At the top of the fold of the front page in this week’s Sunday (10/29/17) Washington Post, squeezed between an article disparaging the Virginia governor’s race and an article trumpeting the disunity of Americans, is a puff piece on the communist government of the Indian state of Kerala. In it the authors, Gregg Jaffe and Vidhi Doshi, cast a rosy imagining of the rise of Communism (a “workers paradise in which property and wealth would be owned in common”) and its fall (“pressure from the West and the alienation of its own people”), while disparaging Communism’s survivors like Cuba (“a decrepit museum piece”), China (“autocratic form of runaway capitalism”), and North Korea (“a police state”). Save one–Kerala. Kerala, it seems, is the shining beacon of Communism’s promise–where workers never lose there jobs, everyone is literate, open heart surgery is cheaper than a bowl of curry chicken, and Che Guevara is rightfully eulogized as the personification of the permanent “revolution”.
That there is no mention of the tens of millions starved or murdered by the various incarnations of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, the millions of Cambodians beaten to death with shovels or shot by Communist ideologues, the millions of North Vietnamese condemned to die in their government’s idea of total war, or the millions of Chinese starved or murdered in the first decades of Mao’s government in China, is more than a little odd. That there is no mention of the Moaist guerrillas murdering soldiers, citizens, and police officers during decades of conflict in India’s central states is downright bizarre. Instead the reader is treated to the tranquil daily life of Kerala’s grandfatherly finance minister, Thomas Isaac.
Isaac trundles across the Kerala landscape, officiating over social ceremonies and making promises to garment workers in obsolete industries. Isaac also oversees a deficit spending government sustained in part by a flood of remittances from citizens working in the Arab Gulf states construction industry. While Isaac’s generational peers still rant for hours at a time about the “revolution” and class struggle, younger voters mock them for their seriousness, albeit giving them credit for the idea of personal equality.
There in lies the understated message of the Post article –that Kerala champions the equality of its citizens, often in the face of pervasive caste mores, and champions the right of its citizens to peacefully choose their religion. This is not an insignificant matter in a geographical region where choice of a religion not in alignment with that espoused by the state can result in a death sentence.
When Jeff Bezos decided to purchase the Washington Post from the Graham family, there was a significant discussion in the blogosphere and in newsprint as to whether the Post would turn more conservative (à la Fox News) in the hands of one of the most powerful tycoons on the planet. Rather than becoming more conservative, it is possible the Post got even a little more liberal in the last couple years–a feat that would have seemed improbable to most long time readers of the newspaper. After all the Post’s raison d’être, like that of the New York Times, is to create the news rather than just reporting on it, and preferably by knocking down by several pegs various Republican politicians, corporations, and military officers.
That this Utopian newspaper left-wing renaissance at the Washington Post is occurring under Bezos’ tutelage is somewhat ironic given Bezos’ reputation as a tyrannical corporate boss that imposes often horrific working conditions on his workers, both white collar and blue collar, in the single-minded goal of enriching himself. A few of Bezos’ associates have objected to this characterization, albeit somewhat half-heartedly.
So now that the Washington Post has told us that Communism is great, if a little misunderstood and perhaps somewhat creaky and archaic, what is next? The virtues of the expropriation of national industries? The plausibility of removing monuments to slave-owning George Washington and replacing them with Karl Marx? Who knows. The world is the Washington Post’s oyster. There is one thing I do know for sure. Regardless of what is coming, it will take a strong stomach. I’m stockpiling antacid.