The Legacy of the Victims of Communism
Franklin Holcomb /
“And we said nothing!” Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R–CA) told the small crowd of roughly 50 gathered for the sixth annual memorial for the victims of communism in Washington, D.C., last week.
As Rohrabacher paused in his speech about the massacre at Tiananmen Square a silence crept over the street. They were there to remember the victims of communism and to honor Dr. Yang Jieanli who was there to be awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R–FL) and Jim Bridenstine (R–OK) and Mrs. Annette Lantos, wife of the late Representative Tom Lantos (D–CA), were featured speakers.
Those assembled could not have been more diverse. In attendance were representatives of 20 nations as well as American Cossacks and displaced Vietnamese. Among those in the crowd, there was no shared political agenda or linguistic heritage—and certainly not a shared religion, culture, or ethnicity. What they shared was an experience, a terrible nightmare. All those present were victims of communism.
As communist agitators and revolutionaries realize, there is a basic appeal in their rhetoric that speaks to all. They have used this appeal to manipulate, deceive, and inspire violence and revolution.
In contrast, those who stood against communism during its rise were armed with no inspiring slogans and no great promises of utopia. The White Army in Russia, Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalists, the Batista regime, and countless others failed to hold back the revolutionary forces opposing them.
But modern opponents of communism have a weapon that their predecessors lacked—the evidence of its brutal history for nearly a century. Promises of socialist utopia can be countered by accounts of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Promises of brotherhood ought to be dismissed by evidence of the Gulag. Promises of equality should be refuted by testimony from escaped North Koreans.
We owe it to the victims of communism to tell their stories. The people who assembled at the memorial were there to remember the victims, but they were there also because they knew that the legacy of communism should never be forgotten.
Franklin Holcomb is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.