In his speech delivered eight months ago at the 12 anniversary of the Republic of Moldova’s independence, President Vladimir Voronin said “today Moldova gives up on its illusions and old fears”. One could easily guess what illusions was President Voronin referring to, especially since the plans to amend the political program of the Communist Party providing for building socialism and communism in Moldova based on Marxist-Leninist theory, had been already made public at that time. This statement together with many others on democratisation, liberalisation of economy, conformity with Copenhagen criteria for EU integration, etc, were aimed at showing off ruling party’s commitment to modernise Moldovan society.
The very same illusions issue popped up last week after Communist moguls together with President Voronin himself celebrated 134th anniversary of Vladimir Ilici Lenin. As a follow-up, one day later the popular show “Good Evening” broadcast on “Moldova 1” was a good opportunity to test the ruling party’s commitment to give up on illusions. The show looked at the Lenin’s personality and debated on whether his monuments should be reinstalled in Moldovan communities.
One of the curious facts presented during the show was that in the heydays of the soviet regime there were around 4,000 monuments of Lenin throughout Moldova, while nowadays there are no more then a dozen of them. Artists and historians invited to the show agreed that except for very few samples, those monuments presented no artistic value and were rather serving ideological purposes. They were removed or destroyed rather chaotically, at times even barbarous, in many cases without the consent of local authorities. Those actions were the expression of the collapse of the Communist regime. That is why attempts to reinstall the monuments are viewed as attempts to restore the collapsed regime. An illustration in this respect is the storm of criticism and protests brought by the decision of the Communist-controlled Balti Municipal Council to reinstall Lenin’s monument.
On the other hand, during the talk-show, the leader of the Communist faction in Parliament, Victor Stepaniuc, was in favour of reinstalling the monuments in line with Government Resolution no. 121/725 of 17.06.2003 on installing monuments. Under the law it is in the competence of local councils to decide on such matters. Afterwards, Government is to issue resolutions in this respect based on the projects of monuments’ location and endorsement from Council for artistic evaluation of the sculptural and monumental and decorative artworks of the Ministry of Culture. According to the leader of the Communist faction the 4,000 Lenin’s monuments were installed voluntarily in the soviet times, at the decisions of the local soviets (which were probably elected in free and fair elections). And this because, Lenin was one of the central political figures of the XXth century. The leader of the Communist faction refuted accusations that the Communist regime brought by Lenin was bloody and inhuman, rather: 1) all the revolutions have been bloody, including the French one; 2) it wasn’t Lenin personally who committed crimes against certain categories of people, or church for that matter; 3) nations only benefited from the Communist regime that brought them modernization, especially “Moldovans who got out of huts only in the 18th century”.
It’s hard to assess what was the audience opinion on the show, however when asked to vote by phone whether they were in favour of reinstalling Lenin’s monuments, only (or as many as!) 25% were in favour of that idea. Therefore, it seems the great majority of the viewers had already gave up the illusions of Communism, but not the Communist leaders, who came up with the initiative.
About revolutions, regimes and modernisation
It turns that with the passage of time it’s necessary to remind some of the well-known facts. Otherwise, one might mistakenly conclude from Stepaniuc’s message that a superficial comparison of historic events may serve only the purpose of manipulating public opinion.
- How should revolutions be compared? Indeed, as the famous revolutionary Ernesto Che Gevara was saying “nor revolutions are made without shooting”. It is not that important to compare the “quantity of blood” shed as a result of bourgeois or Communist revolutions, which anyway is not in favour of the latter. What is important is that values identified and proclaimed by bourgeois revolutions are still alive, in contrast to the Communist ones, which are constantly revised and replaced. And here lies the main difference between bourgeois and Communist revolutions.
For instance, the core document of the French revolution “Declaration of Human and Citizen’s rights” adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on August 26, 1789 — is still part of the French Constitution. Moreover, the principles of French Declaration are to be found in the constitutions of all democratic states, as well as in pseudo-democratic states, including the Republic of Moldova.
In this respect, one might rightly wonder: Which are the Constitutions where Marxist-Leninist principles are still to be found? They were not fully reflected even in the USSR Constitution, their gist being disguised in Article 6 referring to the leading role of the Communist Party, placing it somewhere between society and God. While the party indeed promoted Lenin’s ideas on class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat, exclusive role of the working class, nationalisation of property, etc. So far, similar provisions on the leading role of communist party are still to be found in the Constitutions of China, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea, countries that slowly are giving up (on Communist) “ghosts”.
From this perspective, statements like “revolutions are prepared by genius, made by fanatics, whereas impostors enjoy their results” better illustrate what revolutions have in common; than the mere mention that they are bloody.
- How are regimes compared? It is important also to compare regimes that are brought to power by revolutions. It goes without saying that regimes brought by bourgeois revolutions committed crime and misdoings. In their turn, Communist revolutions had a major role in shaping the policies of the bourgeois regimes, pushing them to grant more rights to the working class in order to avoid Communist upheaval.
What is important is that bourgeois democratic regimes have at hand viable institutions able to bring a crisis situation back to normal, which Communist regimes obviously lack. In response, Communist leaders cite ability to mobilize society to fulfil some mega tasks, such as defeating fascisms in second World War, as an illustration to the regimes’ efficiency. Under those circumstances, Moldovan authorities regularly condemn fascism horrors, especially at anniversaries. However, those who survived totalitarian regimes make little difference at all between fascist and communist ones. Therefore, condemning only fascism seems a unilateral act unless the horrors of the communist regime are not condemned as well. Especially as there are enough evidences to this effect.
Recently a raft of studies has been published both in Russia and Germany showing that communism and fascism had much in common. For instance, “My small Leniniana” by Russian writer Venedict Erofeev quotes extensively fifth edition of Lenin’s complete works. It shows the “humanism” of Lenin, the person who came up with the idea of concentration camps in the first place, as a tool to implementing Bolshevik revolutionary justice. To cite just Lenin’s address to the Executive Committee of Penza district “We need to employ a merciless mass terror against kulaks, clergy… Those who are not trustful shall be taken to concentration camps outside the cities. Telegraph about enforcement!”
Two years ago Moscow’s “Logos” Publishing House published the works of a famous German historian Ernst Nolte, expert on totalitarian regimes and causes of the second World War. His book “National Socialism and Bolshevism” points that although there are differences between Nazism and bolshevism, there are also quite many similarities. For a start, fascism was a reaction to the challenge of Communism. Second of all, fascism took over some of the communist tools of achieving its goals, i.e. fascist concentration camps were a copy of the soviet GULAG. Another similarity between the two regimes is their tendency to expand. This explains among others why Nazi Germany and Soviet Union became allies in 1939 and divided Central Europe to their own will. Moreover, in 1940 USSR submitted an official application to Berlin asking to be included in the tier Rome-Berlin-Tokyo. Stalin wanted to join the three so as to expand towards Indian Ocean, in exchange for supporting Germany’s extension to the West.
In his well-known book “The Rise and Fall of the III Reich” American journalist and writer William Shirer, published by the Russian “Voenizdat” in the URSS in 1991, analyses documents seized by the allied forces, among others notes by main propagandist of the Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels. For instance Goebbles could not understand why Hitler refused to form an alliance with USSR. Many still wonder how come that Hitler attacked his ally. Some cite psychological factors arguing that “two bears in the same lair won’t stay for long” and that sooner or later they would have ended in a fight. It is believed that Hitler felt more vulnerably and therefore decided to hit first so as to take his foe by surprise.
Nowadays there are different opinions on fascism and communism. The former was defeated in a “hot” war, taken to justice and forced to pay compensation. In contrast, communist degenerated over decades of “cold war” and finally collapsed under its own inconsistency. Obviously, superpowers didn’t even think of tribunals or condemning the horrors of communism, as they were more concerned about saving population from the disastrous repercussions of the regime collapse. But it doesn’t mean that communism atrocities were forgotten, the subject still raises a lot of debates with more and more evidences being found. For instance no more than two years ago a mass grave was found in the basement of the Russian Supreme Court of Justice during restoration works, all of them victims of NKVD. Also about the same time the remains of 225 persons, including 80 children were found in Jovka community, Ukraine under the floor of the local monastery. Later on it was found that for a short while the monastery was in the use of NKVD. Similar discoveries are regularly made throughout former USSR. What is striking about the aforesaid examples is the places were bodies were hidden.
- How a modernisation is made? As for the thesis about modernisation of the society as a result of communist revolution, it isn’t flawless either. Totalitarian regimes proved indeed of being capable of breakthrough in science and economy, however only for a short while. However, there is evidence contesting that thesis. For instance, Koreans having the same secular culture and tradition live in two separate countries, under two separate regimes. North Koreans fanatically build an atomic bomb under a communist regime, while in starvation. South Koreans invade world markets with their hi-tech products while under a “bourgeois” democratic regime.
Rather the success of the communist regime came despite the system and not due to it. It is known for a fact that repressions were the major source of cheap labour force. The same holds true for science elites, which boost progress and modernisation. After adjustments to Lenin’s practice to expel intelligentsia from the country, later on famous USSR scientists well-known worldwide were imprisoned so as to be isolated from society and forced to work on the projects of the regime. And this despite all of them were not guilty. The resistance of the 70s and 80s led by the famous physicist and dissident is well known. Less known is the fate of Serghei Koroliov, founder of the Russian cosmonautics, who served 8 years in GULAG. Nicolai Vavilov, founder of genetics, died in prison. The famous physicist Lev Landau was saved from prison only by the intervention of academic Piotr Kapita, who worked on defence projects. The lives of other academics Iulii Hariton and Iacov Zelidovici were pending on the success of the USSR’s nuclear project. Anyone who travels on “Tupolev” airplane should know that the famous aircraft constructor, Andrei Tupolev, served four years in prison on accusations of treasury — providing his sketches to French secret service. Later on, together with many other scientists he was rehabilitated and even got three medals of Hero of Socialist Labour, among others for defeating fascism.
There is no doubt that Communist leaders in Moldova know far too well all those things. Nevertheless, at the 2001 Congress of Communist Parties of the CIS in Moscow (whereto they flew probably by “Tupolev” airplane), they took part in the rehabilitation of the “good name” of Iosif Stalin. It seems that Communist morale allows rehabilitating victims and their executors alike.
Inducing conditioned reflexes
Their opponents have no illusions when it comes to Communists’ sincerity in sharing Leninist values. They indicate that the families of the Communist moguls are rightly considered among the wealthiest and influential in the country. Previous “democratic” rulings paltry against the incumbent ruling, when it comes to creating material comfort as a prerequisite of power.
Nobody doubts that leaders of the Communist Party or those who advise them are the best experts on political marketing in the country. On the one hand they publicly state, especially to the West, that they gave up such Leninist values as: class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat, nationalisation of property, fundamental role of the working class, etc. On the other hand, they largely employ Communist rhetoric and symbols especially when it comes to rural areas suffering of poverty. In this respect, one may want to look in how far the decisions of the Communist municipal authorities in Balti and Lipcani are in line with President’s claims that “European integration that we have engaged in, is a sign of consolidation of the political forces and quell of ambitions and narrow party egoism”. If so, the interests of which party does the restoration of Lenin monuments serve? So, it is wishful thinking to believe that Communist moguls would “give up on ghosts” as long as they bring them electoral revenues which later on might be converted into liquidity.
The initiative to reinstall Lenin’s monuments might serve the goal of inducing “conditioned reflexes” among the absolute majority of poor citizens: Lenin on the pedestal — food as cheap as during the soviet times (which was one of their promises in elections). For this to happen, simultaneously they are blaming the so-called democrats on the grounds that they were the ones to bring the country on the verge of poverty (which is partially true). The problem is that almost all the elites that came to power since independence fall under “Lenin’s grandchildren” category. They were educated in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, materialism and “new men — constructor of Communism”. Undoubtedly, their actions stem from their education. Generally speaking, the difference between the previous and incumbent elites resumes to the time factor — when they changed the Communist label into a democrat one, or when they started talking European integration. What all of them have in common is once the came to power all of them became rapacious to turn public property into private one, even by means of corruption.
To avoid plenary manifestation of “conditioned reflexes” important things are not told or even whispered to the citizens. For instance, Communists prefer to overlook the Communist Plenary Session of May 1982, held two years after Communism should have been supposedly edified, when the Food Program was adopted in order to provide citizens of the country with enough food. And that because, albeit low prices shelves were empty in the country of victorious Communism. Moreover, no mention of the 1962 Novocerkassk events was made. Back then army, tanks and armoured machines were employed to suppress the protest rally of the workers at a local electric locomotives plant. Thirty of them got killed only because they dared to protest against salary cuts and skyrocketed prices on dairy and meat, as food was nowhere to be found (see Pravda of 3.07.91). This is how party that staged a military rebellion to seize the power in the name of the working class, dealt with the very same working class.
The gist of the Communist regime brought by Lenin showed off not only in the first years after the revolution, but also when the regime was on verge of collapse — 18 years ago, during the Cernobil accident on April 26, 1986. Back then data on the accident was concealed and thousands of people were let to parade on the May 1 day and praise party’s achievements. The party left them in high radiation levels with nothing but Marxist-Leninist slogans.
The aforesaid refers to sporadic events and may not reconstruct the overall atmosphere of terror and fear of that time. That is why citizens should have comprehensive data on the regime created by Lenin, to whom monuments are raised again. In this respect, many more debates should be held as part of the talk-shows in order to fully “give up on ghosts”.