90 Miles From Tyranny : Quit Glorifying Communism. There Is Nothing Romantic About Life In A Police State

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Quit Glorifying Communism. There Is Nothing Romantic About Life In A Police State

The ghost of Walter Duranty still lives at The New York Times, and it has a perverse sense of timing. Last week, on the anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Times continued its bizarre nostalgia series about communist dictatorships with a piece titled “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.” The author, Kristen Ghodsee, points to a single, post-reunification study to allege that women under the iron fist of East Germany had “twice as many orgasms” as women in capitalist West Germany.

Highlighting a single “bright spot” of communist life while mostly ignoring its many dangers, indignities, and rights violations would be bad enough. Ghodsee takes it a step further, however, by speculating that the totalitarianism she euphemistically refers to as a “top-down campaign” was actually the secret sauce in the communist’s successful female liberation.

Those comrades’ insistence on government intervention may seem heavy-handed to our postmodern sensibilities, but sometimes necessary social change — which soon comes to be seen as the natural order of things — needs an emancipation proclamation from above.

The leftist ideologue is forever being disappointed. Just as Vladimir Lenin was frustrated with the less-than-revolutionary Russian peasantry, the “oppressed” whom the modern left tries to liberate never seem to quite live up to expectations. Concerned with such frivolities as putting food on the table and spending time with their families, people always fall short of someone else’s vision of liberation.

Even today, women’s choices about work-life balance and the wage “gap” those choices create cause many furrowed feminist brows. Actual women—who in surveys still indicate that their ideal work-family balance is part-time work, despite all the social pressure nowadays against this view—simply aren’t as radical as they “ought” to be when left free to choose their own paths. Ghodsee’s solution, like the GDR’s, is simple: women must be forcibly “liberated” for their own good.

Life Under Communism Was No Love Fest

There is just enough truth in The New York Times article to bolster its radical message. Just as the Roaring Twenties in the United States swept in many changes in women’s social roles, so too the 1920s in the Soviet Union brought a period of genuine sexual libertinism and experimentation, encouraged by the vanguard of communist intellectuals that populated Russian cafes. In the early days after the Bolshevik Revolution, people—especially those far away from the bloody revolution itself—could be more easily forgiven for thinking that communism was going to lead to a happier, more prosperous future, given that most of the twentieth-century examples of its barbarism had yet to occur.

But the reality of life in the Warsaw Pact was decidedly different than the picture Ghodsee paints in her column. My father, who grew up in Communist Poland, describes the women he recalls, married in their 20s and 30s, as “exhausted,” spending most of their time outside of working hours standing in lines and feverishly combing contacts to scrape together the bare necessities for...
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