The Crimes of Communism Should be Condemned
Member of Swedish Parliament
speech at "A Closer Look into China" Forum
The Epoch Times
Aug 03, 2005
This speech was given at the forum "A Closer Look into China: Nine Commentaries Triggers Mass Resignations from the CCP" held Friday, July 22 at the National Press Club at Washington, D.C. Göran Lindblad could not be at the Forum, and this speech was read by Mr. Peter Ebertz, a friend of Lindblad's from his hometown of Gothenburg.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me first congratulate
you all for this rally for democracy human rights and freedom of the individual,
and against communism, repression, and dictatorship violating basic human
I am the rapporteur to the Council of Europe.
The need for international condemnation of crimes of communism is very important, not only to condemn crimes in the past, but also utterly important to continuously condemn the ongoing crimes in the communist countries, still at large.
So far, neither the Council of Europe nor any other international intergovernmental organization has undertaken the task of general evaluation of communist rules, serious discussion on the crimes committed in their name, and their public condemnation.
Indeed, however difficult it is to understand, there has been no serious, in-depth debate on the ideology which was, and is, at the root of widespread terror, massive human rights violations, death of many millions of individuals, and the plight of whole nations. Whereas another totalitarian regime of the XXth century, namely Nazism, has been investigated, internationally condemned and the perpetrators have been brought to trial, similar crimes committed in the name of communism have neither been investigated nor received any international condemnation.
The absence of international condemnation may be partly explained by the existence of countries whose rule is still based on communist ideology. The wish to maintain good relations with some of them may prevent certain politicians from dealing with this difficult subject.
Furthermore, many politicians still active today have supported, in one way or another, former communist regimes. For obvious reasons they would prefer not to deal with the question of responsibility. In many European countries there are communist parties which have not formally condemned the crimes of communism. Last but not least, different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many politicians.
However, I am of the opinion, that there is an urgent need for public debate on the crimes of communism and their condemnation at international level. It should be done without any further delay for several reasons:
Firstly, for the sake of general perception, it should be clear that all crimes, including those committed in the name of ideology, praising the most respectable ideals like equality and justice, are condemned, and there is no exception to this principle. This is particularly important for young generations who have no personal experience of communist rule. The clear position of the international community on the past may be a reference for their future actions.
Secondly, as long as victims of communist regimes or their families are still alive, it is not too late to give them moral restitution for their suffering.
Last but not least, the
communist regimes are still active in some countries of the world, and the
crimes committed in the name of communist ideology continue to take place.
Of course, Europe have a special responsibility towards the Chinese people who suffered under European colonialism, and then under Japanese aggression and occupation. And finally, after the Second World War ended, they were left in the hands of nationalist and communist warlords fighting for power. That civil war resulting in the cruel communistic regime first led by Mao Tse-tung.
The communist regimes can be defined by a number of features, including in particular, the rule of a single, party committed to the communist ideology. The power is concentrated within a small group of party leaders who are not accountable or constrained by the rule of law.
The party controls the state to such an extent that the boundary between both is blurred. Furthermore, it expands its control over the population in every aspect of everyday life to an unprecedented level.
The right of association is non-existent, the political pluralism is abolished, and any opposition as well as all attempts of independent self-organization is severely punished. On the other hand, mass mobilization channeled through the party or its secondary or satellite organizations, is encouraged and sometimes even forced.
In order to enforce its control over the public sphere and prevent any action beyond its control, such communist regimes expand police forces to an unprecedented degree, establish networks of informers and encourage denunciation. The size of police formations and numbers of secret informers have varied at different times and countries, but it has always exceeded by far, the numbers in any democratic state.
Means of mass communication are monopolized and/or controlled by the state. Strict preventive censorship is applied as a rule. In consequence, the right to information is violated and free press is non-existent.
Nationalization of the economy which is a permanent feature of the communist rule and stems directly from the ideology, puts restrictions on private property and individual economic activity. As a consequence, citizens are more vulnerable vis-à-vis the state which is the monopolizing employer and the sole source of income.
Here Communist China is an exception; the Chinese leadership is trying to combine communist dictatorship with a free market economy. The opposite has been unsuccessfully tried by European Social democrats, keeping democracy and freedom and nationalizing economy.
So far, the Chinese experiment seems successful with an economy growing at a yearly average around 9%. The back side of it is a widening gap between the wealthier new capitalists in the cities and the proletarian majority in the countryside. This Chinese system combines the worst of capitalism with the worst of communism. It has absolutely no rule of law, no individual rights, no guarantee for private property and ownership, combined with the completely let loos raw capitalism without legal limitation and antitrust legislation.
However I am convinced that this homemade communist capitalism will speed up the fall of the CCP ( Chinese Communist Party).
Communist rule lasted over 80 years in the country in which they first came into being, namely in Russia then renamed the Soviet Union. In other European countries it was about 45 years. Outside Europe, communist parties have been ruling for more than 50 years in China, North Korea and Vietnam, more than 40 years in Cuba, and 30 years in Laos. Communists reigned for some time in different African, Asian and South American countries under the then Soviet influence.
More than twenty countries on four continents may qualify as communist or under communist rule over some period of time. Besides the Soviet Union and its six European satellites, the list includes Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Benin, Cambodia (Kampuchea), China, Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, North Korea, Laos, Mongolia, Mozambique, Vietnam, South Yemen, and Yugoslavia.
The population living under communist rule numbered over 1 billion before 1989.
The longevity and geographical expansion have implied differences and modifications in practice of communist rule in different countries, cultures and times. The communist regime has evolved, resulting from its inner dynamics or in response to the international circumstances. It is difficult to compare communist rule in Russia in 1930, Hungary in 1960 or Poland in 1980.
However, despite the diversity, one can clearly determine common features of historic communist regime whatever country, culture or time. One of the most evident characteristics is the flagrant violation of human rights.
The communist rules have been characterized by the massive violation of human rights since the very beginning. In order to achieve and maintain power, the communist regimes have gone beyond individual assassinations and local massacres, and have integrated crime into the ruling system. It is true that several years after the establishment of the regime in most European countries, and after tens of years in the Soviet Union and China, terror has lost a lot of its initial vigor, and the violation of human rights have become less flagrant. However, “memory of terror” played an important role in societies, and the potential threat substituted real atrocities. Furthermore, if need arose, the regimes have resorted to terror as illustrated by Czechoslovakia in 1968, Poland in 1971, 1976 and 1981 or China in 1989. This rule applies to all historic and present communist regimes irrespective of the country.
According to cautious estimations (exact data is not available) the number of people killed by the communist regimes divided by countries or regions can be made up as follows:
The Soviet Union: 20 million
The figures quoted above are documented, and if they are only estimations, it is because there is justified ground for suspicion that they should be much higher. Unfortunately, restricted access to archives, in particular in Russia, does not allow for the proper verification of exact numbers.
The important feature of communist crimes has been repression directed against whole categories of innocent people whose only “crime” was being members of these categories. In this way, in the name of ideology, the regimes have murdered tens of millions of rich peasants (kulaks), nobles, bourgeois, Cossacks, Ukrainians and other groups.
These crimes are direct results of the class struggle theory which imposed the need for “elimination” of people who were not considered as useful to the construction of a new society.
In the late twenties, in the Soviet Union, the GPU (former Czech, later KGB) introduced quotas: every district was obliged to deliver a fixed number of “class enemies”. The figures were established centrally by the leadership of the communist party. Thus local authorities had to arrest, deport and execute concrete numbers of people; if they failed to do so, they themselves were subject to persecution.
In terms of numbers of victims, the list of the most important communist crimes includes the following:
Individual and collective executions of people considered as political opponents without or with arbitrary trials,
Bloody repressions of manifestations and strikes,
Killing of hostages and prisoners of war in 1918-1922. Lack of access to archives (and also lack of any documentation on numerous executions) makes it impossible to give exact figures, but the number of victims is in the tens of thousands.
Starvation of approximately 5 million people in consequence of requisitions, in particular in Ukraine in 1921-1923. Starvation was used as a political weapon by several communist regimes not only in the Soviet Union.
Extermination of 300 000 to 500 000 Cossacks between 1919 and 1920.
Tens of thousands of people perished in concentration camps. Here again, lack of access to the archives makes the research impossible.
690,000 people arbitrarily sentenced to death and executed as a result of the “purge” in the communist party in 1937-1938. Thousands of others were deported or placed in the camps. In total, between 1 October 1936 and 1 November 1938, approximately 1 565 000 people were arrested, and out of this figure 668 305 were executed. According to many researchers these figures are underestimated and should be verified when all the archives become accessible.
Massive assassinations of approximately 30 000 “kulaks (rich peasantry) during the forced collectivization of 1929-1933. A further 2 million were deported in 1930-1932.
Thousands of ordinary people in the Soviet Union accused of relations with “enemies” and executed in the period preceding the second world war. For example, in 1937, approximately 144 000 people were arrested and out of this figure 110 000 were executed after being accused of contacts with Polish citizens living in the Soviet Union. Also in 1937, 42 000 people were executed on the grounds of relations with German workers in the USSR.
6 million Ukrainians starved to death following a deliberate state policy in 1932-1933;
Assassinations and deportations of hundreds of thousands of Polish, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Moldavians and inhabitants of Bes Arabia in 1939-1941 and 1944-1945;
Deportation of Volga Germans in 1941, Crimean Tartars in 1943, Chechens and Ingush in 1944;
Deportation and extermination of one fourth of the population in Cambodia in 1975-1978;
Millions of victims of criminal policies of Mao Zedong in China and Kim Ir Sen in North Chorea. Here again, lack of documentation does not allow for precise data;
Numerous victims in other parts of the world, Africa, Asia and Latin America, in countries which call themselves communist and make direct reference to communist ideology.
Concentration camps established by the first communist regime as early as in September 1918 have become one of the most shameful symbols of communist regimes. In 1921, there were already 107 camps which accommodated over 50 000 detainees. The extremely high mortality in these camps can be illustrated by the situation in Kronstadt Camp: out of 6500 detainees placed in the camp in March 1921, only 1500 were alive a year later.
In 1940, the number of detainees amounts to 2 350 000 accommodated in 53 concentration complexes, 425 special colonies, 50 colonies for minors and 90 houses for newborns.
Throughout 1940s there were on average 2,5 million detainees in camps at any time. In light of the high mortality rate that meant that actual number of people who were placed in camps was much higher.
In total, between 15 and 20 million people passed through the camps between 1930 and 1953.
Concentration camps have also been introduced in other communist regimes, notably in China, North Chorea, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Invasion by the Soviet Army of several countries during the Second World War was systematically followed by massive terror, arrests, deportations and assassinations. Among the countries most affected was Poland (an estimated 440 000 victims in 1939, including the assassination of the Polish officers prisoners of war in Katyn, in 1944-45), Estonia (175,000 victims including assassination of 800 officers which amounts to 17,5 % of the whole population), Lithuania, Latvia (119,000 victims), Arabia and North Bukovina.
Deportations of whole nations were a common political measure, particularly during the Second World War. In 1940-41, approximately 330,000 Polish citizens living in the areas occupied by the Soviet Army were deported to Eastern Soviet Union, mainly to Kasachstan. 900,000 Germans from Volga region were deported in autumn 1941; 93,000 Kalmouks were deported in December 1943; 521,000 Chechen and Ingushetian people were deported in February 1944; 180,000 Crimean Tartars were deported in 1944. The list would not be complete without mentioning Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians from the Crimea, Meshketian Turks, and Kurds from Caucasus.
Deportations also affected political opponents. Since 1920, the political opponents in Russia were deported to the Solovki Islands. In 1927, the camp built in Solovki contained 13 000 detainees representing 48 different nationalities.
The most violent crimes of the communist regimes like mass murder and genocide, torture, slave labor, and other forms of mass, physical terror have continued in the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent in other European countries until the death of Stalin.
Since mid-1950s terror in the European communist countries significantly decreased but selective persecution of various groups and individuals has continued. It included police surveillance, arrests, imprisonment, fines, coerced psychiatric treatment, various restrictions of freedom of movement, discrimination of employment often resulting in poverty and professional exclusion, public humiliation and slander. The post-Stalinist European communist regimes have exploited the widespread fear of potential persecutions well present in collective memory. In the long term, however, memory of past horrors has gradually weakened having less influence on young generations.
However, even during these relatively calm periods, communist regimes have been capable of resorting to massive violence if necessary, as illustrated by the events in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, or in Poland in 1956, 1968, 1970 and 1981.
The fall of communist rules in the Soviet Union and other European countries has facilitated access to certain archives documenting communist crimes. Before 1990s, these archives were completely inaccessible. The documents which can be found there constitute an important source of information on mechanisms of ruling and decision making, and complement the historic knowledge on the functioning of communist systems.
It seems to be confirmed that the criminal dimension of communist regimes has not been the result of circumstances but rather the consequence of deliberate policies elaborated on by the founders of such regimes even before they took power. Historic Communist leaders have never hidden their objectives which were the dictatorship of proletariat, elimination of political opponents and categories of population incompatible with the new model of society.
The communist ideology, wherever and whenever implemented, be it in Europe or elsewhere, has always resulted in massive terror, crimes and large scale violation of human rights. When analyzing the consequences of the implementation of this ideology, one cannot ignore the similarities with the consequences of the implementation of another ideology of 20th century, namely Nazism. Although mutually hostile, these two regimes shared a number of common features.
However, whereas the criminal and condemnable character of the Nazi ideology and regime has been uncontroversial, at least for half a century, and its leaders and many perpetrators were held accountable, the communist ideology and regimes have not encountered a comparable reaction. The crimes have rarely been subject to legal prosecution, and many of the perpetrators have never been brought to justice. Communist parties are still active in some countries, and they have not even distanced themselves from the past when they supported and collaborated with the criminal communist regimes.
Communist symbols are openly used, and public awareness of communist crimes is very poor. This is particularly obvious when compared to public knowledge of Nazism crimes. The education of young generations in many countries certainly does not help to decrease this gap.
Political and economic interests of particular countries affect the degree of criticism of some still active communist regimes. It is particularly visible in the case of China.
I am of the opinion that there should be no further undue delay in condemning the communist ideology and regimes at international level. This should be done both by the Assembly in the Council of Europe at parliamentary level and by the Committee of Ministers at intergovernmental level.
Furthermore, the Assembly should recommend to the Committee of Ministers the setting up of a committee which would carry out comprehensive investigations concerning communist crimes in Council of Europe member States. At the same time, the member States, which have not done so yet, should be urged to establish such committees at national level. These committees would be expected to co-operate closely with the Council of Europe committee.
The ultimate goal of the work of the Council of Europe and national committees would be to establish facts and propose concrete measures aimed at bringing quick justice and compensation, and pay tribute to the memory of the victims.
The necessary condition for the success of the work of the committees is access to archives; therefore, I urge disclosure of all the communist archives that are still inaccessible to the public.
Last but not least, an awareness campaign on the crimes of communism should be initiated.
In my view these actions will keep the discussion and debate about crimes of communism alive. It will therefore be a help to democratic forces and influences in communist China. In today’s society with modern technology, such as satellite broadcasts, internet, cell phones, and ever growing tourism and trade, it is in the long run, impossible to keep the people uninformed and isolated.
Therefore I foresee the collapse soon of communist rule in China.
Mr Göran Linblad is a member of the Swedish Parliament. He is also member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Political Affairs Committee and the delegation to the Council of Europe. He is Special Rapporteur to the Council of Europe on the "Need for international condemnation of crimes of communism."
Vietnam Human Rights Network