Communism

Victims of Communism Day 2020

Why May Day should be a day to honor victims of an ideology that took tens of millions of lives. But we should also be open to alternative dates if they can attract broader support.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Bones of tortured prisoners. Kolyma Gulag, USSR.

 

NOTE: This post largely reprints last year's Victims of Communism Day post, with relatively minor modifications, including the link between the repressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party regime, and its attempts to cover up coronavirus crisis, which may have resulted in its spread becoming a global pandemic.

 

Today is May Day. Since 2007, I have advocated using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this proposal (which was not my original idea) in my very first post on the subject:

May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their [authority]. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes' millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total 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. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….

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).

The Chineseregime's repressive policies also played a major role in its initial attempts to cover up the coronavirus crisis, which probably forestalled any chance of containing it before it became a massive pandemic. That deserves recognition, even as we should also recognize that the pandemic was made worse by the bungling of President Trump and other Western leaders.

In a 2012 post, I explained why May 1 is a better date for Victims of Communism Day than the available alternatives, such as November 7 (the anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia) and August 23 (the anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet Pact). I also addressed various possible objections to using May Day, including claims that the date should be reserved for the celebration of labor unions.

But, as explained in my 2013 Victims of Communism Day post, I would be happy to support a different date if it turns out to be easier to build a consensus around it. If another date is chosen, I would prefer November 7; not out of any desire to diminish the significance of communist atrocities in other nations, but because it marks the establishment of the very first communist regime. November 7 has in fact been declared Victims of Communism Memorial Day by the Virginia and Utah state legislatures, and similar resolutions have been passed by the  lower houses of the Illinois and Missouri legislatures. The president issued similar declarations in 2017 and 2018 (though he does not have the authority to make it a permanent national holiday through executive action alone). If this approach continues to spread, I would be happy to switch to November 7, even though May 1 would be still more appropriate.

But I am more than willing to endorse almost any other date that could command broad support. Unless and until that happens, however, May 1 will continue to be Victims of Communism Day at the Volokh Conspiracy.

NEXT: Brickbats: May 2020

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  1. For newcomers, nothing sets off the libs here like Somin’s annual post on May 1.

    Sit back and enjoy.

    1. We are “set off” because we suspect that when libertarians promote “Victims of Communism Day,” their agenda is to use this to oppose government social programs, workers rights, minimum wages, guaranteed income, and so forth. Opponents have used “Communist” as a scare epithet for decades to try to fight against public services.

      1. “workers rights”

        I remember being a low wage worker. “Hey boss, can I work 45 hours this week, I need some extra money. I’ll do it for straight time”

        “No, sorry, workers’ rights.”

        1. You arguing for freedom of contract? We have a history about that…

          1. Yeah, one of the conspirators wrote a book.

            1. Not exactly in favor of it, just blaming it on the libs.

        2. Fun overtime case. The boss just told his staff “I don’t pay overtime” to which some staff who worked 60+ hours took objection to and wanted to file a wage and hour claim.

          The boss was also a big liberal who had donated to the Obama campaign and had social media comments about worker rights. (Funny how those macro political views don’t translate to ones own business practices, but I digress…)

          Contacted his counsel to let him know we were going to file to see if he wanted to talk settlement. Counsel said they wouldn’t talk. Sent along some pdfs of his social media comments asking if they wanted to reconsider before it became a public case. Next response was “send me your settlement offer.” Needless to say we got everything in the offer.

          1. FWIW, you don’t have to sue to get overtime – the US Dept of Labor, Wage & Hour Division (and/or their state equivalent) will get it for you. That was my Dad’s second career, and it is a system (correctly) highly slanted in favor of workers, or perhaps more accurately against employers who try to get funny with overtime or min wage. The employer either had perfect records documenting full compliance, or Dad could and would take the employee’s word for things and ‘reconstruct’ what the records should have said, and make it stick.

      2. Considering that the victims of communism included lots of democratic socialists, labor unionists, and other leftists, one *might* think that these leftist folks would be at the forefront in promoting Victims of Communism Day, rather than leaving it to “libertarians.”

        Why would people on the democratic Left want to soft-pedal a movement which killed/imprisoned/persecuted so many of their compatriots?

        1. I mean, I presume that democratic socialists support Holocaust Remembrance Day even though the perpetrators of the Holocaust called themselves National Socialists. We all know that wasn’t *real* socialism, right? And Leninism wasn’t *real* socialism, either, wouldn’t you agree?

          “Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.”

          1. I don’t know, perhaps you should find someone here who has called for “soft-pedaling” it and ask them.

            1. Democratic leftists were among the victims of communism, but there’s some commenters who don’t want to promote Victims of Communism Memorial Day for fear the Right would exploit it.

              I’ve gone so far as to suggest a way for people on the democratic left to promote Victims of Communism Day without criticizing minimum wages or what have you – including giving praise to actual socialists.

              If, even in the face of such considerations, they want the Right to take the credit for promoting such a valuable holiday, then…well, it would be unfortunate. But if the the “right-reactionaries” or whatever the term is get to have the sole honor of promoting the holiday, I doubt they’d mind.

              1. valuable holiday

                valuable holiday

                valuable holiday

                This mindset is why this day can’t be a thing.

                1. I won’t even attempt to paraphrase your remark, because I’m not sure what it even means.

        2. Eddy, we don’t. Most people on the left have the same opinion of communism you do. But as Hyman Rosen points out above, it’s a brush that we tend to get tarred with, and you need look no further than Bob’s comment above to see an example. It wasn’t that long ago that I made a comment on this very blog in support of single payer health care, only to have someone immediately invoke Fidel Castro in response.

          Look at it this way: Most Catholics have the same opinion of pedophile priests that everyone else has. That doesn’t mean Catholics might not themselves be skittish about being tarred with that brush. There are plenty of anti-Catholic bigots for whom Catholics and pedophile priests mean the same thing.

          1. The problem with sex-abuser priests and cover-ups is…that there are sex-abusing priests and cover-ups. It’s one reason I left the Church.

            But imagine that someone denounced Holocaust Memorial Day because some people would use it as a platform to justify Israel’s policies and support open borders for America. Or because it made it easier for online commenters to use Godwin’s Law against perfectly legitimate policies. Would you agree to abolish Holocaust Memorial Day because of that?

            1. Eddy, read this thread. It’s basically nothing but people calling liberals Commies and responsible for mass murders.

              As it is every year.

              1. Glorious, ain’t it?

                1. A glorious monument to the lack of perspective tribalism can instill, indeed.

                  And a monument to Prof. Somin’s perseverance, continuing to try even as he sees the partisan crapshow that happens year after year after year. I may think he’s tilting at windmills, but it’s kinda noble.

                  1. Let me be clear why it’s a good thing, though it will nary make a difference.

                    You see, the left AND the right are very good about calling out extreme elements of the right. The kind of folks like white supremacists and totalitarians, etc. They get shut down and isolated and shut out of most discourse. Meanwhile, this doesn’t happen on the left. The communists and cultural Marxists are not isolated and shut down or shut out, despite the communists and cultural Marxists believing and advocating for what historically led to mass murder.

                    So it’s good, since the left won’t police their own, for the right to do it for them now and again.

                    1. Yeah, you’re full of it. This is just warmed over ‘liberals are commies’ cultural marxist BS.

                      And if you think the right is good at calling out it’s own, check out the President’s remarks about armed yahoos in Michigan.

                    2. It’s surprising how sure you are of yourself regardless of how often, to paraphrase Reagan, you know things that just aren’t true.

                      I suppose you and I disagree on whether the armed protesters in MI are extremists. Seemed like a peaceful protest to me, unlike Antifa or Ferguson.

                      That said, you’re exactly showing here what I’m talking about here, about how the left doesn’t police their own side’s extremists, like the communists and cultural Marxists.

                      Note, I didn’t say liberals are commies…you’re doing your vice of making the other person’s argument what you want to debate against. I’m saying that the liberals don’t police the commies and cultural Marxists.

                    3. mad_kalak, that sounds like a really bad case of confirmation bias you’ve got there. Maybe you should see someone about it.

              2. And what conclusion do you draw? That we shouldn’t have an equivalent of Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of Communism?

                The very fact that there’s a Godwin’s Law shows that the Holocaust can be misused online for polemical purposes – all you’re saying is that Communist crimes are similarly misused.

                1. For now. We’re too screwed up right now to do it properly, soberly.

                  I’d say the same thing about Memorial Day if we turned it into two minutes of hate against the Germans or something.

                  We’re well below what the victims of Communism deserve.

                  1. “We’re too screwed up right now to do it properly, soberly.”

                    That doesn’t stop us from observing St. Patrick’s Day, does it?

                    Seriously, though, I would imagine that it would be a low-key holiday like Holocaust Memorial Day.

                    Online debaters would observe the occasion by comparing the opponents to totalitarian murderers. But that seems to describe other days, too.

                    Schools, for example – would they turn Victims of Communism Day into an anti-leftist festival of hate?

                    1. At the moment, seeing what I see, I think it’ll just cheapen the memories of the dead.

                  2. “For now. We’re too screwed up right now to do it properly, soberly.”

                    Yeah, there’s a long list of BS excuses like that, that are the reason you don’t find Nazis in our university faculties, but they’re lousy with Communists, despite the latter having a bigger body count.

                    Because you can never go overboard against Nazis, but you can’t even talk about Communists without ticking off the left.

                    1. Way to show how the ‘Bash Liberals Day’ brigade operates.

                      You can hate on Stalin all you want and no one will raise a peep. But you’re never satisfied with that, are you? Gotta talk about schools, and Democrats today, and maybe even discuss how the Nazis are also Liberals.

                      Cheapening the dead with your partisanship.

                    2. You’re demonstrating the problem here, Sarcastro. There are actual, call themselves it, communists. Literal departments of Marxist studies. Why can’t we hate on THEM, instead of sticking to just long dead communists who can’t hurt anyone anymore? It’s only the communists who aren’t a threat anymore that we’re allowed to care about?

                      Not only won’t the left police their own extremists, they object to anybody else doing it, too.

            2. I have not suggested, and I don’t think anyone else here has suggested, abolishing Victims of Communism Day. I was responding to your question about why some on the left “soft pedal” communism. We don’t, but at the same time, we acknowledge the reality that many on the right use the day as an opportunity to tar everyone on the left with the brush of communism. Which is just as unfair as it would be to tar all conservatives with the brush of Mussolini.

              1. It’s possible I missed your point, but are you opposed to a Victims of Communism day because you are wary of people misusing Communism’s crimes for polemical purposes?

                Because the idea of a Victims of Communism Day seems good to me, just like a Holocaust Memorial Day.

                I mean, we have an Independence Day, even though not everyone who talks about 4th of July patriotism is being fair or just.

                1. As a leftist, to the extent that such a day would be about remembering the victims of Stalin et. al and preventing the rise of future authoritarian/Leninism and not about modern day red-baiting and McCarthyism, I’d support a remembrance day. But too often anti-communism is used to justify horrible policies, promote jingoism, and even support authoritarianism, which is why many leftists are skeptical of it.

                  I’d also support a remembrance day for victims U.S. foreign interventions and propping up of dictactorships. We still haven’t come to the terms with the fact the U.S. has not generally been the “good guy” in foreign relations.

                  But trying to replace May Day is just an affront to workers, and turns this into a partisan effort. A lot of workers movements of the late 19th/early 20th century are not directly related to Soviet Marxism and had many positive societal effects. It’s just stupid to supplant pro-worker sentiment with anti-communism (especially since right libertarians often claim to pro-workers in that their policies are purported to be best for workers).

                  1. I certainly don’t support the May 1 date, and the sooner Somin gets on board with Nov. 7 the better.

                    Personally, I wouldn’t mind reviving Washington’s Birthday and mentioning the Farewell Address (with its plea against foreign entanglements) at some point during the festivities.

                  2. (1) Picking 01 May is trolling, pure and simple.

                    (2) Professor Somin knows that as well as anyone

                    (3) Therefore, Somin cares more about trolling than victims of communism.

                  3. “But trying to replace May Day is just an affront to workers”

                    Oh, come on. May Day has been a traditional day to celebrate “workers”, only in a “workers of the world, unite!” sense. Might as well call it “Celebrate World Communism” day.

              2. “We don’t”

                Each year this thread is evidence that you in fact do.

                See captcrisis below [“balanced discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Soviet system”].

                Now try to find conservatives who would call for a “balanced discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Nazi system”.

                1. Bob, that’s called nutpicking and if you do that I get to use Dr. Ed to speak for all conservatives on her.

                  1. So, what exactly goes on inside that black box that designates someone as as official Sarcastro spokesman (TM) or not?

                    I think if it benefits you or your argument…then (in my Young Turks voice) “of course” they are/aren’t, but if it doesn’t, then “of course” they are/aren’t.

                    1. I try not to do that, I’ll talk about the commentariat here, but I am well aware it doesn’t even stand for conservativism outside this space anymore.

                2. Bob, if I looked long enough and hard enough, I could probably find some conservative somewhere who would “call for a balanced discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Nazi system,” but I would know better than to assume he was speaking for all conservatives, or even that he was representative of most conservatives.

                  I myself am significantly to your left, but I can’t think of a single thing I admire about the former Soviet Union. Not one.

                3. “Now try to find conservatives who would call for a “balanced discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Nazi system”.”

                  For the record, I have never and will never call for that — the Nazis were evil. But one must understand evil in order to recognize it. One must understand how they deceived a cultured and basically decent people into doing what they did. Hence one must understand the Nazis — a far cry from a balanced discussion.

                  It’s like the Aswan Dam — the Soviets did a good thing in building it, but their motives were far from pure….

  2. I don’t see what’s so particularly communist about covering up Coronavirus. All governments try to cover up embarrassing facts, and authoritarian governments of all strife typically have more means to do so.

    More broadly, I don’t see in what sense present day China is communist. This is not some attempt to pull a “No True Scotsman” on socialism/communism, but more a recognition that the system of government of present day China is difficult to distinguish from that of Singapore, Taiwan, or South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.

    1. No, not all governments try to cover up public health emergencies.

      Look at the United States government. You do not see it covering up the number of people who have died in New York City, do you?

      You ought to avoid such broad generalizations that normalize deviant and dangerous behavior.

      1. Florida has stopped health departments from publishing their counts of the number of people who have died. Multiple U.S. officials have publicly insisted the coronavirus is similar in danger to the seasonal flu.

        Your opinion on the above is likely going to be based on your political perspective, but I think it’s undebatable that governments tend to control information to cast leaders in a positive light and perpetuate their power (and to be clear I think this applies to Cuomo as well as DeSantis and Trump).

        Of course, China is worse than the U.S. about this, but countries like Saudi Arabia are as bad as China. It’s not something unique to Marxism, it’s a result of centralized power.

        1. Multiple U.S. officials have publicly insisted the coronavirus is similar in danger to the seasonal flu.

          It IS — both have a death rate of about 0.1% — the flu kills people too!!!!

          1. > both have a death rate of about 0.1%

            This statement contradicts the best available evidence and is just flatly disproved by the number of deaths in NYC.

            1. You can’t establish a death rate without first establishing the number of people who have it, and NYC is, in part, the Mayor’s asinine policy of requiring nursing homes to accept contagious patients

            2. Max,
              Two small studies (less than 1000 people each) in CA suggest that the number of cases exceeds reported cases by a factor of 40 to 80.
              In that case covid-19 is not very different from H1N1. What is needed is a much larger (~10,000 person) random sample study. Yet NO public official is calling for that.
              Why?

          2. Here is an informative article comparing the coronavirus to the flu, which was just updated yesterday.

              1. Yet even that article fails to be based on a valid random study of prevalence vs. confirmed cases.

  3. I don’t think that ANY of the Communist governments were actually communists — the Soviets used to talk about “when communism arrives” in a future and not current sense.

    In fact, I don’t make a distinction between them and Nazi Germany — in all cases, you have dictatorship by a group where it is membership in the group and not bloodline (e.g. Saudi Arabia).

    1. Well, of course none of the Communist governments were actually communist; Communism is fundamentally impossible, so no Communist government is ever going to be communist.

      But they weren’t actually communist for another reason: Communism is a con job. Only the useful idiots actually believe in it. The guy trying to sell you Brooklyn Bridge doesn’t think he has title to it, and the guy trying to sell you on communism knows quite well he’s planning on setting up a dictatorship.

      1. No, Brett. It’s wrong, it’s dumb, it turns into the usual dictatorship with different branding, but calling it a con requires more than your usual ‘liberals are always lying’ partisan bad-faithometer.

        Lenin and Che and Mao were awful, but also pretty clearly believed.

        Of course, so did Hitler.

        1. McCarthy, though…he was just lying about his list.

          1. Not lying about Commies in the State Department though.

            1. Lying that he had any idea if there were or not.

              1. Yet there were. Something libs still downplay.

                1. Ah, lying but about a true thing.

                  Whatta guy.

                  1. Like fake but accurate’s not a thing on the left, too.

                    The thing is, we KNOW McCarthy was right, whether or not it was by accident, whether or not he knew and just couldn’t get the proof. We know he was right, because we got a look into the KGB archives after the fall of the USSR, and saw who their moles were.

                    So, yeah, McCarthy’s list was fake, but he was still right, and what’s the point about harping on the former and not acknowledging the latter, except to pretend it wasn’t true?

                    1. He lied, he ruined random innocent people’s lives. He’s not a hero,

                      It’s like there was a fire, he arrived and sprayed a bunch of random houses with sewer water, the fire didn’t engulf the original house, and you love the guy.

                      Because he owned the libs. But back to your original thesis, McCarthy was NOT a true believer, the nightmare heads of Communism were. Both groups suck, of course, but your bad faith intimations is just Brett being Brett and not anything like true.

                    2. “He lied, he ruined random innocent people’s lives.”

                      The left, in my experience, is more angry about the guilty people whose lives got ruined, than anybody innocent. They’re still pissed off about the Rosenbergs, and they were as guilty as it gets. Heck, back in 2017, just before he left office, multiple prominent Democrats, including Warren, tried to get Obama to pardon Ethel.

                    3. I’m pretty pissed about Oppenheimer myself. And the many less famous people who got their lives ruined. And the general atmosphere of thoughtcrime.

                      Nice of you to tell me what in your experience liberals are thinking. Again.

                    4. “The thing is, we KNOW McCarthy was right,…”

                      I won’t quibble about the veracity of what McCarty himself might have said, but McCarthyism certainly claimed innocent victims. For one example read John Henry Faulk’s account ‘Fear on Trial’ or Louis Nizer’s (his lawyer) bio. The truth of that was settled definitively in court, and is scandalous, and was enabled by McCarthy’s witch hunts.

                    5. “I’m pretty pissed about Oppenheimer myself. ”

                      There you go. You’re pissed about Oppenheimer’s life being ruined, and Oppenheimer was guilty as Hell. How many more of the innocents you’re mad about were really guilty, and you’re just in denial about it?

            2. The problem, Bob, was that he was too drunk to be credible.

          2. McCarthy was DRUNK — he was considered an alcoholic by the standards of the 1950’s when *everyone* was a heavy drinker.

        2. You could say every attempt at communism turns into a dictatorship, but that isn’t true: Every attempt at communism starts out a dictatorship, and stays that way. Every. Last. One.

          Do you really think that’s an accident? Maybe you don’t. But, why are you so convinced that it’s unintended? Because it’s really important to you to think that Lenin, Che, and Mao started out with good intentions, despite all the horror they deliberately perpetrated?

          Communism is born in bloodshed and horror, and then just squats there, eating people. There’s no rainbow’s end on the other side of it, and it’s been going on a century since anybody had any excuse for thinking there might be.

          Every living communist, every last one, is a useful idiot or a conman dreaming of dictatorship with himself high up in the power structure. And all you’re doing here is making excuses for them.

          1. It’s not super important to me, I just note that you are talking out of your hat again with the same telepathic bad faith diagnosis you always have.

            1. S-0,
              You should read Lenin’s “Materilism and EmperioCriticism.” Communism starts with the dictatorship of the proletariate.Arguments devolve into discussions of the meaning of “of.”
              I find it hard to understand the substance of what you object to (beyond polemics) in the idea of a Victims, etc Day

            2. You don’t need mind reading. At this point the evidence that communism is a horror is clear enough that only idiots and people who want horror are left to advocate it. It might take mind reading to figure out which of those a particular person is, but they’re one or the other.

              It’s been a long, long time since it was possible for anybody to pretend communism wasn’t a horror show, without stupidity, willful ignorance, or just wanting a horror show.

            3. New thesis. We are not arguing that Communism is or is not a horror – I agree that it is. We are not arguing about anyone who advocates for it today, either.

              We’re arguing that your deciding it has never been tried in good faith is your usual demonization of the other side.

              You seem to have an inkling, since your trying new goal posts.

              1. “Never”? I wouldn’t go that far. It probably has been tried in good faith at the level of a small commune.

                Never at the level of a country, though. And never in the living memory of most people today.

                Look, revolutionary movements self select for people willing, even eager, to cut corners. The longer they go on, the more certain they are to be run by monsters. No revolutionary movement that comes into power with the explicit purpose of setting up a “temporary” dictatorship is going to be run by anybody who doesn’t see the dictatorship as the very point of the exercise.

                It’s not an accident that every successful communist revolution/subversion ended up a horror show. That NONE of them were run by people who’d say, “Look, this really isn’t working out, it was a mistake.” The horror show was baked in from the very beginning, and the movements were captured by would be dictators very early on, if they weren’t initiated by them.

                And that dynamic was inevitable from the beginning. The only thing that changed is that people lost any good excuse for not knowing it.

  4. It is good to remember what government leaders with uncontrolled power can do.

    But I wonder about this line:

    “For the most part, they cannot be ascribed to circumstantial factors, such as … the absence of democracy.”

    Can anyone name a functioning democracy that also had a tradition of respect for individual rights and dissenters (the ultimate political minority) that has engaged in mass killings?

    OTOH, embrace of capitalism/markets does not guarantee respect for basic human rights. As examples, consider Nazi Germany or the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP, despite its name, it not communist. Instead, it is a corrupt crony capitalist state seeking to use state-owned or state-influenced businesses to first seize “soft” power that will later be cashed in for “hard” power.

    Thinking that the danger primarily comes from any moves to soften the sometimes harsh economic logic of capitalism is foolish. For example, we could provide financial security for everyone through a UBI (a major deviation from pure capitalism that increases individual economic power relative to both government and business) would not present the same risks. In fact, just the opposite. Figures like Hitler or Mussolini were able to use people’s economic fears to rise to power.

    And in fact, even the rise of communism can be explained by the failure of society to adequate address people’s basic economic needs. Vulnerable people are likely to look for guidance from strong leaders, who may then abuse the power given to them. Thinking that we should embrace pure capitalism and ever-increasing inequality and concentration of economic power in fewer and fewer hands to stabilize our societies is to learn the wrong lesson from history and to make the horrors of the past more likely to happen in the future, despite the best of intentions.

    1. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not really which side (left/right) a government is leaning towards, it’s the intensity and ultimately extremism which its downfall (and that of the society).

      That’s why I cherish the swinging nature of our American political society and the robust speech, demonstrations, and activities from all sides (pro-gun rally in Richmond, VA; anti-governor rally in Michigan, SSMs, courts, etc.).

      It’s only through the elasticity of our political society that we can survive and also thrive.

      It’s the extremist nations where dissent is violently put-down that ultimately fail.

      Bob from Ohio is an ignorant troll who adds nothing to this blog (except oral spewage).

      But I’m glad our society tolerates him.

      1. I would really like some historical evidence, or some comparables, of where a highly divided culturally heterogeneous society was more successful than a more culturally homogeneous one.

        1. I’ll bite, even though there’s really no way to find two countries that are similar in every way except cultural division.

          1. Belgium more succesful than Bulgaria
          2. India more successful than Pakistan
          3. Switzerland more successful than Slovakia

          If you’re talking strictly about political cultural, I’d think it’s obvious that multi-party states are generally better places to live than single-party states, even when it’s a “natural” monopoly.

          1. I’m not sure I’d make any bets on India yet. They’re currently manufacturing a fascist genocide of their own, complete with concentration camps and a party that has a militant wing and historically spoke highly of the Nazis. Modi comes off as charismatic, but pay attention to what his ally (and BJP party head) Amit Shah is saying. It’s not going to be pretty.

            1. I completely agree about Modi. However, as of today they’ve still got a long way to go before they reach Pakistan’s level of non-success.

    2. I’m not sure you know what capitalism is, since neither the PRC nor Nazi Germany had it.

      Cronyism is not capitalism. True capitalism, like true communism, is rarely achieved in practice. Communism because it supposes sentient beings who are not people (ie, don’t experience foibles like greed – “New Soviet Man”). Capitalism because it requires the government refrain from interfering in the market (which governments can’t seem to find the willpower to avoid doing). We can identify capitalist aspects of mixed economies (even the US has a mixed economy), and to the extent capitalism is present, it creates wealth. But to describe even the US at any point as being a true capitalist system would be abjectly wrong.

      (Capitalism at its core is about removing the force from human relations, relying on voluntary transactions instead of compulsion. As all government power relies on the use or threat of force, any government action in the market cannot be capitalist.)

      Cronyism is very much not capitalism. It’s a very different system entirely. And it equally infects would-be capitalist and would-be communist systems, because it’s the natural result of power creating the opportunity and incentive to improperly favor those one considers allies or friends. The only way to avoid cronyism is to abolish government power in its entirety, or reduce all government decisions and procedures to fair and simple mechanical rules with complete transparency on their performance (and a population willing to spend the time to validate said procedures are followed). The former is likely more ‘practical’ than the latter, despite neither being actually practical.

      But let’s not confuse cronyism with other systems. It’s a distinct thing on its own, and infects all political systems.

      1. gah.. removing the _use of_ force

      2. True Capitalism has Never Been Tried.

        Sounds familiar!

    3. David,
      Tour description of the CCP system sounds a lot like the Corporate State of national socialism even with the inclusion of super-nationalism and the suppression of ethnic minorities.

  5. Totalitarian governments took 262 million lives of hteir own citizens in the 20th century.
    20th Century Democide: https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM

  6. Next we need Victims of Liberalism day.

    1. You mean people who now have social security, medicare, medicaid, paid overtime and clean air and water? Those victims of liberalism day?

      1. Considering none of that is “liberalism”, I’m not sure what you are talking about.

        1. I am eagerly awaiting the argument that those things aren’t liberalism. Especially given that conservatives opposed every one of them.

  7. We need to make very day Victims of Everyone who Disagrees with Sarcastro Day.

    1. Just curious. Is Sarcastro himself a victim of everyone who disagrees with Sarcastro?

      Since we are now referring to you (I mean Sarcastro!) in the third person?

      1. Oooh, that’s just one of the many deep topics we can get into as we celebrate and mourn VEDSD

    2. Sounds like a death threat. How about we stop with the advocacy of violence, please.

      1. Saying there will be a revolution, and when it comes RAK might get a ring at his doorbell is a death threat.
        That you are trying so hard to deny it just makes you look pathetic.

        1. All I said was “ring doorbell” the whole revolution thing is your fanciful thinking. And this is as much of a leap in logic as you made. Which just shows how pathetic you actually are.

          1. There are receipts:

            Jimmy the Dane
            April.29.2020 at 11:54 am
            And Kirk is going to wonder why his doorbell is ringing when the culture wars finally blow up.

            1. That’s your misunderstanding of the problems with revolutions Sarc. You think Jimmy is saying that there will be some right wing revolution and he is threatening Rev with a helicopter ride.

              It’s actually about how, like in Russia and France, the initial true believers of the revolution are the 2nd ones purged after the enemy because the true believers are the first disillusioned with it’s inevitable failure, and therefore are a big threat.

              (note, Rev isn’t a true believer, but merely a bad actor playing a part for some amusement in his own mind.

              1. First, your revolution BS is some tapdancing nonsense. It wasn’t a discussion of how the left eat their own, FFS.
                JtD made a threat, and now he’s trying to deny it because he’s a coward. You’re enabling him because he’s on your side and I’m not, which makes you a partisan tool.

                Second, as JtD was so eager to point out, he’s actually talking about a war.
                You think a ring of the doorbell ‘when the culture war finally blows up’ is just to share the good news?

                1. That wasn’t a threat…c’mon, on a legal blog where what is an actual threat and what isn’t is a subject of much discussion you should know better than to call it a threat. It’s laughable that you do, as it requires things like specificity, to start with, to call it a threat. And even then, I could say “I’m gonna kick your ass” from across the room but without weapons and no forward movement, it is just hot air.

                  And what do you think a culture war that turns hot is, a civil war, or from another point of view, a revolution for the side seeing to overturn the existing order. You know, like Marxists want.

                  Unsurprisingly, again, you’re arguing from a place of ignorance. If Sarc doesn’t hear a tree fall in the forest, it still falls. The true believers are always purged and Rev (Jimmy presumes) is a true believer. This is what I believe that Jimmy was referring to

                  1. Not a legal true threat, but a death threat on a blog is a bad look.

                    The Marxists? LOL. You know who talks about civil war? It ain’t the left. Around here, at least, it’s a whole lot of commenters that are very much on the right.

                    1. No one made any death threats. This is just Sarcastrated trying to fashion every single thing into ‘the narrative’…

                    2. The Left doesn’t talk about civil war?

                      Tell me, what do you think inciting the people to rise up and violently overthrow the capitalists is?

            2. Nothing about a revolution in there…you obviously and clearly made that up.

              1. A war, not a revolution. Your pedantry matters not; your gaslighting sucks.

                1. Again you make yourself look like a lame loser with your lies. Also the “culture war” is not an actual “bombs and gun war”. It is obviously a rhetorical device for a political issue.

                  1. OK, sure, and the doorbell ringing is just to share cultural enlightenment.

                    Cowardly attempt to gaslight.

                    1. Maybe it is Mormons who want to share the Good Book with the Rev. Who knows. Lots of people ring doorbells all the time.

                      Your fellow leftists like to do it all the time as part of their “activism” like harassing politicians at home, camping outside their homes, etc. Are you saying those “activists” are all meaning to cause violence?

                    2. You want me to believe you were talking about Mormons? I don’t know what your problem is, but everyone can read what you said, and your really weak attempts to deny it.

                    3. Most people read what I said and think gees maybe someone might ring that guys doorbell. Only you jump to the wild conclusion that not only was it a threat but a death threat of all the levels of threats available. So who is the one making stuff up now?

                  2. Don’t both; Sarcastro is fundamentally incapable of anything but blind tribalism. Anything his side says is obviously a joke, or sarcasm, or a metaphor or whatever the Leftist talking point is.
                    Anything his opposition says is obviously a threat, a lie, a conspiracy or conspiracy theory, or whatever the Leftist talking point is.
                    It’s almost impossible to get an actual position out of him, and if you manage it he’ll abandon his principles in a split second if you can point out a way they’ll benefit the Right.

  8. Give it up Ilya. May 1st is about the victims of capitalism and the martyrs of the labor movement. Stop trying to whitewash history you shmuck.

    1. It is the date that really lays bare the bad-faith nature of the whole exercise.

      Perhaps we should have a “Victims of Chattel Slavery Day” – celebrated on July 4th. Surely no one could object to that, unless of course they were actually pro-slavery.

      1. I don’t know why he sticks to May 1 when any movement which has any momentum at all goes for Nov. 7 – but at least Somin has prepared Nov. 7 as a backup date. Any difficulty with Nov. 7?

        1. No, likely not. Nothing wrong with having a date to highlight the dangers of totalitarian communism. Major problem with using it as a thin end of the wedge to bash social democracy.

          1. But, given how world-historically bad communism has proven to be, over and over, shouldn’t we be alert to even the slightest indication that “social democracy” is being used as a foot in the door for efforts to try communism yet again? Just as it is indeed perfectly appropriate to be alert to any indications that conservatism is morphing into fascism? (Though you shouldn’t just invent either out of whole cloth.)

            And, why exactly DID communism turn out so horrific everywhere it was tried? What aspect of it was responsible for this? Because “social democracy” does have at least some superficial family resemblance to communism, and it would be nice to know which was the fatal gene.

  9. I’d feel better about this if it came with a balanced discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Soviet system. The prof. might break his fingers trying to type it out, but a list of the pluses should be made (and there were some).

    1. Let’s see if I can think of some pluses:

      -Less obesity
      -Media even less worried about accuracy than the American media
      -No danger of weaponizing free speech, since there wasn’t any free speech
      -Religious nuts knew their place

      1. Seriously. And the Soviet system has to be compared not to western democracies but to what it replaced, Tsarist Russia. As well as to the brutal right-wing dictatorships that we Americans were supporting with our tax dollars.

        Free health care and literacy. Free school and college. Lots of doctors. (Someone I know who lived in Russia can testify to that.)

        Standing up for racial minorities, during a time when American blacks were getting lynched. This accounts for the strong pull Soviet Communism exerted on civil rights activists for decades.

        An emphasis on science that allowed them to beat us into space. And their unmanned program was ahead of ours for another ten to fifteen years after that.

        A question I haven’t seen discussed is how the Soviet criminal justice system functioned in matters that did not have a political dimension.

        None of the above is to excuse the horrors that have been spelled out out in the post. But maybe the time has come for a balanced view.

        Finally there is the strange attitude of American conservatives to account for. They kept telling us that the Soviet system didn’t work, while at the same time telling us that their military was stronger, their nuclear arsenal was stronger, and their ideology was a threat to our young people. Conservatives were a lot more afraid of the USSR than liberals were.

        1. “And the Soviet system has to be compared not to western democracies but to what it replaced, Tsarist Russia.”

          The Communists replaced the democratic Kerensky regime, which had already overthrown the tsar.

          “Standing up for racial minorities” – not for the Jews, they didn’t.

          “An emphasis on science” – let’s not forget Lysenko.

          Literacy – yes, with persecution of man of Russia’s great writers. It would be nice if all these literate people had some legal reading material which was worth reading.

          1. I see you are not ready for this discussion. Is anybody else?

            1. Is this one of those “conversations” where you converse at me and I simply nod agreement?

            2. Not you, that’s for sure.

          2. Every dictator in the modern world favors literacy; Written orders are so convenient, after all, but they need people to be able to read them.

        2. “As well as to the brutal right-wing dictatorships that we Americans were supporting with our tax dollars.”

          Don’t forget the brutal communist dictatorship we supported with our tax dollars – namely Soviet Russia. There is this notion of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. I don’t think the U.S. supported brutal dictators of any stripe because the American people like brutal dictators; we did it because we thought doing so was sometimes the lesser of two evils.

          And some of the rightwingers were probably better than the alternative, even for their own people. Syngman Rhee was pretty clearly better than the Kim dynasty. It’s certainly not clear that the Chinese people were better off because Mao defeated Chiang Kai-shek – Taiwan managed to prosper without the whole Great Leap starvation business. Nor is it obvious that the Iranians are better off under the mullahs than under the Shah. Sometimes there are no good choices, only less-worse ones.

          “They kept telling us that the Soviet system didn’t work, while at the same time telling us that their military was stronger, their nuclear arsenal was stronger, …”

          That a dictatorship can divert an oversize share of the GDP to their military hardly seems perplexing.

          I have heard, though, that Moscow’s subways are beautiful, so there’s that. And the Bolshoi, of course – remember how ballet stars kept trying to defect to the Soviet Union?

          In fact, that right there is all you need to know – how many people tried to emigrate to the USSR after say 1950 vs. how many people tried to leave? Maybe the people living there had an accurate view of the tradeoffs between Soviet and Western society.

        3. Standing up for racial minorities, during a time when American blacks were getting lynched

          The Soviet Union was very much like South Africa in that the Russian minority controlled other racial groups, both in Eastern Europe and the other Republics. And then there is what they did to the Ukrainians in the winter of 1932-33, what they did to the Jews, and lots of other stuff…

      2. The Ukrainian diet – even better than the Cuban diet, because Ukraine had actual Kulaks to starve to death!

        I’m trying to think of any positives of the soviet system, and the only thing I’m coming up with is they saved money by using pencils instead of inventing ballpoint pens for their space missions.

  10. I’m fairly sure that if I were still a leftist I would not respond to a proposed anti-communist holiday by wincing like I’d been hit in a sensitive place. Instead, I’d jump on the bandwagon and even help write the resolution establishing the holiday. I’d include a list of notable anticommunists…such as General George C. Marshall (the right-wing bete noir) and the socialists Norman Thomas and George Orwell.

    I’d wax eloquent on how diverse factions can unite in denouncing the evils of totalitarianism, and I’d thank my conservative fellow-citizens for providing an opportunity to showcase the contributions of notable leftists to the fight against Communism.

    I’m curious as to what stops leftist activists and politicians from taking this course.

    1. Read the thread. Its not actually about communism, it’s all bashing liberalism.

      And screw you with your intimations that we’re all pro-Communist because we don’t rush to jump on the redbashing bandwagon.

      1. You can keep on digging, but you know what they say when you find yourself in a hole….probably should just stop at this point…

      2. Not for the first, nor I suspect for the last time, you have taken certain…liberties in paraphrasing what I said.

        And I notice that it’s not just me you do it to, either. You’ve received complaints from other people about what mad_kalak calls “your vice of making the other person’s argument what you want to debate against.”

        AKA straw-manning.

        AKA mind-reading or, as Scott (“Dilbert”) Adams calls it, loserthink.

        https://amzn.to/2VSZAQf

        Just to be clear…if I thought you were pro-Communist, I would not hesitate to say so explicitly, and screw you if you claim otherwise.

        I *do* think you are remarkably naive and short-sighted not to follow the example of the old “cold war liberals” and embrace anti-Communism.

        1. Sarcastrated is known for inflating and conflating others words. It is part of his MO. Sad too, but that is what those who engage in loserthink do.

        2. I’m curious as to what stops leftist activists and politicians from taking this course.

          The implication of your curiosity is not too hard to see through. Or am I mistaken? Feel free to correct my inference – what do you think stops the left from not embracing anti-communism, if not being pro-communist?

          Your loserthink thing is…some silly-ass jargon, but then Scott Adams has become a very silly man.

          1. “Feel free to correct my inference”

            Seriously, why do *you* think that you keep “paraphrasing” people only to find that the people you purport to “paraphrase” say you got it wrong?

            “implication…not too hard to see through”

            Oh, I see, so you *are* trying to read my mind.

            “Scott Adams has become a very silly man”

            Compared to whom?

          2. “what do you think stops the left from not embracing anti-communism, if not being pro-communist”

            I’m going to do some speculation on this issue, not for the benefit of Suck-rates here, I think he’s beyond help, but for the benefit of anyone who’s interested.

            And in making my guesses I can discuss my own former beliefs, since as it happens I used to be a leftist and had my own views on communism. Or rather, views which I imbibed from other leftists and made my own. And it’s possible that many modern leftists think as I used to think.

            And what I thought was that the Soviets and other communist dictatorships were bad, very bad, but that Right Wing Wingnuts were simply using charges of communism to smear good democratic leftists. I mean, the wingnuts said paranoid stuff about various New Deal figures being communist, which I knew was absurd, and anyway there was a strict line of separation between Soviet communism in the Soviet Union (Very Bad) and American communists who were simply a kind of leftist who spent most of their time fighting for civil rights and economic justice and didn’t really pay attention to abstruse foreign policy issues.

            Therefore, it was obvious that right-wing evildoers were exploiting the issue of communism to promote various evil rightist causes such as exploitation of the workers, racism, et cetera.

            And “Cold War liberals” – that is, left-wing anticommunists – were either dupes of the Right or else delusional about how, by catering to anticommunist hysteria, they were simply aiding and abetting the right-wing evildoers yada yada.

            So, *real* Communism was of course bad – at least in the Soviet Union – but of course the anticommunists weren’t *really* against Communism, they were using the issue as a club to beat leftists and oppose various good things like justice for workers, antiracism, and the like.

            1. And at the same time, given the badness of Communism in foreign places (not counting those countries which were either falsely accused of communism or anyway only became communists when the Americans drove them to it), I might have been willing to take a step back and, to keep the evil Right-Wingers from exploiting the issue, support some kind of memorial for the victims of totalitarianism, with the understanding that it was totally a consensus issue, and left wingers were the *real* anticommunists, and like I said with praise for George Orwell who was a perfectly acceptable kind of anticommunist (and a democratic socialist to boot).

              Basically, *real* anticommunism, not the icky right-wing kind, was what socialists like George Orwell did – and the problem with Cold War Liberals wasn’t that they said communism was bad but that they thought domestic communism was some sort of problem which was of course silly.

              I’m trying to reconstruct my views, and if it doesn’t seem totally coherent that reflects that my views weren’t totally coherent.

              1. Lost interest at the infantile name-calling stage. Glad that came early.

                1. It is certainly true that included a taunt against another commenter, based on his behavior. Yes, it truly is too bad I said something so mean.

                  Meanwhile, I’ve gone so far as to suggest ways of commemorating the millions of victims of Communism without criticizing “government social programs, workers rights, minimum wages, guaranteed income, and so forth,” as one suspicious commenter put it. I also went out of my way to dispute the claim that opponents of this holiday are necessarily pro-Communist. Indeed, the reason I was disrespectful to another commenter is that he kept beating this particular straw man.

                  But if you take some White-Out to your screen and delete my disrespectful references to Sarcastro, what remains is, by the standards of this forum, quite constructive.

                  1. (which is not, to be sure, a very high standard)

                  2. Honestly I was surprised to see the disrespect, since your comments are usually constructive and even occasionally funny, and not usually disrespectful. The disrespect and personal attacks completely undermine any point the commenter may be making, in my very humble opinion. And personally, I don’t have any problem with creating a holiday commemorating the victims of communism. It’s purpose will be used and abused, just like every other holiday and commemoration.

                    1. Except for kindergarten teachers and Neville Chamberlain, it matters who the aggressor was.

                    2. You seem very nice, but if you wish me to make a public show of respect for anyone who tells me to “screw” myself over imaginary offenses, then I guess you’re bound to be disappointed.

  11. And as long as I’m in a constructive mood, perhaps we can replace Captive Nations Week. This holiday was set up in 1959 to rally support for the Cold War and the liberation of various Communist countries.

    Whatever may be said of the Cold War situation, today it seems that there are people promoting Captive Nations Week in support of U. S. interventionism –

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/captive-nations-week-america-must-support-struggle-for-freedom/

    …we’ve seen how well *that* works out, when we liberate other countries with bombs and bullets and create new regimes. All all for such a low cose! /sarc

    So when we set up a Victims of Communism memorial holiday, why not drop the interventionist Captive Nations week?

    But if we can’t have a Victims of Communism day, then why not use Captive Nations Week to air the same concerns? If the current political climate doesn’t allow a *new* anticommunist holiday, then we may as well keep the old one – better than nothing. We could drop the interventionist aspects and instead focus on explaining why mass-murdering dictatorships are bad.

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