“The death of one man is a great tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic.”
We don’t really know who first said this, but it’s often fittingly attributed to Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass murderers in history. Due to the Soviet Union’s shoddy bookkeeping and dubious censuses, we’ll never know Stalin’s total death toll, but estimates range from around 6 million on the conservative end to over 80 million, with many popular estimates falling around 20 million.
But our eyes start to glaze over as we read through these death statistics. When we pile on the estimated 45 million killed by Mao Zedong from 1958 to 1962, the millions more he killed outside that period, the millions killed in Vietnam before, during, and after the Vietnam War, and the 1.5 to 2 million killed in Cambodia, nearly a quarter of its population, the numbers become just that—numbers. A lot of people died under Communism, yes, we know. It’s the focus of dozens, if not hundreds, of books and historical studies.
We also know that life was miserable under Communism—again, many books, stories, articles, and other forms of media tell us that tale. I could tell of my family’s suffering under Communism, and how my great-grandfather was slandered, attacked, and essentially canceled for not signing onto the party platform. I could tell stories of a friend of my grandmother’s family, a professor of art at Charles University in Prague, who was fired from his position because his art did not conform with the party line. My grandmother’s family sent him old, worn-out clothes for his children because the Communist postal inspectors would steal the nice ones.
I could relay tales from Solzhenitsyn of the Russian children, ripped from parents who were sent to gulag, who had their names changed and identities erased. Thrown into state orphanages, these parentless children became the mules, and eventually leaders, of organized crime in Russia—organized crime that still exists today.
And yet again, our eyes start to glaze over. The documentation of human misery under communism is far from complete, but even then, it fills thousands and thousands of pages of books, memoirs, diaries, and other documents.
But if we know the evils of communism—mass deaths and unending misery—why do we seem so eager to race into the arms of ever-increasing government power bent on annihilating everything that stands between it and domination?
From 87,000 new tax collectors to go after the middle class to an overbearing Department of Justice that prosecutes thought criminals and lets violent ones free, we’re quickly losing control of the administrative state—a true leviathan indeed. As that leviathan collects more and more power, we may find ourselves unable to counter and forced to submit as it enforces a totalitarian, government-driven socialism—in other words, communism.
So, this Victims of Communism Day, let us remember those millions of lives lost, and hundreds of millions of lives and livelihoods damaged. But let us also steel ourselves for the coming battle—otherwise, we may be adding our own stories to the catalog of human suffering.