NOTE: The following post is a reprint of last year’s Victims of Communism Day posting, but with some modifications.
May Day is today. Since 2007, this day has been advocated as an International Victims of Communism Day. In my first blog post, I explained the reasoning behind this idea (which wasn’t my initial idea).
May Day started as a holiday dedicated to socialists, labor union activists and not communists. However, over time the Soviet Union took the date and began to use it as propaganda for its communist counterparts. [authority]. Instead, I propose that it be used as an opportunity to remember the millions of victims of those dictatorships. This is what the authorities say. Black Book of CommunismIt is believed that the death toll could be between 80-100 million. This figure exceeds all of the other twentieth century tyrannies. A Holocaust Memorial Day is appropriate. The Holocaust Memorial Day is also appropriate. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….
Comparative neglect of the communist crimes comes with serious consequences. Victims Day of Communism Day serves two functions: it can be used to commemorate millions of victims and decrease the possibility that atrocities like these will occur again. Similar to Holocaust Memorial Day or similar events that raise awareness of dangers like racism, antisemitism, radical nationalism and racism, Victims Day for Communism Day could increase awareness of dangers left-wing totalitarianism and government control over the economy and civil societies.
Although communism has been most strongly associated with Russia (where the first communist government was created), it also had devastating effects on other countries around the globe. 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 are responsible for the majority of human rights violations. These horrors cannot usually be explained by circumstantial causes, like flawed individuals or Chinese cultural peculiarities, the lack of democracy, and can only be traced to the system itself. These latter factors likely made things worse than they might have otherwise been. For reasons that I also explained, a socialist economy in which all or almost all the economic activity is controlled by the government will likely lead to some kind of dictatorship or Oligarchy.
Although communist ideology’s influence has diminished since the mid-twentieth Century peak, they are still very influential. In Cuba and North Korea, communist regimes that have not been reformed are still in place. Venezuela has seen the Marxist government’s socialist policies result in political repression, starvation and an enormous refugee crisis. This is one of the worst in Western hemisphere history. Despite growing domestic and international opposition, the regime is able to retain power through repression.
Russia’s authoritarian government under former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin began a massive whitewashing campaign to erase communism from history. Putin’s unjustified and violent invasion of Ukraine was probably more a result of Russian nationalist ideology rather than communism. However, it’s fueled by Putin’s long-held belief in the USSR’s power and glory and the desire to recapture that “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century.”
China’s Communist Party is still in power, despite having abandoned many of its socialist economic policies. It has also become more tolerant towards criticism of mass killings during the Mao era. This part of an overall trend toward greater repression.
Repressive Chinese policies played an important role in the initial attempts of China to hide the coronavirus epidemic. This probably prevented any possibility of stopping it from becoming a pandemic. Many similarities exist between the totalitarian communist legacy and the brutal mass lockdowns caused by government policies of “zero Covid”.
China’s vile repression of Uighur people is the most horrific of its atrocities. This seems to be a reminiscence of policies that Mao and Stalin used, but it still hasn’t. – has reached the stage of actual mass shooting. However, imprisoning more than 1 million prisoners in horrendous concentration camps is not enough.
In 2012, I discussed why May 1, the Victims of Communism Day, is better than any of the other dates, like November 7 (the anniversary of Russia’s Bolshevik seize of power) or August 23 (the anniversary of Germany’s Nazi-Soviet Pact). I discussed various objections to May Day. These included claims that May Day should be reserved for celebrations of labor unions.
However, my 2013 Victims of Communism Day blog explains that I’d be open to supporting another date if it proves easier to find a consensus. If there is a choice, November 7 would be my preference. This date marks not only the establishment of the very initial communist regime, but also the historical significance of atrocities committed by communists in other countries. Three states legislatures declared November 7, Victims of Communism Memorial Day. Trump made similar declarations in 2017, and 2018, but he didn’t have the power to declare it permanent by executive action.
This approach will continue to be popularized, so I’d be open to switching to November 7 if it does. May 1 might still be more fitting. Therefore, November 7 is the day I commemorate communist victims.
I’m also willing to endorse any date which could gain broad support. However, until then, May 1 at the Volokh Conspiracy will be Victims Of Communism Day.