Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Condemning communism

Over the last few days the 'Cojocaru Commission' investigating the activity of the Soviet communist regime in Moldova has presented its report to the interim President, Mihai Ghimpu.  The report is a solid academic work based on six months of research by members of the commission, and on an unprecedented level of access to national archives, including those of the former KGB.

As a result of the investigation, we have already discovered new and important facts about the period immediately following the communist takeover in 1944, when 'enemies of the state' were shot, deported or starved to death.  In total it appears that around 15% of Moldova's population perished during this time.

Now the commission has presented its proposals to Mr Ghimpu:

  1. The condemnation of the totalitarian communist regime by the Moldovan parliament
  2. The banning of the word 'communist' and its derivatives in the name of political parties and social organisations
  3. The banning of communist and nazi symbols, in accordance with the decision of the Council of Europe
  4. Construction of a memorial complex in the centre of Chisinau
  5. Construction of museums and placement of memorial plaques in every town and village
  6. Establishment of another commission to establish the financial prejudices caused by Communism
Let's look at these in more detail.  Nobody should argue with proposal 1.  The evidence is overwhelming that Soviet Communism in Moldova was really nasty and deserves condemnation.  Furthermore this symbolic move won't cost anything to anybody, with the exception of the PCRM who will (deservedly) suffer by association.

2. and 3. are more problematic.  In theory the Council of Europe has paved the way for these moves, but in any case they would be considered undemocratic by a large section of Moldovan (and indeed European) society.  Remember that 'communist' parties continue to exist and operate within the democratic system in many parts of Europe.  Dumitru Diacov is right in saying that such a move could backfire on the AIE.  If a ban is to take effect, it should be legislated now, but take place immediately after the next election

4. and 5. are absolutely right and proper.  History needs to return to Moldova and constant, physical reminders of the horrors of Soviet occupation are an appropriate move.  I would even go further and have the commission produce a 'pocket' version of their report that would be distributed to every Moldovan household.

6. would be an interesting, but ultimately pointless exercise.  While Russia is the legal successor state of the Soviet Union, it would be hard to pin this liability on her, and even more difficult to collect.  Remember that Russia too suffered at the hands of Soviet Communism.

I would probably add a seventh proposal, which is a 'lustration' law.  The basic idea here is that those who committed crimes as part of the soviet communist nomenclatura, or who willingly collaborated with the KGB, should be banned from holding public office.  This is something that should have happened across Eastern Europe, but hasn't, allowing former spooks to transform themselves into semi-respectable 'democratic politicians.  In many countries (e.g. Romania) this has hampered the development of an elite free of Soviet mentalities and truly committed to human rights and democratic values.

So there it is.  The commission needs to be applauded for its excellent and long-overdue work.  Its proposals, however, need to be weighed carefully and applied so as to have the maximum positive effect on Moldovan society.

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