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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Commemorating Memorial Day with an error

By: dr. Matevž Tomšič

This year’s European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of All Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes was also marked by Golob’s government with a press release. It is important to note that this day was declared by the European Parliament in 2009 through a resolution with the support of all major political groups in the entire European Union. The date for this day was not chosen randomly: on August 23rd, 1939, the Hitler-Stalin Pact was signed, which divided Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union. This resolution stands as one of the most significant symbolic condemnations of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, which were some of the bloodiest and most oppressive systems of the 20th century.

Optimists can see the fact that the current government even acknowledged this memorial day as something positive. It could be seen as a sign of realisation that crimes should be condemned regardless of the perpetrators and that paying respects to their victims is necessary. In their statement, the government stated: “Let us condemn all crimes against humanity and express our sympathy for the victims’ families.”

However, it might be too early to celebrate. Following this condemnation of all crimes, there was an addition: “The Slovenian nation, in particular, suffered from fascism and Nazism.” There was no mention of communism! Moreover, nowhere in the government’s statement do the writers provide a justification for why the first two caused so much more suffering than the last.

It is evident that the word communism is difficult for those in power to utter when it comes to condemning its crimes. There is no reason to treat communism any more leniently than the other two oppressive regimes. All three shared a monistic nature of power where one group (the Party) held complete political monopoly based on the officially mandated ideology, leaving no room for political pluralism. They all systematically restricted freedom and executed terror against anyone who did not conform to the dogmas of the ruling ideology and dared to oppose the authorities. Violence and ideological indoctrination were integral components of these regimes. While it is true that communist regimes differed among themselves, and the degree of their harshness varied even within individual countries, the same applies to fascist regimes. Fascist regimes, for example, allowed a certain degree of economic freedom since they still relied on private property, whereas in communism, the majority of companies were state-owned, resulting in politically controlled economies.

Slovenians have experienced all three major undemocratic systems of the 20th century. It is impossible to claim that communism caused less suffering. In fact, one could argue that among these dictatorships, communism had the most negative impact on the development of Slovenian society because it endured significantly longer. Most Slovenian regions only experienced fascism and Nazism for a few years (with the exception of areas that remained under Italian control following the Rapallo Treaty after World War I). In contrast, communist rule lasted for nearly half a century. Even though the regime became relatively “soft” towards the end, it maintained the characteristics of a one-party dictatorship throughout its existence. Several generations of Slovenians spent a significant part of their lives in conditions with limited freedom. Furthermore, unlike fascism and Nazism, communism has not faced systematic condemnation. On the contrary, some segments of politics and the public still openly sympathise with it, particularly those in power. This is evident in actions like the abolishment of the national day of remembrance for the victims of communism or the cultural minister’s participation in events commemorating the founding of the Slovenian Communist Party. Consequently, the current ruling team finds it difficult to unequivocally distance itself from communism, let alone acknowledge its anti-civilisational nature.


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