Remembering the victims of communism
May 1st -- May Day -- was originally set aside for labor unions, and eventually socialists, to celebrate their places in the world. That celebration rapidly became a sort of communist New Year, appropriated by Soviet dictators and their fellow autocrats to show off their military power to the world.
As a counter to those images, and to the monsters who waved from atop Lenin's tomb, a number of people in the West have set aside May Day as a time to remember communism's 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….
Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. 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 similar events 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 left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government control of the economy and civil society.
Regrettably, public understanding of just how murderous the communist regimes were is lacking. According to a 2016 survey from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation:
Basic Knowledge of Communism is Lacking:
· Approximately one in four Americans (26%) and one-third of millennials (32%) believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin;
· Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) of all Americans and nearly 6 in 10 (59%) of Generation Z (ages 16-20) falsely believe that more people were killed under Hitler than Stalin;
· A vast majority (75%) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes (more than 100 million);
· Many millennials are unfamiliar with communist leaders – Mao: 42%; Guevara: 40%; Stalin: 18%; Lenin: 33%; Putin 18%
· Of those millennials familiar with Vladimir Lenin, 25% have a favorable view of him
Younger Americans Have Sharply Different Views of Communism and Socialism than Older Americans:
· Roughly half of millennials (55%) believe Communism was and still is a problem – compared with 80% of Baby Boomers and 91% of elderly Americans;
· While 57% of all Americans have a “very unfavorable” view of communism, that view is shared by just 37% of millennials and 38% of Generation Z;
· 64% of Americans agreed with the classic Karl Marx statement that underpins Marxist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”;
· Nearly half of Generation Z (45%) say they would vote for a socialist; 1 in 5 (21%) say they would vote for a communist;
Turning Against Capitalism – the “Bernie Sanders Bounce”:
· A majority of millennials (53%) believe America’s economic system works against them;
· 4 in 10 Americans call for a “complete change” of America’s economic system to ensure highest earners pay their fair share;
· 64% of elderly Americans (age 65+) held a favorable view of capitalism, versus 42% of millennials;
· Younger Americans were far less likely to agree with ideas of capitalist Milton Friedman (Gen Z: 55%; millennials: 58%) than they were Bernie Sanders (Gen Z: 71%; millennials: 71%).
We can blame a lack of education. We can even blame some educators, who never really gave up on the communist agenda.
But when we point the finger of blame, three fingers point back at us. We -- parents, grandparents -- have a responsibility to make our kids aware of the horrors communism inflicted on its captive populations. It was not an ideology seeking equality or fraternity. It was bathed in blood and fed on terror. Still, its greatest monsters beckon from beyond the grave to new generations of followers.
Remember the tens of millions slaughtered in communism's name today. And do what you can to ensure the evil that was never rises to power again.