Spartacist Canada No. 188
Monument to Anti-Communism:
Ottawa Celebrates War Criminals, Fascists
Since 2008, a coterie of mostly East European-derived far-right nationalists calling itself Tribute to Liberty has sought to build a memorial in Ottawa to the supposed 100 million “victims of Communism” in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. The former Conservative government embraced the project as its own, lavishing at least $1.5 million on it and promising more. The recently elected Liberals were quick to assert that, despite some haggling over cost and site, it would go ahead. The NDP social democrats, for whom anti-Communism has long been an article of faith, likewise threw their support to the proposed monument.
In reality, this is a monument not only to virulent anti-Communism, but to the Canadian bourgeoisie’s fear and loathing of the struggles of workers and the oppressed. A real tribute to liberty would be a memorial to the 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians who perished in the fight against Nazi Germany in World War II. It was the Soviet Red Army that smashed Hitler’s military juggernaut, ended the fascists’ demented Thousand Year Reich and liberated the Nazi death camps throughout East Europe. The Canadian ruling class and the nest of counterrevolutionaries that is pushing for this monument seek to bury that history in a morass of falsehood and slander.
But, you might ask, why a memorial now? Communism supposedly died with the destruction of the Soviet Union 25 years ago, according to the bourgeoisie’s mouthpieces. The answer is simple: to this day, the capitalist rulers want to expunge and extirpate any memory of workers struggles against the system of private property, especially those struggles which were victorious. Workers are supposed to accept that the only possible world is that of present-day capitalist society with its brutal exploitation and unemployment, racism and poverty, war and the menace of fascism. Above all, the bourgeoisie wants to erase all memory of the historic significance and the gains of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
The Revolution gave flesh and blood reality to the program laid out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Communist Manifesto 70 years earlier. It was the singular event of the 20th century, and echoes today, almost 100 years later. This was the first time in history that the working class took and held state power. The establishment of the Soviet workers state, combined with the program of international proletarian revolution that animated the Bolsheviks, offered the prospect of development toward a socialist society of genuine equality and abundance for all.
However, the defeat of revolutionary opportunities, most importantly in Germany, left the Soviet Union isolated. Amid conditions of material scarcity exacerbated by imperialist invasion and civil war, a conservative bureaucratic caste centred on Joseph Stalin usurped political power from the Soviet working class starting in 1923-24. The Stalinist bureaucracy renounced the struggle for international workers revolution in the name of “building socialism in one country” and seeking “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism.
The gains won by the 1917 Revolution were endangered by Stalinist rule and were ultimately overthrown through capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92, a catastrophic defeat for the working class worldwide. Nonetheless, the Soviet Union’s military might—victorious in World War II even under bureaucratic Stalinist rule—was a testament to the power of the planned, collectivized economy that catapulted Russia, a backward peasant country, into becoming a modern industrial and military powerhouse.
Big Lies and Dirty Truths
They really should call it the “Joseph Goebbels Monument to Anti-Communism,” because the Tribute gang gets its “facts” from The Black Book of Communism, a concoction produced by a gaggle of anti-Communist “historians” that was first published in France in 1997. Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, honed the art of the Big Lie: lie repetitively, the bigger the better, and people will come to believe it. We denounced this tract at the time as “846 pages of lies and amalgams aimed at justifying repression against organizations and individuals who might still look to communism, and at contributing to counterrevolutionary efforts to destroy the Cuban, Chinese, Vietnamese and North Korean deformed workers states” (“Black Book: Anti-Communist Big Lie,” Workers Vanguard No. 692, 5 June 1998).
Like the Black Book authors, the monument’s supporters lump together communism and fascism as evil twins. This is both lie and cover-up: initially, Hitler’s Nazi regime was not only tolerated but admired by key sections of the English and American ruling classes. Members of the royal family in Britain and American luminaries such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh had open pro-Nazi sympathies. Another admirer of Hitler was Liberal prime minister Mackenzie King, who slammed the door on desperate Jews trying to flee Nazi terror. Less than 5,000 were allowed into Canada, the fewest among the imperialist “democracies.”
As long as Hitler stuck to smashing German trade unions and killing Communists and Jews, neither Washington nor London said boo. The Germans only got into trouble when Nazi territorial ambitions clashed with those of other powers, including the rising American and declining British imperialist bourgeoisies.
This history underscores that World War II was no “war for democracy” but, at bottom, an interimperialist conflict for global political and economic domination (as was World War I). While sharply opposing all the imperialist combatants, Trotskyists stood for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union which, despite its Stalinist degeneration, remained a workers state where capitalist and landlord exploitation had been overthrown.
After the war, Canada’s attitude toward Jewish refugees was summed up by a government official as “None is too many.” No such restrictions were applied to Nazi and other war criminals from East Europe. Even a 1986 report by the government’s Deschênes Commission, censored and whitewashed as it was, had to admit that many hundreds of Nazi war criminals were welcomed to Canada in the decade after the war (for details, see “Canada Protects Nazi Butchers,” SC No. 68, June 1987).
The reason? This was the period of the anti-Soviet Cold War, and these blood-drenched killers were embraced by the Canadian rulers as “freedom fighters” in the drive to destroy the Soviet Union. Ukrainian-Jewish historian Alti Rodal, author of a secret 560-page report to the Deschênes Commission, revealed how RCMP officers destroyed records to ease the immigration of Nazis and their East European henchmen. “After 1955 and the Cold War paranoia, the entire purpose of immigration screening seems to have been to keep out Communists,” she said. “If you could prove you were a Nazi, you had proved you were not a threat” (Globe and Mail, 18 March 1987).
Among those spirited into Canada were some 2,000 hard-core Ukrainian fascists. Some were members of the German-organized and commanded 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (Galician), which was renamed the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army following the Nazis’ surrender in May 1945. Others were supporters of Stepan Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), whose armed wing was the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). It was of no concern to the Canadian ruling class that many of these people had committed heinous crimes.
Bandera’s OUN conducted anti-Jewish pogroms in whatever part of Ukraine it had active forces. The author of the OUN’s military doctrine in the late 1930s had announced: “The more Jews killed during the uprising, the better for the Ukrainian state.” In 1943-44, the OUN carried out ethnic cleansing in Volyn and eastern Galicia, slaughtering between 70,000 and 100,000 ethnic Polish civilians, along with the few Jews who had escaped the Germans. As for the Galician Waffen-SS, they were among the most fanatical fascists who swore a military oath of allegiance to Hitler upon enlistment, seeking to destroy “Jew-Bolshevism.” Beginning as Hitler’s personal bodyguard, the SS greatly expanded under Heinrich Himmler to carry out industrial-scale mass murder of Jews, communists and others deemed sub-human by the Nazis. On the Eastern front it was the SS Einsatzkommando units who butchered those civilians who had not been ensnared in the net of the extermination camps.
Waffen-SS as a Tribute to Liberty?
To this day, fascist collaborators of the German Nazis such as the OUN, the UPA and the Galician Waffen-SS are considered heroes by groups like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). And this brings us to Tribute to Liberty. Who are they?
Behind a veneer of respectability, Tribute to Liberty is a counterrevolutionary rabble. Its spokesmen are, in the main, the offspring of immigrants from the parts of East Europe where capitalism was overturned after the local bourgeoisies fled behind the defeated Nazis. One of its donors is the Canadian Slovak League (CSL). In “Memory Politics: Ottawa’s Monument to the Victims of Communism,” historian Gregor Kranjc cites RCMP reports during WWII which stated that the CSL supported the “policies of an independent Slovakia under Hitler.” Kranjc adds that “as late as the 1990s, the Canadian Slovak League’s Toronto chapter commemorated the death of Father Tiso, the leader of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia who oversaw the deportation of tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to the death camps” (activehistory.ca, 17 March 2015).
One of the Tribute notables is Paul Grod, a lawyer and business executive. Grod is the president of the UCC, which in turn is affiliated with the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). True to its roots, the UWC’s webpage blares out, “Glory to Ukraine!–Glory to Heroes!” This is part of the salute of the fascist Banderaite UPA described above. Grod is also an honourary member of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA), which was set up explicitly to oppose the Deschênes Commission’s feeble efforts to track down Nazi war criminals.
As UCC president, Grod’s 2010 Remembrance Day message paid tribute to the Ukrainian National Army (aka the Galician Waffen-SS), the OUN and the UPA in his list of Ukrainian heroes to be saluted. The UCC and UCCLA glorify these fascists because they fought against the Red Army. The mass murders of Jews and Poles carried out by the OUN and Galician SS are either denied or relabelled: savagery against Jews is morphed into “respectable” anti-Communism as Jews were deemed to be Reds, hence agents of Stalin’s secret police, and thus fit only for extermination.
Multiculturalism and Anti-Communism
The postwar embrace of Waffen-SS butchers is testimony to the fact that no mass murderer or war criminal is too filthy for the anti-Communist purposes of the Canadian ruling class. Indeed, having saved these Ukrainian fascist scum and their supporters from the just wrath of those who stopped their genocidal drive, successive Canadian governments nurtured them with material support and respectability.
The cover for this has been the policy of multiculturalism. Promoted heavily by the Liberal Party as an expression of tolerance for all cultures (which is why many right wingers hate it), this policy has nothing to do with championing the rights of immigrants and minorities. Rather, it was designed to encourage the “voluntary” cultural and racial segregation of the population while elevating petty-bourgeois “community leaders.” Nationalist leaders in the Ukrainian diaspora quickly grasped the program’s potential and became among its most ardent supporters.
Swedish-American historian Per Anders Rudling has usefully exposed how official multiculturalism helped advance the fortunes of anti-Jewish ideologues and rabid Ukrainian reactionaries:
“Following the introduction of official multiculturalism in 1971, Canadian government agencies actively aided the development of Ukrainian nationalist myth making. They sponsored the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, funded the construction of nationalist memorials, and supported the ultra-nationalist press.”
—“Memories of ‘Holodomor’ and National Socialism in Ukrainian Political Culture,” Rekonstruktion des Nationalmythos?, 2013
The University of Alberta in Edmonton, for example, has had a Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) since 1976. On its board was one Petro Savaryn, a volunteer in the Galician Waffen-SS who made no secret of his past, nor his pride in it. The Canadian ruling class seamlessly integrated such scum into its ranks: Savaryn was a vice-president of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and from 1982-86 the chancellor of the University of Alberta. The CIUS administers bequests from veterans of the Waffen-SS, including from one Volodymr Kubijovyc, who was an initiator of this Nazi outfit. As recently as 2011 and 2014, this university institute issued four more endowments honouring these butchers! In the hands of Canada’s rulers, multiculturalism is more akin to the careful collection and preservation of pure cultures of pathogenic bacilli done by an imperialist germ warfare lab. What is prized is the most toxic.
This is not just ancient history: the February 2014 “revolution” in Ukraine was in fact a coup, heavily backed by U.S. imperialism and leaders of the European Union. Its stormtroopers (rather literally) were outright fascists, organized mostly from two parties, Svoboda and Right Sector; both were represented in the new Ukrainian government and its military formations.
At the time of the coup, Svoboda’s leader Oleg Tyagnibok claimed that a “Moscow-Jewish mafia” controlled Ukraine. Svoboda was originally called the Social-National Party of Ukraine, an obvious reference to the German Nazi (National Socialist) party. As for Right Sector, it considers Svoboda too liberal (!) and one of its components prefers uniforms styled after Hitler’s SS. The leader of its Western Ukraine section, Aleksandr Muzychko, pledged shortly before his murder to fight against “Jews, communists and Russian scum until I die.” (For more detail, see “Ukraine Coup: Spearheaded by Fascists, Backed by U.S./EU Imperialists,” Workers Vanguard No. 1041, 7 March 2014.)
From its origins in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the NDP has stood at the forefront of anti-Communist hysteria. In the 1940s and ’50s, the CCF played a crucial role in driving Reds out of the unions. More recently, the New Democrats were as rabid as Harper’s Conservatives on the question of political and material support for the new Ukrainian government and even more hawkish toward Russia. At a November 2014 celebration of the Kiev protests in Toronto, former NDP MP Peggy Nash sounded like a Banderaite revanchist: “One, it is important to stand firm against Putin and the foreign aggression of Ukraine, and we cannot ever accept the loss of Crimea or the loss of the territories in the east. We have to stand firm in solidarity with Ukraine!” (newpathway.ca, 11 December 2014). This must have been welcome news for the most anticipated speaker that night—Valeriy Chobotar, a commander of Right Sector forces in Donetsk!
Acting on behalf of the regime in Kiev and its imperialist sponsors including Canada, Right Sector and other fascist militias are waging a bloody war against insurgents in the predominantly Russian-speaking eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. As Leninist internationalists, we denounced the imperialist hysteria over the obvious desire of the Crimean population to quit Ukraine and join Russia, declaring “Crimea is Russian!” We defend the right to self-rule for Donetsk and Luhansk, up to and including independence and/or amalgamation into Russia. This in no way implies political support to Russia’s capitalist strongman Vladimir Putin, or to Russia’s chauvinist ambitions.
What We Should Remember
Somehow we doubt that the Ottawa monument will record the Jews who perished when Canada said “None is too many.” Nor will you see any commemoration of the thousands of Ukrainian Communists who died in the fighting to establish the Soviet Ukraine after 1917, and later to defend it from the Nazi invaders. In fact, it was the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky which, in leading revolutionary struggle against the Russian tsarist autocracy, championed the right of the oppressed Ukrainian people to self-determination. After the Revolution, it was Lenin who insisted on the right of working people to study the Ukrainian language and speak it in all Soviet institutions. Not all Ukrainians adore the fascist ilk of the Banderaites, and many are horrified (along with their ethnic Russian neighbours in East Ukraine) at the gang of far-right nationalists now ruling in Kiev.
“Communism is the doctrine of the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat”: Engels’ declaration, made more than 150 years ago, retains all its power today. In fact, communism is a society as yet unachieved on this planet, one where all the world’s productive resources have become collective property, where material abundance exists for all persons and where class and national divisions have disappeared.
The struggle for a communist future remains the only way forward for working people in Canada as elsewhere. The barbarous capitalist profit system is rooted in brutal exploitation of the working class, oppression of minorities, vicious racism and war. The 1917 October Revolution showed the way to an egalitarian future for mankind, but Stalin and his successors betrayed this struggle. The first victims of his repression were the Trotskyists who fought to continue on the internationalist road of October, including Trotsky himself, who was killed by a Stalinist assassin in Mexico in 1940. To the end, Trotsky stood for the military defense of the Soviet Union, despite Stalin’s betrayals, recognizing its huge accomplishments thanks to the overthrow of capitalist rule. Today, we Trotskyists of the International Communist League dedicate all our resources to the fight for new October Revolutions through the reforging of a world party of socialist revolution, the Fourth International.
The Canadian rulers seem intent on building this monument to a Big Lie. But note that a victorious workers revolution in Canada will have a few historical tributes of its own, honouring heroic fighters against capitalism and oppression. As a modest start, what about taking the visage of the racist bigot and first prime minister John A. Macdonald off the $10 bill and renaming every Macdonald Street in Canada? Instead, the workers could honour the man he executed, Métis leader Louis Riel. And among those to whom the workers will pay tribute are those who have struggled for the overthrow of imperialism and capitalist rule throughout the world, starting with the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution.