Picture the scene. Skinheads march through Trafalgar Square wearing SS uniforms and holding aloft portraits of the Fuhrer. They bring along a few right-wing Members of parliament who deliver comradely speeches and swear, arms raised in a sieg heil, to stay faithful to the party and the ‘race’.
Thankfully, there would be universal outrage at such a spectacle. Having gone through the bloody 20th century to reach a point where even a nod towards fascism is political and social suicide, we don’t need a debate on the nature of Hitlerism nor to ‘put it into context’, as the effete academics like to say. The stench around racial theory and Nazism is visceral; we have been educated politically to smell it, and only the diseased individual ever comes close to apologising for or promoting Nazi-generated race murder.
But a great deal of the ocean of blood that was spilled during the last century wasn’t spilled in the name of fascism at all, but rather in the name of an ideology which, although its followers will never admit it, bears a striking resemblance to the creed of the far-right. Indeed, in terms of the sheer numbers of people killed, communism in its Stalinist guise ‘wins’ hands down. Hitler murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust. Joseph Stalin murdered 20 million during his time as leader of the Soviet Union. Type ‘Stalin’ and ’20 million’ into Google and you get 184,000 links. The likely number killed is actually far higher. As the great historian of Stalinism Robert Conquest has put it, the figure of 20 million “is almost certainly too low and might require an increase of 50 percent or so…”.
So how would you expect a civilised person to react to anyone who attempted to downplay the crimes of Stalinism or – worse – gloried in the men who headed it and instigated its worst atrocities? At the very least you’d expect them to notice.
Well the thing is we don’t need to speculate; portraits of Stalin (20 million) and Mao (45 million) were held aloft and paraded through Trafalgar Square yesterday and no one batted an eyelid. Not that I expect members of the pubic, who are undoubtedly used to all manner of crackpot waddling through the capital’s streets, to take much notice. But you would at least want to hear a small yelp from the liberal commentariat, especially when at least one ‘radical’ MP had himself pictured with a banner featuring both Stalin and Mao (combined total 65 million). If a handful of thugs had turned out to pay homage to Hitler they would have been arrested. Hundreds have just marched for Stalin and…nothing. Why the double standard?
Totalitarianism isn’t a left/right phenomenon; it’s the logical outcome of an urge to reshape humanity like a lump of clay. Because human beings are not infinitely malleable, ideologues invariably kill those they are experimenting on – sooner that than admit they might be wrong. I say this as a person of the Left, but it’s clear to me that the Right has evidently got to grips with its totalitarian past in a way that the Left has failed to. No conservative politician would dream of sharing a platform with the inheritors of the Nazi mantle, so why are those leftists who prostrate themselves before giant portraits of Stalin not also shunned like lepers, especially when they occupy seats in the British Parliament? Why, oh why, the double standard?
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.