May Day Proposal: Celebrate Anti-Capitalist Activism? No, May Day Should Honor the Millions of Victims of Communism

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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

Ilya Somin writes:

…Since 2007, I have defended the idea of using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this proposal (which is 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 communism-100
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….

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

The main alternative to May 1 is November 7, the anniversary of the communist coup in Russia. However, choosing that date might be interpreted as focusing exclusively on the Soviet Union, while ignoring the equally horrendous communist mass murders in China, Cambodia, and elsewhere. So May 1 is the best choice.

Soviet Five-Year Plan propaganda poster.

Soviet Five-Year Plan propaganda poster.

Our relative neglect of communist crimes carries a real cost. 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 such commemorations help sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of far left forms of totalitarianism, and extreme government control of the economy and civil society.

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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 the objection that it would be wrong to take May Day away from non-communist socialists and trade union activists. Read the rest of this entry »