"Down with censorship!" Poland, 1980. Credit: W. Gorka, FORUM.

Marion Smith on 100 Years of Communism

October 28, 2017

Red censorship, from telegram to Instagram


One hundred years ago, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized control of Russia in the October Revolution and founded the Soviet Union. As with all good revolutionaries, one of the first things that Lenin’s gun-toting Red Guards did was seize the post offices and telegraph stations throughout the capital of Petrograd.

Once his power was secured, Lenin started prohibiting “bourgeois” and “counterrevolutionary” publications. Within two months, the Bolshevik forces had seized 90 printing presses. By the middle of the 1918, the following year, the non-communist press had been completely shut down. These measures were supposedly “temporary.” In reality, they lasted for seven decades.

The aim of communism is to completely remake society: control of information has always been an element of this. In their 1848 Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels recommended the “centralization of the means of communication … in the hands of the State” as one of the basic actions to be taken after a communist revolution.


During Joseph Stalin’s paranoid reign, history books were aggressively edited to remove all trace of his enemies. Pages were cut out of books after publication. “Non-persons” were erased from official photos. At least twice during the Soviet Union’s history, all history final exams were cancelled because the government was busy “rewriting” history.


Unfortunately, the communist war on the free exchange of ideas is not just an artifact of the past. In too many places, it continues to this day.

At the time of publishing, Marion Smith was executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

Originally published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

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