History, Politics, recent

Milan Kundera Warned Us About Historical Amnesia. Now It’s Happening Again

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
—Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is 90-years old on April 1, 2019 and his central subject—The Power of Forgetting, or historical amnesia—could not be more relevant. Kundera’s great theme emerged from his experience of the annexation of his former homeland Czechoslovakia by the Soviets in 1948 and the process of deliberate historical erasure imposed by the communist regime on the Czechs.

As Kundera said:

The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.

I first read Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) back in 1987, when I was a member of the British Communist Party. The book shook my beliefs and Kundera’s writing became a part of a process of truth-speaking that shook the USSR to the ground in 1989.

In the 90s we believed we were living in a “post-mortem” era in which all the hidden graves of the 20th century would be exposed, the atrocities analyzed, the lessons learned. Lest we forget. We also thought we’d entered a time in which the Silicon Valley dream of digitizing all knowledge from the entire history of the printed and spoken word would lead us towards the infinite free library, the glass house of truth and the global village of free information flow. The future would be a time of endless remembrance and of great learning.

How wrong we were. The metaphor of the glass house has turned into that of the mirrored cube. The global village has collapsed into tribal info-warfare and the infinite library is now a war zone of battling conspiracy theories. The internet has become a tool of forgetting, not remembrance and the greatest area of amnesia is the subject that Milan Kundera spent his entire life trying to preserve, namely the horrors of communism.

This theme is set out on the very first page of the Book of Laughter and Forgetting in which Kundera describes a moment in Prague in 1948 amidst heavy snow in which the bareheaded Communist leader Klement Gottwald, while giving a speech in Wenceslas Square, was given a hat by his comrade Clemetis:

Four years later Clemetis was charged with treason and hanged. The Propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of the history and obviously the photographs as well. Ever since Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. Where Clemetis once stood, there is only bare wall. All that remains of Clemetis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.

After the fall of the USSR, there was a vast outpouring of truth-telling about the fallen communist regimes in Russia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania, Romania and Poland. The stagnant debt and corruption, the human rights abuses in political-prisons and orphanages, the hidden mass graves, the illegal human experiments, the secret surveillance systems, the assassinations, the mass starvations, and the overwhelming evidence of the failure in each country of “the planned economy.” The structures, too, of government-misinformation, the eradication of free speech and the re-writing of history—erasing your opponents by murdering them and then wiping all traces of their existence from the history books. In the 90s the hidden data from Stalin’s famine-genocide in the Ukraine (1923–33) was exposed. Later, the scale of Chairman Mao’s genocides staggered the world. Even the methods that communist regimes used to produce historical amnesia were exposed.

For a brief period, the consensus was that the communist experiment had failed. Never again, said the postmodernists and historians. Never again, said the economists and political parties. Never again said the people of former communist countries. Never again.

Fast forward 20 years and never again has been forgotten. The Wall Street Journal in 2016 asked: “Is Communism Cool? Ask a Millennial.” Last year MIT Press published Communism for Kids and Teen Vogue ran an excited apologia for Communism. Tablet announced, with some concern, a Cool Kid Communist Comeback.” On Twitter, there is new trend of people giving themselves communist-themed names: “Gothicommunist,” “Trans-Communist,” “Commie-Bitch,” “Eco-Communist.” The hammer and sickle flag has been re-appearing on campuses, at protests and on social media.

How could we have forgotten?

A poll in the UK by The New Culture Forum from 2015 showed that 70 percent of British people under the age of 24 had never heard of Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung, while out of the 30 percent who had heard of him, 10 percent did not associate him with crimes against humanity. Chairman Mao’s communist regime was responsible for the deaths of between 30 to 70 million Chinese, making him the biggest genocidal killer of the 20th century, above Stalin and Hitler.

One of the reasons Mao’s genocides are not widely known about is because they are complex and covered two periods over a total of seven years. Information on the internet tends to be reduced into fast-read simplified narratives. If any facts are under dispute we have a tendency to shrug and dismiss the entire issue. So it is precisely the ambiguity over whether Mao’s Communist Party was responsible for 30, 50 or 70 million deaths that leads to internet users giving up on the subject.

The rational way of dealing with clashing estimates would be to look at the two poles. To say, at the bare minimum, even according to pro-communist sources, Mao was responsible for 30 million deaths and at the other extreme, from the most anti-communist sources, the number is 70 million. So it would be reasonable to conclude that the truth lies somewhere in between and that even if we were to take the lowest number it is still greater than the deaths caused by Stalin and Hitler.

However, this reasoning process does not occur. Our reaction when faced with a disputed piece of data like this is similar to our response when faced with a Wikipedia page that carries the warning: “The neutrality of this article is disputed.” Fatigue and lack of trust kicks in. And so, without an argument needing to be made by Mao’s apologists, the number he killed is not zero, but of zero importance.

Conflict-induced-apathy can be manipulated for political ends. We see this in the way neo-communists set out their stall. They don’t challenge the data about the number of 20th Century deaths their ideology is linked to. Rather, they claim that there are conflicting data and that anyone claiming one data set is definitive has a vested interest in saying that—ergo, no data are reliable. And so they manage to airbrush 30–70 million deaths from history.

Part of what makes the data on communist genocides hard to pin down is that the state records were often erased by communist regimes. Take the largest genocide in the history of mankind—the Great Chinese Famine (1958–62). To date, no official recognition of this genocide has been made by China’s communist government. For 40 years this historical episode has been hidden and denied. There are 100 monuments to the Irish Famine, but to this day the only memorial to the Great Chinese Famine is one made by hand out of bricks and tiles, located in the middle of a Chinese farmer’s privately-owned field.

Only one memorial to the Great Chinese Famine is one made by hand out of bricks and tiles, located in the middle of a Chinese farmer’s privately-owned field.

Until the data on the deaths in communist China are definitively agreed, until they enter the history books, conflicting data will keep on being used to conceal the magnitude of Mao’s crimes. We also see this happening with the Ukranian genocide known as Holodomor (1932–33). Different political groups argue about whether the deaths were three million or 10, which then gives space to other groups online who want to deny it ever occurred.

If you want to make data vanish these days, don’t try to hide them, just come up with four other bits of data that differ greatly and start a data-fight. This is historical amnesia through information overload.

When we lose not just the data, but the record of who did and said what in history beneath the noise of contrary claims, then we are in trouble. We can even see this in the accusation made against Milan Kundera in the last 10 years—that he was a communist informant, that he was a double agent, that his entire literary canon was the result of a guilty conscience for having betrayed a fellow Czech to the communists.

The confusion and profusion of narratives around Kundera lead us to simply drop the author completely, due to conflict-induced apathy. It has already eroded his reputation. We will never know if what he said in his own defense is true, the argument-from-apathy goes, so we shouldn’t trust anything he’s ever said or written, even his indictments against communism—even his theories about historical amnesia as a communist propaganda tool. All of this might as well be forgotten.

To get rid of an enemy now, you don’t have to prove anything against them. Instead, you use the internet to generate conflicting accusations and contradictory data. You use confusion to elevate hatred and fear until that enemy is either banned from the net, their history re-written or erased from the minds of millions through conflict-induced apathy.

If the struggle of man is the struggle of memory against forgetting, as Kundera said, then we have in the cacophony of the internet a vast machine for forgetting. One that is building a new society upon the shallow, shifting sands of Historical Amnesia.


Ewan Morrison’s new novel NINA X is published by Fleet on April 4 2019. NINA X concerns a woman who escapes from the cult she was born and raised within and who now has to survive in our world. Follow him on Twitter @MrEwanMorrison

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  1. So, let me get this straight.

    Forgetting the tens of millions who died in artificially induced famines in India under British Capital, the millions of Congolese under Belgian capital and the millions of SE Asians who died at the hands of American Capital is the good kind of forgetting because capitalism isn’t responsible for the deaths inflicted on the world by capitalists but communism is responsible for the deaths of people under communism because… I forget?

    • doug deeper says

      Stated like a proud communist. When all else fails, deflect, and then offer a conflicting tale. I believe the author was writing about you, mjw51.

      • TJR says

        There’s a half-valid point here. Market economies may be better at preventing famines in the first place, you don’t want to rely on markets once they start.

        • dirk says

          To organise something (by some forms of government) in case of a famine, wherever, in feudal, colonial, communist or capitalist country, is only something of, say, the last 150 years. Before that, the famines just simply meant the dying off of so and so much of the local population. It’s as simple as that.

          • Actually, dirk, the historical record shows just the opposite,

            The Indian famines I refer to coincided with el Ninos, which, as I’m sure you are aware, happen frequently and regularly over long periods of time.

            The massive deaths only began when capitalist programs forcing farmers to fit their farming to the market of the time were imposed and food exports continued as tens of millions died.

            The logic of the market backed up with the political power that comes out of the barrel of a gun worked perfectly to make these natural occurences into human tragedies. Such is the nature of capitalism.

            As always on Quillette, please choose whatever historical source will back up your preferred version of events. The kind of historical forgetting we see so often on the right is apparently unavoidable. .

          • Malek al Kuffar says

            That’s not true. There was an Irish famine in the late 18th century that the British government nipped in the bud by the simple expedient of forbidding food exports from Ireland. The Irish famine of the 1840s occurred in a period of laissez faire policies, so food exports from Ireland continued apace even as the populace starved.

        • David of Kirkland says

          @ TJR – So, after the famine arrives, you then should instead look to government takeovers of industry to make it better faster?

          • warddorrity says

            Yes, because that’s been such a smashing success in Venezuela. /sarc

        • Alan Gore says

          The human instinct to help neighbors in time of disaster is not the same as Communism. In fact, the Chinese famine was one of the two major occasions when Communists prevented people from rendering help to the starving. And besides the Ukrainian holodomor, there have been numerous lesser communist-enforced famines orchestrated to eliminate dissenters.

          The latest of these is going on right now in Venezuela. Humanitarian aid is being stopped at the border.

          • Andrew Mcguiness says

            Really? Humanitarian aid stopped at the border of Venezuela? As I understand it, the aid came with the promise of political intervention by the US, which is why local NGOs wouldn’t touch it. If the US is concerned about Venezuela for humanitarian reasons, it could stop threatening to invade, lift economic sanctions, return the gold and other payments belonging to Venezuela which are currently withheld, and stop fomenting unrest in the country.

        • Malek al Kuffar says

          The Bengal famine of 1942 was intentionally caused by Winston Churchill because he hated Indians. The First Lord of the Admiralty implored Churchill to allow ships carrying wheat from Australia to Britain to put into Indian ports to alleviate the famine, but Churchill was obdurate.

          • Andrew Wright says

            Cannot let that calumny go unchallenged. No historical analysis should ever rely on one rather stupid statement made by Churchill, probably in the heat of the moment. A fuller explanation can be read here – https://www.quora.com/Was-Churchill-largely-responsible-for-the-Bengal-famine-of-1943 amongst others. Lots of sources quoted for both sides of the argument, but it is simply ridiculous to ascribe Churchill’s supposed & much disputed ‘hatred’ of Indians as the source of a famine that had multiple, pretty much all disputed, causes. Not the least of which was that Churchill was running a war against one of the most predatory & viscious regimes Europe had ever seen, alongside all the other totalitarian regimes discussed in this coments section

            I am not sure why this accusation has so much traction. Is it just an anti-British colonialism thing?? Is it a political stance that rewards those allying themselves to it?? There is clearly some kind of agenda at play, thus the ‘facts’ are ignored & twisted to suit that agenda. Odd but I guess quite common these days.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @doug deeper

        But you do not engage his point. Notwithstanding the millions killed by the commies, it remains absolutely true that imperialist-capitalists have a body count as well. I don’t know if you can properly blame ‘capital’ for WWI and WWII, but they certainly can’t be blamed on the commies, and the case that ‘capital’ was deeply involved has been made. We should try to be honest.

        • You leave out, deliberately I suspect, that all historically powerful nations perpetrated brutalities on the conquered. Communist regimes perpetrated brutalities on both the conquered and on their own citizens. And far more recently. And unlike other regimes which slew in order to conquer and then maintain control, the Communists slaughtered over ideological beliefs. And continue to do so today. Nothing justifies slaughter to a true believer so much as blasphemy. Thus while colonial powers were content to simply kill those who attacked them and tried to wrest control from them, true believers, be it in Communism or Islam, slaughtered those who dared to deviate from the righteous path in their music, in their art, in their poetry and behavior, and, of course, opinions. And again, they do so to this day, unchanging, for to true believer, individual human lives are meaningless in the face of their beliefs in the perfection of their ideology.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @John Argus

            The dead are no doubt comforted to know that they were killed for non-ideological reasons. Naked greed and power grabbing are so much better reasons to kill people than vulgar ideology.

          • And when or if the “true believer” is in power…..,scary, no?

            But may there not be a “true believer”who wishes not to impose a death sentence on the “other”….? the will to act horrifically arises how?

        • I think there is little doubt that both the WWs were attributable to capitalist imperialist competition.

          “They” never engage the point I am making. “They” can’t.

          Their task is the historical forgetting this article laments when it appears to be working against their interest in maintaining a sense of purity and moral superiority.

          The irony is so deep as to make the repetition of the various excuses more farcical than tragic.

          • Robert T. Ives says

            How do you explain that the U.S. did not take over Japan or Germany?

          • Locketopus says

            I think there is little doubt that both the WWs were attributable to capitalist imperialist competition.

            Oh, sure. When “national” socialists start slaughtering “international” socialists, it’s totally attributable to “capitalist imperialist competition”. Totally. Likewise when the military forces of a god-emperor launch a brutal war of conquest. Totally capitalism. I mean, who hasn’t read the “worship the god emperor to the extent of volunteering for kamikaze missions” chapter of The Wealth of Nations?

            You are in an evil cult. Get help.

        • ga gamba says

          I don’t know if you can properly blame ‘capital’ for WWI and WWII, but they certainly can’t be blamed on the commies

          Not WWI, but the communists are certainly on the hook for WWII. In Europe, the Communists had been deeply involved in the destabilisation of post-WWI Germany (and elsewhere) with several communist take overs such as that in Bavaria. Next the USSR helped the Germans hide their re-armament and military training from 1922 to 1933 in violation of Versailles. From 1939 to 1941 Russia was the largest supplier of natural resources to the Nazis whilst Germany was at war with western and northern Europe, a war it help launch by conniving with Hitler to invade and partition Poland.

          And let’s not forget that both Hitler and Mussolini were both anti-capitalist, though not to the extent nor in the ways of the USSR. It wasn’t that Hitler and Mussolini disliked business in so far that its interests coincided with the state, but rather free enterprise was individualistic, liberal, and consumerist, which both dictators abhorred. Man was to serve the state.

          Mussolini was more explicit in his analysis of capitalism. He saw a devolution from its start, which he called dynamic or heroic capitalism (1830–1870), to static capitalism (1870–1914) and then finally to decadent capitalism or supercapitalism, which began in 1914. Though heroic capitalism may sound like praise, Mussolini was clear that he was anti capitalist. He recognised early capitalism was better than supercapitalism. Heroic capitalism inevitably degenerates. Fascism’s solution to this was economic corporatism. Corporatism is one of those uncommon words that ought to be better known, though the far left uses it frequently when it claims real socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

          • Brad Collins says

            And don’t forget China. When the Japanese invaded China, Mao took his army to the hills to weaken the Chinese government rather than fight the invasion. I remember when I was living in Hong Kong a historical group wanted to reenact an event in the War when a group of british soldiers managed to help a large number of mostly Chinese to escape the Japanese. The PRC insisted that they rewrite the script to show that a communist soldier was the real hero. When I was living in Beijing I was taken to visit the Chinese space museum. There were a handful of sputnik sized objects that they had put into orbit at that point, but it was still hailed as being mankind’s greatest achievement. No mention of Russian or American spaceflight. And even last year a group of Chinese grad students came to our university in Cambodia to help us set up a lab. When one of them was in my office I was watching a live launch and successful landing of a SpaceX rocket. He said he’d never heard of Space X and said that in school his teachers suggested that the Apollo landings had been staged. So it goes.

            It’s been a while since I’ve read about Mao and the Japanese invasion. So I may have it wrong. Any pointers to material supporting or disproving my account would be welcome.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            “In Europe, the Communists had been deeply involved in the destabilisation of post-WWI Germany”

            Yes, thanks. It is probably a bit pathetic, but one might point out that they hadn’t intended Hitler to come to power, they had intended themselves to come to power. Ooops.

            Interesting comments on the Fascists view of capital. Hitler certainly worked with business. Everything in the Reich was paid for — or stolen outright. But did he like it? Maybe not.

        • doug deeper says

          Ray & the ever so humble mjw51, who in the world said I deny the wrongdoing of capitalists? – oh yeah, you two did.

          I happen to take a very hard view of the doings of all mankind. It has been the same since we left the trees and long before. But I do believe in free enterprise, not the totalitarian Nazi control of businesses because free enterprise requires, yes, .. FREEDOM. So yeah I do lay Hitler’s dead millions at the feet of socialism. Socialism has a very predictable pattern of being either started by, or taken over by, totalitarians. It seems to be built-in to the very conceptual infrastructure of Marxism. Hitler was hardly into “free” enterprise. His was a highly centralized totalitarian socialism at its finest.

          That said, yeah, capitalists, especially very privileged imperialists, have sometimes been as inhuman as all the aristocratic tyrants and warlords who came before free enterprise fully emerged. So now let’s talk about the elimination of human suffering.

          It is very clear to me that in the last forty years what has pulled hundreds of millions out of poverty is not socialism, not communism, but capitalism. When China threw in the blood-soaked communist towel and started to emulate Hong Kong, and when India saw the light that their socialist dreams were never to be realized, hundreds of millions of their citizens within relatively few decades suddenly did something novel, they filled their stomachs. This is what is denied by leftists of all ilk.

          And when people refer to the wonders of European socialism, I know from so much time spent in Europe, it is the relatively free enterprise system that funds a very generous social net. That and never paying for their own defense. That is funded by American capitalism.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @doug deeper

            I can’t object to a word of that.

            ” Hitler was hardly into “free” enterprise. His was a highly centralized totalitarian socialism at its finest.”

            It demonstrates my thesis that we pay too much attention to labels. On the face of it, Hitler is a socialist — a National Socialist, but a socialist. In terms of WWII you couldn’t have two ideologies more fanatically hating of each other than the Nazis and the Commies. Yet, if you look at how their societies actually worked, they were rather similar. It is now a truism that if one person goes far enough left, and another goes far enough right, they will meet again while still holding the view that they are as different from each other as night and day.

          • Locketopus says

            . It is now a truism that if one person goes far enough left, and another goes far enough right, they will meet again while still holding the view that they are as different from each other as night and day.

            It’s more of an indication that the alleged distinction between “right” and “left” is not only useless, but actively harmful.

            I submit that any categorization that lumps (e.g.) U.S. libertarians in with (e.g.) Mussolini and (e.g.) the U.S. Teamster’s Union in with (e.g.) the Shining Path Maoist terrorists in South America is utterly useless, at a minimum, and harmful, to the extent that it leads to one considering Mussolini or the Shining Path to be, in any sense of the term, “the good guys”.

            The idiotic notion that Soviet Communism and German National Socialism were somehow “opposites” comes straight from Stalin’s propaganda mills. It makes about as much sense as claiming that Crips and Bloods are “opposites” just because they regularly murder one another in territorial fights.

            Communists and Nazis are both evil, murderous socialist cults, just as Crips and Bloods are both evil, murderous criminal street gangs.

            One might just as well use “red” and “blue” rather than “left” and “right”, then proceed to argue that (e.g.) the U.S. Republican party is the “natural ally” of the Bloods because both use red, while the U.S. Democratic Party is the “natural ally” of the Crips, because both use blue.

            The “left/right” bullshit is patent nonsense that should have been killed with fire long ago.

          • Ray Andrews says


            “It’s more of an indication that the alleged distinction between “right” and “left” is not only useless, but actively harmful.”

            They do seem to cause more confusion than clarity. I myself now think of them simply as side A and side B in the contest for power. The left is only the left by virtue of having a continuity with folks who once upon a time were the sort of people that I identified with. The modern Democrats have a continuity as ‘side B’ with the old Southern Democrats, but their policy is now entirely different. All they know for sure is that they want power. Ditto the Pubs.

            “comes straight from Stalin’s propaganda mills.”

            And from Hitler’s propaganda mills likewise. The way Goebbels talked about communists, you’d think they were made of slime.

            “It makes about as much sense as claiming that Crips and Bloods are “opposites” just because they regularly murder one another in territorial fights.”

            Now there’s a powerful illustration. Touche. Mind, folks do prefer having some way of identifying ‘them’ as being different. It’s always one of the first tasks in any war to show why the enemy is scarcely human.

            “One might just as well use “red” and “blue” rather than “left” and “right”, then proceed to argue that (e.g.) the U.S. Republican party is the “natural ally” of the Bloods because both use red, while the U.S. Democratic Party is the “natural ally” of the Crips, because both use blue.”


        • Locketopus says

          don’t know if you can properly blame ‘capital’ for WWI and WWII, but they certainly can’t be blamed on the commies

          WWI was the last gasp of rule by kings and nobles.

          WWII began as a bloody confrontation between the national socialists in Germany and the so-called “international” socialists in the Soviet Union (i.e, socialists that favored a Russian boot on the neck rather than a German one), so it can absolutely be blamed on commies (with the exception of the second front in Asia, which was, once again, the last gasp of rule by “nobility”).

          • Ardy says

            Ray and Locketopus: There is a natural split between people being either materialists or idealists and this plays out over history with different names being appended to them.

            At face level I append no labels to anyone until I understand what and how they are thinking.

            1) We are still stupid monkeys trying force the rest of the group to agree with the Big Monkey who is in charge at the time.

            2) We are so planned and strucutured by the ideology of the troop of monkeys we belong to that we will do just about anything to to force other troops to agree with them. ie mjw51(mass justice warrior?)

            Any talk of freedom is measured by a micrometer.

      • David of Kirkland says

        @ doug deeper – because Laotians and Cambodians and Vietnamese deserved it. Because Iraqis deserved it. Because the enslaved deserved it.
        If you only forget the bad things your team has done and claim we need to remember the other team’s bad actions, you are not for memory, but genocide.

      • He could just as equally be writing about you Doug Deeper.

    • Daath says

      “A u vas negrov linchuyut” is alive and well, it seems. If the best defense for something is pointing out that others have blood on their hands as well, that something is pretty rotten.

      We should ask two questions when assigning body counts to ideologies. Were there decisions that led to people dying? Were those decisions made on ideological grounds, or at least influenced by them? On Holodomor and Great Leap Forward, clearly yes. It’s iffier on your examples, though. The Indian famines or Irish potato famine weren’t artificially induced like those, though there were decisions not to intervene (even by halting food exports), probably influenced by laissez faire capitalist ideology. As for king Leopold’s butchery and Vietnam, what was particularly capitalist about them? The latter was definitely anti-communist, but that’s not the same thing. Capitalist systems operate just fine these days without such moves. There were also a fair bit of Great Power shenanigans (USSR’s included) during Cold War that weren’t primarily ideological. Afghanistan was like Vietnam in my eyes. While it made mockery out of Soviet Union’s claim to be an anti-imperialist power, there wasn’t much particularly communist about it.

      Plenty of people died of sickness or old age under communism, and nobody blames it for them. Making a fetish out of supercharging industrial growth by mass action, and killing dozens of millions of your own people because of that, now that’s a different story. If the communists had managed to create what they promised, at least you could try arguing that the sacrifices had been worth it, but the reality was a monotony of goods shortages, boring propaganda and secret police boots stamping on your face forever. Whatever the sins of capitalism, at least it delivers unprecedented prosperity.

      • Your ignorance of the economic and political “decisions” that caused and then exacerbated the mass deaths I referred to is precisely the effect of “forgetting” in the Kunderan sense. For the laughter I suggest you check out the other responses to my little squib.

        Laughter and Forgetting: what a pair.

        • E. Olson says

          mjw51 – yes all that capitalist genocide and slaughter must be the reason so many people fled the west to resettle in a socialist worker’s paradise. No wonder the USSR had to build a wall across Germany, to keep all those West Germans from storming into East Germany. I’m sure the N. Koreans have all those missiles pointed south to protect themselves against hoards of S. Koreans wanting to live free and easy in the North. I also know the US Coast Guard is always concerned about all the small boats overloaded with refugees trying to escape Florida and make their way to Cuba.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            True, but again this avoids the point. The West has proven to have the better political and economic system, but it is not like we are lily white, either. Honesty should oblige us to face our own shortcomings while still robustly preferring our system.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – there is no lily white anything in nature except perhaps an actual white lily. The difference is that free markets learn from mistakes and errors because it is personally costly not to, but socialists never learn from mistakes and errors because everything is supposedly done for “the people” no matter how many die in the process.

          • David of Kirkland says

            @ E.Olson – I think few want more communism. But bad actions of tyranny are not limited to them, and all must be remembered so that liberty and equal protection can remain viable in a world that’s gotten used to the wealth and lifestyles we now have.

          • Area Man says

            @E. Olson: It’s even worse than that. The Berlin Wall didn’t divide East Germany & West Germany, it **surrounded* West Berlin, which was entirely within the borders of East Germany. So no defensive excuse could be used for its construction.

          • Ardy says

            E.Olsen: You cannot ague with an idealist (mass justice warrior51) with logic, they know not what it is!
            Try a few FFF’s and claim he is triggering you or that he is causing you and (undefined others) to become depressed. That should do it!

        • Mark Matis says

          Taqiyya comes easy for you tribe members as well, eh?

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            I don’t disagree. Nevertheless if someone says that socialism is evil because of it’s body count, it is quite legitimate to point out that other political/economic systems have a body count as well.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Tu quoque is a very easy logical trap into which you have strayed, mjw51.

          • Not at all. I’m providing “memory” in response to the forgetfulness of an article decrying “forgetting”.

            Straying into errors is for cliche hounds like you, Peter.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            There is nothing fallacious about Tu quoque in this context:

            -My ideology is better than your ideology because your ideology killed 300 million people.
            -Pardon? Your ideology killed 299 million, so you should not use body counts to make the contrast between your righteousness and my wickedness since by that metric you are 99.66% as wicked as I am.

            Exaggeration for effect. Tu quoque is usually used to deflect from one’s own guilt, but in this case it is used to pull down (or dilute) a claim of superiority. Communism is guilty as charged of course, but those who throw the first stone should look to their own record.

      • Malek al Kuffar says

        Correction: Capitalism USED TO deliver unprecedented prosperity, and only in countries where the social and political setup allowed it. After all, Haiti is a capitalist country where the means of production are privately owned. Furthermore Haiti has the lowest share of government spending of any country in the Western hemisphere. According to Chicago school economic thinking, Haiti should be the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean by now.
        Even in advanced capitalist countries the population is often forced to undergo great privations. Poverty is increasing in Germany, of all places, but also in France and Italy. Much of this can be attributed to economic policies imposed by the parasitical financial oligarchy, which controls the bulk of economic resources worldwide, as shown by the study “The network of global corporate control”, according to which 40% of control over the economic value of transnational corporations in the world is held, via a complicated web of ownership relations, by a group of 147 transnational corporations located at the core, which has almost full control over itself.
        This extreme centralization of ownership entails huge disparities in wealth and income, economic stagnation because there are few incentives to invest in the real economy, weak technical innovation and constant risk of economic crises because the main economic actors are not independent of each other, but instead all tangled into a single bundle.
        The study was conducted at the Zurich Polytechnic, a state-owned university. No privately owned university would ever have funded such research.
        Forbes and other business publications have published nothing on this study. Only left-wing websites mention it. There isn’t even a Wikipedia article on it.

    • E Taph says

      Progressives are very selective about which specific travesties they remember. So how about we remember all of them and then look at the resultant statistics: communist countries slaughtered ~their very own~ populace at levels not seen in contemporary capitalist societies. So yes, while bad things were done by bad people across the globe, if you want to be relatively free of the danger of being physically exterminated by the very politicians who are supposed to be your representatives and your neighbors, you should be grateful for what capitalism’s done for you.

      • “Progressive” is an American euphemism meant to disguise any association with the history of socialism in namby=pamby PC liberalism, yet another variety of the forgetting Kundera was so apt to find in Czechoslovakia but ignored in the “west”.

        I’m a socialist and a history buff. The selective remembering is all on the right in this thread. I’ve read more about Mao than most of the people on this site have had hot dinners and have no problem acknowledging the suffering and death that took place on his watch in the name of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

        • Charlie says

          C Attlee, E Bevin J Callaghan and G Orwell were socialists who were critical of communism and patriotic . However, their type of socialism declined after the 1960s and is almost extinct. They would have had little time for cultural Marxism ad post modernism. J Callaghan was contemptuous of middle class liberals.

        • doug deeper says

          @mjw51 & Ray Andrew,

          Why is it that when the “New Left” took over the universities in the late 1960s all knowledge of the atrocities of Mao, Stalin/Lenin, Pol Pot, Che and Castro, etc. were extinguished from the curriculum … and every detail of the atrocities of imperialists & capitalists dominate the narrative of today’s neo-Marxist, identitarian left? Now this is the narrative of nearly every Democratic running for the presidency, and of the tech giants who dominate the narrative of our culture.

          So Ray, capitalists have not “thrown the first stone.” The stoning of capitalism and the West has crushed any discussion, actually it has crushed any knowledge of the sins of socialism/communism. So mjw51 and you have a problem that there is some pushback against this carpet bombing of capitalism and the West on this thread. This is one of the few places which provides a little breathing room for some actual debate.

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        It’s true that the US, UK, Australia and France don’t actually bomb themselves or each other, so if you want to be relatively free of the danger of being physically exterminated it’s a good move to emigrate to one of those countries. These days, if your country’s government makes policies that the US doesn’t like, the greater danger is from invasion.

    • @mjw51

      “Forgetting the tens of millions who died in artificially induced famines in India under British Capital, the millions of Congolese under Belgian capital and the millions of SE Asians who died at the hands of American Capital …”

      Forgetting the 1.5 million Christians murdered by Muslim Turks in the 20th Century?

    • X. Citoyen says

      The British Empire ended the famines in India and everywhere else it colonized. There were no “artificially induced famines.”

      And what does any of this have to do with market economies in the first place? Oh, that’s right. You’re a commie-bot, regurgitating the propaganda you’ve been told to spread. Moral equivalence is another tool in the arsenal.

      Don’t spend your life as a self-made slave trying to enslave others. Set yourself free of the cult.

      • Harold Porter says

        X. Citoyen… You should look up the Bengal Famine that took place during WW2…

        • Charlie says

          The population of India increased by 20% from about 1900 to 1920, due to improved food production and sanitation.
          In 1943, Japan was on the borders of India and the battle of the Atlantic was only won in mid 1943. Ships sailing to India had to pass Cape of Good Hope and not use the Med due to attacks. The Bengal famine was a disaster but as one historian pointed out 10 million a year were being killed in WW2 and the quickest way of stopping the deaths was to win the war. Ships were needed to take men an equipment from USA/Canada to the UK and supply the USSR- Arctic Convoys.

      • Malek al Kuffar says

        As I pointed out before, Churchill intentionally provoked the Bengal famine of 1942. However that was not a systemic malfunction, but can instead be attributed to a single individual.

    • Locketopus says

      Forgetting the tens of millions who died in artificially induced famines in India under British Capital


      Even if this were true (it isn’t), the point would only be valid if someone were proposing a replay of the Raj, perhaps arguing that the first try “wasn’t a real British Empire”. Have you seen anyone doing that?

      Hint: no, you haven’t.

      Piss off, comrade. There are people here who crap bigger than your fucktarded faculty-lounge Marxism.

      • “There are people here who crap bigger than your fucktarded faculty-lounge Marxism.”

        True enough, Locketopus. But don’t you object even a little when they do it in your mouth?

    • Ryan says

      I don’t really know which artificial famines you are talking about. The only one’s I have heard of, were the ones in Bangladesh that Adam Smith writes about. I am aware that the Belgians committed atrocities in Congo, but the emphasis was on forced labour. If the deaths in South East Asia refer to Vietnam… then the argument that those are forgotten is based on a false premise. Those aren’t forgotten.

      I will also point out that none of those crimes are best described as being committed by capital. The famines that Adam Smith criticized were considered by capitalists as a part of mercantilism. The individual were also acting against the interest of the investors (the capital). The oppression in the Congo was similarly the result of colonial agents trying to enrich themselves and a lack of a free market for labour. The Vietnam war was all the US government.

      • Area Man says

        @Ryan: “The Vietnam war was all the US government.”

        The Vietnam War was a civil war first. A civil war started by Soviet- and China-funded insurgents. The US supported a bad actor in the name of strategic containment of a movement explicitly intent on world domination. The US always gets a bad rap–in many cases justifiably–but no one ever seems to level criticism at the imperial forces largeley responsible for the beginning of the war.

        • Charlie says

          Indo China was largely Vichy and was over run by the Japanese; consequently France lost any credibility as a colonial power. OSS agents working in IC warned the American government that Hoi Chi Minh was largely a nationalist and world oppose the return of the French rule. Admiral Lord Mountbatten warned de Clerc , the French general to return as a liberator not a conqueror. De Gaulle placed pressure on the US State Department to support French rule who went against the advice of the OSS. After 1949 Ho Chi Minh was able to obtain support from communist China. After the French defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu , the American government was dragged into supporting the South Vietnamese. The American Armed Forces had little or no experience of jungle warfare unlike the British who fought in Burma and Malaya and the Australians in Papua New Guinea.

          The communists( Stalin and Mao ) planned and prepared for rule after WW2 but the West did not. The mistakes made were largely due to being caught unaware and having to make do and mend. The Americans never appreciated the corruption of the South Vietnamese government and most farming people in IC only considered what was happening in their valley. The USA was in the impossible position of supporting a corrupt, venal and cowardly political class in IC which was incapable of obtaining the loyalty of those living in the countryside.

          Perhaps if France had pulled out of IC in 1947-1948 and allowed a Tito like Ho Chi Minh who was anti Chinese to take over, a Jugoslavia type settlement could have been achieved. By 1954 Hoi Chi Minh was firmly in the communist camp. America would have had to produce hundreds of thousands of jungle fighters on the lines of the Chindits and SOE force 136 ( F Spencer Chapman ) and greatly reduced the corruption and increased the fighting qualities of the South Vietnamese politicians, in order to prevent the results which occurred. The American middle and upper classes would have had to support the war by sending their sons into combat. I do not see the likes of Bill Clinton becoming a jungle fighter of the qualities of Chindits such as Calvert or Lumley.

          • Gringo says

            By 1954 Hoi Chi Minh was firmly in the communist camp.
            Happened a lot earlier than that. He was in Moscow in 1924, where he attended Lenin’s funeral.
            Ho Chi Minh: A Life

            In all of his public utterances, Nguyen Ai Quoc still seemed to be a true believer. His writings on the Soviet Union are uniformly full of praise, and his admiration for Lenin seemed boundless. He had apparently been very disappointed at being unable to meet the Bolshevik leader before his death. When he was asked the purpose of his visit on his arrival in Petrograd in July 1923, Quoc had replied that he wished to meet Lenin and was disheartened to hear that the Soviet leader was ill. The following January, he learned to his great sorrow that Lenin had died. As an Italian acquaintance, Giovanni Germanetto, recounted the story:

            Moscow, January 1924. The Russian winter is at its height. The temperature sinks at times to 40 degrees below zero. A few days ago Lenin died. That morning, a quiet knocking on our door in Lux Hotel aroused me. The door opened and a frail young man entered.
            He said he was Vietnamese and his name was Nguyen Ai Quoc. He also said he intended to go to Trade Union House and see off Lenin…. I told him he was too lightly dressed for the freezing cold outside. I said he should wait, we’d get him some warm clothing.
            Ai Quoc sighed, and sat down to have tea with us, and finally went to his room. We thought he had taken our advice and had stayed indoors.
            Somewhere around ten at night I heard a soft knocking on the door again. It was Comrade Ai Quoc. His face was blue, and the ears, nose, and fingers on the hands were blue, too, from the fierce cold.
            Ai Quoc said he had just seen Comrade Lenin. He was trembling from the cold as he explained that he could not wait until tomorrow to pay homage to the best friend of the colonial peoples…. He finished by asking if we didn’t happen to have some hot tea.

            According to Ho’s Soviet biographer, Yevgeny Kobelev, after returning from Lenin’s funeral Nguyen Ai Quoc locked himself in his room and wrote an essay expressing his grief at the death of the generous Bolshevik leader who had spared his time and effort to concern himself with the liberation of the colonial peoples. “In his life,” he concluded, “he was our father, teacher, comrade, and adviser. Now he is our guiding star that leads to social revolution. Lenin lives on in our deeds. He is immortal.”

          • Charlie says

            Gringo. There was a CBS documentary called something like the three thousand day war abut Vietnam which starts in 1944-45. In the documentary it quoted the OSS agents operating in the Vietnam in WW2. If Northern Vietnam had been a Jugoslavia type communist country with South Vietnam being like S Korea things would have been better.
            However, it was obvious that no western country thought about communist actions during WW2 which was why the Malaya Emergency in 1948 was such a shock.

            The anti colonial movements did not always become communist. Ho Chi Minh as a communist having to work with non communists from 1944 may have reduced the magnitude of the problem. Kenya, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria nor Malaysia became communists because the majority of the people and traditional leaders did not support the creed.

          • Gringo says


            Gringo. There was a CBS documentary called something like the three thousand day war abut Vietnam which starts in 1944-45. In the documentary it quoted the OSS agents operating in the Vietnam in WW2. If Northern Vietnam had been a Jugoslavia type communist country with South Vietnam being like S Korea things would have been better.

            Like Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh wasn’t willing to settle for half a country. Kim Il Sung was unsuccessful in the war he started in 1950, so he had to live with his half. In 1959-60, Ho Chi Minh began the war to unify the country.

            Ho was hard commie well before 1945. The executions from “land reform,” for which estimates vary from 13 to 100 thousand, are further evidence of his being hard commie.

            As Ho was hard commie and wanted the whole country, I doubt any “peaceful coexistence” was possible. Ever.

    • ingeniero residente says

      The difference is capitalism goal is not death while whatever communism false goals are they always end in death.

    • Andrew Worth says

      The deaths you mention were a result of authoritarianism, colonialist authoritarianism, not capitalism, today the parts of the world you mention – and most of the rest of it – are under more capitalist and less authoritarian rule, and are doing much better thanks.

    • Kauf Buch says

      Gee, mjw51, I heard rabid Leftists hated such comparisons, dismissing them with the invented word, “whataboutism.” Well, Leftists like you are nothing, if not hypocrites (for the record, I’m in favor of starving all totalitarians; I’m an equal-opportunity fan of liberty).

      • Peter from Oz says

        The correct term is ”whataboutery” and it is an English, right wing invention.

        • Kauf Buch says

          Hey Petey, how ’bout you stay on your stinky side of the Pond. In the USA, “whataboutism” is the word The Loser Left (ab)uses.

          • Well Kauf it appears you have less than a clue about who uses the word. The last great outbreak occurred around the time of various tragic bombings in Syria when the MSM (whose lies you apparently mistake for reality) pounded away at the evil Russkies/ Assadists and various lefists pointed out the recent US bombings in hospitals etc only to be overwhelmed by the cries of “whataboutism”.

            It’s what the right calls “historical context” when it’s convenient to “forget” what happened just last week.

      • Andrew Mcguiness says

        Sure, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for about 100 times more deaths than were directly due to US bombing – but those numbers oversimplify the issue. The civil war and the subsequent purges would likely have been less radicalised and less vicious, without the brutalisation of the bombing. And, something like 3,000,000 Vietnamese people died in the Vietnam War – and the motivation for the US in that war was ideological.

        • Lew Wickes says

          And now the government of Vietnam wants the US Navy back in Vietnam’s ports. Apparently the Vietnamese prefer capitalist forces to those of commie Chinks.

          • In recent polling, capitalism is more popular in Vietnam than it is the United States. The people there have learned a lot from socialism’s abject failures. One of the early turning points came when the head of their national soccer team told the government that Vietnam would never be competitive with its neighbors (historic rivals) because Vietnam couldn’t produce any normal-sized players – because all the kids in Vietnam were malnourished. So the government decided to give all the kids vitamin pills to offset the endemic poverty and borderline starvation that typically occurs under socialism.

            In any event, Vietnam is now open for business and its economy is booming.

          • Andrew Mcguiness says

            @LEw Wickes – Yes, they do. As I understand, Vietnam has been fighting China for centuries. I think it was the Russians who backed the Viet Cong.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Indeed. Tyrants come in all governments, which is why a limited sovereign with established rights is critical to ensure power doesn’t corrupt fully.

    • Harold Porter says

      @mjw51…fair enough, other regimes have done bad stuff, but the point of this article is that communism at the moment seems to be the flavour of the month amongst the virtue-trendies…hence it is is more problematic that they seem to have forgotten about the dark side of communism….

    • Northern Observer says

      The Bengal Famine is an anti British europhobic blood liable, nothing more. If you care to dig into the facts you will find that every anti british book is written by an Indian politician or Indian nationalist who has a vested interest in minimizing local Indian political involvement and Indian cast politics in the tragedy. It’s hard to build a narional narrative when your founding fathers choices precipitated millions of deaths, so the white scapegoat, “those british batards”, are dragged out to take the fall, its textbook national mythmaking.

    • Armaghan says

      Blaming Churchill and the British who were fighting for existence, for the Bengal famine is one of the sleaziest bits of historical revisionism I’ve ever witnessed. There are definitely some true culprits but every one of them was Indian. Typical racist, nationalistic BJP tripe.

      • Which part of “Capital” did you misread as “Churchill and the British”?

        While it may be the case that Churchill was a racist imperialist hosebag without a moral fiber in his big fat body and that the British have always leaned toward a similar state of being, as a socialist I am more concerned with the system that promoted these deaths in the name of markets and profitability and competition, not the individual moral/ethical failings of the tools that enacted the policies.

        So you’ll have to stick to the mirror if you want to examine “typical racist nationalistic BJP tripe”. But don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re probably just another hapless victim.

        • Charlie says

          India produced the largest volunteer armies in WW1 and 2. Indians fought with great bravery and some won the VC. By 1947, there were Indians with the rank of brigadier. From 1919 Indians entered the Indian Civil Service and were trained at Sandhurst. In WW1 there was one Pashtun who wo a VC and was commissioned. Indian pilots volunteered to serve in the RAF and won medals for bravery.

          In WW2 very few captured Indians fought with Bose even refusing to join him even though tortured. Indians continued to wear their ICS ties after independence and regiments kept their name such as Skinner’s Horse – the senior Indian Cavalry Regiment. Those who served and fought in WW2 were proud of their actions and still talked about it until their deaths. Indians also served on British merchant ships in two world wars and suffered heavy casualties.

          In the Indian sub -continent there was a divide between those served in the armed forces and the ICS and those who did not. Academics not good enough to pass the rigorous entry exam for the ICS and serve in such units as Skinner’s Horse usually had an inferiority complex. To be a member of the ICS required fluency in at least four Indian languages and comprehensive knowledge of Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and all customs.

          When a British officer applied to an Indian Regiment they were assessed for 6- 12 months and the Indian soldiers decided if he was acceptable. The Senior Indian NCO could over rule the colonel on the admittance of the probationary officer.

          People do not volunteer for combat in two world wars and fight bravely for those they despise and treated them badly.

    • I seem to remember that one famine caused by the British Imperialists in the 18th century led to the Boston Tea Party by proxy and that’s one way America won it’s freedom. if you’re going to blame “capitalism” at least use capital “C” “Capitalism” where it should be recognized. I haven’t anything to say about Modern America, but it certainly isn’t a “Capitalist” country. Most of what you’re referring to isn’t capitalism, it’s people that make up oligarchies who have state support and monopolies that disenfranchise and murder millions, not free market capitalism which you seem to be demonizing. Use a proper name for what you’re describing instead of flinging a term you misunderstand to describe what you despise.

      • jesse says

        ammom88, I’m about as impressed by your post as I am by leftists who whine that true communism has never been tried. If your “solution”—libertarianism—requires of the people a degree of virtue never seen in a large group of human beings, then it’s just a utopian fantasy. The Achilles heel of libertarianism is that it requires the wealthy to show superhuman restraint and never attempt to parlay their economic dominance into political dominance. We rightly condemn communism as an ideology because history has shown that the inner party always becomes corrupt, even though oligarchy—literally, “rule by the few”—is not communism. We should be no less critical of libertarianism, which also obviously leads inevitably to oligarchy.

    • rbw152 says


      Capitalism may have it’s faults but it has evolved somewhat over the years don’t you think? No capatilistic society could deliberately engineer a famine in another country and get away with it these days without mass opprobrium, If it was indeed as you say it was with India in any case.

      Anyway, back to the present day and the real world, capitalism and free markets have benfited humankind very much over the last few decades, with literally billions of people lifted out of poverty.

      India and China’s growing middle-class is not due to socialism. Compare their citizens with Venezuala – oh but that’s probably not ‘real’ socialism is it? Neither were any of the other failed socialist states I suppose.

      So what communists these days are really advocating is to have ‘another go’. To have another attempt at adopting a system which seems to have failed every time previously for the same reasons. To conduct an experiment with society in fact. Just to see if they can make it work this time.

      And if they can’t? Well another ruined economy that’s what. Still, at least their intentions were noble.

      But since it’s axiomatic that socialsim needs 100% buy-in from everyone in any particular society to work at all – a situation which would never occur naturally since a lot of people don’t want their property co-opted by the state – the only way it can possibly work therefore is by coercion. Which needs a dictator and/or a repressive state to implement so……there you go again.

      You don’t achieve satisfactory equality by making nearly everyone poorer.

      So thanks but no thanks my socialist friends.

      I’m in software and it’s usually better to fix bugs than do a complete re-write and in that respect capitalism just needs more bug fixing to keep it on course. A course which by virtually any measure – child mortality, longevity, food supply, living standards, environment, disease control, technological innovation etc. etc, – is a massive success.

      And of course it is. Ownership of property, trading, innovation, these are all part of human nature. Suppress them at your peril, as socialists keep trying to do, with pretty much the same consequences for the same reasons.

      So let’s stop dreaming of a socialist utopia shall we? Because human beings are not all cookie-cutter cakes, we’re individuals, all different, licing in complex, organic societys. We don’t want to be told what to do, what we can own, where can or cannot go, what we can or cannot buy and where can or cannot live. Stuff that.

      So, back to my point about 100% buy-in: your fabulous, one-size-fits all communist state would have to lock me up for a start, because I’m not going to take any orders from a bunch of bureaucrats who want to take my stuff away from me. And neither will millions like me.

      Hmm, looks like you’ll need bigger prisons. Gulags perhaps.

    • Jayden Lewis. says

      I’ll bet there are many things you communists just don’t understand.

      • I’m always amused at how the Soviets and Chinese spent tens of billions of man years not just theorizing about socialism, but implementing it day in and day out with slavish devotion, deep analysis, and experiment. All they produced was brutal oppression, endemic poverty, and mass graves.

        Yet some American twat who sells surfboard wax at a Mall kiosk is convinced he can make it work, either because he has no idea how badly socialism fails, or because he’s dumb enough to think his flippant notions about socialism give him privileged insights that somehow never turned up in all those tens of billions of applied communist man-years, years that were always about to achieve “true socialism.”

    • “artificially induced famines in India” — This is a lie.

      “the millions of Congolese under Belgian capital” — This is also a lie.

    • MadKangaroo says

      At bottom your argument is that Capitalism has created enormous suffering without offsetting redeeming values. Communism is your solution. You utterly ignore that Capitalism has also lifted billions out of grinding poverty, produced scientific wonders that make life easier, and created medical miracles that make that better life last longer. Communism has accomplished none of these things, indeed quite the opposite, a fact you also ignore.

      Communism has all the vices Capitalism is accused of, but none of the virtues.

      • Thanks for that but no. at bottom. my point (as I can hardly be accused of having made an argument) is that the kind of “forgetting” that Kundera critiques and that this article would have us believe is functioning now to make millennials stupid enough to think socialism might “work” is precisely the kind of “forgetting” that makes all these silly buggers act all shocked that capitalism has been behind literally millions upon millions of unnecessary deaths.

        And not wishing to offend your sensitivities to what has or hasn’t lifted “billions” out of grinding poverty but capitalism is not what has done the lifting. The UN and World Bank, by lowering the bar for what is defined as grinding poverty has magically lifted billions into discursive heaven.

        The reality of “grinding poverty” is altogether a different thing than what is transcended in the move from $1.90/day to $2.00/day. I’d love to see some of the halfwits crowing about how capitalism has raised billions out of poverty forced to survive for a few years on $3/day in the country of their choice. But that might prove a little too empirical for the ideologues that tend to parrot these effusions.

        • doug deeper says

          @ mjw,51 w
          What I love about you and other lefties is your absolute lack of self-doubt. This demonstrates as much as anything else your inability to functionally accept evidence contrary to your beliefs. This sort of fanaticism is why Marxism is simply unable to leave the limitations of its original foundational beliefs: humans are infinitely malleable, and Marxists are the only ones who know how to mold humans. This inevitably leads to a human and environmental catastrophe.
          Your arrogance is your downfall.

          • You may have had something at “lefties” but lost your way with the assumption that I am a Marxist (based on nothing but the tendency amongst your ilk to use words like ‘Marxist’ as boogeymen to scare the infantile types your ideological whining appeals to).

            I am not. As I said somewhere in this thread I am a socialist. I find a lot of self-described Marxists to be almost as out of touch with human/historical “reality” as unapologetic liberals like yourself. Marx died a very long time ago and Capitalism has done its “all that is solid- melting into air-holy profaned-“thing so effectively that the “conditions” we now fail to confront effectively are utterly changed from the conditions he wrote about.

            I suggest a careful reading of Patrick Deneen’s Death of Liberalism the next time you want to complain about “Marxists” fucking things up.

    • Julz Zetterius says

      The author begins with an example on the communist regimes, but the struggles are happening today again, in the internet and capitalism era. The movings are the same, and the author is warning us about them.

    • Whataboutism 101. Also a Fallacy. Recognizing the crimes perpetrated by Belgium, doesn’t contradict the crimes of the Soviet Union. It’s a false dichotomy comrade. By rejection Stalin I don’t embrace Hitler, which curiously enough, the embracing of Hitler , was something the good old comrades of the 30’s did after the invasion of Poland.

      • lol… as I & at least one other poster have pointed out, there is no dichotomy, braintrust. As you can see clearly in this thread, denial and ideological twisting of the historical record do the work of Kunderan ‘forgetting’ quite effectively. That is my one and only point.

    • Rsuk says

      Whataboutism. Capitalism can be responsible for millions of deaths, but it doesn’t change the fact that communism is responsible for millions of deaths

      • Who suggested it changed anything at all?

        God you people are relentless. And relentlessly addicted to these bumper-sticker level responses.

        The point is to help those who conveniently “forget” that the capitalism they celebrate has slaughtered tens of millions.

        If it’s dangerous to “forget” what communism has wrought, what is it to pretend that capitalism hasn’t wrought the same while it rules the globe?

    • tim says

      Capitalism is bad. Communism is far worse. Capitalism allows more people the chance to improve their living standards. The end.

  2. the gardner says

    For an unforgettable read about communist China, get the novel “Wild Swans”. Written by the grand daughter of a pre-communist concubine and the daughter of a red army soldier, she recounts their stories and her own, ultimately an escape to the US where she had the freedom to write this book. It is better than any history text.

  3. dirk says

    Anecdote from a Dutch cab: we were traveling with a lady speaking Dutch with an accent. Are you from Russia? No, from Latvia. She came to the NLs in the 1990s, but still visits her remaining family yearly . I couldn’t resist, please may I ask you a question? If you compare the situation in your country, under the sovjets and now as part of the free EU, what was best for you and your people? I knew the answer already, because ask this question whenever I meet people in the Estern European nations. She did not hesitate even, in the Sovjet time ( All the young people that are able to, or enterprising enough, are leaving Latvia, she said). Better in sovjet time, because of the stability, the affordable basic needs (education, medicines, food, rent, no fear of being fired) and such more. The funny thing, you never read about such answers in the press or hear them on TV. Because??? Nobody wants to hear such things, I guess. But here on Quillette I’ve said it more than once.

    This does not erase the horrible things that happened there, of course. That’s another side of the coin. But a side, I fear, easily forgotten by especially youngsters, indeed.

    • Pinkot says

      Well, at least now they are able to leave. That was not possible during the Soviet regime. It’s not the current regime’s fault that Eastern European economies have 50 years of catching up to do.

      • dirk says

        Free to leave the horrors of a naked capitalism, you mean? (she was not a sovjet fugitive, but an economic wanderer due to open borders now). BTW, I feel rather happy and comfortable in my Western Europe. But the enormous difference in wages between West and East are becoming an uncontrolable attack on our social laws and programmes.

        • neoteny says

          the enormous difference in wages between West and East

          How ’bout the enormous difference in productivity between West and East?

          You’re a cab driver in Holland; your wages (or income, if you’re an independent operator) is considerably higher in Holland than it would be — let’s say — in Budapest because your fares make more money than a Hungarian cab driver’s fares make. And your fares make more money because they’re more productive than (most of the) Hungarians are (who live & work in Hungary). And Dutch workers are more productive because the Dutch have more invested in capital goods (i.e. production machinery/infrastructure) than Hungarians have.

          There’s no “naked capitalism” in the East: there’s low investment & (still) enormous government control over every kind of aspects of the economy. This is what makes the East (former Soviet Bloc) countries poorer.

          Since unification, the Western parts of Germany spent some 2 trillion (i.e. 2 million million) € on the former GDR: still, productivity is only about 80% in the former East Germany compared to the former West Germany. Only productivity-improving investments can raise living standards: there’s a need for more “naked capitalism” in the East, not for less.

          • dirk says

            I agree, and the difference with African nations is even greater, my maid there, doing similar things (without complaining so much) as maids in the NLs made only 5% of what they earn in Holland (I know, because paid that). She was happy with the job, but in Ukrain,Latvia and Poland, that seems to be different. Working class people argue not like you do. More naked capitalism might be good in the long end (20 years from now), though I very much doubt whether that’s also so in the new African nations with the neo-liberal policy . But, ordinary people always look at what they get in their hands right now. Maybe, democracy and populism is the problem right now.

        • neoteny says

          Working class people argue not like you do.

          You don’t want to know how “working class” (actually, around 4/5th of the people) argue about this in Hungary. A Hungarian cab driver thinks that because he’s driving people around just the same way as you do, he’s entitled to the same wage (income) you have. In €. And he doesn’t get it because the Dutch (and other Westerners) exploit the Hungarians. You know, by bringing industry to Hungary, yet not paying Western wages to their employees. The word productivity is a dirty word for them: they say “we work the same or more as Westerners do”, so if they don’t get the same wages, then it must be a capitalist-colonialist conspiracy to rob them of the wages they ‘deserve’. They don’t care about the most basic economic laws (like supply & demand): that’s just so much BS for them, a tool of exploitation. I heard such noises even from Hungarian software engineers who work in Germany (and obviously make comparable wages to Germans — there). They think that they shouldn’t have to go to Germany, they think that they ought to have made the same German wages in Hungary while working for German firms who create subsidiaries in Hungary.

          • dirk says

            Again, completely agree. Having been an expat half of my life, the subject of wages and payments to people with the same qualifications (university degrees, professional titles) came up again and again. I always used he metaphor of a sluice (low water level here, high there, and without the sluice, a mess and wetlands all over the area). I even could convince some of them with that metaphor.

    • C Young says

      Its a form of conservatism. Its also ideology neutral. I remember hearing many Spanish immigrants to the UK tell me life under Franco was better than under democracy.

      • dirk says

        Not just nostalgy of course, CY, Franco was very good in infrastructure and giant water works and irrigation The mounting problem of future Spain: less and less reliable tapwater and irrigated vegetables, and tourism of course. Freedom of speech and press is a luxury for the elite, often (though, being part of that elite, don’t feel it so).
        BTW, the plan to remove the skeleton and that huge monument for Franco is now a big battle between the different parties and groupings. Even now!

        • Jackson Howard says

          Spain water rights and laws are a mess for sure. Typical tragedy of the commons.
          Everybody with a bit of land can drill, pump and irrigate at will. When the water will be
          gone, so will the Spain vegetable export bonzana. It’s quite like the Ogallala aquifer management : lacking.

          Anyhow, the OP.

          Communist regimes policies during Ukraine famine was something atrocious (as in atrocity). So was Mao’s great leap. Ideological purity no matter the cost. And what a cost…

          But let’s not turn a blind eye to the coziness of capitalism with right wing dictators in the like of Pinochet. Nor the environmental destruction of Indonesia and Brazil in the agri and mining companies.

          When ideological purity is threatened, democracy, free speech and a working ecosystem all too quickly become inconvenients to be removed. That is something true of any -ism.

          Somewhere between the ideological purities of Marx and Mises, the real world is to be found.

          • Locketopus says

            But let’s not turn a blind eye to the coziness of capitalism with right wing dictators in the like of Pinochet.

            Result: the Cuban/Soviet infiltrators did NOT bring Chile into the communist orbit, and Chile became the most prosperous and stable country in Latin America for decades, despite basically being a friggin’ desert. Countries that fell under the sway of “left wing” dictators (most recently, Venezuela) were not nearly so lucky.

            Resource-rich Brazil has recently passed Chile, but just barely, and not long after they, too, kicked the commies to the curb. Sheer coincidence, I’m sure.

          • Gringo says

            Jackson Howard
            But let’s not turn a blind eye to the coziness of capitalism with right wing dictators in the like of Pinochet.

            I would suggest that you read Whelan’s book on Chile. Out of the Ashes: Life, Death & Transfiguration of Democracy in Chile 1833-1988. Free for the downloading, All it takes is your time to read it. Also recommended is Collier and Sater’s A History of Chile, 1808–2002.

            josepinera.org. Articles contains some short pieces on Chile during the Allende and Pinochet years. Few people realize, for example, that three weeks before the coup, the Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution that condemned the Allende administration. From “How Allende Destroyed Democracy 9in Chile.”

            The following day, August 23, the page-wide headline of El Mercurio, Chile’s paper of record, read: Resolution by Chamber of Deputies.
            The (Allende) Government has seriously violated the Constitution.

            The Resolution, approved by almost two-thirds of the members (63.3 percent), accused President Allende’s administration of 20 concrete violations of the Constitution and national laws. These violations included: support of armed groups, illegal arrests, torture, muzzling the press, manipulating education, not allowing people to leave the country, confiscating private property, forming seditious organizations, and usurping powers belonging to the Judiciary, Congress, and the Treasury. The Resolution held that such acts were committed in a systematic manner, with the aim of installing in Chile “a totalitarian system”.

            Allende correctly stated the Resolution “promoted a coup.” Condemn Pinochet all you like, but his coup had substantial civilian support- such as the above Resolution supported by a 63% vote of the Chamber of Deputies.

            Pinochet stepped down after a 56-44% vote in the 1988 Referendum against his remaining in power another 8 years . BTW, Allende was elected in 19701 with 36% of the vote.

    • E Taph says

      You’ve found someone nostalgic for the past when times were simpler and the rose tinted glasses obscuring half your vision had stayed on. In the US the equivalent’s gotta be some Alabama baby boomer farmer talking about how the modern world has corrupted youth or somesuch. I’m from Russia and there’s an inconceivable number of people who’d like to be treated as livestock instead of normal human beings. Being treated that way for a few generations degrades people to the point where they no longer know what to do with life any longer.

      That’s the real horror of communist regimes – whatever their self-professed goal they are merely breeding and extermination programs designed to produce a manipulable herd as a result, and everyone showing revulsion towards that end can get shot, destroyed via the mob or starve to death – the collective of the future doesn’t need people difficult to manipulate. This is why you sometimes hear the derogatory slang term “sovok” or “vatnik” for people nostalgic about our broken past. Please don’t export or excuse it over in the western countries, the slope is more slippery than it looks.

      • Is this “human beings” longing to be treated “like livestock” something that these people would say about themselves? Or is the “livestock” (bred for the slaughter) metaphor something you came up with all on your own?

        If you’d been of age back in the Stalinist “dark ages” which side of the cattle pen do you think you would have been on? As a Russian that is.

        • dirk says

          I also wonder, mjw, whether you can find people that like to be treated like livestock. But I can imagine people (like E.T.) using the metaphor for a sociey where the individualistic lifestyle into the extreme (like in Northern Europe and US right now) is seen as such. I would say, talk it out with Aleksandr Dugin, I,m sure he has his own metaphors for the Western lifestyle.

    • Kauf Buch says

      Oh, dirk, dirk, dirk…thanks for the amusing creatively invented tale of glory…AKA LEFTIST PROPAGANDA. EVERY SINGLE pre-1989 EASTER EUROPEAN PERSON I grew up around and got to know would NEVER spout such nonsense. They remember 1968, CHARTA 77 and more.

      • dirk says

        Indeed, I never spoke a Czech, only Slovakians (1 year after they split off), Ukrainians, Slovenians,Moldavians and last week , that Latvian lady. I think, Czechoslavakia , for being so close to Germany, might be different, and is taking up much better (more tourists, and investments than in the nations with all thos closed, crumbling factories in Slovakia, Moldavia and Armenia, Georgia) than all those more hidden and eastwards nations. They all are marginalising quickly, I fear. Thanks to the shock.
        But why think I’m leftist? I,m very happy to live in the West, as I said more than once.
        We have a TV program in the NLs where people visit those poor devils in Moldova in their misery, and try to do something about it. Of course, not very much.

        • Kauf Buch says

          dork…err…dirk, you Communist Disinformationists sure are chock full of words to say a whole lotta nothing…other than your propaganda line. Chirp chirp chirp!

          • dirk says

            I wonder what your background is KB, Eastern Germany? (because of your aka). Nevertheless, when challenged here on Quillette, I come with personal anecdotes, because, I can’t believe either press reports or wiki, nor socalled statistics, or, worse even, sociological or political studies. But I love those eastern nations, if only for the gulasch and the horse carts.

    • Gringo says


      If you compare the situation in your country, under the sovjets and now as part of the free EU, what was best for you and your people? I knew the answer already, because ask this question whenever I meet people in the Estern European nations. She did not hesitate even, in the Sovjet time ( All the young people that are able to, or enterprising enough, are leaving Latvia, she said). Better in sovjet time, because of the stability, the affordable basic needs (education, medicines, food, rent, no fear of being fired) and such more.

      This does not erase the horrible things that happened there, of course. That’s another side of the coin. But a side, I fear, easily forgotten by especially youngsters, indeed.

      A look at how per capita income has changed in Eastern European nations that were not under Soviet control before 1939 indicates that much has been forgotten, as most countries show substantial economic growth since 1990. Kundera wins.

      From the Netherlands:Maddison Project Database 2018 gives us historical per capita GNP data.

      <b<Real GDP per capita in 2011US$, 2011 benchmark (suitable for cross-country growth comparisons): 1990 and 2016
      Bosnia and Herzegovina BIH 4565 9746
      Bulgaria BGR 9726 17037
      Croatia HRV 17755 20376
      Czech Republic CZE 18517 28823
      Czechoslovakia CSK 15961 27738
      Estonia EST 12291 24857
      Former Yugoslavia YUG 10910 15416
      Hungary HUN 15716 23279
      Kazakhstan KAZ 13292 23842
      Latvia LVA 13467 22092
      Lithuania LTU 13783 24743
      Montenegro MNE 16175 17741
      Poland POL 9947 24838
      Republic of Moldova MDA 6740 6068
      Romania ROU 10893 17782
      Serbia SRB 15435 13184
      Slovakia SVK 11828 25364
      Slovenia SVN 16540 26908
      TFYR of Macedonia MKD 10118 12644

    • Interesting theory. I’ve worked with young east Germans that were reticent to criticize East Germany.
      My country was a dictatorship, a right wing one, 48 years of Salazar and company. After the revolution we had a great flow of emigration, crime went up. Where the things better? I don’t think so. Dictatorships destroy the economy, destroy society, then comes democracy that has to glue society back together, and it’s difficult, very difficult. Soviet Union had 70 years to destroy civil society , during 70 years all institutions were destroyed, the rule of law was corrupted. Then the system collapsed and after a few year the old soviet mafia took charge of things again. And you blame it on democracy? It’s capitalism’s fault? The entire population of Chechnya was deported! Imagine that? Every men, women and children were deported to Kazakhstan ! countless thousands died! So I guess the present situation in Chechnya is Islam’s or capitalism’s fault? Right? You know what’s the problem with us Europeans? We don’t love freedom, we love comfort, we are the spoiled children of our ancestors that delivered us a great society , but we are too lazy to take care of the inheritance . We are always ready to trade freedom in exchange for a bigger pension or a couple of immigrants to wipe our arse!

  4. When I read Kundera in the 90s, it was not only unthinkable that we would be forgetting why the work was important, how it exposed horrific realities in communist nations- it was unthinkable that we’d repeat the same gross “forgetting” and denial in a mere few decades. It’s horrifying. And the fact that he too is being disappeared (I’ve noticed this) is beyond horrifying.

    That said, though the author’s thesis is interesting – that contrary info about a person or event makes people throw up their hands and dismiss the whole thing – I cannot agree. The thesis is a way of not assigning blame; the disappearing, in his view, is not the role of the state’s malign strategy as it was for the Soviets; it seems to be simply the act of ‘random’ misinformation that somehow causes people to be overwhelmed with too much contradiction: “One of the reasons Mao’s genocides are not widely known about is because they are complex and covered two periods over a total of seven years.” Um, everything is complex. Hitler’s genocides are complex and covers multiple periods over a long time too. Is anything simple?

    If it were true that mere apathy from information overload can disappear us of a person, it would be true of everything. We would expect to see the disappearing across the political and narrative spectrum as the internet is vast and full of contradictory information. That is not happening however. The fact is that the same young people who adore communist T shirts ‘remember’ Western atrocities just fine – e.g. slavery in America, European colonization – even though there are certainly contrary facts, and in some cases no facts at all.

    What is happening is more insidious and I”m afraid the author either doesn’t want to see it or can’t see it. Just as with the Soviets, we are being manipulated deliberately to ‘forget’ the evils of communism. The media is certainly complicit. It erases anything to do with it. When was the last time you heard about communism’s evils even as Venezuela burns? Universities don’t teach it anymore, unless you focus on history, and even then, most woke professors are far more concerned with the West’s and capitalism’s ‘evils.’ One can be banned from social media forever for having your dog do a Nazi salute in humor, but you can literally say or do anything about communism and no one cares; a Nazi sign is evil; a hammer and sickle is just fun and cool. If captitalism is evil, then the only other major choice is communism. (The people in power believe firmly that when/if we shift over to communism, they’ll stay in power.) People are being forgotten deliberately. This is no accident, or mere ‘information overload’ and if you think it is, you are part of the forgetting.

  5. C Young says

    Good observations about Teen Vogue Bolshevism.

    Clearly, this reflects ignorance on the part of both readers and writers. Its the same phenomenon when Sanders and AOC talk about European ‘socialism’ when they are really talking about ‘social democracy’. But its also about the natural utopianism of the young. When every truly revolutionary ideology has been discredited, its natural that dead ones will be disinterred and sanitised, once every 20 years.

  6. Mark Matis says

    The tribe learned well from its work with Lenin and Stalin. They won’t make those mistakes THIS time

  7. Donnerhauser says

    Communism never got the recognition for it’s crimes it deserved. I was reading an article recently where the author observed that while artists had much mileage out of Nazism, the damage of communism received far less attention. We say “never again” with reference to the Holocaust and in London they are building new monuments to it but we aren’t doing the same for the victims of Stalin or Mao, or the lesser communist despots.

    I remember how UnHerd did a discussion on how it was assumed during the Cold War that the crimes of communism would live on in the same infamy as those of Nazism and thus there was no need to make a special effort to educate the populace. Unfortunately this did not happen

    • Mark Matis says

      Ah, but those fifty million by Lenin and Stalin with help from the tribe were mainly Goyim, and as such are not worthy of concern. The 100 million by the Red Chinese weren’t necessarily done with significant help from the tribe, but then again they were all Goyim anyway. Same for the dead in every other Communist nation.

      • @Mark Matis, leave your vile anti-semitism elsewhere. Quillette is focused on reason-based arguments, not illogical hate-based conspiracy theories about The Joooooooos not caring if “the Goyim” are dead and “the tribe” manipulating behind the scenes. It’s just repulsive. Go away.

  8. “As Kundera said:

    The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history.”

    Happening now in American schools.

    • Jorge says

      @ Morgan Foster:

      “As a consequence, [the professor] told us he had removed every single white male and their theoretical perspectives from the entire course curriculum…Perhaps the most striking thing that stands out of the course syllabus is that there is absolutely zero mention of the Founding Fathers (or any other U.S. president or political leader, for that matter) or any of the Western Enlightenment thinkers. Nothing on Washington. Or Jefferson. Or Madison. Or Hamilton. Not a mention of Locke or Rousseau. None of that.”


      Read the syllabus here: https://www.academia.edu/34287638/American_Political_Thought

      • Lightning Rose says

        Jorge: I’d have gotten up and walked out of that class. And maybe the entire school.

      • This appears to be a 4th year course. If you or anyone else “shocked and terrified” by the fact that a 4th year course in American Political Thought pulls some very marginal shit together to make for a novel learning experience, you might want to consider never becoming educators.

        Survey courses get done in the first two years and more specialized courses follow. By 4th year anyone not familiar with the standard American Political Thinkers ought to be working at McDs.

        • doug deeper says

          McDonalds just shut down it’s employment offices nationwide. They simply cannot handle the millions of applicants.

          • I took a 4th year philosophy course labelled Continental Philosophy 445 or something. We almost got through the whole of Being and Time. There wasn’t even a kleenex with Kant’s nosewater mentioned the whole term.

            When it was over, I decided that nothing could ever get to me the way Heidegger had in that book so I dropped my philosophy minor and went whole hog for a specialized honors in English Lit.

            If only I’d studied accounting. I could be a Quillette regular too.

  9. mitchellporter says

    I have a big problem with this article’s approach to China’s great famine. It is repeatedly dubbed a genocide, and Mao is called a “genocidal killer”. But doesn’t genocide imply intent to kill?

    From Wikipedia I learn that the famine is attributed to drought and to communist mismanagement. A campaign to eradicate sparrows particularly stands out. The sparrows were hunted down because they eat grain seeds; but they also eat insects that eat crops, so the extermination of sparrows led to plagues of locusts. I can’t tell how big a factor it was in the disaster, but the attempt to wipe out sparrows is the only “genocide” I can see in the famine – in the sense of a deliberate attempt to eradicate.

    From Wikipedia I also learn that there was a famine that killed ten million people about eighty years earlier. The 19th century was also a bad time for China – look up how many people died in the Taiping rebellion.

    General historical knowledge also reminds me that when the famine occurred, the People’s Republic was still new, having come into being after several decades of revolution, war with Japan, and civil war. With so many middle class and intelligentsia fleeing to Taiwan, and misguided new Lysenkoist ideas being introduced from Russia (still a Chinese ally at that time), one can see how all this could come together to create such a disaster.

    But I can also see how the new political order could survive such events – China had only just reconstituted itself as a nation. The famine was the new system’s first big crisis, the system changed and survived, and of course now, after many more changes, we have a world in which China is immensely successful.

    The attempt to label the famine as a communist genocide, to be blamed on “Mao”, seems like an exercise in western anticommunist historiography. One would be better off, e.g. looking for a discussion of the topic on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A site similar to Quora. I am looking at an answer there right now, and among numerous estimates of the death toll is included one from “Tombstone”, an account of the famine by a Chinese journalist which (Wikipedia says) is banned in China. Zhihu is not some samizdat site, it’s one of the most popular websites in China. So I doubt that China needs the help of western anticommunists in coming to terms with its past.

    Overall, I think the attempt to blame the famine on communism is like an attempt to blame the world wars on imperialism. It’s kind of true, kind of not true. The famine would not have been so bad without communist technocratic attempts to transform how China farmed and lived, the world wars between empires would not have occurred if the empires didn’t exist in the first place. But our apologists for empire will tell us that e.g. in the British case, it spread useful social innovations around the world; just as the apologists for communism can tell us that in the Chinese case, it made that ancient civilization sovereign and powerful again, as well as modern.

    • Stephanie says

      Mitchell, seems to me the Wikipedia page must have been redwashed, because the perspective you share is essentially Chinese Communist Party propaganda. Check out this article from the NYTimes:


      Starvation was deliberate, a way of purging those who couldn’t slave away on communes or refused to tow the party line. Those who disagreed with this approach were wasted in the subsequent Cultural Revolution.

      It is absurd to suggest China is coming to terms with its past when it still calls the torture and execution of millions of people, and deliberate starvation of tens of millions more, the “Great Leap Forward.” Everyone (including the Chinese) knows the Chinese internet is heavily censored, why in the world would you believe what you read on a Chinese forum?

      • mitchellporter says

        On the contrary, I think that if one wished to get closer to the truth of what happened, it would be highly desirable to know what Chinese have said about it, then and now, in history textbooks, and in TV and movies. For accounts of the event, I would rate Chinese as the most important, then perhaps Taiwanese if I wanted a highly informed oppositional narrative, and only then would I turn to western scholarship. But of course all that is difficult if you don’t speak the language, even in the age of machine translation.

        I am well aware that China is a one-party state with censorship and a state ideology. The problem is that western scholarship can be ideological too, and may have been sponsored by who knows what organizations and agendas. The editorial that you link to is by Frank Dikötter, a Dutch historian I never heard of before, but he seems to be well known for taking a maximum position regarding the famine’s death toll and Maoist culpability for it. He has also written a book arguing that opium wasn’t so bad for China and banning it just made things worse. Is that an edgy and counterintuitive position arrived at purely through exercise of free thought; or is it sophisticated apologetics for the world order built on European trade and empire, which is challenged by Chinese ideology, the Chinese example, and the Chinese historical narrative?

        Elsewhere among the comments on this article we have heavy reliance on the works of one author, Jung Chang (who wrote the family history Wild Swans, and coauthored Mao: the Unknown Story with a British leftist who she married). We also have reference to an alleged planned massacre of Chinese landowners after the communists took over; according to one commenter (Jeremy H), the death toll was about 5 million, according to another (Robert Franklin), the death toll was up to 30 million.

        I repeated my experiment of going to Zhihu, this time looking for comments about the Great Leap Forward. The first one that I found, which appeared to be highly upvoted, was a little hard to understand even in translation, but it seemed to blame the bad side of the Great Leap Forward on an “anti-rightist” campaign that targeted intellectuals, leaving the country to be run by peasant ideologues interpreting the whims of Mao. I repeat that Zhihu is one of the most popular apps in China, it is a place where Internet intelligentsia discuss things. My point is that you may be underestimating the scope for criticism and painful discussion in China today. Even Kundera’s theme of forgetting is known in modern Chinese literature.

        As for the famine itself, and its aftermath, Chinese apologists point out that vast terrible famines are a recurring feature of Chinese history, especially when the lives of the peasants are disrupted; and they also point out that Chinese life expectancy overall improved greatly under Mao. Mass starvation is a truly terrible thing, a lifeboat situation in which many people are going to die, and I will not resist the possibility that choices about who would get to live and who would get to die, were made according to social class or other ideological criteria. However, unfortunately there is no way I can just trust the picture of events given in the New York Times op-ed that you cite, or in the other strongly anticommunist references that other commenters have cited. I don’t have to go far, to find serious objections to their claims and analyses, in western scholarly literature, never mind what rebuttals may exist in Chinese forums.

        • Gringo says

          @ mitchellporter .
          However, unfortunately there is no way I can just trust the picture of events given in the New York Times op-ed that you cite, or in the other strongly anticommunist references that other commenters have cited. I don’t have to go far, to find serious objections to their claims and analyses, in western scholarly literature, never mind what rebuttals may exist in Chinese forums.

          Unfortunately for your point of view, one can find those with agendas among western scholars in addition to finding them in NYT Op-ed writers. Given the decades-long attempt of the Chinese government to sweep the great famine under the rug- not to mention its current attempts to censor the Internet- I would be more skeptical than you are of information coming out of China.

          I would suggest that you investigate the following books on the great famines.
          Kimberley Ens Manning & Felix Wemheuer (Eds), Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine
          Frank Dikötter, Mao’s Great Famine The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962
          Jasper Becker, Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine
          Yang Jisheng, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962

          • mitchellporter says

            I have examined many references in the past two days. In the west, the books you cite are regarded as having unearthed important documentary evidence, and as being an important corrective to older accounts because of an increased emphasis on the role of politics and policy in causing and shaping the famine, as opposed to weather alone.

            Two of the books you recommend are reviewed in an essay that can be found online, “From the Great Chinese Famine to the Communist Famines” by Lucien Blanco. For the most part it endorses their content. But it does say of Dikötter in particular, that he ignores the “demographic and economic context” and “the number and scale of famines that hit China between 1876 and 1943”.

            As I already mentioned, there was a famine in the late 19th century, towards the end of the Qing dynasty, that killed 10 million people. Millions more died of famine during the Nationalist period, though there were also some examples of successful famine relief. As in Soviet Russia, but with much worse effect because of the greater population living close to subsistence, the famine during the Great Leap Forward was exacerbated or even caused by collectivization and other communist policies. (A common overview can be seen at DisasterHistory.org.)

            So I think one has to regard “Mao’s secret famine” as on a continuum with other great famines that preceded it, in early modern China. It was the last and worst of these famines. Already in 1962, Liu Shaoqi could say it was 30% due to natural disaster and 70% due to political decisions, and once Mao was gone, this became the view that has prevailed in China.

  10. Martin says

    “To get rid of an enemy now, you don’t have to prove anything against them. Instead, you use the internet to generate conflicting accusations and contradictory data. You use confusion to elevate hatred and fear until that enemy is either banned from the net, their history re-written or erased from the minds of millions through conflict-induced apathy.”

    This is exactly what is happening to a particular “enemy” of the British State right now: simply call Tommy Robinson a fascist, Islamophobic, racist enough times with zero genuine proof and actual proof eventually no longer matters; internet smear campaigns, and constant slander works.

    The self-righteous and the self-appointed new guardians of internet decency only have to claim the crime of “hate speech” and it’s enough to get Tommy Robinson banned from Facebook and Twitter and to get his books banned from Amazon. The British State, acting like the USSR of old, has imprisoned TR on trumped-up charges: anything and everything is done by the British State and these so-called guardians of cyberspace to erase a man, to silence a voice, because they do not want to hear what that voice has to say about Islam’s negative influence in Western society.

    In 21st century, First World, Europe people are subject to erasure from our modern internet dialogue with as much malice as Communist ex-officials were erased from history in Stalin’s USSR. Nobody in the West has been executed for their “hate crimes”, yet, though Tommy Robinson came close when British prison authorities intentionally put him in a locked prison cell full of angry Muslims who proceeded to do the State’s dirty work when they attempted to beat him to death.

  11. @ the gardner

    The author of “Wild Swans” (Jung Chang) has also written a magisterial biography of Mao with her husband, Jon Halliday: “Mao: The Unknown Story” published in 2005.

    @ d

    As usual, your comments are most perceptive. In the high schools and universities of the U.S. (I have taught in both) there is an insidious attempt to erase much of the complexity of American and even world history and to present a simple binary narrative of evil white imperialism oppressing brown innocents. It is the lens through which millennials view every conflict.

  12. Pingback: Elsewhere of the Day: "Milan Kundera Warned Us About Historical Amnesia. Now It's Happening Again" - American Digest

  13. Jorge says

    “A poll in the UK by The New Culture Forum from 2015 showed that 70 percent of British people under the age of 24 had never heard of Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung, while out of the 30 percent who had heard of him, 10 percent did not associate him with crimes against humanity.”

    Seems to be happening in the US, as well: “For 11 years, Professor Duke Pesta gave quizzes to his students at the beginning of the school year to test their knowledge on basic facts about American history and Western culture. The most surprising result from his 11-year experiment? Students’ overwhelming belief that slavery began in the United States and was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, he said…Often, more students connected Thomas Jefferson to slavery than could identify him as president, according to Pesta. On one quiz, 29 out of 32 students responding knew that Jefferson owned slaves, but only three out of the 32 correctly identified him as president…Pesta said he believes these students were given an overwhelmingly negative view of American history in high school, perpetuated by scholars such as Howard Zinn in “A People’s History of the United States,” a frequently assigned textbook.”


    “Our reaction when faced with a disputed piece of data like this is similar to our response when faced with a Wikipedia page that carries the warning: “The neutrality of this article is disputed.” Fatigue and lack of trust kicks in. And so, without an argument needing to be made by Mao’s apologists, the number he killed is not zero, but of zero importance.”

    I’m very interested in this possibility. Do you have citations?

  14. codadmin says

    But, but, but, but, but but buuuuuuutttt…fascism has never been tried because Hitler was not a real fascist!…

  15. jesse says

    I’m right of center and I have to admit that I’d love to discover that Maoism qua Maoism was genocidal. However, I’m more interested in the truth than in feeling morally superior, and mitchellporter’s comment strikes me as a rebuttal of the accusation of genocide. No matter how poorly communism worked, there’s an unbridgeable gap between deliberate murder and negligent killing.

    • codadmin says

      Yes, that gap is called narrative.

      The gap is who has power to project their narrative.

      For example, there’s not one scrap of documented evidence the Nazis carried out a planned genocide either.

      • David of Kirkland says

        @ codamin – So the invasions and concentration camps were unplanned? Or that military invasions and death camps didn’t expect large scale death of those targeted?

        • codadmin says

          Invasions were planned, ‘death camps’ were planned, but the titled ‘death camps’ is an allied ‘capitalist’ term…

          • codadmin says

            And yes, Stalin ( ally of the capitalist imperialists ) wasn’t a communist because communism has never been tried therefore Stalin was, indeed, a capitalist…

    • Robert Franklin says

      Jesse. There’s a thing called Google. You can look it up yourself. Yes, some of those deaths were attributable to governmental mismanagement. But many were intentional, a part of Mao’s desire to “cleanse” the country of contrarian political thought. And of course there’s the slaughter of the land-owning class between 1948 and 52 that was 100% a matter of communist policy. Estimates of that run up to 30 million killed.

    • Stephanie says

      Jesse, a quick Google search will disabuse you of the veracity of that “rebuttal.” Swallowing CCP propaganda whole is neither indicative of truth or moral superiority. See my reply to Mitchell above for more details.

    • Hawk Handsaw says

      Jung Chang’s Mao biography convinced me it was deliberate.

  16. Grant says

    Equally disturbing is the case of a story going viral on the internet until it becomes truth. It’s always happened to some extent, but the haystack has gotten a lot bigger.

  17. Lightning Rose says

    The author gives the would-be neo-Commies way too much intellectual credit. You’re looking at a generation of helicopter-parented, participation-trophy spoiled brats, every minute of whose day since infancy has consisted of organized, supervised, and regulated activities. THINK? Read HISTORY, like, for REAL? When in hell would they have had time to do THAT, in between curating and comparing their lives on Instagram or playing video games?

    They just want the Government to keep on treating them like they’re used to–“in loco parentis” providing all the goodies for free, with guidelines to keep them “safe,” even from ideas. Above all, they don’t want to have to get a job, pay bills, take on adult responsibilities, or become parents.
    Small wonder “adolescence” now officially extends to at least age 30!

    They throw words for 20th century ideologies around without beginning to understand their real meaning and gravity.

    • bumble bee says

      I agree, and that is what is missing from this article. That low hanging fruit that gets people to believe communism/socialism is for the good of all. They do not understand what is at stake personally as well as everyone else.

      The utopia of “living your best life” (BTW that expression irritates me to the core), is an outright lie that the younger masses have swallowed whole. They have been force fed this nonsense nonstop since birth and are ill-equiped to face the struggles, disappointments, hardships that IS life. The freedoms afforded citizens of this country will be null and void in a socialist/communist society. They do not get that. We can discuss tyrants and despots from history, and the mass deaths from them, but one needs to address the duality in their thinking that they can still do as they please, make choices for themselves that would never be possible in their “utopia”. Where others tell you what your needs are, how you will fulfill your part in society, who your leaders will be, and when times get tough you cannot go out a seek your own needs through your own devices.

      The low hanging fruit again is inequality of the haves and have nots. The great economic divide is the fuel stoking this fire. It always starts with the “workers”, sick and tired of the status quo. Speeches of how everyone will get equal time at the societal/economical teat. Now however, they sprinkle this with a sense of benevolence, a sense of how this is doing good is how they get more people roped in.

      One could even argue that this new resurgence is the new religion. It has all the hallmarks of Christianity, and possibly other religions, without the need to acknowledge God or be a part of a faith group. Being kind, loving, respectful, caring, helping those in need, equality as well as the search for knowledge are all tenets of Christianity. People’s thirst for these has never diminished but they have turned away from religion to embrace a mimic that is nothing more than a candy coating. With the decline of people identifying as being religious/faith group, as well as the current state of affairs with major religious organizations with regards to scandals, people turn to the next substitute.

      It is up to people old enough to know to teach the young the truth about socialism/communism and how it has failed, and fail colossally, at each and every turn.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Most in the west have no memory of: 1) living on dirt floors; 2) living with feces in the streets; 3) living with infectious disease everywhere; 4) having to walk miles to carry water home; 5) doing back breaking work daily to feed yourself by farming or hunting/gathering; 6) dealing with marauders and lords and powerful priests; 7) not having entertainment easily in your home; 8) being illiterate as the norm; 9) not seeing or communicating or visiting anybody outside of a few hundred to perhaps a thousand others in your tribe; 10) and the list continues…

        • dirk says

          You are so right here David. Sometimes I think, that veil of ignorance of Rawls, it seems such a simple thing to imagine, but the main reason that it got so famous and much cited is, such a veil is impossible to imagine by us humans, yet, we can’t see the world and social reality differently than through a thick veil.

        • AesopFan says

          “Most in the west have no memory of: 1) living on dirt floors; 2) living with feces in the streets; 3) living with infectious disease everywhere; ”
          They seem to be taking care of those in LA and SF, among other cities, these days.
          Maybe they will get around to 4-10 pretty soon.
          6, 8, & 9 are arguably in progress.

  18. Amelia Bedelia says

    The ongoing fascination with socialism continues for two reasons: 1. the young are always optimistic utopians; and 2. the world has never seen a socialist democracy, there is an ongoing curiosity of what a socialist democracy would look like.

    I also don’t think it is fair to equate Mao and Hitler. Hitler intentionally tried to wipe out an entire race. Mao was trying to modernize and empower China and if the famines were attributable to those efforts then shame on him and his government for its incompetencies but it is a different kettle of fish to purposeful genocide.

    • Jeremy H says


      The elimination of the land-owning class in China from around 1948 to 1952 was a deliberate act of slaughter that resulted in the deaths of 5 million or so people who happened to be in the way of the “great leap forward”. Mao intentionally wiped out an entire class. Is this Hitler-esque enough for you?

  19. Bill says

    So if Communism/Socialism is so good, i’m stuck scratching my head wondering why the Leftists aren’t pro-Trump? I mean, if Trump colluded with the Great Communist Russia, to win the election in the US, wouldn’t that mean that Trump is pro-Communism and therefore a hero for the Left?

    • dirk says

      @Bill: communism is not so much good or bad, it is a structured way of organising society, like feudalism or despotism or democracy is. As is the case with all forms of human policy systems, it works in many or some details, in others much less so. Also, in some areas or historical situations, or geopolitical conditions, it is a much more likely form to encounter, than in other ones. This, at least, is the way I see it.
      E.g., I wonder whether there could have been a better alternative for Kazachstan or Kirgyzistan, 90 yrs ago (though, not knowledgeable about this).

  20. jesse says


    What have you been smoking? Russia isn’t communist, it’s an oligarchy. Come on man, it’s 2019, not 1989.

  21. jesse says


    So your response to the claim that Mao’s kills were the result of negligence and not a genocide isn’t to question the claim…it’s holocaust denial?

    • codadmin says


      I anticipated the holocaust denial retort…which is why I brought it up in the first place.

      You are clearly a ‘Great Leap Forward Genocide Denier’…

      • jesse says


        What is your actual argument? Do you dispute that the famines endemic to communist nations were caused by simple negligence and/or incompetence? Let’s set the atrocities committed by the right aside for a moment. Did Mao deliberately exterminate 30-70 million people?

        • codadmin says

          The facts are irreverent, you are a clearly a genocide denier.

          Any attempt to deny the reality of the Mao’s genocide is an act of unquestionable evil.

          You should be arrested for your crimes. Nothing else has to be said.

  22. David of Kirkland says

    “The internet has become a tool of forgetting” — except that’s hard to prove since it seems to remember most everything, and while you can find nutty conspiracy theories if you want that sort of thing, those who communicate with more trusted parties don’t suffer this issue at all.

    Isn’t one of the great European privacy ideas for the Internet the concept of “the right to be forgotten”?

    Human nature suggests that once it has something good repeatedly, that good tends to lose its special place over time. If you ate your favorite meal every time, it would stop being your favorite quickly. We suffer “first world problems” in that we have solved so many pressing matters that we now get upset over slights or ideas that differ from our own.

    Authority is the root of all such problems, whether communist or capitalist or fascist or democratic. The Enlightenment did well to work towards a balance of sovereignty for social needs and liberty for the individual. That balance can clearly shift towards more social safety nets without turning into mass murder.

    • Stephanie says

      “That balance can clearly shift towards more social safety nets without turning into mass murder.”

      David, that’s an interesting point. If we think of communism and capitalism as two poles of a spectrum of public-private ownership, is one pole good and the other evil, or is there an optimal balance between them?

      I agree the problem is authoritarianism, but if authoritarianism is robust government control, then government control of health care, utilities, and information should be considered .
      authoritarian to some degree.

      There seems to be a correlation between governments with robust social services and authoritarian tendencies like gun control, “hate speech” legislation, homogeneous media bias, ect.

      The progression always seems to be to greater communism and greater authoritarianism; seldom can the government manage to give up the control they’ve taken, even when they want to. That’s because this control comes under the guise of helping the people, and the people are hostile to politicians they perceive as taking away the “help” they’ve been promised. We are all susceptible to becoming dependent and entitled.

      It reminds me of 1917 Russia, where the new Agriculture minister nearly got lynched by a mob of workers because he hadn’t yet delivered on his promise to appropriate all land from the landowners. It seems to me even the smallest promise of entitlement has lead to greater demands, and it can snowball until normal people are literally ready to tear someone apart because in two months he hasn’t given them a free plot of land.

      It seems possible to me, given the progression towards authoritarianism and fiscal insolvency, the countries incorporating degrees of communism might be moving in the same direction as all communist states, just at a slower rate proportional to their adoption of communist ideology.

  23. TheSnark says

    Western youth’s infatuation with (and ignorance about) Communism is nothing new; Che Guevera t-shirts have been common since the 1970’s. And ignorance of history is also an old story. I graduated from college in the 1970’s, and have been appalled be even the well-educated “elite’s” lack of historical knowledge ever since.

    What seems to be new today is that those few young people who have learned a bit of history have learned the “White/West is bad, everybody else is good” group-think that has come to dominate even high school curricula.

    Whether you think the mass deaths of their own citizens under Communism were intentional or due to bureaucratic ineptitude, the end result is that they happened, and happened repeatedly. Such horrors did not happen in capitalist democracies.

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  25. Morgan Foster says


    “Western youth’s infatuation with (and ignorance about) Communism is nothing new; Che Guevera t-shirts have been common since the 1970’s.”

    Some youngsters have to actually see a counterrevolutionary being killed in a cellar to really appreciate the true meaning of Communism. By then, of course, it’s often too late for them.

    • dirk says

      Half a mile from my home, we have a Che Guevara street. I wonder what , once upon a time, went on in the heads of the name givers at the county. Everybody agrees with that name?? Then we go on with next agenda point.

  26. John Drake says

    I’ve been urging people to read The Joke for at least a decade. Each year, the similarities between The Joke and the contemporary West — particularly academia — have become greater and greater.

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  28. Sasha says

    Its already happening, sad, but entirely predictable with many communist mouthpieces copying the same old game.

    Any student of the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn or the semi-fictional trilogy of Anton Rybakov “Children of The Arbat” clearly demonstrates the gradual erosion of any liberties and the total lack of ethics and morality seeping into society.

    Solzhenitsyn showed total amazement at the declining interest of the common citizen as the authorities condemned, shot and exiled millions whilst they lived in a “see no evil hear no evil” existence is no surprise to me.

    Unless the knock comes on the individuals door, the small majority of fanatics historically can do as they please , and more disarming is that fact that the ringleaders either die peacefully or retire to their “dachas” unrepentant and are praised by their current media.

  29. Fickle Pickle says

    All very true – no doubt about that.
    But perhaps a more urgent necessity is the forgetting of our own very recent dark past and what we are now actively doing to Earthkind altogether.

    Re our recent very dark past check out the book Savage Continent by Keith Lowe. And check out the equally dark aftermath of the first world war too.

    And the dark aspects of the British Empire as described by Richard Gott in his book Britain’s Empire. And what about the European Scramble For Africa between 1881 & 1914?
    The exercise of which was always about plunder and not about bringing “civilization” and the christian “god” to the “heathen savages”.

    And of course The American Holocaust as described in the book by David Stannard.

    And of course it could be said that the newest and potentially most serious “great forgetting” is now being orchestrated by the historically and culturally illiterate barbarian that now occupies the White House.

  30. Jean Levant says

    @ Fickle Pickle
    Well, are you still talking about Trump? Is there a topic in your view of the world where the Donald is not?

  31. Let’s be clear:

    FOXNews made it a point to use the word “socialist” to describe any Obama-era policy they didn’t understand or didn’t like.
    FOXNews and conservatives made it a point to call Obama a “socialist Muslim Kenyan” every chance they got.
    Conservatives continued to chant “socialism” at everything they didn’t like.
    This actually all began 1.5 decades before with Rush Limbaugh’s nonstop use of the “socialist” tag for Bill Clinton.

    Conservatives: Hyperbole and Euphemism are NOT your friends. Say what you mean; mean what you say. Stop calling everything “socialist” when you don’t like it. You have a hand in polarizing the discourse as much as liberals do.

  32. David says

    I see a lot of articles on Quillette worrying about the threat of communism due to its alleged effects including:

    “The stagnant debt and corruption, the human rights abuses in political-prisons and orphanages, the hidden mass graves, the illegal human experiments, the secret surveillance systems, the assassinations, the mass starvations, and the overwhelming evidence of the failure in each country of “the planned economy.” The structures, too, of government-misinformation, the eradication of free speech and the re-writing of history—erasing your opponents by murdering them.”

    Yet in the U.S. we are currently well down the path to all of these horrors under an unquestionably capitalist economy. Stagnant debt and corruption, human rights abuses, surveillance systems, government misinformation, failure of the economy, attempts to eradicate free speech and re-write history. All of these things are happening right now under Donald Trump’s administration. The rest – political assassinations, etc. is seen in other countries with effective dictatorships and will happen in the U.S. if the people are not able to stop and reverse the current trends.

    If relatively unregulated capitalism leads to the same effects as those purported to be related to communism, we must acknowledge that perhaps the problem is not the type of economy, rather the strength of a country’s democracy. Maybe the fact that many of Quillette’s staff lives in countries (Australia, Canada) that have much stronger social democracies than the U.S. that they feel comfortable enough to ignore the threat that’s on the right. Those of us in the states don’t have that luxury.

    The horrors of “communism” are coming, but not from who you expect. We should be writing articles talking about the current threat that’s at hand, not about some Democratic Socialists who are trying to make the U.S. more like Quillette’s home countries.

    • codadmin says

      ‘…we must acknowledge that perhaps the problem is not the type of economy, rather the strength of a country’s democracy’

      But democratic communism is an oxymoron. Without centralised control of all aspects of the society, communism is impossible.

      The so called crimes of ‘capitalism’ ( a Marxist word for freedom and open markets ) have been going on for tens of thousands of years, long before ‘capitalism’ even existed.

      In fact, if you compare the world before ‘capitalism’ and after ‘capitalism’ ( Marxists like to say it started in 16th century ), what you’ll find is a much better world, despite the problems it still faces.

      One obvious example, the ‘capitalist’ states abolished slavery, for the first time in history, while Marx was still alive.

      • Stefan Mochnacki says

        @codadmin Socialism is not Communism! Indeed, Leninist “Communism” is synonymous with complete control of all aspects of life and the complete suppression of civil society outside the Party, which is totalitarianism. Democratic socialism is simply social democracy, whose most prominent exponents today are Jacinda Ardern, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn (the last being somewhat suspect to me).

        • codadmin says

          @Stefan Mochnacki

          Socialism is the tadpole to the communist frog.

          What’s even the difference between democracy and ‘social democracy’?

          • idk idk says

            How did we survive the New Deal and the Great Society without sliding into totalitarian communism? Was it a close call? (Note: “Ronald Reagan” is not a sufficient or acceptable response.)

            Is anyone willing to argue that social welfare programs and the very word “socialism” will lead inevitably to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulling off her mask to reveal she’s been Stalin all along?

            It seems to me we’re strangely lucky to have been well-informed by the twentieth century of the dangers of totalitarianism from the far right and totalitarianism from the far left…

  33. dirk says

    Jair Bolsonaro of Brasil wanted 31 March to be made a national day because of the change of government from communist to capitalist on that day some 50 years ago. It meant horrible things though, 1000s of former communists jailed,100s of tortured to death, is this really true?? Though, I wouldn’t be surprised. The saints are in heaven, the devils on earth. Only on Quillette some commenters believe that the saints are also among ourselves, the humans.

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  36. Stefan Mochnacki says

    I’m surprised that nobody here has mentioned Anne Applebaum, whose recent book “Red Famine” is the most recent and thorough history of the Holodomor, and Timothy Snyder, whose books “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth” cover the history of the region in great depth. Both Applebaum and Snyder, the latter in “The Road to Unfreedom”, have thoroughly documented both the Soviet perpetration and obfuscation of the Holodomor, and the current Russian burying of truth in a flood of “fake news” and preposterous theories which make the truth opaque. It seems that the Chinese have been doing something similar with the consequences of Mao’s policies, perhaps not surprising given that the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power passes through Mao despite the repudiation of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution by Deng Xiaoping.

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  38. idk idk says

    Is this comments section relatively good, by internet standards? With some facts, references, and competing narratives in a very clumsy and still-bad-by-real-standards conversation? I’m confused…

    • Mark30339 says

      I wonder the same thing. Hey Quillette, why not require a $1 contribution to Q for every 1000 characters of commentary? I might be more willing to make the effort to comprehend these replies if the authors actually parted with cash to state them. And my US dollar is already in via patreon because Q is a great service for this age.

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  40. Left, right or centre, people WILL forget, and usually not even deliberately. They’ll forget because there are only so many socio-political and cultural options, all of which contain the same poisons of greed, power and expediency – poisons which have to be forgotten in order to get on with the newest social project. It’s an incurable syndrome. Or, rather, it is finally curable by the self-extinction of humankind. Then there’ll be no-one left to remember, and no left, right and centre to trade accusations about selective forgetting. But if we do survive, we’ll repeat all the same old awful crimes and errors and continue fighting one another on an ideological pot-and-kettle basis, while someone at the top keeps creaming off the profits accruing from the endless squabble.

  41. Hmmm says

    Concerning the discussion of whataboutery or ism or whatever and who started it, which side uses it most, …. Please. Talk about memory and forgetting. The world didn’t start in 2016, or 1917. People have been engaging in this since they were first able to argue.

  42. I do hope American readers read the comment section of this article. Read it please and understand that your society , although not perfect , is an improvement upon Europe. You are a better version of our continent .Never , never try to be like us. It’s comment after comment about how things weren’t too bad behind the iron curtain. “they had a safety net!” That’s all we care! Our bloody pensions and trips to Thailand.

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