The Left Still Harbors a Soft Spot For CommunismPosted: February 16, 2014
For all the brutal revelations, the romanticized view of communism as a failed but noble venture has yet to get a stake through the heart.
My headline would be “The Left Still Has a Boner for Communism“, but the editors at Reason don’t have the benefit of punditfromanotherplant’s talent for hyperbole.
Cathy Young writes: In the mid-1980s, in my student days at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, I once got into an argument at the campus pub with a student activist who thought communism was unfairly maligned. (Back then, I had a reputation as a right-wing extremist because I didn’t think it was crazy to call the USSR—from which my family and I had emigrated a few years earlier—an evil empire.) When I mentioned the tendency of communist regimes to rack up a rather high body count, the young man parried, “Well, what about all the people capitalism kills? Like the people who die from smoking so that tobacco companies can make money?”
[Cathy Young’s book: Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood at Amazon]
Having recovered from shock at the sheer idiocy of this argument, I ventured to point out that cigarettes weren’t exactly unknown behind the Iron Curtain. I don’t recall where things went from there; but I was reminded of that conversation the other day, after reading an honest-to-goodness apologia for Communism on Salon.com, a once-interesting magazine that’s rapidly becoming too embarrassing to list on my résumé.
The author, Occupy activist and writer Jesse Myerson, already caused some controversy last month with a Rolling Stone article that outlined a five-step plan toward eliminating inequality and collectivizing wealth. But at least in that piece, Myerson limited himself to extolling a visionary American brand of kumbaya communism rather than defend any of its actual, real-world versions. Here, in an article that purports to correct Americans’ “misconceptions” about communism, he takes the further step of arguing that the real thing wasn’t as bad as we think.
Among these alleged misconceptions: the notion that “Communism killed 110 million people for resisting dispossession.” As an example, Myerson cites a comment by Fox News host Greg Gutfeld that “only the threat of death can prop up a left-wing dream, because no one in their right mind would volunteer for this crap. Hence, 110 million dead.”
Where’s the error? Well, says Myerson, the actual death toll probably wasn’t 110 million. (True; it may have been just under 100 million, which makes it so much better.) Besides, Myerson argues, many of the people killed by the Soviet regime were not resisters against communist utopia or collectivization—they were themselves communists who ran afoul of Stalin.
But here, Myerson battles a straw man. Not even the fiercest anti-Communist has ever suggested that all the victims of the “left-wing dream” died in defense of property rights. Rather, building and sustaining a system based on expropriation required such levels of violent coercion that the repressive juggernaut inevitably began to crush its own—as well as random victims who were neither communists nor anti-communist resisters. (People would end up in the gulag because a spiteful neighbor reported them for a disrespectful remark about Stalin, or simply because the local authorities needed to meet their quota of arrests.)
Myerson offers other well-worn excuses: the Soviets had to fight a civil war, and also “faced (and heroically defeated) the Nazis.” He leaves out the part where Stalin tried to team up with Hitler to gobble up Eastern Europe, refused to heed warnings of an attack for which he left his country shockingly unprepared, and then sent millions of untrained and barely armed recruits to certain slaughter…
As for Red China, Myerson acknowledges that tens of millions died in the famine that resulted from Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”—“a disastrous combination of applied pseudoscience, stat-juking, and political persecution designed to transform China into an industrial superpower”—and then summarily dismisses the notion that communism might be to blame. “Famine,” he explains, “is not a uniquely ‘left-wing’ problem.” Not even, it seems, when that famine is caused directly by the policies of a left-wing regime….
…Myerson tries to make the case that capitalism is just as homicidal as communism—and, in a bold stroke of what passes for logic at Salon these days…
- Why Jesse Myerson Is Wrong About Communism: 7 Huge Misconceptions About It (And Capitalism) (theblaze.com)
- Sorry, Comrade, But You Didn’t Just Discover The Secret To Making Communism Work (thefederalist.com)
- Salon.com Defends Communism–Mass Murders and All (breitbart.com)
- Salon Defends Communism, Including all the Murders (politicaloutcast.com)
- Stalin Apologia (freenorthcarolina.blogspot.com)
- Liberal Writer Defends Communism (godfatherpolitics.com)
- Lefty Rag Salon’s Insane Defense of Communism (gulagbound.com)
- Stalin Apologists Live … At Salon.com (youviewed.com)
- Lefty Rag Salon’s Insane Defense of Communism (tomohalloran.com)