Monday marked May Day, which was punctuated by scores of “workers” marches around the world, but on of the leading experts on communism says movements like this always end in death, poverty, and misery.
More than a quarter century after the end of the Cold War, political movements at home and abroad are once again embracing ideas of equality for all and casting the wealthy as villains who keeping working people from climbing higher in society.
Lee Edwards is the chairman of the board of trustees for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He spearheaded the effort for a national memorial to those victims that was dedicated in 2007. Edwards is also a distinguished fellow in conservative thought at the Heritage Foundation and a prolific author on the conservative movement.
He says the promises always sound so good.
“People say, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful. Let’s do away with all classes. Let’s do away with all conflicts and have some utopia in which we’re all going to be friends.’ That just works against human nature. Even (Karl) Marx said the only way we’re going to get to communism is through a dictatorship of the proletariat,” said Edwards.
But 100 years of communism and practice expose the promises for what they really are.
“The communists are the biggest liars in human history. If you think about it, they promised peace, land, and bread to the people in the beginning way back in Russia and then in China. Instead of peace, they got them involved in wars. Instead of land, they took away their land. Instead of bread, they gave them bread lines,” said Edwards.
Perhaps the most chilling result of a century of communism is the death toll.
“There are over 100 million victims as a result of communism. One hundred million,” said Edwards, noting that China’s Mao Zedong and the USSR’s Joseph Stalin are by far the most murderous of dictators, killing their own people by the tens of millions.
And why does does communism lead to systematic government genocide?
“Because they say that we’re going to arrive at this Utopian society, and if you get in our way and you deny us, then we’re going to kill you,” said Edwards, pointing out how Stalin starved 5-7 million Ukrainians to death by ordering the communizing of agriculture there.
In short, Edwards says everyone suffers under communism except the leaders. He says rationing was rampant in the old Soviet Union, except for vodka.
“Everything else was rationed. Everything else was only available to what we call the nomenclatura, the members of the party and members of the army, who were running things in Soviet Russia and still in communist China,” said Edwards.
And while just five official communist governments exist today (China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Cuba), many others are de facto socialist dictatorships, most notably Venezuela, which is currently in a state of major unrest.
But Edwards is concerned about the rise of communist and socialist sympathies here in the U.S., starting with how Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, attracted a great deal of enthusiasm and support during his 2016 presidential campaign.
“The line between Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism and socialism outright is probably pretty thin. Frankly, I’m concerned that too many young people are not adequately educated or informed about the real failures, about the deaths, about the murders, about the purges,” said Edwards.
“They never heard about the gulag, for example, that series of forced labor camps in which Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and millions and millions of people lived in and many of them died. So this is really an educational process that we need to get into,” said Edwards.
That in itself is difficult because he says academia is often sympathetic to communism.
“There are still Marxist professors who are saying, ‘Oh well, communism is this marvelous idea, it’s just never been tried adequately and therefore we can’t dismiss it,'” said Edwards.
The issue also hit close to home for Edwards recently when protesters in Washington posed while extending their middle fingers to the Victims of Communism Memorial. He says education has to be the answer and his foundation his leading the effort.
“We have created a curriculum on communism from Marx to Mao, which I’m happy to say is being used in high schools, public schools, private schools, home schools. We’ve got to begin very early on. We can’t wait for colleges and universities to begin to tell the truth,” said Edwards.
While he acknowledges a major battle for the direction of young minds, Edwards is fully confident freedom will win.
“I believe there is an instinct within all of us, within our breast, for the desire for freedom. We can see that with people challenging, even today, challenging China, challenging the authoritarian ways of Russia. I believe that is there but it must be encouraged. It must be educated. It must be developed. It’s not going to develop all by itself,” he said.