Today’s New York Sun reviews a fascinating book by Tim Tzouliadis that catalogs some of the forgotten casualties of the Communism. (I found the review on Arts & Letters Daily .) The Forsaken tells the story of Americans who moved to the USSR to help complete the “building of socialism:”
Lured by sham Soviet propaganda and pro-Soviet falsehoods spread by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and the corrupt New York Times Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, [they] migrated to the USSR in search of jobs and a role in the “building of socialism.” It was, in the words of the author, “the least heralded migration in American history” and a period when “for the first time in her short history more people were leaving the United States than were arriving.” Most of these expatriates, not intellectuals but simple working men, were quickly disenchanted and wanted to return home, only to find that Moscow considered them Soviet citizens and barred them from leaving. Ignored by the American government, many of them ended in the gulag.
As I read this review, it occurred to me that my generation especially needs, and does not often get, frequent reminders of the rampant evils of communism. Our earliest political memories are of the election of George H. W. Bush and the first Gulf War, with maybe only an inkling from our parents that something called the Berlin Wall fell.
By and large, we have no first-hand knowledge of what life was like with communism looming large on the horizon. The little secondhand information we receive tends to emphasize the diplomatic chess game between the USSR and the US and America’s failures in Vietnam. Communism is not seen as the kind of evil that Nazism was. We are repeatedly taught “Never again” when it comes to Hitler’s genocide, yet communism’s greater slaughters do not attain the same level of evil.
Books like The Forsaken , therefore, are important because they remind us once more of just how failed, twisted, and evil an experiment communism was. And those of us who do not remember it firsthand need all the reminding we can get.