EU MPs vote to condemn 'evils of communism'

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By a clear majority, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday backed a controversial motion demanding that the continent's 46-member human rights watchdog formally condemns "the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes".

More than 60 members of the body's 315-seat assembly, made up of MPs from Europe's parliaments, were due to speak in a debate on a report by the conservative Swedish MP Goran Lindblad, which argued that 15 years after the collapse of the eastern bloc international condemnation of its governments' activities was "urgently necessary".

Mr Lindblad's motion also called for an international conference on the issue and urged former communist states to "revise school books to reflect what happened, establish museums documenting these crimes, and introduce a memorial day for the victims of communism".

The MP adopted the 100 million victim figure arrived at by Stéphane Courtois in his 1997 Black Book of Communism. The count includes 65m in China, 20m in the Soviet Union, 2m in North Korea, 2m in Cambodia, 1.7m in Africa, 1.5m in Afghanistan, 1m in Vietnam, 1m in east Europe and 150,000 in Latin America. (Mr Courtois puts the number of deaths due to Nazism at about 25m.)

Mr Lindblad listed communist regimes' crimes as "assassinations and executions, concentration camp deaths, starvation, deportation, torture, slave labour and other mass physical terror", saying they should be condemned like Nazis' crimes.

Council officials said 99 of the MPs present voted in favour of the motion, 42 opposed it and 12 abstained. Communist parties, mainly in western Europe, had reacted fiercely, saying the report deliberately failed to distinguish between the ideals of communism and its application by totalitarian regimes.

The Belgian Communist party, the PCB, called the motion "a violent attack on history, present and future of communism". The Greek KKE called it "a declaration of war and persecution against all communist parties", and Germany's PDS said it was "neo McCarthyism".

Mikis Theodorakis, the Greek composer, said: "In the name of our dead comrades, of those who passed through the hands of the Gestapo and the death camps ... shame on those who want to turn victims into executioners, heroes into criminals and communists into Nazis."

French communists said the motion "banalises the Holocaust" and "ignores the communist role in fighting fascism".

André Guerin, a Lyon MP, told Le Figaro that the council's idea was to "definitively bury the values of communism" and "make believe they are outmoded and that the only alternative is capitalism".

Protests were vigorous in Russia, where a survey found 50% of Russians felt Stalin had played a "positive role" in their history and 42% thought "somebody like him" would be helpful in Russia today.

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