One of the ongoing mysteries I routinely encounter is the apparent wilful blindness to the murderous legacy of socialism.
There are few among us who don’t grasp the legacy of Hitler.
Along with the millions of victims of the actual conflict of the Second World War, some six million European Jews were sent off to their fates in death camps or as slaves in hundreds of clandestine munitions plants.
At the latter, many were literally worked to death.
The evil of Hitler’s Nazi Germany was deeply, and rightly, ingrained in to our collective consciousness.
At the same time, Stalin and Mao get what amounts to a free pass in history.
Take Stalin, for example. We can safely attribute the collective murder of some 30 million citizens under his rule of the U.S.S.R. That’s doesn’t include the millions of Europeans who died in the war between Hitler’s Germany and Soviet Russia.
This is merely the human cost of forced, mass starvation and brutal, systematic purges of those who might form opposition to Stalin’s iron rule.
Instead of gas chambers and ovens, the Soviets had prison camps and millions of square miles of Arctic wilderness in which to place them. But, like the Jews of Auschwitz, the Estonians exiled to Siberia ended up just as dead. The same goes for the victims of forced collectivization, and the hundreds of thousands of dissidents who chose to speak out against Soviet tyranny right up until the 1980s.
The same applies to the victims of the state-engineered Ukrainian famine, known as the Holodomor. They’re just as dead as victims of the Holocaust, and their deaths were the intended result of actions undertaken by the Soviet government under Stalin.
As horrible as Stalin and Hitler were, they pale in comparison to the sheer madness of Chairman Mao.
Using the same tactics as Stalin, Mao managed to slaughter some 60 million to 70 million people.
In the so-called “Great Leap Forward” of 1958-1963 alone, roughly 30 million souls were extinguished via mass starvation engineered by the state.
Between routine purges of the armed forces, the massive communist bureaucracy, and the civilian population, Chairman Mao managed to murder another 30 million to 40 million of his people.
Again, just like the victims of the Holodor, or the Holocaust, or Hitler’s sweep across Europe and ensuing war, these people are just as dead, regardless of the cause or the claimed intent.
What intrigues me here, is the lack of common revulsion for the legacy of Stalin and Mao, versus Hitler.
There’s a valid reason for concern here. In our society, we have established a track record of shunning and even prosecuting those who profess an affinity to Nazism, and for good reason. (Although I sincerely believe that criminalizing Nazi sympathies, i.e. Jim Keegstra, is a dangerous move in a free society.)
At the same time, our feelings towards communism and communists don’t even come close.
We wouldn’t imagine a national political figure who has openly expressed an admiration for the achievements of Hitler’s Germany, yet such Canadian figures as the current Trudeau gadfly and Jack Layton are open admirers of communism and communist tyrants.
We wouldn’t dream of sending our children off to a college that offered courses on Nazi Theory; yet ,at one time in his career, Jack Layton taught Marxist Theory at Ryerson University in Ontario.
We wouldn’t dream of vacationing in a place that was widely seen as a place where Nazism wasn’t killed off, but instead had become a sort of Nazi enclave of the 21st century; yet, many of us think nothing of vacationing in Cuba.
It’s an unusual situation, really, and exposes something that should give us all something to think about.
In the past, I’ve outlined how avowed communists, such as the unusual number of them who have dominated Vancouver’s civic politics for a couple of decades, often take great pains to hide their communist affiliations. It’s as if these people are more aware of the dark underbelly of socialism than we in the mainstream are.
I bring this all up because I was struck by a comment on the Advocate website, where a reader took me to task for my ongoing concern for the lingering impact of the roughly 70-year Soviet legacy.
At the same time, we seem collectively blind to the almost unimaginable scope of the slaughter, much of it committed under the watchful eye of men who are now the power brokers of the Communist party of China.
Every year in November, part of our pledge of remembrance is a reminder to stand on guard against tyranny.
That means we have to remember all of the tyrants of the 20th century.
Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.