It was twenty-five years ago, but it feels like yesterday. When seeing the images of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I cried with joy, took out my best bottle of French wine, left the television on, and listened to Beethoven’s Ninth over and over and over. If you didn’t live through it, know that there was nothing like it. What we need to be reminded of, however, are the stakes and what didn’thappen in the wake of the fall.
In addition to the tyranny, the torture, and the assault upon the human spirit, the slaughtered victims of communism were not the thousands of the Inquisition, not the thousands of Americans lynched, not even the six million dead from Nazi extermination. The best scholarship yields numbers that the soul must try to comprehend: scores and scores and scores of millions of individual human bodies, which is what makes the work of Lee Edwards in keeping alive in our minds the victims of communism so morally essential, so morally vital.
Alexander Yakovlev, Gorbachev’s right hand man, who examined the archives for the last Soviet leader and who came away a deeply changed and heroic man, let us know that 60 million were slain in the Soviet Union alone. The Chinese author Jung Chang, who had access to scores of Mao Zedong’s collaborators and to the detailed Russian and local archives, reached the figure of 70 million Chinese lives snuffed out by Mao’s deliberate choices. If we count those dead of starvation from the communist ability and desire to experiment with human interaction in agriculture—20 million to 40 million in three years—we may add scores of millions more.
The communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, who was educated in France and taught his politics by French communist intellectuals, butchered one-fifth to one-fourth of the entire Cambodian population. That would be as if an American regime had murdered some 50 to 70 million of its people. In each and every communist regime, countless people were shot and died by deliberate exposure, starved and murdered in work camps and prisons meant to extract every last fiber of labor before they die. No cause ever in the history of all mankind has produced more slaughtered innocents and more orphans than communism. It was a system of production that surpassed all others in turning out the dead.
What should one have expected after the fall of the Berlin wall? What didn’t occur? Where were the celebrations and the…