NOTE: This post was largely inspired by the November 7, 2012 post.
Since 2007, May 1 has been an international Victims of Communism Day. While the May 1, 2007 date was not mine, it is something I advocated. However, I spent probably more time and effort on this topic than any other commentator. Because communists celebrated their ideology on May 1, it seems like the ideal date. Also, it has a connection with communism worldwide, and not to any specific communist regime such as the USSR, I think May 1 would be the best. But I’ve always recognized the possibility of re-designing Victims of Communism Day to a different date if there is a wider consensus. The good should never be feared.
My May 1, 2019 post explains why November 7 is the most popular alternative. It has also gained considerable popularity in recent years. This choice, unlike May 1, is not likely to be challenged by trade unionists or other adherents of pre-Communist May 1. Although I am not convinced by their substantive objections, pragmatic considerations indicate that an alternate date might be worth looking at, provided it is possible to sidestep objections, and attract wider support.
This is why I’m doing, for the third consecutive year, a Victims of Communism Day posting on November 7. I also did one on May 1. If November 7 attracts more support, then I might switch to this date. For now, however, I will continue to focus exclusively on May 1. If that happens, I may switch to May 1 to do annual posts or to another possibility if there is a larger consensus for a different date than November 7 or May 1.
It is growing in popularity and is also a good alternative. November 7 marks the anniversary of Russia’s first communist government. The Soviet model was an inspiration for all communist regimes that followed, with many of the policies and institutions they adopted.
It did not suffer the greatest death toll among communist regimes. This dubious distinction goes to the People’s Republic of China. In terms of the totalitarian control they have over every day life, North Korea is likely to surpass the USSR. Although it is difficult to quantify, Pol Pot’s Cambodia might have outperformed the USSR in the extent of cruelty and torture that was used by its regime. However, all these tyrannies and others were at most in part variations of the Soviet Soviet.
It is now possible to explain why the November 7 date should be chosen. These are some excerpts from last year’s Victims Of Communism Day May 1 post.
The Black Book of CommunismThe total victims of communist regimes is estimated at between 80 and 100 million, more than all the tyrannies of the 20th century. It is fitting that we have Holocaust Memorial Day. The Holocaust Memorial Day is also appropriate.
Comparative neglect of the communist crimes comes with serious consequences. Victims Day for Communism can fulfill two purposes. It serves to both commemorate the victims and reduce the chance of such atrocities happening again. As Holocaust Memorial Day, other events, such as those celebrating anti-Semitism and racism raise awareness, Victims Of Communism Day may increase public awareness about the dangers left-wing totalitarianism and government dominance of civil and economic life.
While communism can be most easily associated with Russia where it was first established, other nations have suffered equally terrible effects. China was the country with the highest number of deaths from a communist government. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward is likely to be the most horrific episode of mass killing in all of history.
On November 7, 2017, the Bolsheviks took power in Russia and established the first communist government. A century of communism experience led me to write a blog post on that anniversary. This post describes why communist regimes committed most of the worst crimes. They cannot, for the most part be attributed to any circumstantial factors such as flawed leaders or peculiarities in Russian and Chinese culture. These factors probably made the situation more difficult than it would have been without them. However, I have already explained that oligarchy and dictatorship in socialist economies, where the government is in control of all or most of the economy, are probably inevitable.
While communist ideology is no longer as popular today, its influence in the 20th century has been declining significantly. Cuban and North Korean communist regimes are still in power, although they have been heavily reformated. 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.
Russia has seen the authoritarian Russian regime led by former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin begin a massive whitewashing and rewriting of history of communism. China: The Communist Party, although it has abandoned many of their socialist economic policies in the past, is still at power. It also seems less tolerable of critics of mass murders committed during the Mao Era (part of a wider trend toward greater repression).
Some socialists in Western countries have tried to erase the past of communism. A few people even attribute significant achievements to the Soviet system. Cathy Young offers a great critique of Soviet “nostalgia,” in a recent article. There are reasonsArticle.
Summa sum: We need Victims of Communism Day. This is because we haven’t given adequate recognition to victims of today’s most violent ideology, nor done enough to learn from this terrible period in history. In addition, that ideology, and variants thereof, still have a substantial number of adherents in many parts of the world, and still retains considerable intellectual respectability even among many who do not actually endorse it. This day of commemoration can be seen as an effective bulwark against fascism’s return.