New York Times Again Waxes Nostalgic for Communism: ‘Not Everything Was Bad'

June 3rd, 2024 4:27 PM

A Sunday New York Times story by Berlin-based reporter Christopher Schuetze was the latest example of the paper’s repellent habit of condoning certain aspects of Communist tyrannies in Russia and Eastern Europe. for the authoritarian Communist past, “‘Not Everything Was Bad’: Saluting the Mercedes of Eastern Europe and a Communist Past.”

Schuetze visited a May Day event in the former East Germany celebrating classic cars from the Communist Era, complete with a young man, Uwe Rockler, dressed as an East German traffic cop. Repression chic!

The hundreds of motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars and farming vehicles on display exuded the nostalgia that many here feel for a vanished country that -- despite its oppressive dictatorship -- was home for decades.


To Mr. Röckler, whose parents toiled under the communist regime, the era holds a fascination. “Not everything was bad, it was just everyday life,” he said. Of the East German police, which many see as one of the most obvious manifestations of a repressive state, he said: “They were actually pretty good criminalists -- in many ways equal to those in West.”

The repression was represented in mild, almost joking fashion.

Waiting in line to board a carefully maintained bus from 1958 that would take him on a tour of Pirna, Thomas Herzog, 62, remembers the requirements of that era well. “I’m here because no one is forcing me to be here,” he said with a laugh.

Among those in Pirna celebrating this May Day, 35 years after East Germans last celebrated it in a functioning communist state, many said the era had been rife with problems, including restrictions on speech and travel, with citizens living under the yoke of one of the most restrictive state security systems behind the Iron Curtain.

But as that time recedes into the past, memories of the communist country have become more attractive for many, especially as discontent with the current system grows.


Conny Kaden, 60, the founder of the G.D.R. Museum, said that despite the benefits reunification brought, there were downsides.

The socialist state, he noted, in addition to offering jobs at state-run enterprises, had fostered a sense of community through mandatory meetings in youth, worker and community clubs. “I’m not saying this is about raising the G.D.R. flag,” Mr. Kaden said. “But we lost something, we lost the cohesion.”

The paper indulges this sinister nostalgia on such a regular basis that one can break the stories down by regime, from Soviet Russia to East Germany to China to Cuba:

In 2017 the paper ran a “Red Century” series to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution that offensively whitewashed the repression and hardship of daily life under Communist rule.

A headline over a February 1992 story on the last Soviet political prisoners being released read: "A Gulag Breeds Rage, Yes, but Also Serenity." That was a year-end Notable Quotable for us.

From a June 2019 story about East Germany by Thomas Rogers: “But it still arouses nostalgia among some former citizens who fondly remember its gender egalitarianism and social safety net or admire its utopian aspirations.”

In February 2018, the Times Katrin Bennhold hailed government child care, presumably accompanied by forced female labor, as a highlight of human liberation: “Eastern women, who were part of the work force and with free child care, were more emancipated than their western sisters, and proved to be more mobile than their male counterparts.”

An October 2008 book review carried the astounding headline "East Germany Had Its Charms, Crushed by Capitalism."

Moving east, nice things were said about Communist China under mass-murdering dictator Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, including “greater rights” for women, while dismissing the millions who died in the Great Leap Forward in a few words.

Don’t forget Communist Cuba under Fidel Castro, on the front of the Travel section in 2018, courtesy of contributor Tony Perrottet: “It’s a tribute to the resilience of the young rebels who -- whatever their later faults once they took power -- took on the brutal Batista dictatorship at great personal risk. The aura of idealism becomes particularly poignant today, as Cuba’s revolutionary dream has become as battered as the corrugated iron ceiling of the Presidio itself….”

Reporter Schuetze’s bio noted he also covers “the rise of populism and the far right, which is especially concerning given Germany’s past.” Evidently he has no such concerns for the far left represented by Communist tyranny.