The business of government ministers of a democratically elected administration is to condemn totalitarian violence regardless of its origin or the declared intentions of its perpetrators.
It is foolish to equate communism and Nazism. To start with, the numbers of victims are not the same. Communist regimes have killed far more people than the Nazis did. This is because the madness of Nazism did not last very long, whereas some communist totalitarian regimes have chalked up many decades in power.
The two systems, like many apologists of the Soviet regime like to argue, had different starting points. However, this was of little comfort to the mothers who lost their children during the Holodomor, Ukraine’s man-made famine that killed at least 7 million people in 1932 and 1933, during the communist transformation of the Soviet republic.
The Great Leap Forward, another bright socioeconomic plan implemented in the People’s Republic of China between 1958 and 1962, cost around 45 million lives. According to Dutch historian Frank Dikotter, who has probably dug deeper into the Chinese Communist Party archives than any other Western historian, 6 million people were executed or died of torture during that period.
“For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge. State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 percent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.” (The Independent, September 17, 2010)
“[Mao’s] intentions were nevertheless good,” Alexis Tsipras, now Greece’s leftist prime minister, said in an interview with Schooligans magazine in April 2008. He added: “We cannot compare Hitler to Mao. Communist regimes may have had a big liberty deficit, but at least their thinking was built around the idea of man.”
Any historians attempting to establish the differences (in terms of intent, method and outcome) between the different brutal regimes face a huge workload. However, the business of government ministers – or general secretaries of human rights, for that matter – of a democratically elected administration is to condemn totalitarian violence regardless of its origin or the declared intentions of its perpetrators. The rest is SYRIZA talk.
Published in ekathimerini March 16, 2017