Communism first took root in Russia, where Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshiviks Revolution in 1917. (Photo: Peter Forsberg/Photoshot/Newscom)
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder of The Heritage Foundation ~
President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy,” and with good reason.
The date that Tojo’s Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor heralded America’s entrance into the bloody fighting of World War II.
But there are other dates that live in infamy, and many of them aren’t nearly as well known. But they deserve to be. Take Nov. 7, 1917.
Anything come to mind? One hundred years ago this month, Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin overthrew the Russian government and established a communist dictatorship. “The world has never been the same since,” writes foreign policy expert Kim Holmes in a recent article for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
How many perished in the wake of this “revolution”? It depends on which historian you ask. According to Richard Pipes, it was 9 million. Robert Conquest says at least 20 million, and likely as many as 30 million, died in the “Great Terror.”
If you include “unnatural deaths,” the number who died could be as high as 50 million. For perspective, consider that more than 60 million died in World War II—roughly 3 percent of the world’s population at the time.
In short, when looked at in terms of human carnage—of lives lost—the Russian Revolution was essentially another world war. So why isn’t Nov. 7, 1917, as notorious as Dec. 7, 1941?
This discrepancy becomes even more blatant when one considers the wider cost of communism. The Russian experience, after all, inspired other “revolutions,” and its record of mass genocide “is exceeded only by another communist dictatorship, Maoist China, which destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives (according to Stephane Courtois). And let’s not forget the ‘killing fields’ of Cambodia in the 1970s.”
Why isn’t this history better known?
“[Soviet leader Josef] Stalin kept most media out, so few Americans knew that millions were starving,” writes John Stossel in a recent column. And he had help. “Even as the Russian regime killed millions, some journalists and intellectuals covered up the crimes.”
But it isn’t just the loss of life that stains the history of communism. Its legacy is also one of grinding poverty.
Most of the 88 countries that score “repressed” or “mostly unfree” on The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom are either communist, former communist, or some type of socialist economy. They are also the world’s poorest nations.
And that, even more than the appalling body count, is what ultimately doomed Soviet communism: the awful material conditions.
Life expectancy of Russians in the 1980s was six years lower than in Western Europe, according to economist Nicholas Eberstadt. Infant mortality was three times higher. Death rates were rising for every age group.
“Russians looked westward and were appalled by their own poverty,” Holmes writes. “Whatever the West had—freedom and wealth—that was what the Russians wanted.”
So when President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and urged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” he was giving voice to a frustration that had long been pent up inside the people who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
The wall finally came down, undone in large measure by the manifold failures of communism itself.
Of course, Russians even today must deal with the continuing fallout of the 1917 revolution. “Every day they face the corruption and poverty caused not only by authoritarian rule, but by the social habits and structural problems created by communism,” Holmes writes. You can still see the devastation it wrought, echoing across the country.
And you can see how vital it is that we keep freedom alive here in what President Abraham Lincoln so aptly called “the last best hope of earth.”
Originally published by The Washington Times.
Edwin Feulner, Ph.D. is the Founder of The Heritage Foundation . http://www.heritage.org/ His 36 years of leadership as president of The Heritage Foundation transformed the think tank from a small policy shop into America’s powerhouse of conservative ideas.
Lawmakers Unveil Bipartisan ‘Victims Of Communism Caucus’
A coalition of bipartisan lawmakers announced the inception of a caucus dedicated to raising awareness about the cost communism has imposed on human life around the world on Tuesday.
The caucus, announced on the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, includes GOP Reps. Dennis A. Ross of Florida and Chris Smith of New Jersey as well as Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Dan Lipinski of Illinois. The lawmakers intend to focus on addressing Russian expansion in Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and escalating human rights abuses committed by authoritarian regimes like Venezuela and Cuba.
“We should not be lulled into thinking that communism is no longer a threat to freedom in the world, given that many people still toil under its hateful, totalitarian rule,” said Congressman Ross in a statement announcing the group. “Our caucus will ensure that we do not forget those victims who were forced to choose between their faith and the cruelty of a dictatorship. We must hold fast to the virtues of freedom.”
Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Marion Smith praised the lawmakers for forming the caucus.
“There is no more fitting occasion than the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution to announce the Victims of Communism Caucus. It sends a powerful message on behalf of the more than 100 million people victimized by communism in the last century and one fifth of the world’s population who still live in a single party state that adheres to this failed ideology,” Smith said in a statement included in the group’s announcement press release.
Lipinski cited his personal experience witnessing the fall of communism as a motivating factor in his participation and said the group will perform a useful role in educating younger generations who never witnessed communism first hand.
“I will never forget my experiences in Berlin at the fall of the Wall in 1989,” Lipinski said. “As we approach the 28th anniversary of that day, we now have about a third of the U.S. population that has lived in a world without the Soviet Union. It is our duty to tell these stories, the truth about communism, and preserve this history for all generations. I am proud to join my fellow co-chairs in establishing the Victims of Communism Caucus.”
The group’s announcement comes one day after the White House commemorated the more than 100 million people who perished under communism in the twentieth century.
A Buzzfeed reporter called the event a “White Nationalist talking point.” (RELATED: BuzzFeed Reporter: ‘Victims of Communism’ Is A White Nationalist Talking Point)
The reporter later apologized and deleted the tweet in which the accusation was made.