attract more support, I may eventually switch to that date exclusively. But I reserve the options of returning to an exclusive focus on May 1, doing annual posts on both days, or switching to some third possibility should there be an other date that attracts a broader consensus than either May 1 or November 7.

In addition to its growing popularity, November 7 is a worthy alternative because it is the anniversary of the day that the very first communist regime was established in Russia. All subsequent communist regimes were at least in large part inspired by it, and modeled many of their institutions and policies on the Soviet precedent.

The Soviet Union did not have the highest death toll of any communist regime. That dubious distinction belongs to the People's Republic of China. North Korea probably surpassed the USSR in the sheer extent of totalitarian control over everyday life. Pol Pot's Cambodia may have surpassed it in terms of the degree of sadistic cruelty and torture practiced by the regime, though this is admittedly a very difficult thing to measure. But all of these tyrannies—and more –  were at least in part variations on the Soviet original.

Having explained why November 7 is worthy of consideration as an alternative date, it only remains to remind readers of the more general case for having a Victims of Communism Day. The following is adopted from this year's May 1 Victims of Communism Day post, and some of its predecessors:

The Black Book of Communism estimates the total number of victims of communist regimes at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century's other great totalitarian tyranny.

Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events promote awareness of the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government domination of the economy and civil society.

While communism is most closely associated with Russia, where the first communist regime was established, it had equally horrendous effects in other nations around the world. The highest death toll for a communist regime was not in Russia, but in China. Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward was likely the biggest episode of mass murder in the entire history of the world.

November 7, 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, which led to the establishment of the first-ever communist regime. On that day, I put up a post outlining some of the lessons to be learned from a century of experience with communism.  The post explains why most of the horrors perpetrated by communist regimes were intrinsic elements of the system. For the most part, they cannot be ascribed to circumstantial factors, such as flawed individual leaders, peculiarities of Russian and Chinese culture, or the absence of democracy. The latter probably did make the situation worse than it might have been otherwise. But, for reasons I explained in the same post, some form of dictatorship or oligarchy is probably inevitable in a socialist economic system in which the government controls all or nearly all of the economy.

While the influence of communist ideology has declined since its mid-twentieth century peak, it is far from dead. Largely unreformed communist regimes remain in power in Cuba and North Korea. In Venezuela, the Marxist government's socialist policies have resulted in political repression, the starvation of children, and a massive refugee crisis—the biggest in the history of the Western hemisphere. The regime continues to hold on to power by means of repression, despite growing international and domestic opposition.

In Russia, the authoritarian regime of former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin has embarked on a wholesale whitewashing of communism's historical record. In China, the Communist Party remains in power (albeit after having abandoned many of its previous socialist economic policies), and has recently become less tolerant of criticism of the mass murders of the Mao era (part of a more general turn towards greater repression).

In sum, we need Victims of Communism Day because we have never given sufficient recognition to the victims of the modern world's most murderous ideology or come close to fully appreciating the lessons of this awful era in world history. In addition, that ideology, and variants thereof, still have  a substantial number of adherents in many parts of the world, and still retains considerable intellectual respectability even among many who do not actually endorse it. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day serves as a bulwark against the reemergence of fascism, so this day of observance can help guard against the return to favor of the only ideology with an even greater number of victims.

 

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  1. The whitewashing that Communism gets compared to Nazism and Fascism, to the point that universities see nothing wrong with Marxian professors, is appalling.

    For that reason alone, that academic acceptance of mass murder, I will always despise the left. Everything they propose is tinged with the same “for the greater good” acceptance of mass coercion leading to the concomitant acceptance of mass murder.

    Until they disavow that mass coercion and mass murder, they are traitors to the human race.

    1. Is “Marxism” and Communism as it evolved in the 20th century equivalent to you? I would suggest that they are very different. I’m not really sure which specific “Marxian professor” you’re referring to, however.

      1. Marxism has always been a death cult. All that’s changed since Marx first excreted his manifesto is they revise their sales pitch based on what it takes to appeal to each generation’s idiots.

        -jcr

      2. “Marxism” is theoretical communism so, yes, they are basically the same thing. Stalanism, Maoism, Leninism etc. are what happens when people attempt to put Marxism into practice.

        1. I have to conclude that based on both your and Mr. Randolph’s responses, neither of you have ever actually read Karl Marx. Not that I’m at all a Marxist, but it is not a “death cult,” whatever that is supposed to mean, nor does his writing bear much resemblance to Lenin or Mao, and certainly not Stalin. Some of those people declared themselves “Marxist,” but the things they wrote and did didn’t have much relation to what Marx actually wrote.

          1. You have come to the wrong conclussion. I first read Marx in high school and in college I was a poli sci major in the early 80’s with a focus in Soviet communism. I’m going to assume that you don’t much of a grasp on the concept of theoretical versus practical.

            1. poli sci major in the early 80’s with a focus in Soviet communism
              Wonder why you might have been too broad in your anti-Communist fervor.

              Marx didn’t have a great grasp of the theoretical versus practical, dunno what you’re reading into him.

      3. We’ve got an ideology that’s resulted in mass murder every time somebody has tried it. At this point, “That wasn’t really communism, this time we’ll get it right.” just doesn’t cut it.

  2. Dictator wannabee: “Isn’t this emperor awful? Give me his power and I’ll do it all for you.”

    Commoners: “Sure!”

    Dictator No-Longer-Just-Wannabe: “OMG I can’t believe that worked!”

    There is no such thing as “properly implemented” communism because it is inherently unfree.

    1. This! Communism denies the existence of any human rights which is why it has and always will be overseen by a despot.

  3. We have Godwin’s Law to remind us not to use Holocaust analogies in arguments. The reason VoC Day doesn’t get traction is that you’re trying to use it in the same way, not as a memorial to those who perished but as an argument against unions, government, and social programs that people want. “We shouldn’t have publicly funded universal health care because Chinese Communists caused the death of millions” is an argument that will appeal only to those who don’t want publicly funded universal health care and who are correctly perceived as reaching for any possible means to prevent it.

    1. Talk about blinders! You can only pretend to think this is about unions if you are so ignorant as to think unions and government-coerced health care are in the same category.

      If you cannot admit that government coercion is the heart and soul of socialism, whether it be Nazism or Communism, then you are lying.

      1. Coercion is the heart and soul of every social system, because every social system has to deal with people who refuse to abide by its rules. The only real social system is use of force. All others are versions of the people with a force monopoly acting to voluntarily restrict themselves so as to implement a different veneer over the force monopoly. It is coercion to collect resources from everyone and redistribute them to providers of medical services and it is coercion to force someone to abide by a contract into which they have entered. That you like one form of coercion more than another isn’t something that I care about. As long as the force monopoly where I live abides by the wishes of the majority, I will add my wish to those who want government-funded universal health care.

        1. Government coercion is mandatory and monopolistic. If you will not admit that, then you are not only in favor of it, but know it is evil and want to hide your contempt for the people it hurts.

          1. I cannot, of course, stop you from believing whatever you like, about me or about anything else. But as long as my local force monopoly chooses to abide by the wishes of the majority, I will add my wish to those who would defeat you and people like you, for whom I have not-at-all-hidden contempt.

    2. The problem here is that you are incapable of understanding that publicly funded universal health care IS communism.

      1. Not necessarily. Government funded programs that are paid for with taxes on business and personal profit don’t fall under the definition of communism because there would be no profits to tax.

      2. Sure. We’ve all seen the gulags in the UK and elsewhere.

        Are you insane?

    3. Go fuck yourself, you commie apologist.

      -jcr

    4. “We shouldn’t have publicly funded universal health care because Chinese Communists caused the death of millions” is an argument that will appeal only to those who don’t want publicly funded universal health care and who are correctly perceived as reaching for any possible means to prevent it.”

      We’d certainly never see anybody using the Holocaust as an argument against, say, an immigration policy, or calling Trump supporters Nazis, would we?

  4. (not in parody mode)
    Many socialists/communists will argue that that wasn’t real communism, and the “right” people weren’t in charge. At the same time they argue that capitalism is a system where the “worst” people rise to power.

    Even if you accept that as true (which I don’t) under Communism >100 million people died from not having the “right” people.
    Under capitalism with haveing the “worst” people running things global poverty was reduced 90% in 20 years.

    1. >Many socialists/communists will argue that that wasn’t real communism

      Yep, every little wannabe zampolit tries that same line of bullshit. “Oh, everything would be fine if you just let ME put the gun to your head, comrade!”

      -jcr

  5. It would be much more efficient if these posts were published along with the previous comment threads.

  6. Victims of Progressivism Day

  7. Since 2007, I have advocated designating May 1 as an international Victims of Communism Day.

    Yet, you yourself promote a leftist, statist agenda whose outcome would be socialism/communism.

    1. But Somin is just sure the “right” people would be in charge this time…

    2. Riiiiight……

  8. No problems with Nov. 7.
    The partisan lameness of these comments would seem a decent obstacle to building coherent support for this.

    For now, thanks to your compatriots here, it looks like what you’re advocating for will become an excuse for people to post how Dems are Commies and try and relive the Cold War.

  9. Finally ! Good for you.

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