Last year, Harvard student Laura Nicolae posted an op-ed in the university’s newspaper entitled “100 Years, 100 Million Lives, Think Twice” in which she described her parents’ flight from Communist Romania in the late 1980s.
My father ran from a government that beat, tortured, and brainwashed its citizens. His childhood friend disappeared after scrawling an insult about the dictator on the school bathroom wall. His neighbors starved to death from food rations designed to combat “obesity.” As the population dwindled, women were sent to the hospital every month to make sure they were getting pregnant.
Roughly 100 million people died at the hands of the ideology my parents escaped. They cannot tell their story. We owe it to them to recognize that this ideology is not a fad, and their deaths are not a joke.
I know this is true because several of my relatives who escaped from Communist Albania tell similar stories. My ancestors immigrated to America in the early 1900s after my grandmother, then a child, witnessed her father’s murder at the hands of a regime official in the family’s kitchen. Such acts of cruelty are unexceptional for those who live under the control of oppressive regimes.
It is impossible for those of us who haven’t lived under an authoritarian government to comprehend the level of constant fear these people live with. They long for the freedoms that all of us take for granted. Finally, they reach a point where they are willing to risk their lives to escape the tyranny.
Yet, on college campuses across America, students in large numbers embrace the ideology of communism. Nicolae writes:
Depictions of communism on campus paint the ideology as revolutionary or idealistic, overlooking its authoritarian violence. Instead of deepening our understanding of the world, the college experience teaches us to reduce one of the most destructive ideologies in human history to a one-dimensional, sanitized narrative.
Walk around campus, and you’re likely to spot Ché Guevara on a few shirts and button pins. A sophomore jokes that he’s declared a secondary in “communist ideology and implementation.” The new Leftist Club on campus seeks “a modern perspective” on Marx and Lenin to “alleviate the stigma around the concept of Leftism.” An author laments in these pages that it’s too difficult to meet communists here. For many students, casually endorsing communism is a cool, edgy way to gripe about the world.
After spending four years on a campus saturated with Marxist memes and jokes about communist revolutions, my classmates will graduate with the impression that communism represents a light-hearted critique of the status quo, rather than an empirically violent philosophy that destroyed millions of lives.
Many college students, because they lack an accurate understanding of communism, romanticize it. According to a YouGov poll, only half of millennials believe that communism was a problem, and about a third believe that President George W. Bush killed more people than Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who killed 20 million. Nicolae continues:
Perhaps before joking about communist revolutions, we should remember that Stalin’s secret police tortured “traitors” in secret prisons by sticking needles under their fingernails or beating them until their bones were broken. Lenin seized food from the poor, causing a famine in the Soviet Union that induced desperate mothers to eat their own children and peasants to dig up corpses for food. In every country that communism was tried, it resulted in massacres, starvation, and terror.
Communism cannot be separated from oppression; in fact, it depends upon it. In the communist society, the collective is supreme. Personal autonomy is nonexistent. Human beings are simply cogs in a machine tasked with producing utopia; they have no value of their own.
Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia.
Hard-core liberalism is born on most college campuses. Young and impressionable, students are indoctrinated by their professors, most of whom are ultra-liberal. The Washington Times published the results of an Econ Journal Watch poll which found that liberal professors outnumber conservatives by a ratio of 11 1/2 to 1. With odds such as these, it becomes perfectly understandable why many college students adopt a liberal perspective of the world and view communism as a positive philosophy rather than the destructive, brutal evil that it is.
Historian and conservative commentator Victor Davis Hansen writes:
Students now leave campus largely prepped by their professors to embrace a predictable menu: the glories of larger government, income redistribution, greater entitlements, radical environmentalism, abortion, multiculturalism, suspicion of traditional religion, and antipathy to the international role of the United States in the past and present.
The great hypocrisy is that the same students who champion communism cry out the loudest for open borders and for the compassionate treatment of illegals. Imagine how “benevolently” Stalin would have dealt with illegal immigrants. Would he have worried about providing food, shelter and medical care for them or about separating families at the border?
These students demand higher taxes on the rich believing that income redistribution and more entitlements will benefit society. I recall reading about an exercise a teacher used to explain how socialism works. After handing out graded tests to her students, she told them that everyone would be receiving a “C”. Those who had earned A’s would offset those who had failed. Needless to say, the A and B students who had studied hard for the test were upset and the D and F students, who had not, were delighted.
These are the same students who are unable to tolerate conservative opinion, who protest campus visits by conservative speakers, sometimes through violence. These “snowflakes” require “safe spaces” and “crying booths” and some were even provided with grief counselors after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat.
They call out for gun control. If only the Jewish citizens in Germany and other historically persecuted groups had been armed.
If these “enlightened” students had any real understanding of the atrocities endured by those who have lived under totalitarian regimes, maybe the leftist student (mentioned above) who complained about the difficulty of meeting fellow communists at Harvard just might hesitate before so recklessly surrendering his freedom. Most ultra-liberal college students do not realize what they are fighting for.