Yesterday was May Day, a date which some people—mostly socialists and communists—consider to be an observance of International Workers’ Day. Others believe instead of celebrating labor the day should be considered an international observance of Victims of Communism Day.
Law professor Ilya Somin explains why we should use the day to commemorate the victims of communist totalitarian tyranny:
While the influence of communist ideology has declined since its mid-twentieth century peak, it is far from dead. Largely unreformed communist regimes remain in power in Cuba and North Korea. In Venezuela, the Marxist government’s socialist policies have resulted in political repression, the starvation of children, and a massive refugee crisis—the biggest in the history of the Western hemisphere. The regime continues to hold on to power by means of repression, despite growing international and domestic opposition. The struggle for freedom in Venezuela is continues even as I write these words.
In Russia, the authoritarian regime of former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin has embarked on a wholesale whitewashing of communism’s historical record. In China, the Communist Party remains in power (albeit after having abandoned many of its previous socialist economic polcies), and has recently become less tolerant of criticism of the mass murders of the Mao era (part of a more general turn towards greater repression). In the West, only a small minority advocates communism. But many more tend to downplay its evils, or are simply unaware of them.
This isn’t just about remembering the past, though; it’s also about ensuring it doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately, surveys and polls taken by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) consistently show that Americans are not being educated about communism. They find that 26 percent of Americans have never been taught about communism in any education or professional setting. Only half of our fellow citizens can identify Cuba as a communist country, and 41 percent of Americans do not consider North Korea communist. (Half of Americans, the poll finds, associate socialism with welfare states in Western Europe and Scandinavia—not Marxist dictatorships.)
More than half of millennials (52 percent) say they would prefer to live in a socialist (46 percent) or communist (6 percent) country than a capitalist (40 percent) one.
“We can talk about different policy ideas as we debate our future, but when we talk about socialism we need to know what it means,” says VOC’s executive director Marion Smith. “We can talk about a high-tax welfare state, expanded healthcare system, and even universal basic income. But intellectually and historically that’s not the meaning of socialism.”
“As Marx and other leading socialists have made clear, socialism denies the concept of individual rights, rejects transcendent truth, and favors a collective understanding of justice,” adds Smith. “This system also now has a past record of practice in places like the USSR, China, Cuba, North Korea, and now Venezuela, among dozens of others around the world since 1917. Marxist governments have caused enormous political, economic, and humanitarian catastrophes—some of which continue today.”
Image source: Memorial to the victims of Communism, Prague (Wikimedia)