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Aug 31, 2004 5:31 am


End Soviet Chic



In his latest post, Radley Balko asks if he was being boorish by helping to point out the true meaning of the hammer and sickle emblem to a student wearing it at a seminar. Not only do I think that he acted correctly but I believe he fulfilled an obligation, which all of us who hold the classical liberal position have, to educate. When Professor Bobb brought up the 100 million dead associated with communism he may have been jeered but he also created cognitive dissidence within the audience. Exhibit A that the introduction of the above dead into the mind of that student caused a conflict with his world view, which could not be resolved without change, is the sweater later covering the emblem. We need more not less of this.

There are two books that could greatly contribute to the end of Soviet chic if they were more widely read on today’s campus. The first is The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression an exceptionally complete account of the absolutely and sometimes indescribably evil deeds and policies, which have accompanied communist rule wherever it has been attempted. The book documents those 100 million deaths mentioned before, as well as, the myriad other forms of misery imposed upon people by that malevolent scheme. The most important message of this book is that it happens every time, no matter who is running the communist system, brutal repression and poverty are the outputs.

As powerful as the above book is, there is another volume that I believe could have an even more profound effect on student's thinking, Everyday Stalinism, Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s by historian Sheila Fitzpatrick. This work is an excellent narrative of urban life under Stalin in the 1930s. It describes the ways in which people coped with the unrelentingly vicious conditions of daily life forced upon them by communism. No sane person would ever want to live in the inhuman society documented by Fitzpatrick. Yet, all through my reading of this book the constant thought that this type of policy is becoming an integral part of our way of life, kept coming into my mind. We need students to ask, is this book about the past or is it about the future?


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Jon Riegel - 8/31/2004

Another great book illustrating the horrors of Communism is Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang.
(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0743246985/qid=1093967473/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/104-3124903-3783948?v=glance&;s=books&n=507846)

It is an autobiographical account of Chang's life as well as that of her mother and grandmother, and provides a marvelous history of 20th century China, from the pre-WW2 days all the way through the Communist era. The bits on early 20th century Chinese culture and the pre-communist governments are interesting, but it's at its best when describing the Maoist era. The accounts of the purges, the Cultural Revolution, and the Great Leap Forward are essential reading.

A high school history teacher of mine had us read this instead of a history textbook on China, and I sure wish other people's history teachers had done the same.


Max Schwing - 8/31/2004

I don't know what age those students were, but I suspect in the late teens. I don't think that this is a lasting trend and it could very well be a typical youth-rebellion or some kind of teenager psychic problem. I also had been caught by the ideas of Marx, when I was 13. But later on, I changed deeply about this topic.

On the other hand, the hammer and sickle are not only a symbol of Communism, but Socialism in general and as such also of liberal left.
Perhaps this boy is only blinded about the application of Communism, but still holds that the theory which deeply rejects the use of power as it stands with the Soviets, is a good thing.

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