On Communist Nostalgia

The Drudge Report recently “linked” to a story detailing actress Cameron Diaz’s foreign faux pas. Ms. Diaz, on a trip to Peru, sported a bag emblazoned with Maoist propaganda.

Unbeknownst to Ms. Diaz, apparently, Maoist rebels killed somewhere around 70,000 Peruvians during their brutal insurgencies of the 1980s and 1990s. Accordingly, modern Peruvians didn’t take too kindly to Ms. Diaz’s delving into Communist chic.

Now, on its own, this story isn’t terribly noteworthy. Cameron Diaz, after all, is an actress, and actors and actresses are well known for their stupidity.

But Ms. Diaz’s Maoist handbag does, we think, speak to a larger issue: Left-wing nostalgia for Communism. For some reason, despite the millions and millions of Communist victims in the 20th century, many of our lefty pals believe that Communist paraphernalia is nifty.

Hence one’s typical perambulation in any given city allows one to behold college kids and other ne’er-do-wells bedecked in Che T-shirts. The guy helped Fidel Castro set up his evil police state–surely that’s worth a sartorial statement or two?

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw from Harvard University, there’s even a bar positively dripping with Communist kitch called the People’s Republik. Sure: Nothing beats Harvard graduate students enjoying a drink at a place offering a tip of the cap to the Communist megalomaniac who butchered Chinese intellectuals en masse.

It is a sign, we think, of a curious moral obtuseness that people happily drape themselves in the signs and slogans of disastrous Communist governments. After all, no one in his right mind would wear a T-shirt with a swastika emblazoned on it. Though Stalin killed more people than did Hitler, however, many of our lefty friends think the hammer and sickle are just grand.

This sort of intellectual perversity also haunts the world of books. A fellow named Robert Service recently wrote a book called Comrades, which presents a summation of Communism’s various depredations. It earned a scabrous review from one Seumas Milne, a writer for London’s left-wing Guardian.

Apparently, the book was a little too harsh on Communism for the Guardian‘s taste. Why not go a little easier on Communism, just as Uncle Joe went easy on the Cossacks?

In response to this sort of nonsense, Mr. Service wrote a thoughtful article in the British left-wing magazine The New Statesman. Why, asked Mr. Service, do liberals harbor such sympathy for murderous Communist regimes? Why must they label all criticism of Communism “neo-conservative”?

Mr. Milne, in a letter to The New Statesman, offered a bewildering retort. Amongst its obtuse claims are the following:

Insisting that communism was simply a horrific historical detour that overwhelmingly relied on repression, Service is unable to explain its mass appeal or success at a time when most of the rest of the world was under colonial rule or capitalist dictatorship….

Communism’s crimes and failures are now so well rehearsed that they are in danger of obliterating any understanding of its achievements–both of which have lessons for the future of progressive politics and for the search for a social alternative to globalised capitalism.

Rather takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

It’s humorous that Mr. Milne argues in favor of Communism on the grounds that it had “mass appeal.” Well, gee: Nazism had mass appeal too, but that doesn’t mean it was any less evil.

And then there’s the bit about Communism’s grand successes. Sure, those must more than offset the mass murders, tortures, and starvations it unleashed on the world. Hey: At least Communism managed to transform Duke University’s literature department into an academic powerhouse. No mean achievement, that.

(Note: The crack young staff normally “weblog” over at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” where they are currently chuckling at a forthcoming collection of poetry from Guantanamo detainees.)

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