Still in Lansing working on education issues this week, and I found myself getting into it with several other teachers on May Day (May 1) over the issue of ‘how bad was communism really’. In education, there are a lot of facets to this discussion, as many teachers believe that workers are supreme, that everybody should be unionized, that the workers should control the government, that there never were any communists in America, that businesses are wrong, that capitalism has failed, and that communist nations like China are the wave of the future. In reply, I point out that communist Stalin likely murdered 20 to 40 million people in the Soviet Union and that Mao likely murdered 40-80 million individuals. They shrug these facts off like they don’t matter- but they really do.
Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy wrote a post several years ago that I think is important to consider whenever anyone discusses communism. It is called Why the Neglect of Communist Crimes Matters. Here are some of the most important parts:
….In my last post, I discussed the neglect of communist atrocities. Although communist governments murdered and repressed even more people than the Nazis, their crimes have gotten only a tiny fraction of the public awareness and recognition extend to the latter. But does that neglect matter? After all, the major communist regimes have either collapsed (the USSR and its Eastern European satellites) or evolved into much less oppressive forms (China and Vietnam). But there are several reasons why increasing recognition of communist crimes should be an important priority: providing justice for victims and perpetrators; alleviating the oppression of the unreformed communist governments that still exist today; and ensuring that comparable atrocities are never repeated….
I. Justice for Victims and Perpetrators.
…Millions of victims of communism are still alive today. They include former Gulag inmates, forced laborers, dissidents subjected to political repression, ethnic minorities such as the Crimean Tatars who were forcibly deported, and many others. With a few exceptions (principally in Eastern Europe), little has been done to recognize the suffering of these victims or to compensate them for the wrongs they suffered….
II. Focusing Attention on Oppression in the Remaining Unreformed Communist Governments
…However, at least two unreformed communist governments still remain: Cuba and North Korea. North Korea, in particular, is probably the world’s most oppressive regime, having starved to death at least 1 million of its own people as recently as the 1990s. It also maintains a system of Gulags and secret police that is, if anything, even more draconian than that of the USSR under Stalin. Despite the good press it enjoys among some Western leftists, Castro’s Cuba is only modestly better. Since coming to power in 1959, Castro’s government has executed some 1.5% of Cuba’s population for “political” dissent, while incarcerating another 5.6% in concentration camps. These figures would be even higher if not for the proximity of the United States, which enabled a large part of Cuba’s population to flee. Nonlethal political repression in Cuba is less severe than in North Korea, but still worse than in all but a tiny handful of other governments.
Despite these atrocities, Cuba and North Korea receive only a tiny fraction of the attention that human rights groups and the international community pay to much lesser offenses committed by democratic governments or non-leftist dictatorships….
III. Never Again.
…The extensive attention paid to the Nazi crimes has helped sensitize people to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and extreme nationalism. These evils have not disappeared. But at least the need to oppose them is widely accepted throughout the democratic world. A similar focus on communist crimes might increase recognition of the dangers created by ideologies based on class warfare and socialism (by which I mean full-blown state domination of the economy, not merely government regulation of private industry or a welfare state)….
In classrooms around the nation, we teach our children that fascism is evil (although we never really explain what fascism is so that doesn’t help the kids too much from fighting against it in the future). But we don’t teach the same thing about communism- in fact, many teachers serve as apologists for communism and point to its good qualities while ignoring the horrors it inflicted on generations of people. This is wrong, and no one should ever ignore or shrug off these facts when discussing communism, its beliefs, its agenda, or its results.
Original Post: A Conservative Teacher