This is a dog bites man sort of story, but it ties in to a couple of things that really irritate me so here goes…
Prakash Karat, a prominent Communist whose party is currently propping up the Congress-led government at the Centre, was apparently overcome with emotion when unveiling a Vladimir Lenin bust in the Indian capital recently. I don’t precisely know how the topic came up (there was press coverage so presumably a reporter asked him a related question), but Karat wanted the world to know that he wasn’t a fan of US President George W Bush.
‘He (George Bush) is a fool. I have heard that a few days ago he said Lenin, Hitler and Osama Bin Laden were alike,” CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said addressing a function to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Russia’s 1917 October Revolution. ‘The world knows he is weak in the knowledge of history but now it has also been established that George Bush is also a fool,” the Communist leader said after unveiling a bust of Lenin.
Oooh, snap! There’s gonna be a catfight in the UN cafeteria! Not. Take a number Karat, you’re way down the list of haters.
I’m actually a little disappointed in Karat – Bush might be a “fool” but if Karat is the intellectual by default in this equation, then wouldn’t he know what Bush was trying to get at it in his singularly half baked fashion? It’s called Islamofascism, Karat and you should’ve heard about it by now. More and more people have begun to toss it around it confetti, just another piece to join the ton of others that folks use without more than a hazy idea of what it all means.
Part of it, is the unending struggle on the part of certain people (some of whom should seriously know better) to equate Communism with Nazism. This really, really, really bugs me. It just argues a kind of wilful ignorance that gets my goat.
On one end of the spectrum, the dumber one, they’re prone to point out things like the fact that Hitler’s party was named the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Holy Socialist Anvils, Batman! Also, groan. On the opposite end, they’ll invariably relate Stalin with Hitler: labor camps, forced relocation, dead millions, executions et al. And now that China’s rising up and up, there’s even an odd mention of Mao (Bush is said to prefer this one). Pol Pot gets a look-in if he’s lucky.
Many people ( here is a relevant debate) have pointed out that this hogwash. The Nazi regime under Hitler has had its similarities with certain Communist regimes around the world in terms of brutality but ideologically speaking, they’re about as similar as Nazism is to anything else you might compare it to, including Christianity.
Apart from that, the key difference between Nazism and Communism has always been the effect that they’ve had on the world.
Nazism, as an ideology, affected the world at second hand – it’s direct effect was always upon the Germans. And its racial aspect meant that its core beliefs would always be restricted to those who fit a certain physical profile. Communism, however, was far more inclusive because it targeted the one group of humans of which there is never likely to be a shortage – the poor.
Capitalism might have won out in the Cold War but the fact is, the 20th century was shaped by Nazism and Communism and our reaction to them – Nazism because it lay at the heart of a devastating war, the likes of which was never supposed to take place after the world had taken stock of the horror that was the First World War; and Communism which promised equality and justice for those who’d never achieved it.
There’s a whole debate lying in wait here but to get back on track: Lenin. His early death has brought about two reactions – in one, he’s given a big pass on whatever happened in the USSR post-revolution and the blame is gracefully handed over to Stalin who was most definitely a monster; in another, he becomes the man who might have made Stalin look like an amateur if only he’d lived.
In either case, he’s dead so we’ll never know. It is definitely true that Stalin built on what Lenin had created but it is also true that, from his writings at least, he sounds very different from Stalin. So make of that what you will.
So much for historical context. Now comes the Islamist angle into this. While people have been talking about Islamofascism for years (various sources here although you want to pay the bylines some attention before drinking it all in), ever since 9/11 the Nazi-Muslim angle, dating back to the 1930s, has been played up by a number of people including that old warhorse, Christopher Hitchens.
Take this all together and put it through a shaker and you get Bush’s quote:
“Underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake,” he said as he quoted extensively from Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda figures. He said the world had ignored the writings of Lenin and Hitler “and paid a terrible price” – adding the world must not to do the same with al-Qaeda. …”Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them,” he said.
Simplistic and silly? Yes. But not more so than Karat running around blowing hot and cold on the US-India nuclear deal. Karl Marx once looked around him and is reported to have said, “I am not a Marxist”. A wonderful quote, apocryphal or not, that simultaneously shows you the restrictions that ideology can put on one and that it is possible to put those shackles aside.
If Karat & Co. don’t want the nuclear deal to go through, then that’s fine. They’re entitled to their opinion and democracy means the rest of us have to pay attention. But then they need to come up with an alternative. India needs more power and fossil fuels aren’t going to cut it in the long run. And the very workers that the communists talk about supporting are going to be affected.
So how about an alternate plan? I’m waiting.