News & Politics

Remember the VICTIMS of Communism on May Day!

Today, May 1, is — as we all have heard repeatedly — International Workers’ Day. It’s instructive — if not very informative — to look at al Jazeera’s take on it.

Each year, people across the globe take to the streets to commemorate International Workers’ Day, or May Day.

In dozens of countries, May Day is an official holiday, and for labour rights campaigners it is particularly important.

In the United States, it is symbolic of past labour struggles against a host of workers’ rights violations, including lengthy work days and weeks, poor conditions and child labour.

Of course, starting in the ’20s, and eventually formalized in the ’50s, the United States made it Loyalty Day. Also Law Day. We’ve already seen how Loyalty Day has suddenly become a Big Deal this year, so I won’t repeat myself. But May 1 is also suggested as a commemorative day for another, much darker, reason. Ilya Somin has been campaigning for years to have May 1 declared Victims of Communism Day.

Here’s why it’s important: Communism in the 20th century killed 100 million people, according to the Black Book of Communism. That included Jews, Kazakhs, Ukrainians in Russia, millions of Chinese under Mao, millions of Cambodians under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge; for most of that time, western media was at best indifferent and at worst directly misleading (like Walter Duranty and the Holodomor).

As Somin says:

Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs. Victims of Communism Day can serve the dual purpose of appropriately commemorating the millions of victims, and diminishing the likelihood that such atrocities will recur. Just as Holocaust Memorial Day and other similar events help sensitize us to the dangers of racism, anti-Semitism, and radical nationalism, so Victims of Communism Day can increase awareness of the dangers of left-wing forms of totalitarianism, and government control of the economy and civil society.

If you really want to demonstrate about something, maybe Loyalty Day isn’t a good choice.