Victims of Communism Day – Remember the Victims and Renew Appreciation for America’s Democratic Process

As America’s presidential vote count (and the mass national anxiety it has produced) looks poised to extend beyond Victims of Communism Day – November 7 – it might be helpful to remember just how fortunate we are. In the United States, every legitimate vote counts – a luxury not enjoyed by many nations.

Many countries around the globe are struggling under communist regimes. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro won re-election in 2018 in what was widely regarded as a “rigged” contest. As Venezuela prepares for elections in December, it continues its slide into autocracy and economic chaos, so much so that its precariousness threatens the stability of neighboring nations. West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker is featured in an ALEC Across the States podcast episode (“Victims of Communism Day with WV Senator Rucker”) to assess the situation in the country of her birth, and this ALEC article Old Nick and the Bolivarian Revolution describes Venezuela’s economic and political descent.

Belarusian President Viktor Lukashenko declared victory following elections on August 9, the results of which were widely regarded as illegitimate. Post-election conflict continues to escalate as this former Soviet republic “enters a dangerous new phase.” In Belarus at a Crossroads – Authoritarian Rule or Liberal Democracy, ALEC experts provide some context for Belarus’ “stolen” election.

Some communist nations exert authority without securing electoral victories at all. This spring, the People’s Republic of China enacted a law speciously predicated on national security that seriously undermined Hong Kong’s sovereignty. ALEC articles Hong Kong – Courageous Protests in Defense of Freedom and China Implements National Security Law that Threatens to Violate Hong Kong’s Sovereignty provide background on China’s near elimination of self-determination in Hong Kong.

However, the atrocities that China is committing against the Uyghurs are among the most heartbreaking actions being perpetrated by a communist nation today. Using a 2014 attack by knife wielding Uyghurs at a train station as a pretext for what many human rights observers have described as a genocidal campaign, Beijing has imprisoned members of this Muslim minority in “re-education camps” in an effort to eliminate the community’s cultural identity and is using artificial intelligence (AI) to surveil and terrorize them. Marion Smith, the Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Foundation details human rights violations against the Uyghurs and provides an assessment of Hong Kong’s future in this ALEC Across States podcast episode, “China’s Victims of Communism: The Uyghurs with Marion Smith.”

The West has mechanisms to counter some of the worst abuses of communist regimes. They range from the traditional – diplomatic and economic carrots and sticks to shape behavior to the high tech – monitoring propaganda disseminated by communist states to predict their next steps. This ALEC Across the States podcast features Dr. Weifeng Zhong, who has developed a program that tracks China’s policy changes using an AI algorithm.

One of the most potent tools to fight communism is to increase Americans’ awareness of the system’s legacy of brutality and present human rights abuses. The establishment of a Victims of Communism Memorial Day would commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communist dictatorships and, in the process, educate Americans about this political system. ALEC model policy supporting this idea can be found here. Beijing uses the Confucius Institutes at many institutions of higher education scattered across the US to influence American thought, and ALEC has model policy to oppose their public funding here. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is one of the first multilateral entities formed exclusively to counter Soviet aggression and communism’s spread. NATO’s relevance is increasing as the alliance defends against cyberattacks committed by Russia and other potential adversaries and against disinformation campaigns. ALEC model policy commemorating NATO’s 70th anniversary is here. Teaching policy makers and lawmakers around the world how to develop democratic institutions in their nations can be an antidote to autocracy, and ALEC lawmakers are uniquely equipped to share best practices on how to create and sustain a functional democracy rooted in limited government, free market principles. ALEC model policy supporting the establishment of an international ALEC good governance program is here.

As we commemorate Victims of Communism Day this year, we should remember past victims and commit to telling the stories of those who continue to live under communist rule and to supporting policies to deter the human rights violations perpetrated by communist governments today.