For some reason, recollection of the Soviet purges, the executions, the gulags (not to mention the extermination of the kulaks, in which fifteen million souls perished), the appalling slaughter of an entire nation by the Khmer Rouge, the extraordinary loss of life suffered by the Chinese under Mao Tse Tung—need I go on?—fails to evoke the same chills of horror as recollection of the death camps of the holocaust.
Melancholicus deplores this obscene double standard, and is gratified to know that he is not the only one to have noticed it:
... The day after that singing on the bridge, some of us hung red flags and banners bearing the hammer and sickle from the windows of our rooms. On the outside of my door I pinned up a poster of Lenin, emblazoned with the words he spoke to the Second All-Russia Congress on October 26, 1917, the day after the revolution: “We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order.” Not long after, when I opened my door in the morning, I found the poster in shreds on the floor and a bucketful of horse manure dumped on my threshold.
Fully deserved, I now think. If I had been walking along Silver Street last week and had seen some young student twits toasting the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, I should have been tempted to push them off the bridge into the river. So far as I am concerned today, they – and we, 40 years ago – might just as well have been marking the anniversary of the Nazis’ Kristallnacht and bellowing out the chorus of their Horst Wessel marching song.
What were we thinking of? The Prague spring had not yet been crushed by Soviet tanks, but even so we all knew about the Soviet purges, the show trials, the executions, the extermination of the kulaks, the murderously suppressed revolts in Poland and Hungary. Solzhenitsyn had already published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and Orwell’s Animal Farm were older than we were.
... Much that I did in my youth can now make me shout aloud with shame; but not much is more mortifying than to think I once toasted mass murderers, torturers and totalitarian despots. How to explain it?
... Bolshevism and the Russian revolution may have disintegrated in ruins but the generation that raised its toast in the direction of the Kremlin 40 years ago has triumphed. Leninism has been defeated almost everywhere in the world, but the postwar generation of baby boomers who went so far left in the 1960s now control this country’s leading institutions. Their taste for totalitarian simplicities and weakness for millenarian terrors has been digested into modern feminism, environmentalism and global warming. Many remain absolutely unrepentant about their past because they have been so successful in the present (one of the sweeter fruits of victory is never having to apologise).
... While Günther Grass, the German author, is excoriated for having joined the Waffen SS at 17, Alan Johnson, the health secretary, is benignly patted on the back for admitting that he was once ideologically aligned to the Communist party of Great Britain. While the Daily Mail is routinely vilified for its prewar support for the Nazis, The Guardian’s role in cheer-leading for a succession of Marxist tyrants from Mao and Pol Pot to Castro and Mugabe is rarely questioned.