We need a Mu­seum of Com­mu­nism – or else we risk re­peat­ing its ter­rors

The Sunday Telegraph - - Sunday Comment -

In the first phase of star­va­tion, the body con­sumes its re­serves of glu­cose. In the se­cond, it uses up its fat. The whole body be­comes weak. This can last a few weeks. In the third phase, the body de­vours its own pro­teins, eat­ing up its own tis­sues and mus­cles. Even­tu­ally, the skin be­comes thin, shiny – even trans­par­ent. It can eas­ily break. Na­dia Malyshko, in the prov­ince of Dniepropetro­vsk, re­mem­bered that her mother, who was only 37, “swelled up, be­came weak and looked old”. Her legs were shin­ing and the skin burst.

This is from the chap­ter in Anne Ap­ple­baum’s newly pub­lished book, Red Famine, about the process and hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence of star­va­tion in the Ukraine in 1932-33. Antony Beevor, the dis­tin­guished his­to­rian, said last week that it was worth buy­ing the book for the chap­ter on star­va­tion alone. This hor­ri­ble famine, know­ingly im­posed on Ukraine by Stalin, is usu­ally known as the Holodomor.

How many peo­ple have heard of it? Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent es­ti­mate, 3.9mil­lion peo­ple died – most of them of star­va­tion. Ear­lier this year, I asked a room­ful of stu­dents in the sixth form of a lead­ing pub­lic school how many had heard of the Holodomor. None of them put a hand up. The stu­dents are not to blame. It is not taught in our schools. It is not on the cur­ricu­lum. (In­ci­den­tally, it is on the cur­ricu­lum in some prov­inces of Canada.)

But Holodomor is just one small part of the horror that was per­pe­trated by Com­mu­nist regimes in the 20th cen­tury. Young peo­ple are not be­ing prop­erly taught about of it. The ter­ri­ble events are ei­ther ig­nored or “grey­washed” – made to sound as though they were not quite so bad as all that, or they were due to some ac­ci­den­tal mis­man­age­ment, or had some com­pen­sat­ing ben­e­fit.

More deaths re­sulted from Com­mu­nist rule in China than any­where else. Es­ti­mates vary be­tween 40mil­lion and 70mil­lion. Yet in a re­cent poll of young peo­ple, 70 per cent had not even heard of Chair­man Mao Tse-tung, who presided over most of these deaths.

The fact that, through no fault of their own, young peo­ple know very lit­tle about the ter­ror, tor­ture, ex­e­cu­tions and famines that took place un­der Com­mu­nism means that they have lim­ited in­tel­lec­tual de­fence against the ap­par­ent ide­al­ism of ex­treme Left-wing ideas. Alarm bells should start ring­ing when John McDonnell, the shadow chan­cel­lor, waves a copy of Mao’s Lit­tle Red Book in the House of Com­mons. But no bells ring out be­cause young peo­ple have not even heard of Mao.

I be­lieve we need a per­ma­nent way of in­form­ing the next gen­er­a­tion and ev­ery suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tion of what hap­pened un­der Com­mu­nism – a Mu­seum of Com­mu­nist Ter­ror. I am gath­er­ing sup­port­ers and donors to make it hap­pen. We aim to start with so­cial me­dia cam­paigns and talks for schools and uni­ver­si­ties, then build up to a per­ma­nent mu­seum in Lon­don. If the world does not re­mem­ber how and why the Com­mu­nist ex­per­i­ment turned into a hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe, it is in dan­ger of re­peat­ing the mis­take.

‘Alarm bells should ring out when John McDonnell waves a copy of Mao’s Lit­tle Red Book in the Com­mons. But no bells ring out be­cause young peo­ple have not even heard of Mao’

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