What Has Communism Cost The World?

How many deaths is too many? VOC’s #CommunismKills campaign begins with the premise that each individual life taken by communism is one too many. Communism has killed over 100,000,000 people over the last 100 years and continues to do so in the countries of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos. This staggering number represents more than just an aggregate; it represents one hundred million individuals, each with his or her own history, dignity, and humanity.

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In the last 100 years, since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, over 100 million people have been killed by communism. Many were executed directly by communist revolutionaries and functionaries who justified this murder as one more step toward an imagined communist utopia. Others were caught in the crossfire of civil wars, revolutions, and invasions as communist forces tried to expand their dominion by military force.

“21st century communist countries do not kill people by the millions anymore. But every year, communist countries disappear dissidents, silence journalists, and imprison innocent people. 100,000,000 deaths in 100 years is an astounding tally.”

Most, however, died as a result of massive famines caused by communist economic policies. In the Soviet Union and China, where most of communism’s victims lie, the famines were not incidental or accidental. Stalin directly targeted ethnic Ukrainians by seizing their property and food in the name of common ownership. Mao Zedong, upon hearing that his people were starving due to his communist economic policies, famously said, “Educate peasants to eat less.”

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When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States Congress worried that the “heroic sacrifices of the victims of communism may be forgotten as international communism and its blackbookofcommunismdropimperial bases continue to collapse and crumble.”

[i] Stéphane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).

[ii] Alexander N. YakovlevA Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, translated by Anthony Austin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed Public Law 103-199, establishing the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and reminding the world that Congress finds that, since 1917, the rulers of empires and international communism led by Vladimir I. Lenin and Mao Tse-tung have been responsible for the deaths of over 100,000,000 victims.”

A veiled Muslim Uyghur woman walks past a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in Xinjiang province. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

A veiled Muslim Uyghur woman walks past a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in Xinjiang province. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The 100,000,000 number is made all the more upsetting by the fact that it’s inexact and growing. Unlike the Nazis, communists did not keep accurate records of the amount of people they killed. In places like China and Ukraine, government archives have only opened in the last decade, revealing that there are tragically more and more victims to be discovered, counted, and memorialized. Over the course of the past decades, many scholars have attempted to establish solid numbers for communism’s victims, some of which can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Lind: What Politics Is(n’t) 

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In defense of what politics is and is not.

Michael Lind writes: What is politics? The answer is not obvious. Most Americans on the left and the right either do not know or have forgotten what politics is. Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

“The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture. Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.”

Politics is only possible in a society in which much, if not most, of social life is not politicized. In premodern communities in which every aspect of life was regulated by custom or religious law, there was no politics, in the modern sense. There was no public sphere because there was no private sphere. Tribal custom or divine law, as interpreted by tribal elders or religious authorities, governed every action, leaving no room for individual choice. There were power struggles, to be sure. But there was no political realm separate from the tribe or the religious congregation. And disagreement was heresy.

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

The separation of church and state — strictly speaking, the privatization of religious belief, beginning in early modern Europe and America — was the precondition for modern politics. The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture.

“Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.”

Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.

Statue of Lenin in park of the statue near Budapest in hungary

“As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies.”

Unfortunately, as Horace observed, “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.” The same might be said of religion. While some forms of religion have been expelled from politics, new forms keep trying to creep in, to recreate something like the pre-Enlightenment world in which a single moral code governs all of society and disagreement is intolerable heresy.

[Read the full text here, at The Smart Set]

Marxism can only be understood as a Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic spin-off — a faith militant, with its prophets, its holy scriptures, its providential theory of history, its evangelical universalism, its message of brotherhood and sisterhood transcending particular communities. Marxism was the fourth major Abrahamic religion. Nothing like Marxism could have evolved independently in traditional Confucian China or Hindu India, with their cyclical rather than progressive views of history.

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“Other elements of religion, expelled from the public sphere, have crept back in via the left, thanks to environmentalism. As the great environmental scientist James Lovelock has pointed out, anthropogenic global warming is affected by the sources of energy for large-scale power generation and transportation. But refusing to fly on airplanes or reducing your personal “carbon footprint” is a meaningless exercise, explicable only in the context of religion, with its traditions of ritual fasts and sacrifices in the service of personal moral purity.”

As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies. A case can be made that militant environmentalism and militant identity politics are both by-products of the decomposition of Protestantism in the Anglophone nations and Germanic Europe. Read the rest of this entry »


How Liberalism Became an Intolerant Dogma

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Liberals are increasingly religious about their own liberalism, treating it  like a comprehensive view of reality and the human good   

Before we begin, a little housekeeping is in order. Acting on judgement that defies logic, Damon Linker elects to insert “Paul Krugman” as the seventh and eighth words in the following essay–and then, stranger still, leaves them there, thinking it’s a good way to open his article, having bypassed what I assume were multiple chances to change his mind in the editing process. Revealing that he thinks Krugman is relevant, for some reason. Almost killing any chance a non-New-York-Times-reading liberal reader will want to proceed any further.

Or if they do make it to the second paragraph, taking anything in the article seriously. If Linker had buried that digression in the middle of the essay, it might have been easer to charitably overlook.

Funny how that works. By trying to avoid “sounding like Paul Krugman”, Linker succeeds in planting a poisoned seed right at the beginning–and he succeeds in doing what he claimed he wanted to avoidsounding like Paul Krugman. Is this a good thing? I think not!

LouisCK

On the other hand, it might work as a test of his material. It reminds me of a method comedian Louis C.K. described for making sure his material is good. If the audience is in a good mood, giving away laughter too early, too easy, he starts the show by insulting the audience, making them unhappy, right off the bat. Bam. Discomfort. Uncertainty. Then, he knows that if they laugh at his jokes after that, the material must be good. As Louis C.K. concludes, “Okay, now we can get to work”.

So, if you can make it past words seven and eight (or the multitude of times you had to read Krugman’s name in my own annoyingly-long prologue, then you’re medically inoculated!) because the title sounded promising, you’ll find it’s actually a very good article. And it was worth making it past that lapse in judgement, and my unseemly introduction. Read on!

For The Week Damon Linker writes:

At the risk of sounding like Paul Krugman — who returns to a handful of cherished topics over and over again in his New York Times column — I want to revisit one of my hobby horses, which I most recently raised in my discussion of Hobby Lobby.

My own cherished topic is this: Liberalism’s decline from a political philosophy of pluralism into a rigidly intolerant dogma.

The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex. For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.

The result is a dogmatic form of liberalism that threatens to poison American civic life for the foreseeable future. Conservative Reihan Salam describes it, only somewhat hyperbolically, as a form of “weaponized secularism.”

The rise of dogmatic liberalism is the American left-wing expression of the broader trend that Mark Lilla identified in a recent blockbuster essay for The New Republic. The reigning dogma of our time, according to Lilla, is libertarianism — by which he means far more than the anti-tax, anti-regulation ideology that Americans identify with the post-Reagan Republican Party, and that the rest of the world calls “neoliberalism.”

At its deepest level, libertarianism is “a mentality, a mood, a presumption… a prejudice” in favor of the liberation of the autonomous individual from all constraints originating from received habits, traditions, authorities, or institutions. Libertarianism in this sense fuels the American right’s anti-government furies, but it also animates the left’s push for same-sex marriage — and has prepared the way for its stunningly rapid acceptance — in countries throughout the West. Read the rest of this entry »


Interview: Ben Shapiro Talks Bullies

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“What makes people feel good on the left, really, at the roots, what makes people feel great on the left, is a sense of unearned moral superiority.  It’s all they care about,” Ben Shapiro tells me during my latest interview. “They wake up in the morning and a lot of them can’t point to accomplishments.  A lot of them can’t point to things that they’ve done that are worthwhile, but they can point to you.  And they can say, well, at least I’m not you.  You know, you’re the bad guy, I’m the good guy.”

This was nowhere more in evidence than during the recent George Zimmerman trial, in which a Hispanic Obama supporter was transformed by media malpractice into the second coming of (former Democratic National Committeeman) Bull Connor. Ben will discuss his best-selling recent book in the context of the Zimmerman trial, and what it says about the bullies of the left, and their enablers in the Obama palace guard MSM.

During our interview, Ben will also discuss:

● How did the American left, which uses buzzwords such as “tolerance” and “”nuance” and diversity,” become such rhetorical fist-in-the-face bullies?

● Does the left actively think of themselves as being bullies?

● How the George Zimmerman trial was blue on blue, all the way down.

● How can conservatives be considered bullies by the left, when the left controls so much power and information in the US?

● How a legendary bully like Al Sharpton became, as his boss described him in an NPR interview, “All the things I think that MSNBC is.”

● The how-to guide you can learn from Ben’s methods of fighting back against the bullying by Time-Warner-CNN-HBO corporate spokesman Piers Morgan

And much more. Click to listen:

(20 minutes long; 18.3 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 5.72 MB lo-fi edition.)

If the above Flash audio player is not be compatible with your browser, click on the video player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

Read the rest of this entry »