Monday, April 14, 2008

Heroism, Modernism, and the Utopian Impulse.

Writing in the Washington Post about the dedication of the new Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., Philip Kennicott suggested that there is encoded in it the subtextual and “contentious” claim that “the left failed to adequately oppose communism.” As the memorial consists of a statue based on the replica of the Statue of Liberty carried by the students of Tiananmen Square in 1989, while the inscription on the plinth doesn’t mention “the left” at all but only says “to the more than one hundred million victims of communism and to those who love liberty,” you might almost think that somebody on the left had a sore conscience.

It is hard to see, moreover, what would have been “contentious” about the claim—if it had been made—that, so far from opposing communism “adequately,” many on the American left hardly opposed it at all. Many others were unashamed apologists for the regimes that murdered the (estimated) 100 million people now being memorialized. Much of the left was—and remains—“anti-anti-communist.” This is what accounts for what Ferdinand Mount calls the “asymmetry of indulgence” afforded communistic and fascistic state-sponsored murders.

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