HOW we remember Communism and Nazism, the two most terrible phenomena of the last century, makes for some interesting contrasts.
Archbishop Justin Welby has just publicly added his support to the campaign for a new Holocaust Memorial in London to be located next to Parliament, one of the most prominent positions in our capital.
Meanwhile, Goldsmiths, University of London, is hosting a ‘Communist University’, a rather grand name for a summer school of drab lectures put on by the Communist Party of Great Britain.
Although the last century saw many terrible crimes, including some that are often forgotten (think of the genocide in the Belgian Congo and its likely death toll of over ten million), it is right that the Nazi Holocaust is given special prominence. The application of industrial processes by a modern and sophisticated society to destroy a whole people, accompanied by sickening cruelty, means that the Shoah will always stand out. London should have a focus point for its remembrance.
Communism’s crimes, though, easily rival those of the Nazis. Yet they barely register in the public consciousness. Can you imagine if a London university in 2019 hosted a Nazi summer school which included appreciative lectures on aspects of the Third Reich? Think of the protests, boycotts and shouted outrage there would be.
It’s not just any group of Marxists putting on the summer school, but the Communist Party of Great Britain. These aren’t wishy-washy Trotskyists. They are from a sterner tradition of ‘official’ Communism that historically has excused or defended the most awful crimes of the Soviet Union.
How any person not tortured by some debilitating mental illness can label themself a Communist without collapsing through richly deserved self-loathing is beyond me. For every horror and feature of Nazism, there is a Communist equivalent from the last century.
For the murder of six million Jews there was the artificial famine of the Holodomor which cost millions of Ukrainian lives. Even the idea of adapting the techniques of the production line to mass murder was something the Communists developed ahead of the Nazis. (Both Hitler and Stalin greatly admired Henry Ford and his pioneering manufacturing methods). While Communists used bullets, not poison gas, the processing methods in their execution centres were as systematically organised as anything from Auschwitz or Treblinka.
Britain’s Communists have never faced up to the shame of their record. Although you will find shades of opinion (and denial) among them, most are quite happy to ignore their history and the brutalities and savagery which happened from the earliest days of the Bolshevik seizure of power under Lenin. Many actively exult in the horror. There is even a small but active Stalin Society, proudly defending the record of one of history’s most prolific murderers.
Its website tells us it was ‘formed in 1991 to defend Stalin and his work on the basis of fact; to refute capitalist, revisionist, opportunist and Trotskyist propaganda directed against him’. You can see some of its meetings on YouTube. They are as grim as you might expect.
I should point out that I can’t confirm any crossover between membership of the Stalin Society and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Communist factions can be hard to pin down as they split, merge and reform, and each carries a different interpretation of the legacy. However, the CPGB certainly stand firmly on the record of Communism. As insulting a thing to say about someone as to say they stand firmly on the record of Nazism.
They should of course be allowed to organise their event. Fortunately they don’t represent the sort of immediate threat or physical danger which can sometimes trump the demands of free speech. Let them indulge in their totalitarian fantasies. But free speech also allows us to call shame on any one happy to host them. If Goldsmiths want to have them, that’s their right. But it’s my right to express my disgust as those who can’t see the enormity of Communism’s crimes and who want us to forget the deaths of tens of millions and the enslavement and immiseration of whole countries.
London should have a permanent, weighty Holocaust memorial and we should acknowledge the special character of the evils of Nazism. But we should also add up the global death toll of Communism, from the USSR, to Ethiopia, Cambodia, China, Cuba and many more countries, possibly close to 100million. Given that horrible figure, the baleful influence the doctrine still has on some and the general ignorance of many towards it, we need a Communist Holocaust memorial too.