The antics of former NBA player Dennis Rodman in North Korea have puzzled many observers but should come as no surprise. Rodman is actually part of a longstanding American tradition of propping up Stalinist regimes at the nadir of their brutality. It all started with Stalin himself.
“One must not make a god of Stalin. He was too important for that.” That is the sort of thing one cannot make up. It comes from I Change Worlds (1935) by Anna Louise Strong, an American journalist who helped found the Moscow News, an English-language Soviet publication staffed by American Communist women “of quite exceptional horror,” as the Manchester Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Malcolm Muggeridge put it. He wrote that Strong bore an expression of such overwhelming stupidity it actually gave her a rare kind of beauty.
Strong also wrote for such prestigious publications as the Atlantic, and remained a faithful member of Stalin’s alibi armory, denying or defending every atrocity. That got her no seniority with the boss and in 1949 Stalin had Strong arrested and charged her with espionage. She duly transferred her allegiance to Mao Tse-Tung and lived in Communist China until her death in 1970.
While Strong was defending Stalin, Muggeridge broke the story of Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine, which claimed millions of lives. But according to Walter Duranty of the New York Times the Ukraine at the time was a veritable cornucopia, flowing with milk and honey. In Duranty’s narrative famine was impossible under the scientific, planned economy of the USSR and the wise leadership of Stalin. Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize and later admitted he knew the full horror of the famine all along. His favorite expressions included: “I put my money on Stalin,” and “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
For more American adulation of the USSR see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims, which includes the Soviet colony of Cuba. Americans lining up to pay homage to Fidel Castro included New Left stalwart Abbie Hoffman, who said of Fidel: “He is like a mighty penis coming to life, and when he is tall and straight, the crowd immediately is transformed.”
Castro tortured poets, persecuted homosexuals and ran a regime so repressive that people flee at the first opportunity on anything that floats. That repression proved no object to American celebrity adulators such as Robert Redford and Oliver Stone. The same crew, with celebrities like Martin Sheen, were big fans of the Sandinista junta in Nicaragua as it attacked the press and imprisoned dissidents. But Castro and the Sandinistas are no match for the fathomless depravity of North Korea.
As former Washington Post East Asia bureau chief Blaine Harden noted in Escape From Camp 14, North Korea’s forced labor camps “have now existed twice as long as the Soviet Gulag and about twelve times longer than the Nazi concentration camps.” Since the regime works prisoners into their graves, death camps would be an accurate description. The regime also eliminates “enemies of class” through three generations, as Kim Il-Sung proclaimed. With Stalin’s encouragement, he invaded South Korea in 1950. But as American leftist icon I.F. Stone explained in Hidden History of the Korean War, South Korea invaded the North.
North Korea’s current Stalinist-in-chief is Kim Jong-un. According to reports in a Chinese state-backed newspaper, Kim Jong-un recently had his uncle and five of his aides stripped naked and fed to a pack of hungry dogs. According to other reports the aides were executed with anti-aircraft machine guns.
The North Korean regime also threatens the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons and aids terrorist groups. None of that matters to Dennis Rodman, who bows to Kim Jong-un, croons “Happy Birthday” to the dictator, and charges that one of his victims, American Kenneth Bae, actually deserves his 15-year sentence.
Whether he knows it or not, Dennis Rodman follows the American tradition of abetting Stalinist regimes at the very depths of their depravity. The worst regime gets probably the most buffoonish apologist. They didn’t call him “The Worm” for nothing.