Monday, 7 June 2010
Making outlaws out of heros
(From tomorrow's Morning Star)
Last month US, French and British troops marched across Moscow's Red Square in a Victory Day parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of fascism in Europe.
The event was a tribute to the 28 million Soviet citizens who gave their lives in the global fight against the tyranny of fascism.
Yet elements within the European Union are currently embarking on an anti-communist crusade that seeks to equate communism with nazi fascism, as part of a much wider offensive against any opposition to the neoliberal agenda.
This gross distortion of history has at its heart a revisionism that attacks the role of communists and socialists while, at the same time, downplaying the crimes of fascism.
Revisionist historians, most notably Niall Ferguson, have claimed that the "blame" for the second world war should be equally shared by the Soviet Union and nazi Germany. Ferguson has stated that Stalin was "as much an aggressor as Hitler." However, attempts to equate communism and fascism hint that the former was worse than the latter.
In history lessons in schools across Britain children are taught a module on the "great dictators" where they study Hitler, Stalin and Fidel Castro. Communism, we are taught, is worse than nazism because, according to figures attained by dubious and ahistorical methodology, it is "responsible" for the deaths of more people.
This outrageous claim has been supported by "historian" Orlando Figes who described the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact as "the licence for the Holocaust." This view of the second world war is complete nonsense. It is a disgraceful insult to the great sacrifices made by the Soviet people, partisans and ordinary people across Europe in pursuit of the defeat of fascism.
How can a conscious genocide carried out along racial lines by death camps be compared to communism?
For all its faults the Soviet Union built an egalitarian society that provided top-quality health, education, cultural activities and employment for all its citizens. The Soviet Union sought to end the violent racism and anti-semitism that traditionally plagued Russian society as well as to bring about the emancipation of women by introducing unparalleled childcare provision and enforcing equal pay.
The socialist camp provided crucial assistance to national liberation and anti-colonialist movements across the globe. The Soviet Union's contribution to this struggle has been recognised by Nelson Mandela among others.
On June 8 the Polish government will implement an amendment to the penal code criminalising the dissemination of "communist symbolism." Anyone who "produces, perpetuates, imports, stores, possesses, presents, carries or sends a printout, a recording or other object" carrying "communist or other totalitarian symbolism" would be punished with up to two years in prison.
Not only would this mean the banning of the international symbol of the communist movement - the hammer and sickle - but also the five-pointed red star, a symbol used by many socialists and social democrats across the world.
From the pronouncements made by government ministers and other right-wing politicians in Poland it is likely that the ban could also extend to other symbols and icons including pictures of Che Guevara and Lenin on T-shirts and posters.
This latest piece of anti-communist repression follows a wave of similar legislation across Europe. Bans on communist symbols have already been implemented in Hungary and Lithuania, while attempts and similar legislation have been pursued in Slovakia and many other countries in eastern Europe.
In 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution that attempted to condemn communism as a "totalitarian" ideology. Speakers denounced the existence of "monuments, street names and other external symbols associated with the history of communism." The PACE resolution also called on all communist and post-communist parties of the Council of Europe member countries "to revise the history of communism and of their own history and unequivocally condemn them."
In 2007 the Czech government outlawed the Communist Youth Union because of its support for public ownership of the means of production. The Czech government has also attempted to outlaw its parent party the Communist Party of Bohemia & Moravia - a party with mass popular support that finished second in the 2004 European Parliament elections and continues to be an influential party in the Czech parliament.
In 2009 Moldovan anti-communists organised riots across the country after the Moldovan Communist Party won the election. In the Baltic republics anti-communism is being used in order to rehabilitate nazism. Veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS now parade through the streets of Riga and Estonian parliamentarians have honoured those who served the Third Reich as "fighters for independence."
Most shamefully, Nato and EU member Lithuania opened a war crimes investigation into four Jewish veterans of the country's partisans. Efraim Zuroff, the famous nazi hunter, has stated: "People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries' participation in mass murder."
There are two elements to this anti-communist offensive by the European Union.
The first and most predominant element is an attempt to whitewash the crimes of capitalism and to silence opposition to the commitment of the European Union to capitalism and imperialism.
It is no accident that this upswing in the rising tide of anti-communism comes at a time when millions of people across Europe are being mobilised in opposition to the swingeing cuts being pursued by the neoliberalist EU to fund the bailout of the banks and financial institutions.
Communists across Europe have assumed a prominent role in this struggle against an intensification of competition, the surge in privatisation, and the ripping up of trade unionist's rights. Those labour movement battles that have seen most success contain a cohort of communists at their heart.
The great anti-communist crusade is inseparable from the European Union's enforcement of austerity measures across the continent. The campaign to outlaw communism also runs hand in hand with the expansion of Nato into eastern Europe. Along with the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq imperialism is conducting repression on a massive scale in the name of "democracy" and "freedom."
This historical revisionism is being used by a rising tide of fascists to justify attacks on immigrants, socialists and communists. Ultimately, these measures act as a catalyst for the full rehabilitation of nazism.
This disgraceful censorship contradicts the "democratic ideals" professed by the European Union.
It is incumbent on all communists, socialists and progressives to oppose this latest move in the anti-communist offensive.
There will be a protest outside the Polish embassy, 47 Portland Place, London W1B 1JH, on Tuesday at 6pm against the proposed ban and we invite all Morning Star readers and supporters to join us.
George Waterhouse is General Secretary of the Young Communist League.