The peoples of the world are the victims of capitalism

By David Lethbridge  

At some point, probably later this year, the government – through the Department of Canadian Heritage – will unveil a massive Memorial to the Victims of Communism. This shameful exercise in McCarthyite right-wing fanaticism has been built on land in central Ottawa, adjacent to the national archives.

Taylor Noates, recently reporting in The Maple, states that the memorial was instigated on the private initiative of the virulently anti-communist organization, Tribute to Liberty. Among those to be memorialized on the monument’s walls as “victims” of communism are a number of Nazi collaborators and other fascists, from the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) to those linked to the murderous Croation Ustashe.

On the Tribute to Liberty’s website, one finds such absurdities as the claim that Lenin was “one of the bloodiest mass murderers in history … and a psychopath.”

In fact, far from being a psychopath, Lenin instituted the eight-hour workday, free secular education for all children, a national literacy campaign, the separation of church and state, legislation in favor of economic sexual equality, and universal healthcare; all this while fighting off the remnants of Czarist forces and an invasion by a dozen capitalist powers. Although the Tribute to Liberty’s website claims that Lenin was a dictator, it was his fervent democratic wish that, as he put it: “Every cook must learn to govern the state.”

What is perhaps most glaring is the total hypocrisy of the Canadian government in supporting and adopting this initiative. On Tribute to Liberty’s website there are letters from every mainstream capitalist political party from the Greens and the NDP to the Conservatives and Liberals, all gushing in their fulsome support of the construction of this memorial.

And rank hypocrisy it is. While pointing their blood-stained fingers at communists, the capitalists have conveniently hidden or denied the untold millions that they slaughtered for no purpose other than to increase their profits. This fraudulent memorial, waiting to be unveiled, is just another way to deflect the people’s attention from the capitalists’ own crimes.

There is no room here to list all these many crimes, so a few will have to stand for many.

Belgium created the Congo Free State in central Africa and ruled it for seventy-five years. There are no statues to “the victims of Belgium.” Belgium is considered an exemplary democracy, a center of European humanism.

And yet, the Belgian state enslaved almost every adult man in the Congo, making their lives an endless torture of unspeakable suffering. Congolese men were forced to work on Belgian-run plantations and in their mines. Diamonds, gold, copper, ivory and rubber were extracted using slave labor. If an enslaved man tried to escape, or even failed to meet his rubber quota, his children’s hands would be cut off, or their nose, or their ears. It is estimated that the Belgians killed 10 million Congolese out of a population of 20 million, a full 50 percent.

But there are no monuments to the victims of Belgian capitalist imperialism, just as there are no monuments to the victims of British capitalist imperialism, the numbers of which are vastly greater than those of the Belgians. Every single Tasmanian died in a total genocide of the Indigenous population by the British invaders.

In 1943, the colonial administration of “British India,” under the orders of the white supremacist Winston Churchill, deliberately engineered a famine in Bengal that took the lives of six million Indians. Fearing an invasion from the east by Japanese forces, the British confiscated huge supplies of rice from the Bengal region. The writer Howard Fast, who was in Bengal at the time, saw first-hand an old airplane hanger piled thirty feet high with thousands of pounds of rice, while the people were starving. These and other stores of food were criminally confiscated from the Bengalese and diverted to England, leading to an atrocity of Holocaust proportions in India. Will the Canadian government erect a monument to these dead? No.

In the early 1960s, the US found that Indonesia’s president Sukarno was insufficiently devoted to capitalism and was on friendly terms with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the third largest Communist Party in the world. In 1965, the US, along with the British and the Australians, were determined to remove Sukarno and replace him General Suharto.

Through the CIA and other channels, the US financed, supported and encouraged a genocide of the PKI, trade unionists, atheists and leftist organizations. The US provided Suharto’s murderous death squads with long lists of communists the US wanted killed. Two million were murdered. Another million were imprisoned and tortured. The British and Australians provided propaganda cover. With the mass atrocities conveniently papered over, US businesses flooded into Indonesia, hungry for profits. To this day, significant documents related to the massacre remain inaccessible to the public.

The US never declared war on Laos, a neutral country that posed no threat to the Americans. Indeed, the US embassy in Vientiane – the nation’s capital – never closed. But President Johnson, in 1964, decided to crush the Pathet Lao – the communist insurgency mostly encamped around the Plain of Jars. For a decade between 1964 and 1973, the US flew 580,000 bombing raids over Laos: one planeload of bombs every 8 minutes for 10 years. Over two million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos making it the most heavily bombed country in history.

By the time Laos was liberated by communist forces, 200,000 civilians and soldiers had been killed, amounting to about 10 percent of the population. US bombs that had been dropped but had not immediately exploded continue to detonate when they are accidentally encountered: thousands continue to be killed or crippled. It is estimated that it could take a hundred years to clear the country of American bombs.

Frederich Engels, as early as 1845, understood the inherently murderous nature of capitalism. In his ground-breaking book The Condition of the Working Class in England, he delineated the multiple effects of capitalism on the working class, leading to what he famously termed “social murder.” In the nearly 200 years that have followed, much has changed, but much has stayed the same. Capitalism can only survive through violence; its victims, in one way or another, the whole of humanity.

As long-time Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti said in 1944, “We Communists have been the favorite target of the reactionary forces and, it is well to remember, for those liberals who thought it useful and necessary, every time they opened their mouths, to rage against us, discredit and slander us … this conduct of theirs served no purpose other than of clearly demonstrating what the real affinities were, and with whom.”

When capitalists have the temerity to erect their false monuments and memorials, it is our duty to point out who truly is the victim and who the perpetrator.

[Photo: Victims of Britain’s deliberately engineered famine in Bengal]

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