Monday, November 9, 2009

Mental Mafia

The great Paul Hollander analyzes why the victims of of Communism's mass murder spree are forgotten while the Nazi's victims are rarely absent from the cultural dialogue (unless Israel is the topic of discussion, of course): Remembering Communism

The different moral responses to Nazism and communism in the West can be interpreted as a result of the perception of communist atrocities as byproducts of noble intentions that were hard to realize without resorting to harsh measures. The Nazi outrages, by contrast, are perceived as unmitigated evil lacking in any lofty justification and unsupported by an attractive ideology. There is far more physical evidence and information about the Nazi mass murders, and Nazi methods of extermination were highly premeditated and repugnant, whereas many victims of communist systems died because of lethal living conditions in their places of detention. Most of the victims of communism were not killed by advanced industrial techniques.

Communist systems ranged from tiny Albania to gigantic China; from highly industrialized Eastern European countries to underdeveloped African ones. While divergent in many respects, they had in common a reliance on Marxism-Leninism as their source of legitimacy, the one-party system, control over the economy and media, and the presence of a huge political police force. They also shared an ostensible commitment to creating a morally superior human being -- the socialist or communist man.

Political violence under communism had an idealistic origin and a cleansing, purifying objective. Those persecuted and killed were defined as politically and morally corrupt and a danger to a superior social system. The Marxist doctrine of class struggle provided ideological support for mass murder. People were persecuted not for what they did but for belonging to social categories that made them suspect.
Hollander might have also mentioned that Communists have benefited from progressive omerta, which has consistently downplayed the crimes of the Left. From the Twenties and Thirties when the International Left saw the Soviet Union as the vanguard of the future to the Forties when "Uncle Joe" Stalin was our ally to the Fifties when anti-anti-Communism was the rage to the Sixties when Ho Chi Minh and Chairman Mao were agrarian reformers whose posters adorned the hippest dorm rooms and so on, the Left has seen the communists as purer exemplars of their preferred social arrangements.

The Left loves to point to the approving noises that Charles Linberg made about pre-war Nazi Germany, but we have allowed ourselves to forget the many progressives who actively supported Stalinist Russia, even at the height of the Terror. Prominent New Dealers like Alger Hiss spied on behalf of the Soviets. FDR never failed to take Stalin at his word. Henry Wallace - vice president during FDR's third term - visited the heart of the Gulag and pronounced everything hunky dory, and so it went, and so it goes. Barbara Kingsolver's new novel is set in Trotsky's Mexico City circle. The Icepick is a sentimental favorite among leftists, despite the fact that he was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands during the post-Revolution civil war and beyond. The wealthy western progressives huddling greatfully within the orbit of the red-shirted Hugo Chavez just goes to show how little we have managed to learn.

For the Left, communism's fault is not just its crimes, it's that it took the Left's cherished goals of freedom from want, freedom from competition, and equality for all and left behind a charnel house wherever leftists managed to grab power. This is not to say that Barack Obama is a socialist, or that health care reform will result in an American Gulag for people who refuse to pay their insurance premiums. But, don't tell me that some progressives would be happy to see conservative Americans disappear. Can you imagine the cheers if Rush Limbaugh were to drop dead tomorrow? Can you imagine an alternate reality America where Maxine Waters, Andy Stern and the president of the Sierra Club sit in judgment of dissidents from the One True Path. Not saying it's going to happen, but it sure is easy to imagine.

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