July 02, 2003


Oh no! Now the Italian Satan is trying to trick schoolchildren into thinking that communism is bad:

The evils of communism appear front and center in one of the themes that hundreds of thousands of Italian high school seniors could choose to write about in graduation exams given this month. That topic invited students to ponder "terror and the political repression in the totalitarian systems" of the 20th century and gives brief descriptions of fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and communism in the former Soviet Union and other countries.

Communism is blamed for the executions of about 100 million people, five times greater than the killings attributed in the exam to Nazism.

In the wording of the topic, it takes one sentence to denigrate fascism. It takes four to vilify communism.

Sounds like they’ve got the ratio almost exactly right, then. Naturally, leftoids are angry:

Some historians and teachers have complained that the balance of the question is out of whack. "I teach my students that of course communism must be seen in a negative light, but the goal of Nazism was to kill people, and the goal of communism was to unite them," said Giuseppe Costantino, 61, who teaches history in a high school in Naples.

A few of Berlusconi's political opponents have suggested that he or his allies might be trying to mold young minds.

Not like kindly Giuseppe. Or communists.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 2, 2003 03:00 PM

Isn't molding minds the point of teaching? And as for communism trying to unite people, I guess that's true. It's the communists who were the mass murderers and communism was their apparent justification. I don't see how anyone could meaningfully distinguish the liquidation of the Kulaks from the Holocaust.

Posted by: PJ at July 2, 2003 at 03:06 PM

Unity was the goal of nazism too, then, it was also a commie movement.

Posted by: d at July 2, 2003 at 03:13 PM

Tim's in love! Here are some pics of Silvio for you to view one-handedly: http://images.google.com.au/images?q=silvio+berlusconi

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 2, 2003 at 03:22 PM

The Silvio posts are just for you, Bonnie.

Posted by: tim at July 2, 2003 at 03:25 PM

"the goal of communism was to unite them"

What? Unite them in the gulag? Unite them in death? Unite them in serfdom?

Posted by: AndyM at July 2, 2003 at 03:32 PM

Unity, Andy, is just a vacuous euphemism for collectivisation - after all, the gulags were reserved mainly for those who refused to be treated like some lumpenmasse.1933-1939 the Nazi economic cabinet didn't call their policies such but they might as well have.

Posted by: d at July 2, 2003 at 05:31 PM

Lol, its nice to see Communists getting the stick they disserved. As I was growing up I got a bit irate when Communists were called "misguided", "naive" and "idealistic", where Nazi were just evil. I have, at times, suffered academically for daring to point out that in fact commies killed one hell a lot more people than the Nazis every did.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge at July 2, 2003 at 07:44 PM

The goal of Communism was to unite people.

Yes, unite them in relentless misery.

Posted by: John Mulcahy at July 2, 2003 at 07:46 PM

my GOD. What the f*ck?

Posted by: dr.dna at July 2, 2003 at 08:40 PM

Berlusconi should do something to really piss these people off by endorsing the creation of an international memorial museum to honor the victims of communism. I can hear the howls of protest now.

Posted by: Matthew at July 2, 2003 at 09:25 PM

Heck, I'd kick in a donation for the Purge Memorial Museum. Just be sure to include a section on Nazi Germany to emphasize how little difference there was, functionally.

Posted by: John Nowak at July 2, 2003 at 11:06 PM

Yeah John, I think any exhibition which can capture the fact that the SS and the Cheka drew upon each other -- so much so that young Nazi toughs were called "the Cheka in the Brown House" -- would help to educate a woefully ignorant public.

Posted by: Matthew at July 2, 2003 at 11:34 PM

What's also amazing is the number of fascists who started off as Communists -- Mussolini, Heinrich George, Göbbels... anything that gets us closer to equating fascism and Communism instead of imagining "vast differences" between the two.

Posted by: John Jowak at July 2, 2003 at 11:55 PM

A Museum of Totalitarianism with particular emphasis on the similarities between totalitarian regimes, despite their cosmetic differences, would be very useful – and will sadly most likely never be built.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at July 2, 2003 at 11:56 PM

Insofar as I can tell, the principle difference between Nazis and Commies is fashion sense.

Remember, when choosing a brutal mass murderer to display on your wry, ironic boho hipster t-shirt, Mao is prefered. As a fashion accessory that Hitler fellow is simply outre.

Posted by: iowahawk at July 3, 2003 at 02:30 AM

Matthew and John:

While you're at it, be sure to include an extensive wing on Russo-German cooperation in the inter-war period.

Selections might include

Soviet assistance to Germany under the Weimar Republic to cheat on the terms of the Versailles Treaty (showing longstanding Soviet respect for international law);

Soviet-Nazi era trade, when each was one of the largest trading partners of the other (so much for ideological opposition leads to non-cooperation); and

The Russo-German Non-Aggression Pact, which allowed the two to partition Poland between them.

Little things the Left always seems to forget when reminding us Neanderthals of the "sacrifices" of the USSR in the war against Germany, etc., etc.

Posted by: Dean at July 3, 2003 at 02:33 AM

Yeah, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact certainly needs to be in there.

On the other hand, what would be in the gift shop? Could someone really design a small and tasteful logo for a "Museum of Totalitarian Purges" polo shirt?

Posted by: John Nowak at July 3, 2003 at 02:40 AM

The concept is easy when you picture the political belief spectrum as a circle rather than a line. The Nazi National Socialists end up at the same point as the Communists -- on the totalitarian point of the circle.

Posted by: md at July 3, 2003 at 04:09 AM

On the Museum of Totalitarianism:

There is such a museum, somewhere in Eastern Europe (Romania? Bulgaria? Hungary?). A Google search was fruitless, but I recall reading about a new memorial museum for the victims of both fascism and communism in that country. The (entirely appropriate) lumping together of the two great bloodthirsty ideologies was vociferously opposed by many on the left, IIRC.

Anyone else know about this? I'd like to find out more.

Posted by: murray at July 3, 2003 at 04:24 AM

The original symbol of Facism (dating back to Roman times) was a bundle of reeds bound together. One reed is week and can break easily. A bundle of reeds is strong and cannot be broken easily.

Sounds like a call for unity to me.

Posted by: Geoff Matthews at July 3, 2003 at 05:03 AM

Murray, it's in Hungary. And guess what? The Social Democrats are trying to shut it down.


Posted by: Susan at July 3, 2003 at 05:04 AM

Sorry, I don't know how to do links here. But paste it into your address bar and up will come a story about it from January 2003.

Posted by: Susan at July 3, 2003 at 05:05 AM

Nazis were hated because they said they were going to do bad things and then they did them. Communists get a pass in some circles because while the did bad things, they said good things and their hearts were pure.

Sound familiar?

Posted by: charles austin at July 3, 2003 at 05:10 AM

Thanks, Susan. Armed with the right keywords, Googling works wonders.

The situation sounds fraught and a little complex. Some of the objections seem to be familial rather than purely ideological, since certain politicians' fathers are listed as torturers. And it seems that the Orban government made the most of the opportunity presented by the museum to paint today's socialists as the rightful heirs of the country's communist legacy. (Which they may well be--I don't know.)

But it is interesting to note that Europe is full of museums to fascist terror which raise no eyebrows. Propose to commemorate the victims of communism, though, and watch the fur fly! I doubt you could even get a Museum of Communist Terror built in the US. (I can almost hear the litany: Free healthcare! Universal education! Equal misery for all!)

Posted by: murray at July 3, 2003 at 06:18 AM

Then again, I could be wrong. But as long as China remains an MFT, or whatever it is, I think these guys are pissing into the wind.

Posted by: murray at July 3, 2003 at 06:25 AM

Bear in mind, the Nazis weren't really "Fascists", but Socialists. Nazi was an abreviation for National Socialist Workers Party...Hitler was a very 'progressive' sort (they used that term, too), which is why lefties loved him back then.

Posted by: Jeremy at July 3, 2003 at 07:19 AM

Don't forget that it's perfectly okay to kill millions of people so long as your motives are pure. Intentions count _much_ more than results, you know.

Thus, when working toward the perfect communist society it okay to kill anyone who gets in the way, because the motive is pure.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is inherently motivated by the evil profit incentive, and, thus, even though wherever one looks people is in capitalist societies are materially and spititually better off, it is still wrongly motivated and thus to be condemned, even if it is saving lives?

By the way, what percentage of new, life-saving or life prolonging drugs came out of the East Bloc or China, anyway?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at July 3, 2003 at 07:30 AM

The intentions vs. actions distinction is actually a very interesting one. Thomas Sowell--in his excellent book "A Conflict of Visions"--claims this is one of the defining distinctions between what he calls the "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions of society. People with the unconstrained vision (roughly speaking, left-liberals) believe that building a better society is simply a matter of mobilizing sufficient willpower; what matters is each individual's commitment to change. Those with the constrained vision believe that humans are inherently limited in what they can achieve through willpower alone, and place greater trust in institutions that have evolved over centuries.

For those with the unconstrained vision, intentions are all-important; many have a visceral dislike for the thought of Adam Smith, who held that good societal outcomes are more often attained by people looking to their own interests. This helps to account for the common assumption that conservatives and libertarians must be acting in bad faith, out of selfishness or malice--they don't have explicit intentions to make things "better". People with the constrained vision, by contrast, usually have no problems accepting that their opponents have good intentions--they just think that intentions are less important than outcomes.

I have no doubt that most apologists for the Soviet Union honestly believed they were helping to build a just world, just as I have no doubt that most anti-war and anti-globalization activists sincerely believe in their mission--I just think they're likely to make things far worse.

Posted by: murray at July 3, 2003 at 07:49 AM

Yep, Murray those are excellent points. Communists don't have to use "good" methods to achieve their goals, and they don't have to have good outcomes either. They just have to have "good intentions."

People who believe like this are like blind believers in religion. Really, it is very much like a religon. How can anyone still be a Marxist true believer after every single society they have ever produced has turned out to be a colossal economic failure as well as a human rights disaster?

Yet, they are still there -- just like religious cult members who continue to believe a cult leader who says that the world will end on a certain date even though they've seen those dates come and go numerous times before.

They've had to change their name to "anti-globalist" or something like that, but they are still very much with us and still acting with a very destructive force on our societies.

Posted by: Susan at July 3, 2003 at 09:06 AM


Actually, Hitler WAS hated by all of the good leftists of the day. The Nation pillored him relentlessly and accurately predicted he would engulf the entire world in war (and loudly cheered when the US entered that war). Yes, The Nation.

At the same time, The Nation was quick to dismiss all of the "unsubstantiated rumors" of massive starvation in the Soviet Union due to the collectivist policies and the purges instituted by Stalin. About the only thing The Nation could bring themselves to criticize about Stalin was his making peace with Hitler in 1936 (an article at the time pondered how Josef Stalin, ruler of the "peaceful socialist republic", could have made a deal with such a monster).

As far as why communism is more highly regarded than fascism, I suspect that this is due to the way these philosophies are presented in college. Where I went to college (University of California), communism was studied in the context of its theorists (Marx, Engles, etc.), while fascism was studied in the context of its practicioners (Mussolini, Hitler, etc.). I suppose if the equation were reversed and students studied Nietzchie and Heidigger to understand fascism (both of whom are making a comeback in educational circles, but not in the context of fascist political thought) and Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot to understand communism, we might find fascism more tolerated among polite society.

Posted by: Sean at July 3, 2003 at 09:08 AM

Berlusconi rocks! I just loved his opening shots as EU President, when some German Green called him the Godfather of Europe. So what did Silvio do? If the German MEP wanted to play the racial slur game, he could send one of his own, and suggested the German MEP could get a part as a Kapo in a film about Nazi concentration camps.

Not surprisingly, there were calls for Silvio to apologise to the German people for slurring them over their Nazi history. Equally not surprisingly, there were no calls for the German MEP to apologise to the Italian people for slurring their elected Prime Minister with a mafia stereotype.

Good on Silvio for doing the Basil Fawlty -whatever you do, don't mention the war!

Posted by: Steve S. at July 3, 2003 at 09:54 AM

What always amuses me is the fact that people seem to think that a country can't go to war with another country that is ideolocically similar. So we get this canard that the Soviets must have been the ideological opposite of the Nazis because they fought against each other in the Second World War. What a load of old toss that is. It is perfectly clear that until 1941 the Commies all over the world only stigmatised facism in the same way as the Nazis stigmatised the Jews. Both were necessary hate groups, needed to galvanise the troops on the ground. However, the ideological differences between the Nazis and Stalinistas were not really as great as all that. And it is most important to remeber that both were totalitarian. Ther is no such thing as right wing totalitatrianism. By its very nature totalitarianism is left wing, in that it believes in the subsumation of the individual by the State. There is no circle of political philosophy, there is only left and right. The extreme left is Stalin or Hitler, the extreme right is Mogadishu (ie. warlords and total anarchy).

Posted by: Toryhere at July 3, 2003 at 10:36 AM

Ah, Silvio, Silvio - the man is fast becoming my no. 1 favourite politician - not so much in spite of the law suits as because of them!
The man is wonderful! He obviously loves giving the far left something to whinge and grumble about. Bless him!
I heard on ABC FM this morning that Silvio caused another controversy by comparing a modern day German heckler to a 'Nazi politician'.
Something else for the Daily Silvio Update?


Posted by: TimT at July 3, 2003 at 11:12 AM

The quote in question was a reply to a German delegate at an EU conference, who he suggested would be ideal for the role of the Capo (Commondandt) of a concentration camp in an upcoming movie about the Nazis.
That Silvio- he's a gag a minute.

Posted by: paul bickford at July 3, 2003 at 11:20 AM

post-script- the reply was brought on by the sausage-eater in question slagging off Silvio about the little bit of bother he has on the home front with corruption charges; let's face it, an Italian politician without corruption allegations is like shit without flies- they don't exist.

Posted by: paul bickford at July 3, 2003 at 11:23 AM

Hey Sean, good point, good post! No-one spends their time imagining what facism would look like if it were "properly" implemented, do they? They just assume that the empirical results across the existing sample would be replicated in future attempts.

Which, I hasten to add, seems like a pefectly sensible approach.

Posted by: Mork at July 3, 2003 at 01:18 PM

Yeah, I think Sean's right here -- it's a point that's never occurred to me before.

Posted by: John Nowak at July 3, 2003 at 03:08 PM

Hey Paul B.,
Don't knock sausage-eaters! Anyone who eats sausages can't be all bad!
Similarly with that great American insult for the French - 'cheese eating surrender Monkeys'. Now, the French may be monkeys... but they did give the world Camembert, cheap (if over-subsidised) plonk and croissants.

Posted by: TimT at July 3, 2003 at 03:40 PM

Trivial point, Geoff: the Roman fasces -- a bundle of sticks wrapped around an axe -- was, I believe, used by lictors to symbolize power to beat people with sticks or behead them. The symbol was used, obviously, by Mussolini's Fascist party.

Curiously, the fasces as a symbol has not received the demonization applied to the swastika. Fasces are fairly common in pre-WWII US government buildings, where, I would argue, they symbolize the power and authority of the Republic more than they symbolize unity.

Posted by: John Nowak at July 3, 2003 at 09:51 PM

"I teach my students that of course communism must be seen in a negative light, but the goal of Nazism was to kill people, and the goal of communism was to unite them," said Giuseppe Costantino, 61, who teaches history in a high school in Naples.

Dammit, you WILL unite or, or, or we'll put a revolutionary bullet in your brain. Or send you to that yummy, luscious revolutionary camp in Siberia. Or helpfully remove the means to obtain food because the food you currently eat is not revolutionary. Yeah, that's it. No, wait, that's what Fascists do...kill people, you know...cognitive dissonance...setting in...must march in May Day Parade...and cleanse mind of all non-revolutionary thinking...no it's July....auuugggghhhh!!!!

Posted by: Tongue Boy at July 4, 2003 at 12:21 AM


Mao has some staying power but Che REALLY moves those Hanes XLs.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at July 4, 2003 at 12:26 AM

They weren't reeds. The fasces were composed of sticks, bundled to represent the strength of the roman people together, as well as the power of the state to punish transgressors. By death if necessary, which is what the axes mean.

Posted by: mojo at July 4, 2003 at 06:33 AM

Croissants are not French. The were invented by Austrian bakers to celebrate the Austrian's victory over the Turks that ended the siege of Vienna. They baked the pastries in the shape of the Islamic crescent.

Posted by: D2D at July 4, 2003 at 09:56 AM

Hey D2D,
Curse you and your vast epicurean knowledge! I will go home now, and I will eat my non-French Austrian croissants, and every last crumb will taste of bitter, bitter defeat!

Posted by: TimT at July 4, 2003 at 10:56 AM

100 million is, of course, substantially more than Conquest's estimates of deaths caused by Communism and right at the very top end of the range in the Black Book. The truth is bad enough without embellishing it. At the current rate of inflation, it won't be long before Communists killed more people than there actually were.

Posted by: dsquared at July 4, 2003 at 08:19 PM