Ten easy steps to be an anticommunist
By Phil Shannon
The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression
By Stephane Courteis, et al
Harvard University Press, 1999
The openings for career anticommunists may have dried up a little since the "collapse of communism". But, for the serious Red-hater, the release of The Black Book of Communism offers a useful refresher course.
This 800-page catalogue of the crimes of "communism" and its "100 million victims" caused a noisy stir on its release in France two years ago, when right wingers in the French parliament kicked up a hullabaloo over the presence of communists in the coalition government of socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
The English language edition of the book offers the conservative connoisseur the traditional menu of horror stories about "communist" atrocities, which veteran Cold War historians have been dining off ever since 1917, and adds extra helpings from new archival sources. The Black Book of Communism excels as an example of the genre and, despite its bulk, offers a simple ten point plan on how to be an anticommunist.
1. Have a "communist" past, and renounce it
Anyone can be a common or garden variety anticommunist but if you want fame and notoriety, and a publishing contract with a prestigious university, then it pays to be a former communist. The establishment likes nothing better than a radical who has "seen the light".
All the contributors to the Black Book are "former communists or close fellow-travellers", the latest batch of recruits to the ranks of those who once wanted to change the status quo but have since made their peace with it.
2. Win sympathy by portraying yourself as engaged in an heroic struggle against leftist hegemony
Portray yourself as part of a minority of "scholars" fighting a noble struggle for truth against the leftists who control the universities and the press. Assert how "scholars have never been interested" in the scale of the victims of "Leninist regimes from Russia in 1917 to Afghanistan in 1989".
Complain of the "deafening silence of the academic world" towards the crimes of Lenin, Mao, Ho, Stalin. Say all this with a straight face, as if there had never been an anti-Marxist witch-hunt or blacklist, never an editorial or book written about "communist" terror and the "evils of revolution".
3. Take the scholarly high ground
You are "scholars" interested only in the pursuit of objective truth, unlike those sly Marxists who have a political agenda. Claim that Western apologists for "Marxist terror regimes" from Bolshevik Russia to Mozambique and Ethiopia are "never burdened with the need to be impartial" and that only you, the disinterested scholar, can honestly portray "large-scale atrocities" for what they are — communist crimes.
For you have no political axe to grind. Anticommunism is, of course, not about preserving the capitalist status quo by stomping on the left, whether deepest red or reformist pink. What sane person, after all, could fail to be shocked that "openly revolutionary groups enjoy every legal right to state their views" in Western democracies, and that "breast-beating over the idea of revolution is far from over"?
4. Keep it simple
Steer clear of theoretical depth and complexity. Your case stands or falls on a grand simplicity — the Bolsheviks committed Original Marxist Sin. Run a ramrod-straight line from Marx via Lenin and Stalin through to Pol Pot.
Do not subject the actions of Lenin's Bolsheviks to contextual analysis, for this might show that, in an isolated, backward, starved, blockaded and invaded country, where the choice was between survival of the socialist revolution and a counter-revolution of fascist ferocity, the Bolsheviks had no choice but to use the firmest, often merciless, tactics of civil war.
That the Bolsheviks increasingly ruled in the name of the workers and over the peasants (through forced grain requisitioning) was not because the fate of the revolution often hung by a thread. That the Bolsheviks resorted to temporary restrictions on political pluralism and inner-party democracy was not because the revolutionary proletariat had been swallowed up by the Red Army and the administrative apparatus. The Bolsheviks were evil because they were Marxists.
Shun context. It is sufficient to simply cite some bloodcurdling quotes from Lenin about shooting hostages, and to list the body count of the Cheka (the Bolsheviks' political police). This will have readers shaking their heads in grim reflection on the inhumanity of the Bolsheviks and Lenin's "cold, calculating and cynical cruelty".
Avoid perspective, as this can distort the picture of evil Red revolutionaries versus saintly counter-revolutionary democrats. Remember to relegate to a mere parenthesis the anti-Jewish pogroms of the counter-revolutionary armies, which killed more people in the Ukraine alone than the Cheka managed in its entire existence.
Do try and confuse cause and response. Assert that the Bolsheviks started the civil war. Do not mention that immediately after the revolution, the Bolsheviks, with magnanimous good nature, released all manner of Tsarist officers who had attempted counter-coups on the promise that they would not again take up arms against the revolution, and that only when they promptly formed armies and began massacring and disembowelling Red prisoners and workers, were the Bolsheviks forced to set up the Cheka.
Context only muddies the waters of analysis. You have a grander vision — to show that Lenin's Russia was the "cradle of all modern communism" and, because the Bolsheviks were a "bloody dictatorship and a criminal regime from the start", all subsequent attempts at revolution must be so too.
The "good Lenin/bad Stalin myth" and attempts by "the extreme Marxist left, especially the Trotskyites" to deny the "communist" label to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al. are wicked deceptions to lead you astray from the righteous crusade against socialism.
With this theoretical foundation in place, the political arithmetic of the body count falls easily into place. Stalinism = 100 million victims, Stalinism = communism, therefore communism = barbaric evil. Keep it simple.
5. Use friendly sources
In setting the Bolshevik atrocity meter running, use only friendly sources. Leonard Schapiro is good as are the counter-revolutionary enemies of the Bolsheviks, like General Denikin and his "Commission to Investigate Bolshevik Crimes" whose terrifying atrocity tales are uncorroborated and devoid of the most elemental caution about the veracity of war propaganda.
6. Don't forget the kitchen sink
Don't stop at Marxists to show the perils of revolution. Drag in the French Revolution. Do not fail to remind the reader of the "Revolutionary Terror" of Robespierre.
Do fail to remind the reader that the French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution and how we may well not have had capitalism, a parliament or a stock exchange if Robespierre hadn't resorted to terror.
7. Take claims at face value
If a regime calls itself communist, or claims allegiance to Marxism, then it must be so. Never mind that a socialist revolution can, in unfavourable circumstances, degenerate to something other than what it started out to be, or that once Stalinism had established its political dominance it set a false role model for other revolutionaries from Mao to Pol Pot to follow, or that Stalinism pressured revolutionary countries into various un-socialist deformities, once Western hostility had forced these countries into the Soviet sphere.
By the same logic, capitalism must be free and democratic because that is what we are told. So your Black Book can claim, without a trace of irony, that "communism" is found wanting by the yardstick of the "humanist ideals implicit in our Judeo-Christian civilisation and democratic traditions" which include "respect for human life".
Some people will want to point to Hiroshima, slavery, the trenches of WWI, "imperialism", the CIA, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, Sacco and Vanzetti and on and on and on. Ignore them. They are communist troublemakers.
It is obligatory to include the Vietnam, Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions as part of the totalitarian Marxist family.
Remember your lessons from the US State Department school of public relations, and you will be able to denounce the South Vietnam "liberation" struggle as a cover for communist aggression by the North, pillory Castro and Che Guevara as "totalitarian from the very beginning", and tarnish the Sandinistas as embryonic Pol Pots who were only foiled by "genuine freedom fighters" (the Contras).
9. Develop selective amnesia
Whilst reminding the reader that some "leftist intellectuals" uncritically supported the Khmer Rouge for a time, you should conveniently forget that Western capitalist governments supported, and materially aided, the murderous Khmer Rouge as part of the "punishment" of Vietnam for ridding Indochina of US imperialism.
10. Offer an olive branch to out-of-favour anti-communists
Numbers do not lie. When you stack up "communism's 100 million victims" against the 25 million of the Nazis, this will help to portray your anticommunist cousins, the fascists, in a better light and start people towards thinking whether we fought on the wrong side in the last world war.
With these 10 simple points to guide you, you too can be part of humanity's noblest struggle — the fight against radical social change, especially socialist revolution, by the world's working class and poor. And you will be right up there with the "scholars" who have shown the way with The Black Book of Communism.