The Corner

Union of Soviet Slaveholding Republics

My column today is on the offensively well-cultivated ignorance about the evils of Soviet Communism. An excerpt:

In America, we constantly, almost obsessively, wrestle with the “legacy of slavery.” That speaks well of us. But what does it say that so few care that the Soviet Union was built — literally — on the legacy of slavery? The founding fathers of the Russian Revolution — Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky — started “small,” merely throwing hundreds of thousands of people into kontslagerya(concentration camps).

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

Yes, one reason the Left is defensive about Soviet Communism is that so many of their heroes were apologists for it (or lackeys of it). But I think another reason stems from the misbegotten and idiotoc notion that Communism represented the future. It didn’t. It was reactionary and tribal in every meaningful sense except for its vocabulary.  Subscribing to a pre-modern view of labor, Stalin made the USSR the last great slave state of Europe (though slave labor in the USSR hung on for decades longer, at a smaller scale). He just didn’t say so. He used some Marxist sweet talk and that’s all the cheap date intellectuals of the West needed to hear. (More on this in the next G-File if I can get it done.)

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