History of Communism

Socialists and Communists have been celebrating May Day for more than a century now—in the Communist regimes, by a grim display of marching soldiers, tanks, and artillery. On May Day, we should remember how many innocents were butchered by the fanatics who sought to impose the Communist nightmare on humanity—and how many millions led and lead lives blighted by Communist tyranny. On May Day, we should thank divine providence that America, so far, has been spared this nightmare.

Too many of our children will cheer on quasi-Communist ideals and policies on May Day. Too many unwittingly have embraced categories of Marxist thought, conveyed by vehicles such as Critical Race Theory or Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” which divide humanity into Oppressor and Oppressed or regard the free market as fundamentally exploitative.

They do so not least because they have never been taught in school just what Communism is or what massive destruction it has done.

Radical advocates within America’s education establishment propagandize their policies above all by failing to teach the record of Communism. Students do not know about the terrifying Soviet police state that was the model for Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. They do not know how Communist regimes sought, with terrible success, to annihilate political liberty, religious liberty, economic liberty, and even the family. They are not aware of the economic collapse that often accompanies communism, or the environmental harm caused by communist policiesThey do not know about the Soviet espionage in America that helped secure the USSR the atomic bomb or about the sympathy too many American intellectuals felt for Communism. They do not know that Communist China, America’s great rival, has been committing atrocities since its foundation, from the genocide of Tibet in 1959 to the ongoing genocide of the Uighurs.

Radicalized students do not know that the ideals they cheer today were cheered a century ago and gave birth to Communist regimes that wreaked a greater death toll than Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan combined. They do not know the Communist Holocausts—the Holodomor of the Ukraine, the Great Chinese Famine, the Killing Fields of Cambodia. They do not know how the fanatics on our college campuses echo the aims and the language of China’s Cultural Revolution. Radicals cultivate ignorance among the young to increase their pool of supporters.

Policymakers and the public must work to ensure our public schools provide full and accurate instruction in the nature and record of Communism. They already have done so by establishing Victims of Communism Memorial Days in many states. Florida legislators have introduced a bill to require K-12 instruction in the history of Communism. Above all, they must make sure that state Education Departments incorporate History of Communism standards into their academic content standards. When this is done, K-12 social studies teachers will be required to learn the full and terrible record of Communism and to convey this knowledge to their students. Such standards also will require proper coverage of Communist belief and history in teacher education courses, textbooks, and teacher licensure. Policymakers and the public will still need to exercise oversight to ensure the requirements of such standards are put into practice, but this reform is the essential first step.

The Civics Alliance has just published Model K-12 History of Communism Standards, to provide policymakers a model for such standards. History of Communism provides guidelines for high school teachers to integrate the history of Communism, worldwide and in America, into social studies courses. These standards will ensure that students know about the actual tyrannical nature of Communist thought, the blood-stained history of Communist regimes, and the influence of Communist ideology on American politics.

History of Communism includes coverage of:

  • The sources and character of Communist ideology;
  • Nineteenth-century developments of Marxism, including the Russian tradition of revolutionary terror;
  • The Bolshevik Revolution, including its assault on private property, murder of priests, and establishment of a dictatorial one-party state;
  • The murderous history of Communist regimes, including Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia; and
  • The history of Western Communism, including Soviet espionage and Communist influence on modern movements such as Critical Race Theory.

History of Communism complements and follows up on American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards. History of Communism provides a more focused unit of social studies standards. We have modeled History of Communism on the African American History and Holocaust Education sections of Florida’s State Academic Standards – Social Studies, 2023. Florida has provided an excellent example of how to integrate focused standards into broader social studies standards.

A standard is just an outline. Each classroom teacher is free to teach the history of Communism as they will. Some might assign readings from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Heda Margolius Kovály’s Under a Cruel Star, Ji Xianlin’s The Cowshed, Haing Ngor’s Survival in the Killing Fields, or Whittaker Chambers’ Witness. Alas, there is no end of material for lessons on the consequences of Communist ideology and Communist rule.

On May Day, our children should know to mourn the millions killed in the name of Communist revolutions. And, as citizens of a free republic, they should work to ensure that Communism never comes to America.

Art by Beck & Stone 


One thought on “History of Communism”

  1. It is really totalitarianism that should be warned against, not communism per se. For example, Cuba is communist but has not killed appreciable percents of its people and does not have extensive forced labor camps. China is no longer communist but is authoritarian and seems to be sliding towards totalitarianism again. And an argument can be made the communism does immiserate its population, but note that socialism does not (the Scandinavian countries enjoy some of the highest standards of living on earth).

    But yes, a historical literate population would help the US immensely. And it is timely–for example, how can one explain our aid to Ukraine and Israel without an understanding of history?

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