The reporting on China’s commemoration of the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong all seemed to come from the same angle. Festivities were “understated” (AP). Events were “scaled back” (Reuters). The following headline, which ran on the Fox News website over the AP story, is typical: “China marks Mao’s 120th birthday with low-key celebrations.” The story opens: “China’s leaders bowed three times before a statue of Mao Zedong on the 120th anniversary of his birth Thursday in carefully controlled celebrations that also sought to uphold the market-style reforms that he would have opposed.”
Forget for now the “market-style reforms.” Only three times? How “muted”! That, by the way, was the word CNN used to describe the occasion.
But there’s something wrong with this media picture. Imagine if, on Adolf Hitler’s upcoming 125th birthday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to bow three times in front of the Nazi mass-murderer’s statue. Would journalists convey how “ambivalent” (Voice of America’s word for post-Mao China) post-Hitler Germany was about Hitler these days? Hardly. They would most likely write in unconcealed horror over the twisted but enduring appeal of Nazism. Why are we not equally repelled when Chinese leaders bow in front of a statue of a communist mass-murderer? (I examine this double standard at length in my book, “American Betrayal.”)
The New York Times and CNBC ran headlines wishing “Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao,” but, again, don’t expect similar felicitations on Hitler’s birthday. It’s communists who always get a pass — or a yawn. “Communist Party feeling uneasy about Mao ahead of his birthday celebrations,” the Washington Post reported. With my imaginary Merkel example in mind, the paper’s update would read: “Nazi Party feeling uneasy about Hitler ahead of his 125th birthday.” Somehow, though, it’s hard to imagine news editors being so blase.
Then again, there is no Nazi Party today, and Hitler is a universal symbol of evil. Why? In defeat, Nazi Party leader Hitler and his slaughters were exposed, judged and condemned. Nothing of the kind has ever happened to communism, and in China, of course, Mao’s Communist Party won the war. Despite Red China’s successful entry in recent decades into the world market, it remains a totalitarian dictatorship, ruled by the same Communist Party that Mao led and seized power with in 1949.
Also missing from the typical retrospective is the fact that Mao’s seizure of power had crucial American help. During the FDR and Truman administrations, agents and fellow travelers working on behalf of Stalin inside the federal government and related institutions tried to influence U.S. policy to favor the communists over the anti-communist leader and U.S. ally Chiang Kai-Shek. Such influence operators, for example, included Soviet agent Lauchlin Currie, a top White House aide to FDR entrusted, among other portfolios, with China policy.
Aside from the events leading to the Korean War, these communist proxies helped launch Mao’s dictatorship, which stands out for amassing the highest body count in history. At least 65 million people perished due to this man and his monstrous programs of collectivization and “re-education.” Despite the Red Army death squads, concentration camps and the largest state-created famine in history, Mao and those who bow to him today are somehow still spared the ash heap of history, not to mention the widespread contempt we freely express for Hitler. Why?
It gets worse, and dangerously so. The stigma of association with Nazism remains, but there is no stigma of association with communism. That means there is no stigma either attached to the collectivist policies communists enacted — policies that eliminated freedom and killed 100 million people worldwide.
Consider, for example, the current president of the European Union, Jose Barroso. He led a revolutionary Maoist party in Portugal in the 1970s. That’s long after most of the tens of millions of Mao’s victims had perished, but no big deal. It’s impossible to imagine Barroso in public life today if that party of his had been Nazi, not Communist. Meanwhile, seven out of 27 commissioners who rule the European Union today previously served in Communist parties. As the rights and laws of nation-states in Europe come under EU central control, we have to ask ourselves: Who was it that won the Cold War again?
Of course, the relentless pull of the communist orbit isn’t just in China or Europe. Never having been discredited a la Nazism — on the contrary, having been advanced by armies of agents and sympathizers deep into our institutions — communist, collectivist ideas and policies march on here, too.
As Obamacare kicks in, consider that nationalizing medicine was one of the early programs the Bolsheviks enacted on seizing power after the Russian Revolution. Reaction to this historical fact, of course, is as “muted” as Mao’s birthday party. We have a president whose early mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a notorious communist and apologist for Stalin and Mao, but ho hum. Imagine, though, if Davis had been an apologist for Hitler instead. Such a piece of presidential biography wouldn’t be so easy to ignore. As Davis biographer Paul Kengor discovered, Davis even had close associations via communist front groups with relatives and mentors of Obama confidantes Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod. Again, if these political ancestors of the president’s brain trust went back to the German Bund, that would be an issue to this day.
But not communism. We only shrug a little over the “scaled back” Mao party in China. Does it matter? In the Roosevelt years, we had Lauchlin Currie in the White House doing what he could to shape events that would ultimately bring Mao and the Communist Party to power in China. In the Obama years, we had another top White House aide, former communications director Anita Dunn, telling schoolchildren that Mao was one of her favorite philosophers.
It isn’t full circle. But “ambivalence” and “muted” reactions to these markers are still dangerous.
Diana Westcan be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @diana_west_.