Note: The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the positions of the EANC.
EANC joined 20 embassies and 26 other ethnic and human rights groups for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s (VoC) Ninth Annual Roll Call of Nations and wreath-laying ceremony. The event was a sobering reminder of how many countries worldwide have suffered, and are still suffering, at the hands of communist regimes. Paul Goble, a long-time advocate for the Baltics, was honored with the foundation’s Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. The Foundation holds its Roll Call annually on June 10th – the anniversary of the dedication of their memorial.
Goble’s remarks at the Foundation’s reception the evening prior to the Roll Call shared ten reasons why he believes it’s still important to be anti-communist. His full speech can be found on the VoC website (http://blog.victimsofcommunism.org/ten-reasons-why-we-must-remain-anti-communists/).
While all of Goble’s reasons to continue to carry the torch against communism were very insightful and valid today, two stood out to me as particularly relevant in the current global climate. His fourth point stressed maintaining a clear understanding in democratic societies of what communism represents and what it doesn’t. He brands communism as a “unique form of evil” that many people have forgotten, seeing it as just another political system among many. They give credit to Stalin for helping to defeat Hitler while losing the significance of the number of people he killed in the process and in support of his own agenda. At the same time, they misunderstand valid and effective forms of government, like those in the Nordic countries, as gateways to communism. This belief contradicts the fact that most Nordic and European nations with systems more liberal than ours are NATO members, and those that aren’t are closer than ever to joining the alliance and its efforts to deter the authoritarian threat that is resurfacing from Russia. They are in no danger of falling to communism.
Goble’s fifth point illustrates the ties between communism and the rise of Islamist extremism. While the history is too long and complicated for me to explain, I can recognize from this speech the parallels between the existential threat of communism from the past and how its momentum has fed the Islamist movement against democracy and freedom. Goble states that the current Islamist challenge “could not have emerged without the active help of the communists and ‘former communists’ who operate today” based on the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Goble speculates that understanding this relationship may be critical “before the upsurge in Islamism leads to a resurgence of communism.”
According to Goble, both of these misinterpretations of communism are fed by revisionist versions of history. Even in the U.S., schools have portrayed communism as a system that has raised standards of living and improved lives and happiness while ignoring the infringements on freedom and human rights that go along with it. Correcting this unbalanced view is another of his reasons to be anti-communist.
Goble ended his remarks, both at the evening event and at the Roll Call, with a story about escorting a group of visiting Estonian officials to the Lincoln Memorial in 1991. While translating the Gettysburg Address for them into Russian, a park ranger asked if the group was from Russia. When Goble responded that they were from Estonia, the ranger said that he had heard of the then-aspiring nation as “… just a little country that wants to be free.” Goble and VoC continue the fight for such countries and to maintain the hard-won freedoms of those that have prevailed over communism.