Is Marxism Free Of Stalin's "Dead Weight"?

Allow me to escort you on another strange ride through the incredible moral relativism of the Left today.

The publishing house Verso is suggesting that all communism needs to improve its sagging image is a little plastic surgery, a high-class Manhattan makeover with a dash of wit and panache. An annoyingly cheeky Washington Post feature recently noted Verso's new glossy coffee-table edition of the Communist Manifesto, with Verso managing director Colin Robinson entertaining reporter Paula Span with visions of mannequins with fists in the air in Barney's department store window and Marx and Engels replacing Gideon Bibles at finer New York hotels.

Span enthusiastically promoted the new Manifesto's commercial prospects: "Marx is getting another look lately, not as an erly wonk prescribing social policy...but as an astute critic of capitalism." As proof, Span cited The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and a seminar at New York University (as if these liberal bastions ever evinced hostility to communism). Span declared: "Why couldn't Marx, who did have a way with the next out-of-fashion political philosopher to stage a comeback?" It's a little hard to take the ideological excuse for unprecedented mass murder as lightly as this year's literary smash, a finely aged German version of "The Celestine Prophecy."

Declaring seriously his intentions as a "radical publisher," Verso's Robinson cast aside his irreverent act and made a declaration that should send shivers down the spin of any liberty-loving capitalist roader: "The dead weight of Stalinism, the terrible things done in Europe in the name of communism, slip away into the past with the end of the Cold War...The left is no longer tainted with this evil...That leaves quite a lot of space for us to present these people." Another way of phrasing that: Erase the historical record and you create a new reality.

Indeed, almost ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we're still waiting for the slightest retraction from the liberal media for their arrogant aversion of the brutal realities of communism. Instead, history is still viewed through funhouse mirrors of moral superiority. When former CBS News president Fred Friendly died in early March, the networks took turns lauding Friendly's courageous anti-anti-communism. Peter Jennings declared Friendly and Edward R. Murrow "were responsible for some of TV's best and most influential journalism. 'See It Now,' for example, would ultimately bring down Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who would ruin so many lives with his communist witch hunt."

CBS tooted its own horn, touting Friendly and Murrow after Friendly's death: "Almost from the outset they understood the power of the medium. In 1954, in a now-legendary broadcast, they challenged Sen. Joseph McCarthy's communist scare tactics." Friendly said: "I like to think that the McCarthy program was just holding a mirror up to McCarthy and letting him show what a evil curator of character assassination he was." Remember: these are the same moralizing media types who sniffed and guffawed at Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union and its slavish satellites the "Evil Empire."

On the 100th anniversary of black Stalinist entertainer Paul Robeson (who defended Stalin's purges as a proper way to deal with "counter-revolutionary assassins"), PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" promoted his life story and aired an interview segment with Robeson partisans Martin Duberman and actor Ossie Davis. (The perverse slide leading into the segment read "Freedom Fighter.") National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and "Talk of the Nation" ran loving tributes without any pesky anti-communist guests. (As if anti-communists paid for PBS and NPR with their taxes!) "Talk of the Nation" host Ray Suarez announced that NPR would be devoting an hour to "celebrating" Robeson: "Instead of being an hero and unquestioned superstar in the wider America, Paul Robeson spent many of the prime years of his career embittered, and harassed, under suspicion, and politically persecuted. The triumphs and tragedies of this remarkable life make it a very American one, a story that exposes the stupefying level of race hatred in America earlier this century, and the post-war mania over communism that throttled and hemmed in this prodigiously gifted man." Only NPR could find denying Robeson a passport to be in any way comparable to Stalin starving the Ukraine.

Dostoevsky told us if God does not exist, then everything is permitted. However maddening it is to remind the world of the heinous realities of 20th century communism, ignorance, naivete, and plain liberal indifference to that truth remains. The price of liberty is still eternal vigilance, even when Marxist merchandisers strangely sell the Communist Manifesto as a new dose of contrarian fun in a pretty package.