a series of speeches and lectures honoring the virtues of a free and democratic society
Is Communism Dead?
By Lee Edwards
This year The Fund for American Studies honored Dr. Lee Edwards with its annual Walter Judd
Freedom Award. What follows is Edward’s acceptance speech.
The Walter Judd Freedom Award has been conferred on some extraordinary Americans,
including President Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, Jr., Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and
Chinese dissident Harry Wu. All recipients of this award are bound by a common thread of
service to principle: That human liberty is an absolute right and that it is America’s responsibility
to inspire and to foster efforts to realize it.
Edwards studies history, often in exquisite detail, with an eye on discerning its lessons not just
Dr. Lee Edwards is widely regarded as to better understand the past, but to help shape the present and set a morally grounded course
the chief historian of the American con- for the future. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that communism’s crimes will not be forgotten.
servative movement, having published
more than 15 books on the subject. He is
The Heritage Foundation’s Distinguished I thank The Fund for American Studies for I am often asked how an Irish-German-Welch
Fellow in Conservative Thought, an ad- this distinguished award. I accept it most American like me became so interested in
junct professor at Catholic University humbly on behalf of the many many people and opposed to communism.
and chairman of the Victims of Commu- who worked for more than a decade to make
nism Memorial Foundation. The Founda- the Victims of Communism Memorial a real- The answer lies in the influence of three peo-
tion reached an important goal in 2007 ity. ple – my father Willard Edwards, a reporter
with the dedication of a memorial in for the Chicago Tribune for nearly 50 years;
Washington, D.C. to the more than 100 I want to single out six individuals for William F. Buckley Jr., the fabled author,
million victims of communism. their indispensable help: Ambassador Lev commentator and founder of National Re-
Dobriansky, the first chairman of the Victims view, and Dr. Walter Judd.
Edwards was a founding director of The of Communism Memorial Foundation; Ed
Fund’s Institute on Political Journalism Feulner, president of The Heritage Founda- Starting in the late 1930s my father covered
and a fellow at the Institute of Politics tion; Randal Teague, chairman of The Fund every important congressional hearing about
at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov- for American Studies; Karl Altau, manag- communism, developing a wide network of
ernment at Harvard University. He is a ing director of the Joint Baltic American experts and sources that was unmatched
past president of The Philadelphia Soci- National Committee; Tom Phillips, president among Washington journalists. I met many
ety and has been a Media Fellow at the of the Phillips Foundation, and Anhthu Lu of these experts – most of them former
Hoover Institution. of the National Congress of Vietnamese communists – at our home. I never tired of
Americans. their stories of how they were first attracted
Edwards holds a bachelor’s degree in to communism but rejected it when they
English from Duke University and a doc- I also accept the Walter Judd Freedom Award realized it was all a web of lies.
torate in world politics from Catholic on behalf of the more than 100 million
University. victims of communism. I was also strongly influenced by the writing
Learn more about the Victims of of Bill Buckley who agreed with Whittaker
Communism Memorial Foundation at:
WWW.VICTIMSOFCOMMUNISM.ORG THE FUND FOR AMERICAN STUDIES • WWW.TFAS.ORG • 202-986-0384
Chambers that in communism, America The failure to get straight the rights and and women; and in China, the land of the
faced a transcendent not a transitory the wrongs, the myths and the realities Laogai – a system of one thousand forced
crisis – a crisis not of politics or econom- of communism explains, in part, why it labor camps.
ics but of faith.
I was privileged to work with Dr. Judd
In a world where “The fall of the [Soviet] empire,” Vaclav
Havel wrote, “is an event on the same
for more than two decades, first with the Castro is a scale of historical importance as the fall
Committee of One Million and then with of the Roman Empire.” And yet what do
the American Council for World Freedom. “revolutionary premier,” many historians say about the collapse of
His insights into communism – especially
that it was doomed to fail because it be-
Stalin a “leader” Soviet communism?
lieved that communists could create a and communism a That it was inevitable. That it happened
new man without regard for human na- in spite of and not because of President
ture and natural law – profoundly affected “social system,” it is not Truman’s historic policy of containment
my understanding of the “ism” respon-
sible for the deaths of more than 100 mil-
surprising that a popular
nightspot in New York
“ and President Reagan’s prudential policy
of peace through strength.
Historians like Leslie Adler and Thomas
The political scientist Joshua Muravchik City is the KGB Bar. Patterson, for example, write that Soviet
has written that “if we cannot get straight communism “was a system proclaiming a
the rights and wrongs of the struggle humanistic ideology” that only “fail[ed] to
between Communism and anti-Commu- persists in Cuba where the regime silences live up to its ideal.”
nism, itself perhaps the greatest moral any opposition; in North Korea where the
struggle of [the twentieth] century, then people live in a totalitarian nightmare; In truth, the Bolsheviks failed to deliver
it is hard to see what other issues we will in Laos and in Vietnam where the most in every way. They promised bread but
ever be able to address intelligently.” elementary human rights are denied men produced food shortages and rationing.
The FUND for AMERICAN STUDIES MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR
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2008 LEADERSHIP NETWORK
November 14 & 15, 2008
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April 16 & 17, 2009
TOUR OF ENGLAND & FRANCE
A look at Churchill,
de Tocqueville and
WWII Invasion of Normandy
August 28 - September 5, 2009
2009 LEADERSHIP NETWORK
Tour the Reagan Ranch, and
dine at the Air Force One Pavilion at the
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October 9 & 10, 2009
SAVE THE DATE November 14 - 15 Scottsdale, Arizona
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They pledged peace but sacrificed young
men in wars in far-off lands.
They guaranteed the peasants land but
delivered them into collectives.
Some historians cannot bring themselves
to call Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot what
they truly are.
I refer you to the current edition of Web-
ster’s New College Dictionary in which
Photo: Andrew Blasko/The Heritage Foundation
Hitler and Mussolini are described as
“dictators” while Lenin and Mao are called
“leaders.” Fidel Castro is given special
status as “Cuban revolutionary premier.”
In a world where Castro is a “revolutionary
premier,” Stalin a “leader” and commu-
nism a “social system,” it is not surpris-
ing that a popular nightspot in New York
City is the KGB Bar. The club is report-
edly crowded most nights especially on President George W. Bush recognizes Lee Edwards during the Victims of Communism Memorial dedication.
Sundays when Marxists read their works
under the club’s symbol – the hammer
There were, first, the epic costs in human life,
I wonder: How long would a New York
nightclub named The Gestapo last?
estimated in the authoritative Black Book of
Communism to be between 85 and 100 million
When asked the true price of communism,
the award-winning foreign correspondent
men, women and children.
Eugene Lyons had a ready answer. “It is
a price,” he wrote, “paid in the coin of
terror, forcible collectivization, man-made world swarming with invisible eyes and whether in any country of the world – not
famine, slave-labor camps, blood-purges, ears,” wrote the Soviet defector Victor even in Hitler’s Germany – have the mind
thought control, brutal exploitation of Kravchenko. It was a world where a knock and spirit ever been less free, more bent,
workers and farmers, persecution of on the door in the night was not that of a more terrorized and indeed vassalized –
religion, political oppressions, genocidal family member or neighbor but the KGB. than in the Soviet Union.”
massacres and deportations.” Millions of Soviet citizens experienced
the gehenna of the slave-labor system – There were the political costs of commu-
In his classic work, Workers’ Paradise the Gulag Archipelago. nism, including the denial of open elec-
Lost, Lyons listed the costs of commu- tions, multiple parties, free assembly, a
nism in six major areas. There were, first, There were the costs in thought control, free press, an independent judiciary… all
the epic costs in human life, estimated in echoing the darkest passages of George the institutions that make representative
the authoritative Black Book of Commu- Orwell’s prophetic work, 1984. No book, democracy possible. Under Soviet com-
nism to be between 85 and 100 million no song, no poem, no play, no radio or munism, the individual had no role in
men, women and children. television program, no newspaper, no decision-making – the Communist Party
lecture, no scientific paper or experiment was all.
That is more than died in all the wars of was immune from ideological scrutiny
the 20th century. and censorship. There were the terrible costs to the world.
It is impossible to consider a major crisis
There were the costs in terror among After visiting Stalin’s “paradise,” the leftist of the last 70 years – from World War II
those who survived. “We lived in a French writer Andre Gide wrote, “I doubt to Korea to Vietnam to the continuing
1706 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE. NW, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20009
“ All these truths about communism must be recorded and passed on.
That is the mission of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Foundation: to educate this generation and future generations about
the history, philosophy and legacy of communism.
conflict in the Middle East – in which the Wherever they came to power, Com-
territorial and ideological ambitions of the munists killed – in the “killing fields” of
Communists were not involved and were Cambodia where one-sixth of the civilian
often the major cause of the crisis. population perished, in the “reeducation”
camps of Vietnam, filled with an estimated
There is the latest and perhaps most in- one million people out of a population of
sidious cost of communism – terrorism. 20 million; with the tragic famines that
have decimated the population of North
The author J. Michael Waller examined the Korea for half a century.
links between international terrorism and
communism. He concluded, “The USSR They found their justification in Lenin,
and its proxies armed and built the inter- the revered father of Marxism-Leninism
national terrorist networks of the 1960s who, in the words of the late Russian
through the 1980s.” If the communist- historian Alexander Yakovlev, created a sys-
coordinated terrorists had been quashed tem “based on the ideology of violence.”
or had never existed, Waller wrote, in all
likelihood the world would not be plagued All these truths about communism must
today by al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and be recorded and passed on. That is the
the other violent organizations that com- mission of the Victims of Communism
mit mass murder “in the name of God.” Memorial Foundation: to educate this
generation and future generations about
An image that came to the historian Rob- the history, philosophy and legacy of com-
ert Conquest when considering Stalin was munism.
Goya’s horrific painting, “Saturn Devour-
ing His Children.” But Stalin was Saturn The first step in our educational plan
magnified a hundred times, for the Soviet was to build and dedicate, on June 12,
dictator devoured millions of men, women 2007, the world’s first Memorial to all the
and children, the equivalent of entire na- victims of communism.
The memorial features a 10-foot-high
Yet Stalin’s crimes against humanity bronze replica of the Goddess of Democ-
were surpassed by another despot, Mao racy statue erected by Chinese students in
Tse-tung, the so-called Great Helmsman Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989
of China. The Black Book of Communism and later destroyed by Chinese Commu-
Photo: Andrew Blasko
estimates that from 1949, when the Chi- nist tanks.
nese Communists seized power, through
1978, when the pragmatic Communist We selected the Goddess of Democracy,
Deng Hsiao-ping took control, an estimat- based on the Statue of Liberty in New York
ed 65 million Chinese citizens died. City harbor, because it is a graphic remind-
THE FUND FOR AMERICAN STUDIES • WWW.TFAS.ORG • 202-986-0384
(l.-r.) General Edward L. Rowny, past Walter Judd Freedom Award winner; Edwin Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation and past Walter Judd Freedom Award winner; Roger
Ream, Fund president; Fund Trustee Emeritus Hon. Phil Crane, past Judd Freedom Award winner; Randal C. Teague, Fund chairman; Lee Edwards, 2008 Walter Judd Freedom Award
winner; Michael Thompson, Fund vice chairman; Fund Trustee Emeritus Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of democracy and global affairs at the U.S. Department of State; Dr. George
Viksnins, long-time Fund economics professor and past Walter Judd Freedom Award winner.
er of how communism suppresses anyone picting those who led the struggle against
who challenges its authority, and because communism; (4) a Hall of Infamy show-
the statue has become a global symbol of ing the instruments of repression used by If the communist-
man’s innate desire for freedom. communists such as the Berlin Wall, the
Gulag, the KGB, the stasi and the Laogai; coordinated terrorists
I am pleased to report that the memorial and (5) oral histories of the brave men and
has become a routine stop for visiting for- women who suffered and survived under had been quashed or
eign leaders who after going to the White communism.
House and the State Department come to
our memorial to lay a wreath and pay their While building the virtual museum –
had never existed,
respects to those who died under commu- which will be launched in early 2009 –
nism. the Foundation will build a network of Waller wrote, in all like-
museums, libraries and organizations in
The second step in our educational plan America and around the world with a core lihood the world would
is to build the Global Museum on Com- interest in the crimes and victims of com-
munism on the Internet, the first Inter- munism. not be plagued today by
net museum that will tell the complete
story of communism from Karl Marx’s The
Communist Manifesto to current events
The launching of the Global Museum on
Communism will be the first of a series of
al Qaeda, Hezbollah,
in China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and North events we will organize in 2009, the 20th
Korea. anniversary of the fall of communism in
Hamas and the other
Eastern and Central Europe and the disin-
The Global Museum on Communism will tegration of the Soviet empire. violent organizations
include (1) compelling histories of the 37
nations that suffered under communism;
(2) a multi-media Timeline of Communism
from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to
the present; (3) a Gallery of Heroes, de-
The third step in our program is to
construct a bricks-and-mortar museum
and library in the Washington, D.C., area,
similar to the highly successful United
that commit mass murder
‘in the name of God.’
1706 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE. NW, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20009
Fund Trustee Emeritus Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of democracy and global affairs at the U.S. Department of State,
presents Lee Edwards with the Walter Judd Freedom Award.
States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “member of an enemy’s family” or the
which attracts more than two million visi- children who grew up in orphanages and
tors annually. joined criminal gangs or the uncles and
aunts and cousins who cut off contact
This is admittedly a highly ambitious pro- with each other for fear of also being sent
gram, and sometimes I am asked: “Why to the camps.
do you bother? Communism is dead and
gone.” My answer is always the same. In their many different languages, the vic-
tims keep saying, “Remember us, remem-
Communism is not dead but alive and ber us.”
all too well in China, Cuba, North Korea,
Vietnam and Laos. Its pernicious influ- We cannot, we must not, we will not for-
ence can be seen in Western countries. get those who died – and are still dying
– under communism.
Those who use communism to maintain
political power would like us to forget the The Victims of Communism Memorial,
crimes and victims of communism, past the Global Museum on Communism on
and present. This we will not do. the Internet, and the United States Mu-
seum and Library on Communism will all
We will not forget those who were tried serve to remind us that never again must
and shot as an “enemy of the people” or nations and peoples permit so evil a tyr-
the wives who were sent to a camp as a anny to terrorize the world. Thank you.
Teaching Freedom is a series of remarks on freedom published by The Fund for American
Studies, a nonprofit educational organization in Washington, D.C. The speakers featured
in each issue of Teaching Freedom delivered their remarks at a TFAS institute or
The speakers who participate in our educational programs contribute greatly to the purpose
and mission of our programs. We publish these speeches in an effort to share the words
and lessons of our speakers with our friends, alumni, supporters and others throughout the
country and world who are unable to attend our events.
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