In an article in last week’s Guardian, Jonathan Steele objects to the joint condemnation of communism and fascism. The moral he draws is that “History is too complex and sensitive to be left to politicians". Quite right, but it is also too complex to be used to defend a failed political ideology by crudely trying to show that another is worse.
Mr Steele was upset that the “23 August be proclaimed European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations". He felt this Declaration to be an attempt by former Soviet countries to discredit modern communists. Perhaps, but this observation does not mean the politicians are wrong to draw a parallel. It would be impossible to deny that Hitler discredits fascism and similarly the case stands for Stalin and communism. The other countless million murders that have taken place under fascist and communist regimes in other times and places also add to the case for the joint condemnation.
The European Declaration acknowledges the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in which Hitler and Stalin agreed not to attack each other and divide central Europe in anticipation of the ending of hostilities. In 1989, the Baltic Way defied the Soviet Union on the fiftieth anniversary of that pact. Thus, twenty years ago the atrocities of fifty years previous were part of the fabric of the present, as they are still very much in the minds of the people of the region today. Anyone who has visited countries of what made up the Soviet Union is immediately struck by the way in which government and people make every effort to draw attention to, educate and mark the atrocities of communism.
Mr Steele concludes with his fear that, “First they manipulate anniversaries, then they move to textbooks, and the slide gathers speed". Certainly, this is how governments the world over function if they are given control over setting public holidays, education etc. This slide is even more apparent when those in power have little or no limit to their actions; which of course is most evidenced in communist and fascist states, and is also why both these political systems should be comprehensively and unequivocally condemned, either together or separately, but certainly condemned.