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The New York Times and the "Lost Cause" of Bolshevism

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Tags World HistoryPolitical Theory

A century ago , the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia ushered in a century of mass murder, starvation, summary execution of millions of people, destruction of ancient social institutions, wars, a vast network of death camps, and the evisceration of liberty, at one time, of a third of the planet.

According to the New York Times, we should be mourning the passage of this era and all of its promises of a better life for all.

You read that correctly.

For the past few months, leading up to the centennial of when the followers of Lenin and Trotsky overthrew the Provision Government of Russia and established “all power to the Soviets,” the Times has run a series of op-ed articles by people mostly mourning the “Lost Cause” of communism and all of its promise. We have learned that Bolsheviks were wonderful parents, that women under communism had great sexMao liberated women(when he wasn’t murdering them), that Bolshevism promoted a pristine, clean environment and we should all be communists if we want environmental purity (except that the communist bloc had much worse pollution problems than the so-called polluted capitalist West), and that the revolutionary fervor of communism can lead to a glorious socialist future.

As one reads these articles, it becomes clear that to the NYT, the end of communism as we knew it – except for a few backwaters like North Korea and Cuba – really was the end of hope for a better life, the end of hope of liberation from the slavery of capitalism, and the end of hope that the state could forcibly destroy human institutions from marriage to religion and replace them with peace, love, and brotherhood. If only.

Should there be a common theme in these odes to the glories of Bolshevism, one senses that the world missed the opportunity to install paradise because those great Keepers of the Secret continued to die before they could share their great knowledge with the rest of humanity. Oh, if only reactionary Germans had not killed Rosa Luxemborg in 1919, for she knew how to make socialism work. If only Trotsky had triumphed instead of Stalin in the 1920s. If only Lenin hadn’t died prematurely from complications from a stroke. If only Mao had not contracted ALS and died. And so on.

Given the near-uncritical support that the NYT historically has given communist dictators, from its deliberate cover-up of the infamous Ukraine famine in the 1930s, its whitewashing of the Moscow Show Trials of that same decade, and its near-worship of Mao in China and Castro in Cuba, one comes to understand that the editors of that paper now regard communism as a great “lost cause,” a chance for humanity to better its sorry condition that disappeared all because the Great Unwashed wanted cellphones, fast cars, good food, and, yes, liberty instead of embracing the intellectual and spiritual liberation that communism offered.

American journalists are not afraid to attack the “lost cause” interpretation of the American Civil War and Southern secession. The South depended heavily upon black chattel slavery, it sought secession in order to continue that doomed institution, and all of its fighters were traitors, or at least that is how modern journalists interpret that war. That the horrors of Jim Crow and its accompanying violence came about only after Southern politicians embraced the Northern secular religion known as Progressivism is stuffed down the same Orwellian Memory Hole into which the NYT and its supporters in academe and the media have deposited the unprecedented orgy of murder and slavery that was Bolshevism and its aftermath.

We should not forget that the NYT has endorsed nearly every totalitarian movement save Nazism, and no respectable person wants to endorse Adolph Hitler, anyway. As for socialism, what socialistic or communist regime has the NYT and its gaggle of academic and journalistic allies not endorsed, at least at the beginning? It stood with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and, for a while, even Pol Pot in Cambodia. As always, they declared the very idea of socialism to be rooted in justice, so even if the actual communist experiment failed, nonetheless, the love of justice required that right-minded people support it, anyway.

In comparing the nostalgia the NYT has toward fallen communist regimes with the old “lost cause” view of the Civil War, there is a huge difference between the two. Regarding the former, the NYT and its like-minded allies would not hesitate to claim that at least some violence is necessary in order to achieve Utopia, or, to quote the NYT’s correspondent in Moscow during the Stalin years, Walter Duranty, “One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

For that matter, the political allies of the NYT in Great Britain, the Labour Party, not only refuses to condemn the century of violence and bloodshed that was communism, but has leaders that openly celebrate the Bolshevik Revolution in all its gore and mayhem. But for all of the “lost cause” talk regarding secession and the South, no one today that defends the South also defends slavery. To the contrary, most people who would defend secession also would say that slavery not only was immoral, but also was not a viable economic system and would have ended soon enough.

One cannot say that about today’s defenders of socialism. At best, they can claim that the violence that has accompanied the implementation of revolutionary socialism simply is an unnecessary mistake, as though a regime can seize property, shut down churches, confiscate one’s goods, and do it all non-violently with a happy face. However, as the late Tibor Machan noted more than three decades ago, implementing Marx requires a Stalin.

Today, we see the Smiley-Faced Socialism in the persona of Bernie Sanders, who claims to simply want a nice socialism in which there is no poverty – and no police state. Sanders, however, has spent most of his formative political years as a self-described Trotskyite, and if one identifies with Leon Trotsky, one must also identify with the methods the man implemented.

Likewise, the editorial writers for the New York Times do not have the luxury of pining for the supposed pure ideals of communism, but then turning up its nose at the bodies of the millions of the dead communist leaders left behind. If implementation of an organizing principle results in mass starvation, vast prison camps, and death and destruction, it probably is safe to say that the original organizing principle itself is morally bankrupt. That is something I doubt the NYT and its groupies ever will understand.

Originally published at LewRockwell.com. 

Bill Anderson is a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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