The Corner

Like the Nazis and the Soviets . . .

The Communists who rule China have announced that they have created their own peace prize: the Confucius Peace Prize. They have done this in response to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident and political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo. Repressive governments have this tendency: When piqued at the Nobel Committee, they create their own prizes. Hitler did and Stalin did.

In 1936, the Nobel Committee gave the peace prize for 1935 — it had been “reserved” a year, to use Nobel jargon — to Carl von Ossietzky, a German journalist and pacifist, and a political prisoner of the Nazis. Hitler & Co. were none too pleased. They forbade German citizens to accept any Nobel prize — not just the peace prize, but the scientific prizes and the literature prize, which were, as they are now, awarded in Stockholm. (The peace prize, uniquely, is awarded in Oslo, as you know.) (The economics prize is not a real Nobel prize — it was tacked on by a Swedish bank in the late 1960s.) In compensation, the Nazis created their own prizes in “art and science.” Two Nobel committees went ahead and gave prizes to Germans anyway: the committees for chemistry and physiology or medicine. The German winners were able to accept those awards after the war, and the downfall of the Third Reich.

Flash-forward a decade or so. Soviet Communists have been continually passed over by the Nobel Committee in Oslo. One of those passed over was Uncle Joe himself — who was nominated in both 1945 and 1948. Like Hitler, he was in a position to do something about this. He would not take this insult lying down (although, as it happens, he liked to work lying down, usually on a divan). Stalin created the Stalin Peace Prize, known formally as the International Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Peoples. The award appeared in 1949, as part of the dictator’s 70th-birthday celebrations. (Never mind that Stalin’s actual 70th birthday was in 1948.)

In later years, when the Kremlin was taking the name “Stalin” off everything, the prize was rechristened the Lenin Peace Prize, or the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Peoples. The Stalin/Lenin Peace Prize, which endured right through the end of the Soviet Union, was won by a host of glitterati, either Communist or pro-Communist: Paul Robeson, Howard Fast, Pablo Neruda, Fidel Castro, Angela Davis, Miguel d’Escoto, and so on. Even Khrushchev and Brezhnev won the award. I think they had friends on the committee.

Howard Fast was an American novelist, as you remember. He received the Stalin Peace Prize from the hand of W. E. B. Dubois, another very great admirer of Stalin. In his acceptance speech, Fast lamented that neither this prize nor “the name it bears is greatly honored by the men who govern my country.” And he said, “If I had no other cause for honoring the Soviet Union, I would honor it greatly and profoundly for giving prizes for peace.” Let me remind you: The Soviet state killed about 20 million people, and stunted or wrecked the lives of millions more.

But that’s nothing next to what the Chinese Communists have done! The Soviet numbers are positively paltry, by comparison. Of course, the ChiComs had more people to work with. Anyway, they have now created their own prize, in response to what a committee of five Norwegians has done. Just like the Nazis and the Soviets. What a beautiful club.

P.S. According to reports, the ChiComs are paying 15,000 bucks for this prize. The Nobel Committee pays 1.5 million. Cheapskates, too, the Red Chinese.

P.P.S. To see my piece on the award to Liu Xiaobo, in the November 1 National Review, go here. The article is called “Oslo Scores: The Norwegian Nobel Committee gives the peace prize to a Chinese hero.” What a great man. I look forward to the day when he goes to Oslo to collect his prize. Maybe with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese heroine who is the laureate for 1991?

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