Prior to the European Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), at the request of EU justice ministers, held a hearing on “crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by totalitarian regimes.”
It was a duly laudable effort as a follow-up to last year’s agreement among the justice ministers that incitement to racism and xenophobia is a crime across the EU 27-nation bloc. The new hate laws also make it a criminal offence for people to “publicly condone, deny or grossly trivialize crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” but only those recognized under the statute of the International Criminal Court.
In 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed, in spite of strong Russian opposition, a resolution entitled “Need for International Condemnation of the Crimes of Totalitarian Communist Regimes.” The resolution was expected to be followed by more concrete proposals within the EU parliament.
While several MEPs have called on the EU to formally recognize Stalinist crimes and compensate the victims on same basis as victims of Nazi crimes, the EU parliament has within it political groupings firmly opposed to equating Nazi crimes with those of Stalinism.
Specifically, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) rejects any equivalency between Stalin and Hitler. They claim it would “surreptitiously make Nazism banal by putting it in the same category as Stalinism”.
Are liberal democracies still imbued with the same pervasive ignorance of communism nearly 20 years after it was discredited and rejected – at least the Soviet version? Perhaps the politics of expediency dictate political behaviour in Europe, where Moscow’s hand on the energy supply tap probably accounts for many distasteful, but pro-Russian decisions. We remember that Russia claims to be the successor state to the Soviet Union, but in that capacity refuses to acknowledge the genocide committed by its predecessor.
During the cold war communist crimes never roused scholarly curiosity proportionate to the magnitude of the disaster. A deafening silence on the topic of Soviet and Chinese crimes against humanity prevailed amongst most western academics.
Anti-communism was déclassé, to be pursued by aberrant extremists. Senator McCarthy’s unsubstantiated exhortations, the Vietnam War, amongst other things, were seen as the particularly destructive and irrational outcome of anti-communism.
The enduring wisdom amongst academia and the literati of the era was not to criticize or annoy Moscow, Beijing, Havana or any other centre of the socialist “revolution”. Fidel Castro, the grand old man of the revolution, imprisoning his people and brutally eliminating any opposition, is venerated world-wide for bringing health care and education to the masses. Mussolini doesn’t have his regiments of fellow travelers lauding his success in getting trains to run on time.
Super-power equivalency or moral equivalency dominated thinking. Both the USSR and the USA were equally abhorrent or equally commendable in their treatment of political dissent.
Criticism and resulting rising international tension could have led to confrontation and a nuclear holocaust. It would have been self-destructive to irritate the Kremlin. It is now self-defeating to irritate Beijing for fear of losing a vast future market for western exports.
Previously inaccessible documentation in eastern and central European archives affirms the human devastation caused by totalitarian communist regimes. People who demand that truth and justice prevail in targeting Communist crimes are not wild-eyed red-baiters as formerly stereotyped by western academics, but well-informed scholars of the issue seeking to right a fundamental wrong.
Condemnation of communist crimes faces uphill struggle in European Parliament