Victims of Communism Day—2023
NOTE: This post largely reprints last year’s Victims of Communism Day post, with some modifications.
Today is May Day. Since 2007, I have advocated using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this proposal (which was not my original idea) in my very first post on the subject:
May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their [authority]. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….
Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events promote awareness of the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government domination of the economy and civil society.
While communism is most closely associated with Russia, where the first communist regime was established, it had comparably horrendous effects in other nations around the world. The highest death toll for a communist regime was not in Russia, but in China. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward was likely the biggest episode of mass murder in the entire history of the world.
November 7, 2017 was the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, which led to the establishment of the first-ever communist regime. On that day, I put up a post outlining some of the lessons to be learned from a century of experience with communism. The post explains why the lion’s share of the horrors perpetrated by communist regimes were inherent flaws of the system. For the most part, they cannot be ascribed to circumstantial factors, such as flawed individual leaders, peculiarities of Russian and Chinese culture, or the absence of democracy. Some of these other factors, especially the last, probably did make the situation worse than it might have been otherwise. But, for reasons I explained in the same post, some form of dictatorship or oligarchy is virtually inevitabl