Comrade Joe

For something approaching 20 years, it's been standard practice to refer to Russia as "the former Soviet Union -- a formerly communist country." The country's leaders are referred to as "former communists."

But where are the communists supposed to have gone? Everyone over age 35 in Russia and its former Soviet "republics" was raised a communist, schooled as a communist. Though Boris Yeltsin and others in 1991 declared the rusting Soviet empire could no longer be sustained -- admitting the system had failed despite massive coercion, including mass slavery and murder -- when were all the former communist leaders lined up and shot? When were the moldering remains of Lenin and Stalin hauled out and hanged?

Never. "In Russia, where government buildings still are festooned with hammers and sickles, there is an abiding sense of continuum," the Los Angeles Times reports from Moscow. "Stalin's image and name ... are creeping back into Russian life. His name was restored recently to a Moscow Metro station. His unmistakable mustached face beams down from the wall of Soviet Meatpies, a diner downtown."

In October, a Moscow court heard a libel lawsuit filed by Stalin's grandson. The descendant claimed a lawyer had besmirched Stalin's "honor and dignity" in columns that referred to him as a "bloodthirsty cannibal." In the end, the court ruled against the Stalin family. But the defendant said that even a decade ago he couldn't have imagined being summoned to court for having written pejoratively about Stalin.

The final irony is that the Times need hardly have gone halfway round the world to find an enthusiastic rebirth of Stalinism. Not since the early 1940s has America seen the statist minority so emboldened in their condemnation of capitalism, and their insistence that collectivism and massive forced wealth redistribution represent the proper path.

The American left now loudly sneers at any defense of capitalism or the free market that made America the envy of the world, all the while insisting that the millions of bodies left in the wake of failed collectivist experiments across the globe during the 20th century were the byproduct of rogue regimes rather than of an evil political philosophy.

We know the Cold War ended in 1991. What's not yet clear is who won.