The anticommunist memory entrepreneurs

As Diana Johnstone wrote in ‘Revanchism in Germany

Memory as weapon.

As an aspect of anticommunist lustration, or purges, Eastern European states sponsored “memory institutes” devoted to denouncing the crimes of communism. Of course, such campaigns were used by far-right politicians to cast suspicion on the left in general. As explained by European scholar Zoltan Dujisin, “anticommunist memory entrepreneurs” at the head of these institutes succeeded in lifting their public information activities from the national, to the European Union level, using Western bans on Holocaust denial to complain that while Nazi crimes had been condemned and punished at Nuremberg, communist crimes had not.

The tactic of the anticommunist entrepreneurs was to demand that references to the Holocaust be accompanied by denunciations of the Gulag. This campaign had to deal with a delicate contradiction, since it tended to challenge the uniqueness of the Holocaust, a dogma essential to gaining financial and political support from West European memory institutes.”

Here are some excerpts from Dujisin’s paper:

Abstract

This article invites the view that the Europeanization of an antitotalitarian “collective memory” of communism reveals the emergence of a field of anticommunism. This transnational field is inextricably tied to the proliferation of state-sponsored and anticommunist memory institutes across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), but cannot be treated as epiphenomenal to their propagation. The diffusion of bodies tasked with establishing the “true” history of communism reflects, first and foremost, a shift in the region’s approach to its past, one driven by the right’s frustration over an allegedly pervasive influence offormer communist cliques. Memory institutes spread as the CEE right progressively perceives their emphasis on research and public education as a safer alternative to botched lustration processes. However, the field of anticommunism extends beyond diffusion by seeking to leverage the European Union institutional apparatus to generate previously unavailable forms of symbolic capital for anticommunist narratives. This results in an entirely different challenge, which requires reconciling of disparate ideological and national interests. In this article, I illustrate some of these nationally diverse, but internationally converging, trajectories of communist extrication from the vantage point of its main exponents: the anticommunist memory entrepreneurs, who are invariably found at the helm of memory institutes. Inhabiting the space around the political, historiographic, and Eurocratic fields, anticommunist entrepreneurs weave a complex web of alliances that ultimately help produce an autonomous field of anticommunism.

Embroiled in a cumbersome effort to come to terms with its Nazi past for decades, Europe is now haunted by the specter of a new memory. The Holocaust’s singular standing as a negative founding formula of European integration, the culmination of long-standing efforts from prominent Western leaders (Levy 2010; Troebst 2010), is increasingly challenged by a memory of communism, which disputes its uniqueness. The Platform of European Memory and Conscience (henceforth Platform) conveyed this message in its exhibition “Totalitarianism in Europe: Fascism—Nazism—Com- munism,” open between 2012 and 2016. The exhibit travelled to museums, memorials, foundations, city halls, parliaments, cultural centers, and universities in 15 European countries, stretching from Ireland to Romania, and was purported to “improve public awareness and education about the gravest crimes committed by the totalitarian dictatorships” (Platform 2013).

The exhibit’s panels alternated between communist and Nazi “totalitarian crimes” in several countries, depicting war crimes, victims, the faces of perpetrators, and the number of condemnations. These numbers alerted the public to an alleged double standard between the justice given to victims of Nazi totalitarianism—epitomized by the Nuremberg trials—and those of communism. Affirming “a clear historical connection between Nazism and Communism,” the organizers implicitly deem the entire communist experience grimmer, as it “continued to perpetrate international crimes … until the very end of its existence.” Furthermore, while claiming to mirror the “current state of knowledge, based on research in the countries presented” (Platform Platform 2012a), the exhibition mentioned none of the local drivers of communism, a burgeoning area of historiographic research.

Download ‘A history of post-communist remembrance: from memory politics to the emergence of a field of anticommunism’ here.

“Revanchism in Germany.”

The following is a very good piece looking into Germany’s past during the 80s with Gorbachev as one of the main actors, not realizing he was played, and it takes a good look at the recent inflammatory speech of chancellor Scholz in Prague in August 2022.

“Revanchism in Germany.”

Russophobia, revenge, and the corruption of memory.

“PARIS, 12 SEPTEMBER—The European Union is girding for a long war against Russia that appears clearly contrary to European economic interests and social stability. A war that is apparently irrational—as many are—has deep emotional roots and claims ideological justification. Such wars are hard to end because they extend outside the range of rationality.

For decades after the Soviet Union entered Berlin and decisively defeated the Third Reich, Soviet leaders worried about the threat of “German revanchism.” Since World War II could be seen as German revenge for being deprived of victory in World War I, couldn’t aggressive Germany’s Drang nach Osten, its impulse to press eastward, be revived, especially if it enjoyed Anglo-American support? There had always been a minority in U.S. and U.K. power circles that would have liked to complete Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union.

It was not the desire to spread communism, but the need for a buffer zone to stand in the way of such dangers that was the primary motivation for the ongoing Soviet political and military clampdown on the tier of countries from Poland to Bulgaria that the Red Army had wrested from Nazi occupation.

This concern waned considerably in the early 1980s as a young German generation took to the streets in peace demonstrations against the stationing of nuclear “Euromissiles” that could increase the risk of nuclear war on German soil. The movement created the image of a new, peaceful Germany. I believe Mikhail Gorbachev took this transformation seriously.

On 15 June 1989, Gorbachev went to Bonn, which was then the modest capital of a deceptively modest West Germany. Apparently delighted with the warm and friendly welcome, Gorbachev stopped to shake hands with people along the way in that peaceful university town that had been the scene of large peace demonstrations.

I was there and experienced his unusually warm, firm handshake and eager smile. I have no doubt that Gorbachev sincerely believed in a “common European home” where East and West Europe could live happily side by side united by some sort of democratic socialism.

Gorbachev died at age 91 a month ago, on Aug. 30. His dream of Russia and Germany living happily in their common home had, soon after his visit to Bonn, been fatally undermined by the Clinton administration’s go-ahead to eastward expansion of NATO. But the day before Gorbachev’s death, leading German politicians in Prague wiped out any hope of such a happy end by proclaiming their leadership of a Europe dedicated to combating the Russian enemy.

These were politicians from the very parties—the Social Democrats and the Greens—that took the lead in the 1980s peace movement.

Drang nach Osten.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is a colorless SPD politician, but his 29 August speech in Prague was inflammatory in its implications. Scholz called for an expanded, militarized European Union under German leadership. He claimed that the Russian operation in Ukraine raised the question of “where the dividing line will be in the future between this free Europe and a neo-imperial autocracy.” We cannot simply watch, he said, “as free countries are wiped off the map and disappear behind walls or iron curtains.”

To be noted: The conflict in Ukraine is clearly the unfinished business of the collapse of the Soviet Union, aggravated by malicious outside provocation. As during the Cold War, Moscow’s defensive reactions are interpreted as harbingers of Russian invasion of Europe, and thus a pretext for arms buildups.

To meet this imaginary threat, Germany will lead an expanded, militarized E.U. First, Scholz told his European audience in the Czech capital, “I am committed to the enlargement of the European Union to include the states of the western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and, in the long term, Georgia.” Worrying about Russia moving the dividing line West is a bit odd while planning to incorporate three former Soviet states, one of which, Georgia, is geographically and culturally very remote from Europe but on Russia’s doorstep.”

….

Memory as weapon.

As an aspect of anticommunist lustration, or purges, Eastern European states sponsored “memory institutes” devoted to denouncing the crimes of communism. Of course, such campaigns were used by far-right politicians to cast suspicion on the left in general. As explained by European scholar Zoltan Dujisin, “anticommunist memory entrepreneurs” at the head of these institutes succeeded in lifting their public information activities from the national, to the European Union level, using Western bans on Holocaust denial to complain that while Nazi crimes had been condemned and punished at Nuremberg, communist crimes had not.

The tactic of the anticommunist entrepreneurs was to demand that references to the Holocaust be accompanied by denunciations of the Gulag. This campaign had to deal with a delicate contradiction, since it tended to challenge the uniqueness of the Holocaust, a dogma essential to gaining financial and political support from West European memory institutes.

In 2008, the E.P. adopted a resolution establishing 23 August as “European Day of Remembrance for the victims of Stalinism and Nazism”—for the first time adopting what had been a fairly isolated far-right equation. A 2009 E.P. resolution on “European Conscience and Totalitarianism” called for support of national institutes specializing in totalitarian history.

Dujisin explains,

Europe is now haunted by the specter of a new memory. The Holocaust’s singular standing as a negative founding formula of European integration, the culmination of long-standing efforts from prominent Western leaders … is increasingly challenged by a memory of communism, which disputes its uniqueness.

East European memory institutes together formed the “Platform of European Memory and Conscience,” which, from 2012 to 2016, organized a series of exhibits on “Totalitarianism in Europe: Fascism—Nazism—Communism,” traveling to museums, memorials, foundations, city halls, parliaments, cultural centers, and universities in 15 European countries, supposedly to “improve public awareness and education about the gravest crimes committed by the totalitarian dictatorships.”

These are only excerpts. Read the whole at The Scrum.

“Similarities between the current corporatist technocratic state we are creating (especially via ESG policy) and the ones of yore”

They are addressing something at The Blind Spot. Interesting thread on Twitter. Coincidentally, it falls smack into the elections in Italy. Don’t agree with that phrasing: “Yes it’s paywalled but like Britain, independent journalism needs funding”. Britain has its own sovereign currency and needs no external funding.

This nails it: “The problem is the word “fascist” is so triggering it’s become hard to offer a sober analysis of the similarities between the current corporatist technocratic state we are creating (especially via ESG policy) and the ones of yore.” As she says, she is looking at it purely from the economic perspective, not political.

Thread about a “profligate, reform-lazy Italy”

Some days ago that woman, the German chief fucker upper, @vonderleyen issued a threat on the upcoming elections in Italy: “If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools”. The EU, a fascist union.