Communist Crimes

Pol Pot is history. So is his alleged crime against humanity. But propaganda about communist crimes refuses to die down despite the fall of Berlin Wall 25 years ago. Soviet Union is dead. There is no possibility of its revival in any form even in the distant future. But the Soviet legacy of inhuman treatment meted out to a large number of people—political opponents, liberals or democrats—is still a major area of academic research in the anti-communist camp. Only communists in this part of the globe don’t find any reason to look back into the history of failure in so many post-revolutionary societies.

American crimes against humanity in Vietnam, in the Middle East, don’t get much currency as if they are as natural as anything else. There is nobody to put them on trial. Their war crimes go unpunished.

Now fresh reports of past atrocities are coming from Eastern Europe where socialism became a dirty word and communism symbolised tyranny.

Twenty five years after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime, Romania for the first time initiated a trial of an individual, accused of crimes committed during the forty years of communist rule. In a packed court room in Bucharest, Alexandru Visinescu, aged 88, faced charges against humanity, for his role as the commander of the notorious Ramnicu Sarat prison for political prisoners. Visinescu as commander of the Sarat prison between 1956 and 1963 had overseen an ‘exterminating regime’, and is accused of torture and having an involvement in the deaths of 12 political prisoners. He has, however, denied the charges. The case is the first to emanate on the vast secret police apparatus, that kept tabs on Romanians for signs of dissidence, throughout the communist era from 1947 to 1989. Life in prisons was harsh. An estimated 617,000 people were locked up as opponents of the state. 120,000 are thought to have died behind bars. The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER), an organisation set up in 2006 by the Romanian government to try to address communist crimes, has submitted a list of 35 individuals and former officials, in July 2013. Four have been charged, with Visinescu the first to reach trial. In 2012, Romania removed the statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, allowing for the prosecution of those, whose crimes went back more than 40 years.

Romanian trial is likely to add fuel to fire across the globe in bashing communists. There is no point to defend the indefensible but communists in India don’t want to see the writing on the wall. Their own record on human rights in a limited way, in two states, for three decades or so, presents a horrific scenario. All this has created a political vacuum in which the far right thrives.

Vol. 47, No. 23, Dec 14 - 20, 2014