Thursday, November 19, 2009

Does the end justify the means?

There's a lot of talk these days about (re)banning the Communist Party.

In the early days of Moldova's independence, the Communist Party was banned, its very existence being considered a threat to the independence of the Moldovan state.  Communists fought for the preservation of the Soviet Union, promoted the oppression of Moldovan culture and stood alongside the Transnistrian separatists as they took up arms to carve out their puppet state.  As ideological descendents of Lenin, they believed in neither God, democracy nor the promotion of human rights.

The rehabilitation of the Communist Party began during the Presidency of Petru Lucinski, when a presidential order was issued to sidestep the ban earlier issued by parliament  (note that the legal validity of this order is somewhat questionable).  I guess Lucinski's rational was that, in a democracy, even people with distasteful and anti-democratic ideas have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

In a sense the last eight years have proved the case presented by parliament in the early 1990s.  The Communist Party, once in power, set about dismantling and undermining democratic institutions.  They failed miserably to protect the human rights of the nation's citizens (as evidenced by the string of ECHR judgements brought against the country).  Things got so bad that they ended up condoning the beating, rape and murder of their young opponents on April 7th.

So where does the line get drawn?  To what extent do communists have the right to freedom of expression and association?  Is that right unlimited?  Can it be withdrawn based on either (a) past abuses, or (b) anti-democratic positions, statements and policies?

A tangential debate is the one initiated by Democrat deputy Oleg Serebrian earlier today.  Wearing another hat as leader of a civil society group, he pleaded for the banning of all communist symbols, claiming support from the Council of Europe's recent condemnation of Fascism and Communism.  Putting aside Serebrian's underlying purpose (to force significant change on the PCRM by destroying their 'brand'), such a move can easily be supported.  Nazi symobols have been outlawed in Germany since the end of the second world war, with western powers turning a blind eye to the curtailment of freedom of expression that this represents.  It would appear be an entirely reasonable extension of this policy were countries that suffered greatly under communism to introduce a similar ban on the hammer and sickle.

We are in for interesting times in the months ahead as Moldova figures out whether it is justifiable to use undemocratic means to safeguard democracy...  I'd love to hear your views on this one.

1 comment:

  1. In a democratic country, you cannot ban a party, as vile and undemocratic as their views might be. In the UK this debate has been reopened of late after the BBC allowed the facist British National Party onto its Questiontime debate programme. Although it's politics are nothing short of outright racist, the democratic purpose is there to ensure that absolutely everyone can speak.
    I know this is an inadequate comparison to make with Moldova, where the Communists have repressed the country for eight years, and there will be a huge groundswell of support for bannin g them, but to put it simply, everyone must be able to speak, even if it means allowing a platform for those who would have denied others it.
    Democratic process, among other factors, is one of the ways in which Moldova can be embraced by the EU, and this, from what I heard from people when I was in Chisinau, is what people want most. It may be hard to swallow, but thats the way it should be.