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Nazism and Communism


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#1 Seamus Milne

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 11:34 AM

Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre seems once again to be haunting Europe. Last month, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the "crimes of totalitarian communist regimes", linking them with Nazism and complaining that communist parties are still "legal and active in some countries". Now Göran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution, wants to go further. Demands that European ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign - including school textbook revisions, official memorial days and museums - only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority. Yesterday, declaring himself delighted at the first international condemnation of this "evil ideology", Lindblad pledged to bring the wider plans back to the Council of Europe in the coming months.

He has chosen a good year for his ideological offensive: this is the 50th anniversary of Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin and the subsequent Hungarian uprising, which will doubtless be the cue for further excoriation of the communist record. The ground has been well laid by a determined rewriting of history since the collapse of the Soviet Union that has sought to portray 20thcentury communist leaders as monsters equal to or surpassing Hitler in their depravity - and communism and fascism as the two greatest evils of history's bloodiest era. The latest contribution was last year's bestselling biography of Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, keenly endorsed by George Bush and dismissed by China specialists as "bad history" and "misleading".

Paradoxically, given that there is no communist government left in Europe outside Moldova, the attacks have if anything become more extreme as time has gone on. A clue as to why that might be can be found in the rambling report by Lindblad that led to the Council of Europe declaration. Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained that "different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many" and "a sort of nostalgia for communism is still alive". Perhaps the real problem for Lindblad and his rightwing allies in eastern Europe is that communism is not dead enough - and they will only be content when they have driven a stake through its heart and buried it at the crossroads at midnight.

The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Treblinka or Sobibor, no extermination camps built to murder millions. Nor did the Soviet Union launch the most devastating war in history at a cost of more than 50 million lives - in fact it played the decisive role in the defeat of the German war machine. Lindblad and the Council of Europe adopt as fact the wildest estimates of those "killed by communist regimes" (mostly in famines) from the fiercely contested Black Book of Communism, which also underplays the number of deaths attributable to Hitler. The real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are horrific enough (799,455 people were recorded as executed between 1921 and 1953 and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak) without engaging in an ideologically-fuelled inflation game.

But in any case, none of this explains why anyone might be nostalgic in former communist states, now enjoying the delights of capitalist restoration. The dominant account gives no sense of how communist regimes renewed themselves after 1956 or why western leaders feared they might overtake the capitalist world well into the 1960s. For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda's Man of Marble and Rybakov's Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.

It would be easier to take the Council of Europe's condemnation of communist state crimes seriously if it had also seen fit to denounce the far bloodier record of European colonialism - which only finally came to an end in the 1970s. This was a system of racist despotism, which dominated the globe in Stalin's time. And while there is precious little connection between the ideas of fascism and communism, there is an intimate link between colonialism and Nazism. The terms lebensraum and konzentrationslager were both first used by the German colonial regime in south-west Africa (now Namibia), which committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples and bequeathed its ideas and personnel directly to the Nazi party.

Around 10 million Congolese died as a result of Belgian forced labour and mass murder in the early 20th century; tens of millions perished in avoidable or enforced famines in British-ruled India; up to a million Algerians died in their war for independence, while controversy now rages in France about a new law requiring teachers to put a positive spin on colonial history. Comparable atrocities were carried out by all European colonialists, but not a word of condemnation from the Council of Europe - nor over the impact of European intervention in the third world since decolonisation. Presumably, European lives count for more.

No major 20th-century political tradition is without blood on its hands, but battles over history are more about the future than the past. Part of the current enthusiasm in official western circles for dancing on the grave of communism is no doubt about relations with today's Russia and China. But it also reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new global capitalist order - and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering and bloodshed. With the new imperialism now being resisted in both the Muslim world and Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and ever greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social alternatives will increase. The particular form of society created by 20th-century communist parties will never be replicated. But there are lessons to be learned from its successes as well as its failures.

http://www.guardian....1710891,00.html

#2 Derek McMillan

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 10:35 AM

The bloodstained regime of Stalin was used as a scarecrow to frighten the general public away from socialist ideas during the cold war. Now it could be revived precisely in order to attack such terrible ideas as equality!

It is not necessary or desirable to whitewash Stalin's crimes. The Stalinist regime called itself socialist but violated all the fundamental principles of socialism. The Nazi regime also called itself "National Socilist" and violated the principles of socialism. This is scarcely an argument against socialist ideas but against their distortion by tyrants.

The real difference between them is the class basis of the regimes. The Stalinist bureaucracy dominated a society in which the rich had been expropriated. The Stalinist regime in Russia was not the instigator of this change but in a way its gravedigger. The expropriation of the rich was a result of a mass movement of the working class and the economy was planned initially by workers' committees (called Soviets).

The Nazi regimes arose with the assistance of the rich precisely to forestall any such event.

#3 Stephen Turner

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 01:40 PM

I await with interest to see how long it is before that other hoary old standby is wheeled out and paraded.

KARL MARX'S IDEAS LEAD DIRECTLY TO STALIN, AND POL POT. AS DOES ANY ATTEMPT AT SOCIAL, AND ECONOMIC EQUALITY..

#4 Andy Walker

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:38 PM

It is not necessary or desirable to whitewash Stalin's crimes. The Stalinist regime called itself socialist but violated all the fundamental principles of socialism. The Nazi regime also called itself "National Socilist" and violated the principles of socialism. This is scarcely an argument against socialist ideas but against their distortion by tyrants.


Agreed Derek but you need also to list Lenin to your list of tyrants

#5 Ed Waller

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:57 PM

Agreed Derek but you need also to list Lenin to your list of tyrants


If you were part of a revolution in the situation the Bolsheviks found themselves in 1917-1923, how would you defend your gains?

On another tack, it's quite a relief that the Right Wing again find it necessary to attack comunism/socialism. It suggests they are worried...

#6 Stephen Turner

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 03:06 PM



It is not necessary or desirable to whitewash Stalin's crimes. The Stalinist regime called itself socialist but violated all the fundamental principles of socialism. The Nazi regime also called itself "National Socilist" and violated the principles of socialism. This is scarcely an argument against socialist ideas but against their distortion by tyrants.


Agreed Derek but you need also to list Lenin to your list of tyrants


Not even in the same league. Lenin was attempting to defend a revolution, 25 countries sent expeditionary forces to aid the white russian forces, what was he supposed to do? hand over the country to this bunch of cut-throats, how many deaths do you think would have occured if the forces of reaction had been victorious.

It would also help to check out the huge strides made by previously, violently supressed groups in the early years of the soviet Union. acquanting Lenin, with Stalin is the same as acquanting Churchill, with Hitler. and worse, throws the baby out with the bathwater..

#7 Andy Walker

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 04:27 PM

It would also help to check out the huge strides made by previously, violently supressed groups in the early years of the soviet Union. acquanting Lenin, with Stalin is the same as acquanting Churchill, with Hitler. and worse, throws the baby out with the bathwater..




Nonsense.
It was Lenin's distortion of Marxism and his introduction of an anti democratic vanguard party which created the Soviet dictatorship.

I might have hoped that more would have learnt by now that there is no easier road to Socialism than the education of the workers in Socialism and their organisation to establish it by democratic methods.

There is of course a great deal of similarity between Leninism/Stalinism and Nazism - the leadership principle, nationalism, total terror, secret police, purges etc.
I do not subscribe to the simplistic Cold War view embodied in the theory of totalitarianism that they are the same however. Both systems have their own uniquely unpleasant elements and to assert they are the same does not improve our understanding of either.
What they did have in common also of course is that neither had anything to do with socialism

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#8 John Simkin

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 05:35 PM

It was Lenin's distortion of Marxism and his introduction of an anti democratic vanguard party which created the Soviet dictatorship.


I agree. A total of 703 candidates were elected to the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917. This included Socialist Revolutionaries (299), Bolsheviks (168), Mensheviks (18) and Constitutional Democratic Party (17).

The Bolsheviks were bitterly disappointed with the result as they hoped it would legitimize the October Revolution. When it opened on 5th January, 1918, Victor Chernov, leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries, was elected President. When the Assembly refused to support the programme of the new Soviet Government, the Bolsheviks walked out in protest.

Later that day, Vladimir Lenin announced that the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved. Soon afterwards all opposition political groups, including the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and the Constitutional Democratic Party, were banned in Russia. Thus began the Soviet dictatorship. Of course, several revolutionaries, including Rosa Luxemburg, Julius Martov, Fedor Dan, Victor Serge, Vera Zasulich, Maria Spiridonova, etc. warned this would happen if you allowed a "vanguard" to take power. Leon Trotsky also believed this until he sold out to Lenin in 1917. That is why I don't think it would have been any better if Trotsky had gained power instead of Stalin on the death of Lenin.

Much to the dismay of his former supporters, Trotsky advocated the idea of the State control of trade unions and their merging with government bodies. This lost him the support of former Mensheviks such as Alexandra Kollontai.

By 1921 the Kronstadt sailors had become disillusioned with the Bolshevik government. They were angry about the lack of democracy and the policy of War Communism. On 28th February, 1921, the crew of the battleship, Petropavlovsk, passed a resolution calling for a return of full political freedoms.

Vladimir Lenin denounced the Kronstadt Uprising as a plot instigated by the White Army and their European supporters. On 6th March, Leon Trotsky announced that he was going to order the Red Army to attack the Kronstadt sailors. However, it was not until the 17th March that government forces were able to take control of Kronstadt. An estimated 8,000 people (sailors and civilians) left Kronstadt and went to live in Finland.

Official figures suggest that 527 people were killed and 4,127 were wounded. Historians who have studied the uprising believe that the total number of casualties was much higher than this. According to Victor Serge over 500 sailors at Kronstadt were executed for their part in the rebellion.

In 1921 Alexandra Kollontai published her pamphlet The Workers' Opposition, where she called for the trade unionists to be given more political freedom. She also argued that before the government attempts to "rid Soviet institutions of the bureaucracy that lurks within them, the Party must first rid itself of its own bureaucracy." Trotsky's prestige in the government was now very high and those who held these anti-bureaucratic views were either dismissed from office or were sent abroad as members of the diplomatic service. Later, except for Kollontai (Stalin did not like killing women), the leaders of the Workers' Opposition, were executed.

#9 Stephen Turner

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 06:22 PM

John, these historians wouldn't be Conquest,Figes, and Pipes by any chance would they?

Do you agree that huge material gains were made by the working class, particularly Women during the years 1917-1923, do you agree that decisions were made on a "war basis" as the Soviet Union was surrounded by enemies, both external, and internal and the threat of counter revolution was ever present, do you agree that this may have affected the Bolsheviks handling of the Kronstadt rebellion. Until Lenin Marxism was a theory, mainly based on the success and ultimate failure of the Paris Commune, Lenin urged that the party should combine a firm commitment to revolutionary principles,excluding all those who did not accept those principles in word and deed, in other words, if it had been left up to the Mensheviks no revolution would have happened. As Marx said "men make history, but not in the circumstances of their choosing" Were mistakes made? by the bushell, do I agree with every decision taken by the Bolshevik leaders, no, but, conflating Lenin, with Stalin, pretending that they are Mr pot, and Mr kettle is just damn wrong, and bad history to boot.

#10 Andy Walker

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 08:18 PM

Until Lenin Marxism was a theory, mainly based on the success and ultimate failure of the Paris Commune, Lenin urged that the party should combine a firm commitment to revolutionary principles,excluding all those who did not accept those principles in word and deed,


Wrong again I am afraid
Marx's historical materialism was in fact based on a study of the English working class. The point being that a socialist class consciousness " in itself and for itself" would only be achievable in a mature capitalist economy.

Lenin on the other hand was a vicious political opportunist who twisted the ideas of Marx to suit his own power driven ends in a pre industrial country and in the process stripped what was understood by "socialism" of its democratic and egalitarian credentials for a generation.

It was indeed Lenin (I believe in the "State and Revolution")who introduced the idea that the working class had to be forcibly led to socialism claiming that on their own they could only achieve a "trade union conciousness", thereby setting in train a series of events which led to one the most vile dictatorships of the 20th century. 'Never mind the cosh lads its all in your best interests if only you could understand them!'

Stephen your position would seem to be a classical Trotskyite one.
Trotsky's view was that Russia under Stalin was a Workers State, not a perfect one, certainly, but a Workers State nevertheless, (The Revolution Betrayed first published in 1936). This is the origin of the Trotskyite dogma that the Soviet Union was a "degenerate Workers State" in which a bureaucracy had usurped political power from the working class but without changing the social basis (nationalisation and planning).
It of course wrongly implies that the period 1917-1923 was one of great progress for the working class .... 'If only Lenin had lived or Trotsky taken over' and similar such anti democratic platitudes often follow such a premise.....

The idea of the Soviet Union as a degenerate workers state is of course absurd nonsense historically and theoretically. As John has pointed out under Lenin, especially during the period of War Communism, Russian peasants and workers were being brutally oppressed by an unelected and essentially anti democratic self seeking power elite.... the state being "a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeosie" could never be made to work in the interests of workers.

#11 John Simkin

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 11:36 AM

John, these historians wouldn't be Conquest, Figes, and Pipes by any chance would they?


I have of course read these historians. Are you suggesting that I have been unduly influenced by these right-wingers? This idea will excite Tim Gratz. My main influences are on the liberation left. For example, books by people like Victor Serge: From Lenin to Stalin , Destiny of a Revolution and Memoirs of a Revolutionary. Serge was a member of the Left Opposition group in Russia that included Leon Trotsky, Karl Radek, Adolf Joffe, Alexandra Kollontai and Alexander Shlyapnikov.

http://www.spartacus...uk/RUSserge.htm

I have of course read all Trotsky’s books on the revolution: My Life (1930), History of the Russian Revolution (1932), The Russian Betrayed (1937) and Stalin (1941). He is of course a great writer but a dubious historian. He is far too self-serving in his books.

http://www.spartacus.../RUStrotsky.htm

The most important book on the revolution was one of the first published on the topic: Rosa Luxemburg’s, The Russian Revolution (1918).

Luxemburg was one of those who disagreed with Lenin about seizing power in 1917. She supported the view of Marx that you cannot have a successful revolution without a politically conscious proletariat. That is why Marx believed the first revolution would take place in advanced industrial countries like England and Germany because of their history of class struggle. Luxemburg argued that if the revolution took place before the development of mass political consciousness, you would replace capitalism with a new form of dictatorship. She was completely against Lenin's "vanguard" theory. She argued that if this happened, the Communist Party will become the new ruling class. This is indeed what did happen.

Luxemburg eventually agreed to lead a revolution in Germany in order to protect the gains made in Russia. She believed that if successful revolutions took place in the advanced industrial states, this would enable Lenin to develop a more democratic political system in his own country. Of course, while Russia was under attack from outside, these reforms would never take place. Luxemburg was murdered in 1919 by the same forces who were to become leading figures in the rise of Nazism.

As Luxemburg wrote in The Russian Revolution: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” That is why she was a democratic revolutionary socialist.

http://www.spartacus...USluxemburg.htm

#12 David Richardson

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 02:43 PM

Just a note about Swedish right-wingers. There's an election campaign underway at the moment, and the ruling Social Democrats are being supported by the Vänsterpartiet - who used to be called VPK - Vänsterpartiet kommunist - just a few years ago. In other words, there's a bit of electoral advantage being sought at the moment.

It may be backfiring on them, though, since the links between the German Nazis and various right-wing parties in Sweden were at least as strong as the ones between Stalin and Swedish Communists. One of the main (right-wing) papers here has just turned the spotlight on the Centerpartiet - which used to be called the Farmers' Party in the 1930s and was a staunch supporter of racial hygiene and Nazism …

#13 Stephen Turner

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 04:20 PM

Stephen your position would seem to be a classical Trotskyite one.


This might be a bit off topic but it needs dealing with.

Andy's statement that I must be a Trotskyist because, as far as I can see, I refuse to lump Lenin in with Stalin, and Hitler, An accusation much beloved by certain bourgeois right wing historians, is incorrect. So before I proceed any further into this debate, I feel I should articulate my political background. As a young building federation shop steward, I was part of what has become known as the workers movement in the 1970's. My belief at that time, and still largely today, was that Socialism could be achieved through a radical trade union movement, workers who educated THEMSELVES though struggle, were much less likely to return to the Capitalist mindset post strike. As each demand for better pay/conditions was won, the confidence of my class would grow leading to further demands, and further victories and ultimately to equality, and socialism. It seemed to me that if this could be achieved through international Trade Union co-operation that not only could socialism be won for the workers, but in a relatively bloodless way. I witnessed how previously reactionary workers can change, and cast off old prejudices in the heat of the struggle, sometimes this change was nothing short of breathtaking once the true brutal nature of the state was revealed, and the need for solidarity became apparent. I have been beaten by police truncheons, fought hand to hand with fascists, and blacklisted for my beliefs, if this makes me a Trotskyite then guilty as charged.

ORGANISATION, EDUCATION, ACTION..

"This antagonism is kept alive, and intensified by the press, pulpit and the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power, and that class is fully aware of it" MARX, AND ENGLES, SELECTED COROSPONDENCE.

Sorry for the detour, but I thought I ought to point out where I stand, It saves any unnecessary misunderstandings. I will now attempt to answer some of the points raised by Andy, and John

#14 Stephen Turner

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 06:11 PM

[quote name='John Simkin' date='Feb 18 2006, 12:36 PM' post='55552']
[quote post='55426' date='Feb 17 2006, 05:22 PM' name='Stephen Turner']
John, these historians wouldn't be Conquest, Figes, and Pipes by any chance would they?
[/quote]

I have of course read these historians. Are you suggesting that I have been unduly influenced by these right-wingers? This idea will excite Tim Gratz.

NO JOHN, OF COURSE NOT, I KNOW YOU ARE SINCRE IN YOUR LIBETARIAN VIEWS. ITS JUST THAT ALL THE ABOVE, HAVE CONSTANLY PUSHED THE IDEA THAT LENIN WAS INDISTIGUISHABLE FROM STALIN, AND HITLER. THIS OF COURSE IS NONSENCE, AND INDICATES A CLEAR AGENDA TO SCARE THE WORKING CLASS AWAY FROM SOCIALISM/COMMUNISM AS THE ONLY MEANS TO EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH CAPITALISM ONCE AND FOR ALL. BTW, I NOTICE YOUR COMING UP SHORT ON THE BODY COUNT.




Luxemburg eventually agreed to lead a revolution in Germany in order to protect the gains made in Russia. She believed that if successful revolutions took place in the advanced industrial states, this would enable Lenin to develop a more democratic political system in his own country. Of course, while Russia was under attack from outside, these reforms would never take place. Luxemburg was murdered in 1919 by the same forces who were to become leading figures in the rise of Nazism.



SO YOU ADMIT THAT WHILE THE CAPILTALIST COUNTRIES LAID SIEGE TO RUSSIA, ANY REFORMS WOULD BE HARD WON, TO SAY THE LEAST, YET REFORMS DID TAKE PLACE DID THEY NOT, ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE BEING THE RIGHT OF WOMEN TO DIVORCE VIOLENT HUSBANDS. AND THIS IN A COUNTRY WHERE BEFORE THE REVOLUTION HUSBANDS KEPT WHIPS ABOVE THE MARRAGE BED. THERE WERE MANY OTHER REFORMS WHICH I AM SURE YOU KNOW, BUT FOR NOW THAT WILL STAND. AND JUST WHAT EXACTLY WAS LENIN SUPPOSED TO DO, WAIT AROUND WHILE GERMANY, AND OR ENGLAND GOT AROUND TO HAVING A REVOLUTION, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A LONG WAIT DONT YOU THINK. THE EVENTS OF 1917 WOULD HAVE OCCURED WITH, OR WITHOUT LENINS PARTICIPATION, IN FACT HE CONSTANTLY URGED COMRADES TO COOL THEIR HEELS "QUITELY, AND PATICENTLY EXPLAIN" WAS HIS MANTRA. RUSSIA AT THIS POINT DUE TO THE FAILED REVOLUTION IN 1905, AND THE TZAR ORDERING THE COSACKS TO MURDER INOCENT PROTESTERS, WAS A POWERKEG WAITING TO EXPLODE. YOUR ANALYSIS SHEERS HISTORY OF ITS CONTEXT. OH BTW, IT CERTAINLY WAS NOT MY INTENTION TO BRING ANY JOY TO MR GRATZ,LOL.

#15 Dalibor Svoboda

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 12:07 AM

When visiting my former homeland, previously with my curious school colleagues today more often with friends who wish to enjoy Prague hospitality one question emerge from time to time when debating with Czech people:

How bad was it to live during Nazi occupation compared to Communist regime?

I still remember an old teacher answering clearly and loudly that communist or totalitarian regime as it is simply called in Czech republic since Velvet revolution was far worst than Nazis. At first this judgment surprised me (and my colleagues around) greatly. I was always taught in great details how incredibly brutal Nazis were compared with nice comrades striving for bright future of my country, well, yes for the whole mankind.
The old teacher then argued heatedly for his standpoint not altogether convincing neither my 15 colleges nor me. I think most of us looked at him puzzled …. he was …… his unexpected answer was …. a curiosity.

But most of the following encounters between wondering friends of mine asking this kind of questions and Czech people, delivered the same answer. The communist regime in socialistic Czechoslovakia was far worst in its way to manipulate people, in its way to mercilessly and with unbelievable brutality deprive people of lives and dignity, in its willingness to harm ordinary people by stupid petty injustices whenever it whished to do so than Nazi regime.
During its time it held power there didn’t exist a way to hide from its far reaching wrath and willingness to humiliate. And older people, wise by age, could compare and draw conclusions.

And this, I believe should be a core of this debate.

Not the discussion about who in the past red which books about Russian revolution and subsequent communist regime. Not self-centred rambling about writings of Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest versus Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Trotsky!

Not discussion about how folks fought for socialism in Great Britain by fighting police on the streets ( it´s somehow pathetic to read this recollection. How about asking these millions of “Eastern Europeans” who already at that time experienced a real socialism in action! After all they lived just a couple of hundreds kilometres from you ….!).

It´s not about how the initiative by Göran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP could be fitted into oncoming Swedish election.


This debate should be about the simple fact that there still around us exists an admiration for the ideology which was brutal and inhuman in the same way as the Nazi ideology.

This debate should be about the simple fact that there still exist communist parties in the western democracies who cooperated and often were financially and by other means supported by oppressive communist parties from Eastern Europe.

This debate should be about the simple fact that members of these communist parties still dream to bring forward the same political change which so many in the Eastern Europe was forced to go through.

Subsequently, this debate should be about how we, democratic minded and free citizens should in the best way handle these shameful facts.



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