Remembering Communism

Next time you visit Washington, D.C. – a place I don’t imagine I’ll ever see again, but your mileage may vary – visit the Victims of Communism Museum. I haven’t seen it myself, as my last visit to the national capital was in 1988, but Colin Dueck has, and he has some observations.

As you enter the building, a placard declares the startling human cost of world communism: Over 100 million people have been killed since Lenin took power. Josef Stalin supposedly said that whereas one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. He would certainly know. The mind cannot comprehend such mass misery; it glazes over. The VOC Museum’s curators overcome this problem by highlighting individual human tragedies. Visitors are shown in the most vivid way possible—through recordings, written testimonies, and more—that the casualties of communism were individual human beings.

Women in Beijing's civilian militia wear red mini-skirts and carry submachine guns as they march past Chinese President Jiang Zemin during the...
BEIJING, CHINA: Women in Beijing’s civilian militia wear red mini-skirts and carry submachine guns as they march past Chinese President Jiang Zemin during the massive 01 October 1999 national day parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square celebrating the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. China put on a grand patriotic extravaganza celebrating 50 years of communist rule which was attended by the country’s top leaders and around 500,000 hand-picked soldiers, students and “model citizens”. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Stephen SHAVER (Photo credit should read STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP via Getty Images)

If one were to take away only one lesson from the history of international communism, it should be that – communism resulted in far more pain, suffering and death than anything else in human history, more than war, more than the Black Death, even more than COVID-19.

But here’s the interesting bit:

The museum’s first gallery focuses on the Bolshevik takeover of Russia. Lenin was the first to pioneer the model of one-party totalitarian dictatorship. As the VOC Museum reminds us, some of that model’s features included:

  • the creation of a comprehensive police state, with security forces empowered to kill, torture, terrorize, and toss whole categories of innocent people into prison
  • the assertion of the Communist Party’s monopolistic authority over private life
  • mass executions, deportations, and forced starvation
  • the attempted destruction of civil society including any traditional, free, or independent source of authority apart from the new regime
  • the existence of a sweeping utopian ideology to justify and encourage all the above

Sound familiar?

The Federal government is already working on the police state aspect, with Federal law enforcement increasingly partisan and the principle of equal treatment under the law effectively dead.  Government is becoming, every day, increasingly overbearing. We aren’t quite to the third aspect yet, but there is already talk about seizing control of the nation’s farms and shutting them down in the name of ‘climate change.’ How long can it be before some government apparatchik tries to sell the final two, ‘for our own good,’ of course.

We ignore our history at our peril. In the United States, right now, people are tearing down statues and altering classic American literature to be less ‘offensive.’  It’s a dangerous cycle we’re entering.  But the existence of monuments to human stupidity, like the Victims of Communism Museum, give us some cause for hope, that enough of the populace can be taught – still – and hopefully enough to forestall disaster.

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