Tuesday, January 23

Europe's Lingering Scar of Communism

Lets start with this quote:

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results (2006 Congressional Elections) as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world." - Breitbart

Fine. In their eyes, America under the Bush Administration is no utopia. But lets be serious, under what definition are they calling it a global nightmare? How does it compare to World War I? World War II? and the decades-long nightmare of the former Soviet Union? Or was life in the USSR some sort of intellectual 'enlightenment'? What about the horror of what is going on in Zimbabwe, in which the US is in no way responsible? What about the genocide going on in Sudan in which the US is in no way responsible? (The US is one of the only countries to actually declare the Darfur killing as Genocide.) Then we have the perennial disaster areas of Cuba and North Korea. None of these global crisis's come up on the Socialist radar scope. Only that the US is not willing to rollover and comply with their agenda.

The only problem with dismissing this type of comment outright is the mere fact of how powerful Socialism and Socialists are in Europe.

With 200 members the PES's "Socialist Group" is the second largest group in the European Parliament. - Wikipedia

This is one reason why the US traditionally has had problems with the Governments of Europe. It has little to do with Bush's actions in attacking Iraq. They hated him well before September 11 and had no intention of working with his administration. After all, the Socialist plan has problems if other plans do well, especially if the US economy does well.

It is also the reason why a recent resolution to set up "committees of 'independent experts' in Europe to investigate the crimes of Communism" was rejected:
more than half the assembly's members did not turn up at all. (A two-third's majority was required to pass) - Spectrezine
This was despite an investigation by the Council of Europe on the "Need for international condemnation of crimes of Communism.":

The need for international condemnation of crimes of communism is very important, not only to condemn crimes in the past, but also utterly important to continuously condemn the ongoing crimes in the communist countries, still at large.

So far, neither the Council of Europe nor any other international intergovernmental organization has undertaken the task of general evaluation of communist rules, serious discussion on the crimes committed in their name, and their public condemnation.

Indeed, however difficult it is to understand, there has been no serious, in-depth debate on the ideology which was, and is, at the root of widespread terror, massive human rights violations, death of many millions of individuals, and the plight of whole nations. Whereas another totalitarian regime of the XXth century, namely Nazism, has been investigated, internationally condemned and the perpetrators have been brought to trial, similar crimes committed in the name of communism have neither been investigated nor received any international condemnation.

The absence of international condemnation may be partly explained by the existence of countries whose rule is still based on communist ideology. The wish to maintain good relations with some of them may prevent certain politicians from dealing with this difficult subject.

Furthermore, many politicians still active today have supported, in one way or another, former communist regimes. For obvious reasons they would prefer not to deal with the question of responsibility. In many European countries there are communist parties which have not formally condemned the crimes of communism. Last but not least, different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many politicians.

However, I am of the opinion, that there is an urgent need for public debate on the crimes of communism and their condemnation at international level. It should be done without any further delay for several reasons:

Firstly, for the sake of general perception, it should be clear that all crimes, including those committed in the name of ideology, praising the most respectable ideals like equality and justice, are condemned, and there is no exception to this principle. This is particularly important for young generations who have no personal experience of communist rule. The clear position of the international community on the past may be a reference for their future actions.

Secondly, as long as victims of communist regimes or their families are still alive, it is not too late to give them moral restitution for their suffering.

Last but not least, the communist regimes are still active in some countries of the world, and the crimes committed in the name of communist ideology continue to take place. - Goran Lindblad, Swedish Parliament

Go read the whole thing.

Since the Russians are members of the Council of Europe, they participated in the discussion. Of course they argued against any attempt to investigate the Soviet Union:
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma's international affairs committee and head of Russia's delegation to PACE, led the fight against the report. Kosachev claimed that not all communist regimes were criminal or violent, though he did not clarify how he categorized the Soviet Union in that regard. "Not everything that's red is blood, some of it may be tomato juice, Mr. Lindblad" -- he lashed out at the rapporteur during the official debate (Interfax, January 25). Moreover, Kosachev charged that the report seeks to assign to the USSR a share of the responsibility for the Second World War and the division of Europe. Finally, he contended that Communist ideology could not be grouped together with Nazi ideology under the category of "totalitarian." Implicitly excusing the former, Kosachev insisted that the report must not place those two ideologies on the same footing. - Eurasia Daily

Now imagine if the vote concerned the US. Do you think that half of them would not show up. Take the following comments from Greek Council of Europe member Mikis Theodorakis:
In Greece public outcry against the resolution has been overwhelming, spanning the entire political spectrum from right to left. Internationally renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis said the Council of Europe has decided to “distort” history “by equating the victims with the villains. The criminals with the heroes. The conquerors with the liberators and the Nazis with the communists.”

The resolution opens the way for “the ghosts of Hitler and Himmler,” who “began their career by outlawing the Communist Parties and by locking up the Communists in death camps,” Theodorakis said.

Meanwhile the council has been silent on U.S. aggression, torture and other human rights violations, he noted. “I have but one word to address to those ‘gentlemen’: Shame!” - People's Weekly World
Yes, shame indeed! Talk about having no shame. 'Distort' history my ass.

Now the quote above from Russian Konstantin Kosachev does expose one of Moscow's fears in all of this. Being blamed for World War II and being put on the same level as Nazi Germany. More on that below.

So why the lack of enthusiasm to properly record the crimes of the Soviet Union and Communism in Europe? First, when you compare the two ideologies of Communism and Socialism, you will see that they are very much similar, and for good reason:
Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a classless, stateless social organization, based upon common ownership of the means of production. It can be classified as a branch of the broader socialist movement - Wikipedia - Communism
The main difference in the two ideologies is to the level that one should go in order to attain the goals. So if you attack the ideals of one, then you are in fact attacking the ideals of the other. And if there is a serious investigation of the crimes of the Soviet Union, a number of current members of Socialist parties may be implicated in those crimes as well as some of the Communist and Socialist parties currently active in European Politics.

Now the Socialists are quick to distinguish themselves from Communists, but the two ideologies are closely related. In fact some Socialist political groups in Europe are the offspring of former Communist groups. Take Finland's Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto):
The party was founded as a result of a merger between the Finnish People's Democratic League (SKDL), the Finnish Women's Democratic League (SNDL), and the Communist Party of Finland (SKP). The founding meeting was held in April 1990 in Helsinki, following the publishing of the April Declaration, which emphasised the need for a party that would promote the ideals of the French Revolution - liberty, equality, and fraternity - in addition to peace and environmental values.

The party's short history has been characterised by internal disputes and bickering, as it was formed by people with very different views on society. There have been several large-scale defections from the Left Alliance to the Social Democratic Party and the newly formed Communist Party of Finland (Unity). In 2005, the party's former secretary and SAK's assistant head Matti Viialainen formed a society to promote a merger between the two largest Finnish left-wing political parties, the Left Alliance and the Social Democrats. This caused an outrage within the Left Alliance, and Viialainen was condemned of wanting to break up the party. - Wikipedia
Their actions as listed above certainly blurs the distinctions between Communism, Socialism and even the liberals.

While living in Finland I was warned a couple of times to be careful what I say when criticizing the Soviet Union as "Many people here supported the Soviet Union" and that I might hurt some feelings if I was too critical. It is even more amusing when these very same people who warn me about criticizing a confirmed failed ideology are so quick to criticize the US and President Bush, about anything.

This is an important issue because it appears that Socialists and ex-Communists are busy trying to erase the past, rewrite history, and even glorify Communism. Take the following:

Tampere city council to name park after communist Finnish civil war leader - 7.12.2004 at 16:03

The Tampere city council on Tuesday decided to name a park after Hugo Salmela, the Red Guard officer who led the defence of the communist stronghold in the 1918 civil war.

The initiative came from councillor Taavi Lintunen, a communist.

Hugo Salmela, an actor by trade, was in charge of the Red Guards as the government troops, led by then General C G E Mannerheim, approached the industrial city, built on a narrow isthmus between two lakes.

Mr Salmela was an anomaly among Red Guard commanders as he proved his military prowess in the battle. He died in an explosion before the city was sacked by Gen Mannerheim.

The city commission tasked with place names felt that the city should commemorate the Red leader in the name of equality [You have to be f.ing kidding me.] as the board in the summer decided to name another park in memory of Marshal Mannerheim.

Despite - or because of - the fact that Tampere was the key battleground of the civil war, the city does not want to cast its mind back to those events 86 years ago.

The sacking of Tampere destroyed the city and Gen Mannerheim's troops exacted terrible retribution, including executing thousands of prisoners.

Somewhat controversially, the city fathers in 1956 vehemently rejected the idea of erecting a statue of a White Guards general in the centre of Tampere. Marshal Mannerheim's statue to this day stands in the middle of a forest.

The wounds of the war are slow to heal in the city. Before Independence Day - 6 December - the statue was once again smeared with red paint and the word 'lahtari', butcher, painted on it. /STT/ - Virtual Finland 2004

Go here to see a picture of the Mannerheim Statue in the Forest. For those who are not familiar with Mannerheim, not only was he a Finnish General, he also served as President of Finland at the end of WWII. So just where does he rank in terms of 'Greatness':

Mannerheim was deservedly voted as the greatest Finn ever, thanks to saving 5 million people from communism - twice. That kind of achievement is hard to beat. - Purpose and Scope

The first time he saved Finland from Communism was during the Finnish Civil War that happened when the country declared independence from Russia. You can see why he might not be a hero to the Communists. While his statue is desecrated with being called a butcher, no such accusations were ever made by the Finnish Government against their former neighbor.

That story is nothing. Would you believe that Russia is even denying that they occupied Estonia, and I would think that they probably would deny that they occupied any nation at the end of World War II:
Estonia was occupied by the Nazis in World War II and then ruled by Moscow for five decades.

Russia denies the Soviet years amounted to an "occupation" of Estonia. - BBC
No, of course not. You see, the Soviets 'liberated' Estonia, the other Baltic States, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe from the Nazis. OK, I will give them that. Unfortunately, they then forgot to leave, in essence, replacing the Nazis. This current disagreement between Estonia and Russia stems from Estonia's plans to both ban Communist symbols as well as remove a Soviet-era memorial.
Moscow described plans in Estonia to criminalize Soviet symbols like the hammer and sickle - effectively equating them with the Nazi swastika - as "blasphemous".

The president of Estonia has signed into law a bill allowing the removal of a controversial Soviet war memorial from the centre of the capital Tallinn.

The bronze statue of a Soviet soldier, erected in 1947, is regarded by many as a symbol of Soviet occupation. However, the large ethnic-Russian population in Estonia see it as a symbol of liberation from the Nazis.

The decision has angered Russia too. The Russian parliament is expected to adopt a statement denouncing the law. The soldier has become a symbol of the divisions in Estonian society, says the BBC's Baltic correspondent Laura Sheeter.

The Soviet Union annexed Estonia at the end of World War II, and it remained a Soviet republic until the collapse of the USSR nearly 50 years later.

'Lack of respect'

After clashes at the monument between Estonian nationalists and ethnic Russian activists last year, the government decided that it should be taken down, and moved to a less controversial location. [How about moving it to Moscow? ed.] To that end they proposed two bills - one which allows them to move monuments which glorify any occupying power, and the other, which was passed on Wednesday - which allows for the exhumation and reburial of soldiers' remains. It is thought that several soldiers are buried underneath the monument, and the government argues that it is impossible for their graves to receive the proper respect, when protesters gather and fight at the site. - pro2
The story fails to point out that the Large ethnic Russian population in Estonia was not 'liberated' from the Nazis. They were implanted by the Soviets after the war to ensure that Estonia would not revolt from Soviet rule. (While deporting, the locals, or worse.)

(The Soviets left behind when the Soviet Union fell apart were not kicked out of the Baltics and Estonia when they became independent again. They were given an opportunity to join their new home country. Many have so far declined to take the steps to do so. Then again, they have also not bothered to move back to mother Russia. At least they are not that stupid....)

Thankfully, the Baltic states are ignoring the critics, starting with Russia, and slowly trying to undue the damage done by both Nazi and Soviet occupation. There are even calls that Russia compensate the countries that they forcibly occupied at the end of World War II:
Vytautas Landsbergis is one of the most active politicians, who urge Russia to compensate Lithuania and other post-Soviet republics for damage done to them during their occupations. - Wikipedia, Vytautas Landsbergis
Unfortunately, in addition to Socialists, there is no shortage of active Communists in Europe to this day:

In January 2005, Professor Landsbergis, backed by another Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, urged a ban on the Soviet and Nazi symbols. He also sent a letter to Mr. Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner of Justice and Internal Affairs, where he suggested that in case the EU decides to ban Nazi symbols, Communist symbols should be banned too. The Commissioner became interested in this proposal and said: "I am ready to join this discussion. The Communist dictatorships no less than the Nazi ones are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people". A bit later, however, the Commissioner under pressure from Italian communists backed off his initial statement.

Professor Landsbergis' proposal caused quite a stir in Italy where Italian leftists, in the beginning of February 2005, strongly protested against such a move. The reformed Communist Party and Italian Communists were outraged at Landsbergis' proposal. The Professor's proposal became the center of the Italian media's attention. One of the most influential Italian dailies, La Repubblica, even published an interview with Professor Vytautas Landsbergis outlining his proposal. It was the first time when the daily allocated a full page for a politician from Lithuania.

Nevertheless, Landsbergis' proposal found few supporters among Italian politicians. However one who did, Alessandra Mussolini, a grand-daughter of former Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini commented: "To implement the proposal of the Members of the European Parliament regarding Communist symbols is our moral duty".

The proposal of Professor Landsbergis did not go by without a response from the Russian Parliament as well. The First Vicespeaker of the Russian State Duma called Professor's proposal "abnormal". Another Russian MP, a communist, commented by saying that "somebody in Europe became insolent and forgot who saved them from the fascists".

However, the debate came to an end when, in the beginning of February 2005, the European Commission rejected calls for a proposed Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be extended to cover Communist Party symbols as well. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said it would not be appropriate to include the red star and the hammer and sickle in a draft EU law on racism.

Finally, at the end of February 2005, the European Union dropped proposals to ban Nazi symbols across its 25 member states. Luxembourg withdrew the plan when it became clear that members could not reach a consensus on which symbols to ban. There were also concerns that the proposed ban was a threat to freedom of expression. - Wikipedia

Since when has the hammer and sickle become a symbol of Communism? It was the symbol of the Soviet Union. Notice the outrage that the Soviet Union might be compared to Nazi Germany. This seems to be the biggest 'outrage' that Communists have about criticism of the Soviet Union. Forget the gulags, the forced relocations, the artificial food shortages, etc. How dare you compare the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany. After all, it was the Army of the Soviet Union that liberated Europe. Just look at the reactions of some European MPs:

The Belgian Communist party, the PCB, called the motion "a violent attack on history, present and future of communism". The Greek KKE called it "a declaration of war and persecution against all communist parties", and Germany's PDS said it was "neo McCarthyism".

Mikis Theodorakis, the Greek composer, said: "In the name of our dead comrades, of those who passed through the hands of the Gestapo and the death camps ... shame on those who want to turn victims into executioners, heroes into criminals and communists into Nazis."

French communists said the motion "banalises the Holocaust" and "ignores the communist role in fighting fascism".

André Guerin, a Lyon MP, told Le Figaro that the council's idea was to "definitively bury the values of communism" and "make believe they are outmoded and that the only alternative is capitalism". - Guardian

Well, that of course forgets these inconvenient facts:

Stalin's Intervention to ensure Hitler's Election in Germany:
During the critical 1932 German elections, he forbid the German Communists from collaborating with the Social Democrats. These parties together gained more votes than Hitler and could have prevented him from becoming Chancellor. - Wikipedia
Alliance with Hitler / Nazi Germany

The Soviet Union had Hitler's back at the start of World War II by agreeing to split Europe amongst themselves drawing a line right through Poland. (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact)

It is common knowledge that Nazi Germany attacked Poland (on 1 September 1939) but not so common knowledge that the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the East. (On 17 September 1939)

Support of Nazi Germany

From the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August, 1939 through almost the end of the first half of 1941, Stalin and the USSR fed and equipped Hitler and Germany as Germany invaded Western Europe and then attacked Great Britain by air. - Wikipedia

Partially Responsible for World War II

According to the Historian Richard Pipes, the Communist states share some responsibility for World War II. Both Hitler and Mussolini used the Soviet Union as a model for their own totalitarian states and Hitler privately expressed that Stalin was a "genius". In turn, Stalin expressed desire for another great war that would leave his enemies weakened and allow Soviet expansion. He allowed the testing and production of German weapons that were forbidden by the Versailles Treaty to occur on Soviet territory. - Wikipedia
Surely the Communists of today have simple explanations for all this. However, until Europe decides to face up to examining the crimes of the Soviet Union, we will not hear them. Unfortunately, nor will we be able to properly document the crimes that were committed.

In response to the quote by the Socialists at the top of this post, I leave you with this from the website of the yet unveiled Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation:
A Moral Blind Spot - It is a great moral failing for a free society to misunderstand the extent of Communism's atrocities. While the horrors of Nazism are well known, who knows that the Soviet Union murdered 20 million people? Who knows that China's dictators have slaughtered an estimated 60 million? Who knows that the Communist holocaust has exacted a death toll surpassing that of all of the wars of the 20th century combined?

Just as we must grasp Communism's brutality, we must understand the true cause of this era's most significant event: the fall of the Soviet Union. As Vaclav Havel said, "The fall of the Communist empire is an event on the same scale of historical importance as the fall of the Roman Empire." The West's triumph over the "evil empire" was no accident of history. It was the result of a calculated strategy by a grand alliance of political, military, religious, business and labor leaders. These leaders deserve credit for the victory over Communism many thought impossible. - VCMF
How sad to know that a Soviet Citizen during WWII was more likely to be killed by his own Government than the Nazis. That's how bad the Soviet Union was.

(Proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Washington, DC)

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
Council of Europe Resolution 1481 - Wikipedia
Homepage - Socialist Group in the European Parliment

Russia and Estonia in Soviet spat - BBC
Estonia to remove Soviet memorial - BBC
Carnival of German-American Relations - Atlantic Review


Estonia in World Media (Rus) said...

Nice overview.
It is common knowledge that Nazi Germany attacked Poland (on 1 September 1939) but not so common knowledge that the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the East. (On 17 September 1939)
I'd even call it backstab. Poland was fighting in the West, leaving the East exposed.

Fred Fry said...

I'd even call it backstab.

Yeah, they are good at that. And that is something that Russia clearly remembers how to do.