As 2019 draws to a close, it’s worth remembering that thirty years ago, in 1989, we were watching the fall of Communism in Europe.
As someone who grew up with the reality of the Iron Curtain – I recall visiting Berlin as a teenager and seeing the razor wire on the Berlin wall – it still feels strange to me that Eastern Europe has now been free for more than half my life.
For many of those younger than me, on the other hand, a free Europe is how it’s always been. But that’s all the more reason why we must never let the memory of Communism’s horror fade.
The evil of Communism hasn’t seeped into our consciousness the way that the evil of Nazism has. Partly, that’s because we never fought a world war against Communism and partly because its victims were, on the whole, further away from us and better hidden from us. There are no movies depicting our heroic forces fighting Communism in Europe. We never liberated Stalin’s gulags the way we liberated Auschwitz and Belsen.
But, make no mistake, evil Communism undoubtedly was. And, in some countries, evil it still is. Communism, for all the lofty ideals of Marx and Lenin, can only survive through force and repression. When that force is lifted, or is overcome, Communism, without exception, falls.
There is no more place in liberal, tolerant, democratic society for Communists and their fellow travellers than there is for Nazis and neo-Nazis. Evil needs to be named wherever it is seen. Communism may be out of power in Europe, but it still clings on elsewhere in the world and it still has enough useful idiots here to give it a whitewash of normality. As democrats, we cannot rest until Communism has gone the way of polio and smallpox.
In the meantime, though, celebrate the fact that the spectre of Communism no longer hangs over us here in Europe. There are other evils, to be sure, but at least this one is now, for us, only history.
Image credit: West German citizens gather at a newly created opening in the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz in November 1989. US Department of Defense photo.