Last week Ottawa’s National Capital Commission (NCC) approved in principle the Tribute to Liberty and Open Book Group proposal of erecting a monument commemorating the more than 100 victims of totalitarian communism. But the approval has a caveat.
The NCC has requested “further discussion to broaden the scope of the memorial.” It seems the NCC wants to broaden the scope of the memorial to commemorate victims of oppression. This would be a serious step back for the Tribute and Open Book efforts, a negation of all the difficult work contributed so far.
For some it is obvious why the NCC demands a change in direction: fear of offending China and Russia, both unwilling to acknowledge crimes committed by their predecessors. Perhaps their reluctance to investigate and condemn the crimes of communism is based on an unwilligness to accept that the communist regimes were in fact criminal enterprises.
To date there has been no serious, international, all-inclusive debate on the ideology which was at the root of massive terror, horrendous human rights violations (which still continue in some countries), the annihilation of millions (many estimates put the figure over 100,000,000) and the oppressive captivity of scores of nations.
In contrast, Nazism, another totalitarian regime of the 20th century, has been investigated, condemned and perpetrators prosecuted. In some countries Nazi ideology and its symbols have been declared illegal. Scores of memorials to Nazi victims and museums exhibiting its ghastly horrors have been erected world-wide.
Some have argued (including Moscow) that comparing the Soviet Gulag with the Nazi Holocaust is unacceptable. However, it can be stated without prejudice to anyone, that in addition to the sheer numbers of dead – the Communist death toll far exceeds those murdered by the Nazis – a similarity exists between the “class genocide” preached by Lenin and Stalin, and the “race genocide” of Hitler. Rejecting arguments that one evil was lesser than the other, both totalitarian regimes practiced crimes against humanity on a massive scale.
The question of the failure to establish responsibility for communist crimes can be partially explained by the existence of countries whose rules are still based on communist ideology. North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam still adhere to communist principles, albeit perverted in some fashion. Russia currently is openly embracing the communist perpetrator of its most heinous crimes – Joseph Stalin – saying Stalin’s murderous legacy was not only useful for the advancement of the revolution, it was first and foremost necessary.
The wish to maintain good relations and promote trade with some of these regimes may prevent many politicians from dealing with this very difficult subject. Our communities must rally to the help of the Tribute to Liberty and Open Book activists who are persevering that the NCC authorities review a faulty decision.
“Victims of oppression” cannot replace “Victims of communism” (5)