August 28, 2009
YOU CAN FEEL YOUR FLESH CRAWL AS YOU LISTEN:
History is much too important to be left to politicians: The EU must not give succour to self-interested revisionists who equate Stalinism and Nazism in an effort to smear the left (Jonathan Steele, 8/19/09, guardian.co.uk)
0 years on, the issue is still a political football, marked by a resolution which the European parliament passed this spring to declare 23 August "a Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes".
In the arcane way these things are done in the European parliament, the resolution was a watered-down version of a "declaration" it passed last September which wanted to make 23 August a day to remember "victims of Stalinism and Nazism". Individual EU governments take the ultimate decision, and few have nominated 23 August as a special day. But the issue matters as it marks an unpleasant effort by many Baltic and central European politicians to equate Stalinism and Nazism or claim Stalinism was worse. In part concerned by the continuing strength of former Communist parties in the region, they use the Nazi-Soviet "equation" as a device to smear any party of the left. (The draft resolution was watered down by left groups in the European parliament.) It is also a barely disguised attempt to maintain extreme wariness, if not outright hostility, to contemporary Russia.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact certainly showed Stalin to be as cynical as Hitler. But to jump from that to equate the two men's record or ideology does not accord with reality. Nor does it take account of the fact that Soviet policy evolved after Stalin's death so that political activity, let alone ordinary family life, in the two decades under Brezhnev was not subject to arbitrary terror. Rightwing Baltic politicians have a point in saying most other Europeans are unaware of Stalin's mass deportations from the Baltics. Perhaps 100,000 people were sent to Siberia after 1939 or when the Red Army defeated the Nazis and re-entered the region.
So because the Soviets period of mass murder only lasted for the first forty years of the regime before they settled into a less violent totalitarian gulag they weren't as bad as the Nazis? Who's to say that by the time Hitler died of natural causes the Reich would not have been largely done with its death camps and have evolved into just a stock nationalist socialist experiment? (Anyone read Robert Harris's Fatherland?)
We don't have to smear the Left when folks like Mr. Steele do such a good job of smearing themselves.Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2009 8:17 AM