I signed a petition today in what will likely be a vain effort to forestall the construction in a prominent location in Ottawa of a monument to the victims of communism. Even though that brief interval and the energy of a few keystrokes may have been wasted, it is a fine jumping-off point for some reflection on ideology and the ideological underpinnings of régimes and their resulting misdeeds.
The motivation behind the monument, along with the scale and placement of the structure amounts to a dishonest pandering to one or more constituencies being curried for votes and financial consideration and perhaps to a lasting sign of the Harper legacy of eschewing any real diplomacy for supporting the side that best suits his own ideological and religious bent. Ideologies, like guns, don’t kill people, but, also like gun, if you leave one lying around, there’s a pretty good chance that someone will pick it up and use it for his own ends, likely in the service of coercion. In this, communism has certainly been the backdrop for millions of victims, but let’s not mistake what we called the Communist Bloc for communism: the USSR and its satellites were tyrannic dictatorships that spouted communist rhetoric as they exacted vengeful exactions indiscriminately on their own people and on those who had the great misfortune to fall under the extended Soviet influence. Do other ideologies have a tally on the victim slate? I would think so, even in something so “innocent” as the British/American strategy during the Second World War of delaying direct engagement with Axis forces in Europe until the Russians (note: Russians, communists and otherwise) had essentially absorbed the worst punishment that the Third Reich could hand out and turned the tide against the Nazi menace. Under the occupation, sympathetic factions arose in almost all countries to carry out many of the worst atrocities attributed to the Nazis, using National Socialism as a screen behind which to shelter the murdering, rapine and thievery that was at the heart of the matter, without regard to some ideological justification. And when the tide went the other way, there was more of the same, but from the other side, and pretty much without regard to any opposing or replacement ideology. The story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn is instructive, a seemingly loyal artillery officer who, at then end of the Great War, was gifted a dozen years in the gulags, demonstrating that Stalin et al were equal opportunity oppressors.
On the other hand there is the purported antithesis of communism, capitalism, whose record contains a litany of the same horrors perpetrated by the Stalinists. In theory, it is a perversion of capitalism for personal gain that lies at the root of the crimes, and that puts capitalism in exactly the same category as communism. It’s interesting to note that Mussolini characterized fascism as the marriage of capitalism and state power. This sounds vaguely familiar:
Let’s add Pan-Slavism and Zionism, the Greater Asiatic Co-Operation Sphere, The White Man’s Burden, the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Aztec and Incan empires to the list of ideas that have wrought great deeds (their own definition) and left great works as monuments to their superiority (yikes, do the world’s great religions get caught up in the net?). So really, to be fair (not something for which the Harperites are really known), each of these ideas should have a memorial erected to the memory of its victims, and, given that real estate in Ottawa is at a bit of a premium, we could do these memorials as scale models of the great works such as that planned for the victims of communism, and house them all in a single building.We could then call it The Museum of Civilization.