In September 2010, Stanford University published an article called “Stalin killed millions”, with the punchline: “When it comes to use of the word “genocide,” public opinion has been kinder to Stalin than Hitler”.
This sentiment has been echoed more than a decade later, and across the Atlantic ocean, in an interview with British historian Giles Udy who was asked by the hosts: “Why is it that the Nazi’s swastika is deservedly seen as a horrendous symbol of evil and of oppression, but the hammer and sickle, people just shrug their shoulders?”. “Why were we never taught this?” they asked, referring to the crimes committed under communism.
Poll after poll, conducted over the years and across different Western countries – such as the US, UK, Australia, Germany, New Zealand and other nations that share the two pillars of Western civilisation – have showed that those below the age of 35 support socialism, with a startling number of young people living in the UK believing in 2018 that “communism could have worked if it had been better executed”.
As such, many young Westerners continue to have a romantic view about international socialism (communism), often expressed in apologetic slogans such as the well-known “that was not real communism”, aimed at whitewashing Marx’s ideology that has been responsible for over 100 million deaths in the last 100 years.
Why is this the case? Nobody can ignore two powerful engines that make and shape young minds and which are both left-leaning: the education system and the arts and entertainment.
The fact that academics and, more broadly intellectuals, tend to be left-leaning is not new. As early as 1941, English writer, George Orwell observed that “there is now no intelligentsia that is not in some sense “left”.”
Orwell’s observation remains true today as a 2017 poll which shows that “the academy’s left-liberal skew may have increased since the 1960s.” A similar development has happened in the United States as well.
In 2018, speaking of the United States, Toby Young of The Spectator wrote: “The domination of US universities by the left, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, is well documented. […] This helps explain a phenomenon identified by the French economist Thomas Piketty whereby university graduates have drifted to the left over the past 50 years.”
The fact that left-wing views dominate Western academia, at least higher-education, can be seen in the way some of the teaching staff view themselves as political activists for socialist ideals through the imposition of political correctness (or“communist propaganda” according to English cultural critic, Theodore Dalrymple). We also see this through the teaching of critical race theory, woke-ism and postmodernism.
Moreover, outside the university campuses, the perception of communists and national socialists remains distorted. In an article for The Guardian entitled “Why are we obsessed with the Nazis?”, the author stated: “The ideology that underpinned Stalin’s policies of mass extermination died in 1989 with the fall of communism, but the racism that drove Hitler’s lives on in myriad forms that continue to trouble the world today.”
This is a false statement: communism did not die out in 1989 (or to be more accurate, in 1991, when the USSR did finally fall). As the Washington DC-based research institute, The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, states on it home page:
“The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but communism didn’t. One hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution, one-fifth of the world’s population still lives under single-party communist regimes in China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam.”
The widespread misconceptions detailed above are also made possible because the academia is not the only place that shapes the young minds of Westerners to be more loving of socialism. Artists and entertainers are also predominantly “on the left”.
As Mark Dice’s 2020 book – Hollywood Propaganda: How TV, Movies, and Music Shape Our Culture – documents, America’s film industry has done wonders in promoting left-wing views. For example, the Hollywood Reporter recently wrote an article on how “Leah Cameron takes pride in The Communist’s Daughter having an unabashed socialist streak, even if her Canadian uber-left web comedy is a world away from Russian bread lines and iron-fisted Stalinism.” Cameron added: “I wanted to make a show where even if the quest of the politics and the neighborhood gets petty and silly, we can still see the positive in the ideals of socialism and Marxism, and they’re worth fighting for.”
Moreover, in a 2021 paper entitled “Left turn ahead?”, the Institute of Economic Affairs gathered a long list of articles from Teen Vogue, a publication directed towards teenagers which, in 2017, stated that “our readers consider themselves activists”, that illustrates the acute left-leaning angle in its articles.
Therefore, the reasons why too many young Westerners don’t seem to be appalled by communism is a mix of left-leaning intellectuals in the teaching institutions and in the entertainment industry, two of the most powerful forces that shape the mind of today’s youth.
This all paints a rather bleak picture, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that cultural change is afoot. In the United States, for example, several politicians including Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis have proposed legislation to teach students about totalitarian regimes – including communism. Additionally, the launch of the University of Austin in late 2021, which will prize intellectual freedom, is another significant development in the right direction. The people on the board are all individuals that are deeply concerned about the influence of Identity Marxism on American education.
Meanwhile, in the UK, as The Guardian recently reported, the government has issued guidance to schools that teachers should not use materials that are produced by organisations deemed extreme – which includes those that publicly state their desire to abolish or overthrow capitalism, end free and fair elections, or use racist and antisemitic language. While this may be a step in the right direction, we should be wary of government intervention that could jeopardise teachers’ autonomy.
Fundamentally, there needs to be a cultural change in many of our institutions. If young people continue to be left in the dark about the real-life horrors of communism, and the failures of socialism more broadly, the implications could be catastrophic.
To read the full report on “Why many young Westerners hate Hitler but are unsure about Stalin?” please visit Power of Ideas.