Those numbers, by the way, come not from any right-wing organization. They come from 1999’s The Black Book of Communism, written by six leftist French intellectuals and published by Harvard University Press. They are numbers that stagger the imagination. And they are not just numbers but souls, 100 million human souls, whose lives and sufferings deserve commemoration.
Enter conservative scholar Lee Edwards and former Ambassador Lev Dobriansky, who conceived of and now have brought to fruition a Victims of Communism Memorial, to be unveiled in a major ceremony on Tuesday, June 12 at 10 a.m.
To be located at the busy intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues (and ‘G’ Street), NW, in Washington, D.C., the Memorial will feature a statue modeled on the “Goddess of Democracy” used by the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square in 1989, that statue itself deliberately reminiscent of our own Statue of Liberty. Its inscriptions, front and back, will read as follows: “To the more than 100 million victims of Communism and to those who love liberty,” and “To the freedom and independence of all captive nations and peoples.”
The memorial and its lessons are long overdue.
“We’re trying to do several things,” Edwards told me last week. “We are memorializing the victims. This is the world’s first memorial to all the victims of Communism. Number two, we are honoring those who resisted Communism. Real leaders. People like Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Harry Truman, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Solzhenitsyn: The list can go on and on….All of these various people who successfully stood up and resisted Communism. Third, this is part of an ongoing educational program. We want to educate people about what a terrible tyranny it was….There is not the same kind of recognition of the Communist holocaust.”
Edwards continued: “It is based upon the idea that the Soviets and the Chinese and the Cambodians thought that they could create a new man, and they set about it in the most ruthless way, and anybody that got in their way, they destroyed. The got caught up in this Utopian nightmare and cut down anybody who got in their way….
“For example, in 1959, and for the next three years, Mao tried to bring about a collectivization of agriculture in China….The first year, 5 million people died. He said to keep going. The second year 10 million died. He said ‘keep ahead.’ The third year 20 million died, all during what was called the Great Leap Forward….
“We can certainly conclude that there is this maniacal impulse which leads them to do maniacal things like the purges, like the famines, like the mock trials…. I really think it goes back to this Utopian notion that makes them think they can remake people, which of course I think is rather insane.”
The word “Utopian” itself is problematic. Edwards’ point is that man is incapable of creating a Utopia here on Earth, and that all efforts to do so carry in their very nature the need for brute force to achieve it, because only through brute force can the nature of man even appear to be changed. On that point, Edwards is right.
But I think the word “purported” should be placed in front of “Utopia.” In truth, what’s wrong with the Communist vision isn’t merely the means used to achieve it, and it isn’t merely the mistaken assumptions about the perfectability of man. Instead, the goals themselves — the very life envisioned by the revolutionary dreamers — would be a nightmare, not a Utopia, even if realized by entirely peaceful means.
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