Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Response to Ilya Somin

For the last six years Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy has been agitating to refashion May First from a day to celebrate working men and women to a day to commemorate the victims of communism. Now I am all for commemorating the victims of communism, but I also support keeping May First as an international workers' day as well. Somin's reasoning for wanting to use May First as the day to commemorate the victims of communism is that the USSR and other communist states hijacked the holiday as a "propaganda tool." But, if that is his logic than he should advocate that Victims of Communism Day be not on May First, but on May Ninth or Victory Day. The USSR and its satellites did not receive their legitimacy and justification after 1945 from being international workers states. The main source of real legitimacy both internally and externally for these regimes was the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany. Somehow I do not think that Somin would advocate that the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the Holocaust be remembered as a day to commemorate the victims of the victorious Allies, foremost among them the USSR, but also including various communist partisan movements in East Central Europe such as those fighting under Tito in Yugoslavia. However, if the point is to target a day adopted by the USSR and other communist states to prop up their regimes then 9th May is an infinitely better day than 1st May. Even today in post-Soviet states 9th May is a huge holiday compared to 1st May and in real terms it has been for decades. I of course do not advocate that Victim of Communism Day be on 9th May either. The accomplishments of the people of the USSR in defeating Naziism were quite real and people in the former Soviet states are rightfully justified in celebrating this victory. Victims of Communism Day should be on a day that is an anniversary of one of Stalin's crimes. For instance 28th August which is the anniversary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet decree ordering the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan. This makes a lot more sense than playing into the fiction that the USSR was actually some sort of workers' paradise and therefore the embodiment of 1st of May as an international day for working men and women.

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