The Trump administration marked this week's 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.
The irony of the series' title, "Red Century," seems lost on the Times's editors. The 20th century was "red" indeed — red with the blood of communism's victims. The death toll of communism, cited in "The Black Book of Communism," is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.
Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: "Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper." She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he "reversed much of the Soviet Union's early progress in women's rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family." Yes, that was Stalin's crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.
In "How Did Women Fare in China's Communist Revolution?" Helen Gao recalls her grandmother "talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside" and writes that "for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big." Mao's revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China's brutal "One Child" policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.
In "Lenin's Eco-Warriors," Yale lecturer Fred Strebeigh writes that Lenin was "a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping" who turned Russia into "a global pioneer in conservation." He fails to mention that Lenin was also a mass murderer who executed more of his political opponents in the first four months of his rule than the czars had in the entire previous century. In one telegram, reproduced in "The Black Book of Communism," Lenin orders the Cheka (a predecessor of the KGB) to "Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers." (The telegram concludes with an eerie "P.S. Find tougher people.") Maybe he was camping when he wrote it.
Berkeley professor Yuri Slezkine explains "How to Parent Like a Bolshevik," noting that "At home, the children of the Bolsheviks read what they called the 'treasures of world literature,' with an emphasis on the Golden Ages analogous to their own" and that "Soviet readers were expected to learn from Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes." He does not say whether they were also expected to learn from Orwell. In another piece, "Love Lives of Bolsheviks," he notes that for Russia's Communists, "revolution was inseparable from love." Except of course, when the KGB arrived in the middle of the night to separate them from their loves by hauling them off to the gulag.
While all of the articles are not this bad, the series goes on. Vivian Gornick writes about "When Communism Inspired Americans." Palash Krishna Mehrotra writes how "arrival of a Soviet Book Exhibition" made his Indian town "come alive." John T. Sidel mourns the lost "promise of Muslim Communism."
The Times's series is in the tradition set by former Times Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty, who wrote glowing reports on Stalin's rule that included repeated denials of the mass starvation from Stalin's engineered famine in Ukraine. "Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda," he wrote, while millions starved to death. And besides, "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."
Now, after a century of slaughter, the Times is back at it, portraying communism as a noble cause, the murders carried out in its name simply aberrations. Never mind that there is not a single example of a country where communism was tried and it did not result in terror, purges, massacres, starvation and totalitarian misery. Yet take any of the opinion pieces above and replace the word "Communist" with "Nazi," and then try to imagine that anyone would publish them, other than perhaps the Daily Stormer.
Sadly, this twisted view of communism is being passed on to the next generation. A recent poll by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that just 36 percent of American millennials have a "very unfavorable" view of communism — the only American generation where this number is less than a majority. Worse still, 32 percent believe that more people were killed under George W. Bush than under Joseph Stalin. The ignorance is stunning. The first post-Cold War generation has been raised almost completely unaware of the evils of communism.
Czech writer Milan Kundera once described the struggle against communism as "the struggle of memory against forgetting." Communist regimes did more than kill their victims; they sought to erase their memory and humanity. Shamefully, communism's crimes against memory and humanity are still being whitewashed by the New York Times.