COM­MU­NISM CEN­TEN­NIAL

World re­mem­bers 100 mil­lion vic­tims from failed con­cen­tra­tion of power

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

Over the past 100 years, com­mu­nism has blazed a trail of dead and bro­ken bod­ies stretched around the globe in its re­lent­less, be­nighted march to­ward the ash heap of his­tory. From the frozen gu­lags of Siberia to the killing fields of Cam­bo­dia and the jun­gles of Nicaragua, com­mu­nists have mas­sa­cred more than 100 mil­lion peo­ple in ser­vice to an ide­ol­ogy that promised free­dom and equal­ity but de­liv­ered only tyranny and scarcity.

A group of schol­ars, diplo­mats and dis­si­dents gath­ered Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton to re­flect on the les­sons about hu­man na­ture, power and mar­kets on the cen­ten­nial of the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion.

Mar­ion Smith, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion, which hosted the cen­ten­nial com­mem­o­ra­tion at the Li­brary of Congress, said com­mu­nism is at root the be­lief that hu­man na­ture can be al­tered “through the co­er­cive power of the state.”

“There­fore, they made mis­takes about hu­man na­ture of the type that our Amer­i­can founders did not,” Mr. Smith said. “Com­mu­nists ig­nored ba­sic truths about the con­cen­tra­tion of power. They ig­nored the foun­da­tional im­por­tance of in­di­vid­ual lib­erty in the eco­nomic and cul­tural fields.”

On Thurs­day, the Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion will host a din­ner to honor Is­raeli states­man and for­mer Soviet po­lit­i­cal pris­oner Natan Sha­ran­sky.

While the Amer­i­can founders sought to cre­ate a gov­ern­ment that would re­strain the pas­sions of the peo­ple and it­self, the Bol­she­viks saw the state as the cen­tral ac­tor on the path to­ward utopia. Any hin­drances on gov­ern­ment would nec­es­sar­ily im­pede the lib­er­a­tion of the masses, said Alan Charles Kors, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

“Hav­ing pro­claimed the abo­li­tion of tyranny and the self-gov­ern­ment of the work­ers whose ob­jec­tive in­ter­est they alone em­bod­ied, why would the com­mu­nists ever con­cern them­selves with checks, bal­ances, sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, all of which they had de­nounced as a bour­geois fa­cade over hu­man wage slav­ery?” Mr. Kors said.

The White House commemorated the 100th an­niver­sary of the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, pro­claim­ing Nov. 7 the “Na­tional Day for the Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism.”

“To­day, we re­mem­ber those who have died and all who con­tinue to suf­fer un­der com­mu­nism,” the White House said in a state­ment. “In their mem­ory and in honor of the in­domitable spirit of those who have fought coura­geously to spread free­dom and op­por­tu­nity around the world, our Na­tion reaf­firms its stead­fast re­solve to shine the light of lib­erty for all who yearn for a brighter, freer fu­ture.”

The state­ment came the same day that Pres­i­dent Trump vis­ited South Korea, which is fac­ing a nu­clear threat from its com­mu­nist neigh­bor to the north.

The re­ac­tion to the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion’s cen­ten­nial in Rus­sia was more muted. A pa­rade made its way across Red Square, but only to com­mem­o­rate the World War II Bat­tle of Moscow, in which Soviet forces re­pelled the in­vad­ing Ger­man armies. The Soviet troops hap­pened to be­gin their march to the front lines on Nov. 7, 1941.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Rus­sian pro-democ­racy ac­tivist, said his coun­try has not fully come to terms with its his­tory.

“On the an­niver­sary, of course, of­fi­cially there’s noth­ing,” Mr. Kara-Murza said. “A few years ago, about 10 years ago now, on Nov. 7, which was, of course, a pub­lic hol­i­day back in Soviet days and re­mained so for the first few post-Soviet years, [the cel­e­bra­tion] was changed … to Nov. 4, which is sup­posed to com­mem­o­rate the vic­tory over the Poles in the 17th cen­tury. The only rea­son is be­cause peo­ple were used to hav­ing some sort of a hol­i­day at the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber. So they looked at the cal­en­dar and said, ‘Why not do this one?’ No one knows what it means. But of­fi­cially, of course, there’s no com­mem­o­ra­tion.”

There is no con­sen­sus among his­to­ri­ans as to how many lives were lost to com­mu­nism. One of the most of­ten-cited fig­ures comes from “The Black Book of Com­mu­nism,” which was pub­lished in 1997 by sev­eral French in­tel­lec­tu­als who were for­mer Marx­ists.

Their tally puts the num­ber at 94 mil­lion: 65 mil­lion in the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, 20 mil­lion in the Soviet Union, 2 mil­lion in Cam­bo­dia, 2 mil­lion in North Korea, 1.7 mil­lion in Ethiopia, 1.5 mil­lion in Afghanistan, 1 mil­lion in the East­ern Bloc, 1 mil­lion in Viet­nam, and hun­dreds of thou­sands in Latin Amer­ica.

More re­cent es­ti­mates have pushed that fig­ure north of the 100 mil­lion mark.

Mr. Kara-Murza said the com­monly ac­cepted num­ber for the Soviet Union alone is now 30 mil­lion dead.

“If we in­clude those who were ex­e­cuted, those who were killed in the famines and de­por­ta­tions and col­lec­tiviza­tions, and those who were forced to em­i­grate from Rus­sia, the most oft-cited fig­ure is usu­ally about 30 mil­lion peo­ple,” he said. “That is about one-fifth of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion of the Soviet Union at the be­gin­ning of the 1920s. His­tory knows few crimes of such mag­ni­tude.”

De­spite com­mu­nism’s bloody track record, the ide­ol­ogy and its cousin, so­cial­ism, still have sig­nif­i­cant sup­port in the West, es­pe­cially among young peo­ple.

A sur­vey re­leased by the Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion last month found the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can mil­len­ni­als would rather live un­der so­cial­ism or com­mu­nism than cap­i­tal­ism. Fifty-one per­cent chose ei­ther so­cial­ism or com­mu­nism as their pre­ferred ar­range­ment, while 42 per­cent said they were in fa­vor of cap­i­tal­ism and 7 per­cent in fa­vor of fas­cism.

Pol­ish Sec­re­tary of State Anna Maria An­ders said there has been a dearth of ed­u­ca­tion about the hor­rors wrought by com­mu­nism over the past 100 years.

“I am stunned by peo­ple who come to me in Poland to my of­fice and re­ally how clue­less they are, ab­so­lutely clue­less they are, about the Sec­ond World War, about what hap­pened,” Ms. An­ders said. “Young peo­ple — the idea of com­mu­nism is won­der­ful. So­cial­ism, ev­ery­body, no poor peo­ple, no rich peo­ple, ev­ery­body is the same. We know it doesn’t work. But I think it’s a lack gen­er­ally world­wide to see what a mis­take it is.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This Cam­bo­dian boy vis­its a plat­form cov­ered with hu­man skulls but likely knows lit­tle else about the killing fields of the Kh­mer Rouge, the com­mu­nists in power who slaugh­tered nearly 1 mil­lion peo­ple in his coun­try dur­ing their bru­tal reign from 1975 to 1979.

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