Its ‘Red Century’ series portrays communism as a noble cause.
Marc A. Thiessen writes: The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.
The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.
Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.
In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.
In “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” Yale lecturer Fred Strebeigh writes that Lenin was “a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping” who turned Russia into “a global pioneer in conservation.” He fails to mention that Lenin was also a mass murderer who executed more of his political opponents in the first four months of his rule than the czars had in the entire previous century. In one telegram, reproduced in “The Black Book of Communism,” Lenin orders the Cheka (a predecessor of the KGB) to “Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers.” (The telegram concludes with an eerie “P.S. Find tougher people.”) Maybe he was camping when he wrote it.
Berkeley professor Yuri Slezkine explains “How to Parent Like a Bolshevik,” noting that “At home, the children of the Bolsheviks read what they called the ‘treasures of world literature,’ with an emphasis on the Golden Ages analogous to their own” and that “Soviet readers were expected to learn from Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes.” He does not say whether they were also expected to learn from Orwell. Read the rest of this entry »
PORTLAND, Ore. — What began as a peaceful march for labor rights on May Day in Portland turned violent as a group of self-described anarchists threw objects at officers and officers fired non-lethal weapons back. Police canceled the permitted march and deemed it a riot as tensions escalated.
“Various fires were set in the street and in garbage cans, a police car was spray-painted and vandalized, and there were attempts to set at least one business on fire.”
Portland police arrested 25 protesters, on charges ranging from arson to assault, criminal mischief and theft. All 25 suspects were cited for failing to obey a peace officer, and police said the arrests will be reviewed for additional charges.
Three minors, ages 17, 14, and 17, were among those arrested (full list of names and charges below). All three were charged with riot and released to their parents.
Rallies began at noon and a march started at about 3 p.m. Portland police reported members of an anarchist group threw rocks, smoke bombs, a full Pepsi can and other objects at police officers at about 4:10 p.m.
The Pepsi can struck a Portland Fire and Rescue paramedic, police said.
Police first said protesters with children should leave the march, then told everyone to disperse.
At 4:30 p.m. police said the permitted march was canceled as it was an “unlawful march” based on the violence. Police said anyone in the roadway was subject to arrest.
“Various fires were set in the street and in garbage cans, a police car was spray-painted and vandalized, and there were attempts to set at least one business on fire,” said a news release from Portland police late Monday night. Read the rest of this entry »
Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that.
Jeff Jacoby writes: When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.
“Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or that break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Just last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.”
An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long, the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)
“In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn’t even water to wash the blood from operating tables.”
With petrodollars pouring in, Chavez had free rein to put his statist prescriptions into effect. The so-called Bolivarian revolution over which he — and later his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro — presided, was an unfettered, real-world example of anticapitalist socialism in action.
Venezuela since at least the 1970s had been Latin America’s most affluent nation. Now it was a showpiece for command-and-control economics: price and currency controls, wealth redistribution, ramped-up government spending, expropriation of land, and the nationalization of private banks, mines, and oil companies.
And the useful idiots ate it up.
In a Salon piece titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,” David Sirota declared that the Venezuelan ruler, with his “full-throated advocacy of socialism,” had “racked up an economic record that . . . American president[s] could only dream of achieving.” The Guardian offered “Three cheers for Chavez.” Moviemaker Oliver Stone filmed a documentary gushing over “the positive changes that have happened economically in all of South America” because of Venezuela’s socialist government. And when Chavez died in 2013, Jimmy Carterextolled the strongman for “improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”
In the real world, however, socialism has transformed Venezuela into a Third World dystopia.
Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Read the rest of this entry »
Jamie Gregora reports: The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation released its first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” Monday. The survey showed a distinct generation gap regarding beliefs about socialism and communism between older and younger Americans. For example, 80 percent of baby boomers and 91 percent of elderly Americans believe that communism was and still is a problem in the world today, while just 55 percent of millennials say the same.
Just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall. Close to half (45 percent) of Americans aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a socialist, and 21 percent would vote for a communist.
A puzzling note and small bits of rope had been left at the scene. The note, which had an image of a clothes hanger and a tank top, appeared to suggest the word ‘hangman.’
A statue of the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has stood tall in a park off of Moscow’s Klimashkina Street for decades, but this week it came down to earth with a crash.
Worse still, the statue’s head apparently came off in the process. The communist revolutionary, still widely admired in Russia, was beheaded in the very Russian city he had restored as the capital almost 100 years ago.
It’s a somewhat mysterious story. According to reports in the Russian media, the statue was discovered on the ground early Tuesday. At first, utility workers suggested that the statue had been brought down by winds. However, weather reports for Moscow showed that the wind that day was hardly gusty enough to knock down a heavy statue.
More intriguing still, Life.ru reported that a puzzling note and small bits of rope had been left at the scene. The note, which had an image of a clothes hanger and a tank top, appeared to suggest the word “hangman.”
Like life, markets will generally find a way to survive. Socialism can harass and suppress what it calls capitalism—now, often just by calling it capitalism—but it can never replace it.
James Bowman writes: They’re demonstrating in Seattle about “capitalism” again. Young people, presumably of the hip variety now famed for supporting Bernie Sanders, rioted there on May Day.
“You’ve got to wonder how, for all those centuries, nobody realized that they were either oppressed or oppressing merely by marrying and having children—just as it never occurred to either employers or employees that they were part of a system, whether called ‘capitalism’ or something else, until patently self-interested socialist theorists came up with a rival system that, they said, would solve all their problems.”
The Seattle Timesreported nine arrests and several injuries to police, including one officer who was bitten. Meanwhile, James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, noting that a recent survey found 51 percent of young people, aged 18–29 described themselves as not supporting capitalism, wondered if the c-word “really isn’t the right word for the free enterprise system, the deep magic that has made America the richest, most powerful nation on Earth.”
“The system should rather be called ‘technological and institutional betterment at a frenetic pace, tested by unforced exchange among all the parties involved.’ Or ‘fantastically successful liberalism, in the old European sense, applied to trade and politics, as it was applied also to science and music and painting in literature.’ The simplest version is ‘trade-tested progress.’”
I hope it will not sound immodest in me if I mention that this is what I have been saying for years. As I wrote back in June of 2002, “capitalism” is simply the socialist word for life. You can tell because even under socialism there is still capitalism, in the form of the black market.
Like life, markets will generally find a way to survive. Socialism can harass and suppress what it calls capitalism—now, often just by calling it capitalism—but it can never replace it.
Sen. Bernie Sanders proudly proclaims himself a “democratic socialist,” and many in the Democratic Party seem to have no problem with it and, in fact, are embracing him and his ideas. Listening to all of this, one gets the feeling that for a significant portion of the population, history began in the year 2000. Where have been the great socialist success stories? Much of the world’s population greatly suffered under various forms of socialism in the 20th century. Not one of the various socialist models proved to be a success.
There was the communist variety of socialism in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Cambodia, which resulted in tens of millions of deaths from starvation and from the gulags. There was the national socialist (Nazi) model in Germany and Italy, which, like the communist version, resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Somewhat more benign, but still coercive, versions of socialism were prevalent in India, many places in Africa and South America, and all resulted in economic stagnation — because productive effort was separated from reward. The two most socialist countries today are North Korea and Cuba — both being very poor and repressive. The average Cuban government worker has a monthly wage which is less than what the average American worker makes in an hour.
It is true that every country has some socialist enterprises at the federal, state or local levels. For instance, the U.S. government owns Amtrak, and the city of Flint, Mich., owns its water department. Arguably, both would do much better in private hands. France has many more government-owned enterprises than neighboring Switzerland. Even France is still basically a capitalistic free-market economy [Meh. – LAL] — but with far less freedom and prosperity than Switzerland.
Why does socialism always fail, and why will Bernie Sanders‘ schemes and, to a lesser extent, Hillary’s Obamacare version, also fail? Under a capitalist free-market system, the business person seeks to produce goods and services that the consumer wants at the lowest possible cost — which includes having the smallest and most productive work force possible — in order to maximize profits. Under the socialist model, the political leaders decide what the consumers should have (which is often very different from what they want or need). Productivity and innovation are given short shift, needless workers are hired and few are fired. In almost all cases, costs soon outrun revenues, and the losses are made up by ever higher taxes or more debt — eventually causing an economic collapse.
Whittaker Chambers’ life was a witness to the horrors and reality of communism. Witness remains one of the most (if not the most) erudite, philosophical, and powerful repudiation of communism ever printed. The story itself is as gripping as any espionage novel or legal drama and it stayed on top of the bestseller list for over a year and continues to be reprinted.
From the experiences of his life and the copious amount of books he devoured, Chambers became a deeply thoughtful and complex man—a man who understood the flaws in both communism and the West’s weakness against it. Chambers brought the struggle to the forefront of the American consciousness, and became one of the key figures in the intellectuals’ battle for hearts and minds. He stood as a witness of the horrors of communism in both ideology and practice.
In the Foreword to his masterpiece Witness, Chambers writes a letter to his children about the book he is going to publish. With a soul-searching candor, he anticipates his children—and indeed every reader—asking him: “Why, then, do men become Communists? How did it happen that you, our gentle and loved father, were once a Communist?” His answer is short but powerful: “Communism makes some profound appeal to the human mind.” Chambers’ life was proof that his assertion was correct.
“Chambers, after a gradual and sober consideration of what communism really was, broke with the underground, the Party, and the whole notion of Marxism, and fled. His wife and children in tow, he moved to a small cottage in Florida, where he stayed up all night, writing and keeping watch for the agents he knew would try and find him.”
He was born in 1901 and grew up in Long Island in a lower-middle class family. By his own account, his family had their share of problems, and his childhood was anything but idyllic. His father would spend long absences from home, eventually leaving altogether, and his mentally ill grandmother tried several times to murder the family in their sleep.
“Shorn of traditional morality, Chambers noted a devious nature in the way the communist faithful conducted themselves. Publicly, they advocated “peace” and “social justice” but privately believed modern man couldn’t be reached through the mind or soul – only through bombs and submission.”
In his autobiography Witness, he recalls that he didn’t have any friends in school, and that from a young age he was enamored with books and languages. His grades were always higher than those around him, and eventually they earned him matriculation into Columbia University where he studied under such luminaries as Professor Mark Van Doren. In Cold Friday, a collection of letters and a second autobiographical manuscript posthumously published, he wrote, “Politically, I was a conservative when I entered Columbia…I was inclined to believe that Calvin Coolidge might be another Abraham Lincoln.” He was also religious, believing “the source of all authority is God” and that “From Him, the line of authority passes to the authority of the State.”
During his time at Columbia, he began to soak in the fashionable intellectual thought that the world was in a crisis and World War I was a symptom of the crisis that would compel humanity to either work together or destroy each other. Van Doren and his colleagues would postulate that industrialization had brought the world to the final crisis and Chambers recalls that by the end of his sophomore year his brain was a “hodgepodge…a spiral nebula which caught up the whirling dust and fragments of literary and philosophical ideas….” He found mockery to be the weapon of choice used by his professors to tear down everything in the way of their perceived world crisis, and suddenly the traditions and beliefs Chambers once held were steadily eroded away.
“Even the difference between communism and socialism was ‘so slight it would be difficult to slip a razor blade between them.’ When Chambers brought this up after his break with communism to a group of communist sympathizers and fellow travelers, they reacted violently and refused to believe it.”
Even more destructive to him, however, was the realization that nothing was offered as a replacement to the sudden vacuum. He was introduced to, and eventually persuaded that, communism was the only solution to the world crisis. As he wrote, “I became convinced that the intelligence and power of the West were no longer able to solve the continuing crisis.” He left Columbia, believing it could no longer teach him anything, and began to be more active in the Communist Party.
“Gone were the traditions and rules of the old morality and politics, and in their place was the simpler idea that God does not exist and therefore man was free to build the world as he saw fit. Communism loudly proclaimed to be the new destiny of humanity unencumbered by the false traditions of the past.”
When his younger brother committed suicide not long after, he resolutely declared that he would live to change the world and stop the crisis that caused so much pain and death. He became a committed Communist Party member and began to write for the Daily Worker and The New Masses.
Chambers’ seduction by Marxism and eventual embrace of communism is instructive. He recognized the world was in turmoil (not knowing the cause of it— instead, he found a solution in the misguided Marxist theory of history) and tried to do something about it. He wrote in Witness, “The Communist vision is the vision of man without God.” Gone were the traditions and rules of the old morality and politics, and in their place was the simpler idea that God does not exist and therefore man was free to build the world as he saw fit.
Communism loudly proclaimed to be the new destiny of humanity unencumbered by the false traditions of the past. Marx, and more especially Lenin, taught Chambers that the world was dying and that mankind had reached its historical limit. Only by fighting the world and everything it stood for until “his dying breath” could mankind finally do something to fix the world. This is how he interpreted Leninism, and this is why, as Sam Tanenhaus put it in his book Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, “he had rededicated himself with a soldier’s faith” to serving the Soviet Union which embodied the triumphant communist struggle.
While working as a writer for The New Masses, Chambers was approached by the Communist Party, who asked him to go underground and become a handler for several spy rings already established in Washington, DC. He accepted the position and began to work with other high-powered communists, including up-and-coming State Department star Alger Hiss. He grew especially close to Hiss, which set the stage for one of the most tragic and divisive trials in American history. While he worked closely with them, he began to understand what animated communists and how they would stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Read the rest of this entry »
Diverse opinions have a place in our country. Don’t punish those who hold them.
For USAToday, Jonah Goldberg writes: In 1920, a bond salesman walked into Joseph Yenowsky’s Waterbury, Conn., clothing store. Yenowsky was a tough sell. During their lengthy conversation, Yenowsky told the salesman he thought Vladimir Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik leader, was “the brainiest man” in the world. The bond salesmen turned Yenowsky in to the police for sedition. Yenowsky got six months in jail under a Connecticut statute.
This was hardly an isolated incident during the so-called “Red Scare” of the World War I era. In Syracuse, three activists were arrested for circulating fliers protesting the conditions of America’s political prisoners. The subversive flier quoted the First Amendment. They got 18 months in prison. In Washington, D.C., a man refused to stand for the The Star-Spangled Banner. A furious sailor shot the “disloyal” man three times in the back. When the man fell, the Washington Post reported, “the crowd burst into cheering and handclapping.” An Indiana jury deliberated for two minutes before it acquitted a man of murdering an immigrant who’d said “To Hell with the United States.”
A number of conditions were necessary for this totalitarian fever that gripped America. The law — state, federal and local — was arrayed against any free speech deemed “un-American.” But so were the people. There was a broad consensus that there was a real threat posed to the U.S. from abroad – and from within – in the form of Bolsheviks, anarchists and disloyal immigrants or “hyphenated Americans” (e.g. German-Americans or Irish-Americans). Woodrow Wilson’s administration fueled this climate. Wilson himself proclaimed that “Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”
It’s valuable to remember all of this for several reasons. First, it’s good to know such things can happen here (“even” under the leadership of liberals and progressives). Also, it’s good to understand that things have been worse than they are today. There’s a tendency to think our government has only become more intrusive and censorial than ever. That’s simply untrue. Last, we should be wary of thought-crime panics. Read the rest of this entry »
Tearing Down Lenin’s Statue in Kiev: Protests in Ukraine’s capital, which have grown steadily for weeks, reached new heights on Sunday when demonstrators toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin.
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Vladimir Lenin‘s (former) monument in Borzna, UkraineУкраїнська: Пам’ятник В.І.Леніну в центрі Борзни, Україна Русский: Памятник В.И.Ленину в центре города Борзна, Украина
KIEV, Ukraine —David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew E. Kramer report: Protesters in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, toppled the city’s main statue of Lenin on Sunday and then pounded it into chips with a sledgehammer as a crowd chanted and cheered. The destruction of the statue was a cathartic moment in the biggest day of demonstrations so far against President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s turn away from Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians filled the streets of Kiev on Sunday, first to hear speeches and music and then to fan out and erect barricades in the district where government institutions have their headquarters.
Carrying blue-and-yellow Ukrainian and European Union flags, the teeming crowd filled Independence Square, where protests have steadily gained momentum since Mr. Yanukovich refused on Nov. 21 to sign trade and political agreements with the European Union. The square has been transformed by a vast and growing tent encampment, and demonstrators have occupied City Hall and other public buildings nearby. Thousands more people gathered in other cities across the country.
“Resignation! Resignation!” people in the Kiev crowd chanted on Sunday, demanding that Mr. Yanukovich and the government led by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov leave office.
With the police nowhere to be seen in the city center, protesters in Bessarabia Square toppled the Lenin statue using steel cables and cranks as a crowd gathered to watch. “People were waiting for this for decades,” said one man in the crowd, Leon Belokur. “Now it’s happened.”
He started out as an editor and went on to excise people–indeed, whole peoples–from history.
Holly Case writes: Joseph Djugashvili was a student in a theological seminary when he came across the writings of Vladimir Lenin and decided to become a Bolshevik revolutionary. Thereafter, in addition to blowing things up, robbing banks, and organizing strikes, he became an editor, working at two papers in Baku and then as editor of the first Bolshevik daily, Pravda. Lenin admired Djugashvili’s editing; Djugashvili admired Lenin, and rejected 47 articles he submitted to Pravda.
Djugashvili (later Stalin) was a ruthless person, and a serious editor. The Soviet historian Mikhail Gefter has written about coming across a manuscript on the German statesman Otto von Bismarck edited by Stalin’s own hand. The marked-up copy dated from 1940, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany. Knowing that Stalin had been responsible for so much death and suffering, Gefter searched “for traces of those horrible things in the book.” He found none. What he saw instead was “reasonable editing, pointing to quite a good taste and an understanding of history.” Read the rest of this entry »