Today is May Day. For the past several years, I have advocated that this date be transformed into Victims of Communism Day. My 2007, 2008, and 2010 posts on the subject explain the rationale for this idea. Here’s a summary from my very first post on the subject, which remains equally valid today:
May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day….
The main alternative to May 1 is November 7, the anniversary of the communist coup in Russia. However, choosing that date might be interpreted as focusing exclusively on the Soviet Union, while ignoring the equally horrendous communist mass murders in China, Camobodia, and elsewhere. So May 1 is the best choice.
In this post, I explained why the longstanding relative neglect of communist crimes is deplorable — not just from the standpoint of understanding the past, but also that of doing justice in the here and now and ensuring a better future. For a good summary of the extent of communist crimes, see this 2005 May Day post by political scientist Rudolph Rummel, a leading academic expert on mass murder.
Since my last May Day post, new evidence has emerged suggesting that the communist mass murders in China were on an even larger scale than previously thought, and greater than those in the Soviet Union. This strengthens the case for an international rather than Russia-centric date for Victims of Communism Day.
Much debate has focused on the question of whether communist mass murders qualify as genocide. In my view, some of them do qualify as such, but the entire distinction between genocide and mass murder has been vastly overblown. The mass murder of innocent people is equally evil regardless of whether it was committed out of racial, religious, ideological or other motives. I discussed this point in detail in this series of posts.
2011 is also the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, one of communism’s most notorious crimes, though ironically also one of its comparatively smaller ones. For my thoughts on the Wall, see here.