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Ill-considered communist revival

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted October 20, 2003

An item in Parade magazine earlier this month caught the eye of my colleague Jerris Leonard, who passed it on to me, knowing of my interest in the subject. The report said that the Communist Party is growing again in Russia. Last year, 18,000 new recruits joined, 80 percent of whom are under 40 years of age. The reasons given were to "protest current conditions" and because of their "dislike of [Vladimir] Putin and Company."

Vladimir Putin

It is understandable why older people might have found the Communist system attractive. They were brought up under it and were looking forward to retirement on a pension, which was worth something, even though there was little they could buy. But to have young people attracted to the Communists is something else. Most of them have little remembrance of the era when the Soviet system was still going strong. Back then, Putin was an official of the feared KGB. What an irony for younger people to join the Communists to protest Putin.

In any case, for all its difficulties, Russia today is a far different place than it was when Gorbachev took over. While the government has curbed independent network television, the number of independent print media outlets is legion. There are also independent radio stations and out in fairly remote places even independent cable channels. When the Communists ran things, you read and heard only what the government wanted you to hear. Broadcasts from outside Russia were jammed. You couldn't even buy an independent foreign publication outside Moscow. Whereas there used to be constant shortages of almost everything, you can buy in Russia today whatever you can buy in the USA.

People can travel without getting the government's permission. They can even leave the country permanently if they wish. That was not possible under Communism.

Russians have the right to worship as they please. Under the Communists, all but a handful of churches were closed. Today, thousands and thousands of churches have re-opened.

If these younger people want to have an idea of what their country was like before Gorbachev began the process that eventually led to the fall of the Communists, they might visit Cuba. There the people live today as Russians lived less than two decades ago. Or if they would like an idea of what it was like to live under Stalin, especially in Ukraine, where Stalin deliberately starved 30 million people to death to make these very independent people conform to collectivism in agriculture, a visit to North Korea would be enlightening. There the government starves its own people so what little money there is can be put into their weapons programs. These young Russians should not just be tourists in Cuba and North Korea. No, they should live like the ordinary people live, if you can call their existence living.

There are some other young people who would benefit by living in Cuba and North Korea. They currently reside on American college campuses. ABC network reporter and commentator John Stossel recently returned from a speaking tour of major colleges. He was profoundly shaken by the sympathy for Communist ideas he found there and even more shaken by the hatred for America he experienced. These young leftists have no idea what it is like to live under totalitarian rule. They are free to hold their anti-American views. During the more than 70 years of Communist rule, a young Russian who openly expressed hatred for his own country and pro-American sentiments would at best be sentenced to hard labor in some Siberian camp; or he might be confined to a mental hospital where mind-altering drugs would be used on him as an experiment; or he might be tried for treason in a trial, the outcome of which would not be determined by a jury of his peers but rather by the wishes of the Communist Party. Found guilty, he would be shot. That was happening well into even the Gorbachev Era.

Meanwhile, where is Hollywood in all of this? There are so many incredible stories of daring adventure and heroism from the Soviet Era in Russia that would be better and more realistic than any of the nonsense they now grind out year after year. Movies produced here are often hits in Russia. Well, movies of what it was like to live in a vicious, poverty-stricken country where there was no freedom or human rights rank up with Nazi Germany for potential "entertainment," -- only the Soviet period was more recent and involved millions more people. The Jews were hated by the Soviet authorities every bit as much as the Nazis hated them. They may not have put them in ovens but they made them complete outcasts of society, blaming virtually all of the ills their system produced on the Jewish people.

One day young people both in Russia and the United States may come to understand what Communism was and is all about. Let us hope and pray that, for this country and Russia, it won't be too late.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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