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Society

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La droite européenne en croisade anticommuniste

by By Rosa Moussaoui

The European Right on an Anti-Communist Crusade

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Friday 10 February 2006, by Ann Drummond

To obtain an unequivocal condemnation of communism per se by the institution which inspires European legislation on human rights - this is the wild idea of a handful of conservative members of the European Parliament, led by the Swede Göran Lindblad. Together they have tabled a draft resolution on the "need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes" which is scheduled to be discussed today by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (1).

In the name of condemning the crimes of Stalinism, which is absolutely justified and necessary, the resolution has in addition adopted the allegations of the Livre noir du communisme [The Black Book of Communism], from which it resurrects some very controversial claims under the guidance of one of its authors, Stéphane Courtois, who was actively involved at the drafting stage.

What is worse still, it is quite obvious that in the final analysis, this text is targeted at any attempt at social transformation. Right from the very first lines, the tone of this blatantly ideological attack is established. It is reminiscent of the worst moments of the Cold War. According to the text, the only kind of communism is totalitarian, inherently criminal in nature and always characterised by widespread violations of human rights. The authors bemoan the "crimes of totalitarian communism", and, without providing the slightest justification, they immediately draw the parallel between Nazism and communism. By way of emphasizing this equation, this resolution was initially supposed to be scrutinised at the same time as a resolution on Nazism. In the face of opposition, however, the debate on the latter has been postponed.

For Enzo Traverso (2), senior lecturer in political sciences at the University of Picardy, to make such a comparison is unacceptable. "From a moral point of view, creating a hierarchy among the victims would be impossible. But there is a substantial difference between communist regimes and Nazism, whose violent nature is based on a programme of racist domination." The parallel is equally rejected by the authors of Le Siècle des communismes, published in 2000 (3). In it, Serge Wolikow asserts that this argument has led some historians like Ernst Nolte to interpret it as "giving Nazism the all-clear".

Beyond this unjustified simplification, the draft resolution takes the view that the germs of totalitarianism and the key elements of a criminal undertaking are present in "the theory of the class struggle", in "elements of communist ideology such as equality and social justice" and in "the nationalisation of the economy".

While almost reluctantly admitting the existence of a "wide range" of experiments under the name of communism, and the adherence of "some" communist parties to democracy, the text sticks resolutely to the theory that communism is united essentially by its totalitarian and criminal nature. What is more, Göran Linblad makes it clear that he refuses to acknowledge any distinction "between ideology and practice".

"This text acts as a vehicle for criminalizing communism in its entirety", according to Enzo Traverso. "We have to reject this kind of approach. Communism is a complex historical phenomenon which cannot be reduced to a monolith, nor to the mass brutality of the Stalinist model. Communism exists as both a general movement and in the form of regimes. There is oppression, but also a liberating utopian philosophy." In the opinion of this historian, "[t]o reduce communism to a criminal experiment based on an evil ideology is an ideological and political process which is very dangerous".

The text ends with a draft recommendation asking the Committee of Ministers to organize an international conference on the "crimes of communism", as well as introducing memorial days dedicated to the victims, and launching an "awareness" campaign, including "the revision of school textbooks". This kind of political instrumentalization of memory and history is reminiscent of the debate going on in France about its colonial past.

Two out of the 18 French MEPs who sit in this Assembly, François Rochebloine (UDF) and René André (UMP) [4] have added their signatures to this draft resolution which aspires to condemn every form of political emancipation, even beyond communism. The French Communist Party denounces this "anti-communist memorandum". "In the eyes of French communists, nothing can erase the irreparable damage which has affected millions of victims and their families", it emphasized in a statement. But equally in their opinion, nothing can justify a revisionist assimilation of Nazism. It is not communist philosophy which produced these crimes, but an aberration of it."

On the eve of the session, Socialist MEP Jean-Pierre Masseret, the vice-president of the French delegation, voiced his prediction - "It will be a lively debate". "It’s a bad resolution. It is not the role of the Council of Europe to write history, but to steer its development in the direction of democratic societies", he maintained. "To draw a parallel between communism and Nazism is completely unacceptable. Saying this does not in any way absolve the gulags, or the crimes of those regimes which claimed to be communist and which deviated into totalitarian ones. And besides, I never talk about the communist model, but about the Soviet one. For me, communism has never actually existed as a form of government."

By Rosa Moussaoui.

(1) Translator’s note: See http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/AdoptedText/ta06/ERES1481.htm

(2) See Enzo Traverso, Le Totalitarisme. Le XXe siècle en débat. [Totalitarianism. The 20th Century under debate] Paris, Le Seuil, Collection Points Essais, 2001.

(3) Le Siècle des communismes. [The Century of Communisms] Compiled by Michel Dreyfus, Bruno Groppo, Claudio Ingerflom, Roland Lew, Claude Pennetier, Bernard Pudal, and Serge Wolikow. Éditions de l’Atelier, 2000.

[4] Translator’s note: UDF (Union pour la Démocratie Française), UMP (Union pour un Movement Populaire).


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