- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

END OF COMMUNISM?

As a young man in the heady autumn of 1989, Czech Ambassador Petr Kolar took to the streets with tens of thousands of other protesters to push for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Today he worries about a resurgence of the totalitarian movement that crushed the dreams of freedom for generations of Europeans under the domination of the Soviet Union.

“The end of communism does not mean the end of the aspirations of communism to come back. There are still very high risks,” Mr. Kolar said Wednesday at a Heritage Foundation forum on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Mr. Kolar warned that some leftist politicians are attempting to take advantage of the disappointment among Czechs who failed to reap economic benefits from capitalism.

He said communism fell because of “hypocrisy, corruption and corrosion” within the system and because of its failure to fulfill promises of creating a utopian society. Communists promised bread, but Czechs got bread lines.

The democratic revolutions of 1989 began in Poland, where the Solidarity trade union created the first non-communist government in a Warsaw Pact nation after years of underground agitation. Reform spread to Hungary, which elected a democratic parliament in October, and to the former Czechoslovakia, where massive demonstrations led to the collapse of the Communist Party in November.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of East Germans began fleeing through Hungary and Czechoslovakia and the Berlin Wall was breached on Nov. 9. The Soviet Union collapsed two years later.

Estonian Ambassador Vaino Reinart, who also spoke at the Heritage forum, said, “There was no wall in the heart of the people. If there was a wall, it was the Kremlin wall.”

“In Estonia, there is no sympathy for communist ideology,” he added.

Mr. Reinart shared Mr. Kolar’s anxiety about a possible resurgence of communism in the future.

“The disintegration of the Soviet Union does not guarantee that history will not try to repeat itself,” he said.

German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth gave credit to President George H.W. Bush for helping to defeat communism, noting that he is a “hero” in Germany.

“Bush saw the opportunity, and he acted on it,” Mr. Scharioth said.

Along with Mr. Bush, speakers at the forum recalled other Cold War heroes such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, Czech writer Vaclav Havel, Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and Pope John Paul II.

Mrs. Thatcher sent a letter to the forum, saying that “communism’s greatest foes were its own captive nations.”

Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, denounced the “dark tyranny” and called communism “the most deadly ideology in the history of man.”

He cited 100 million victims of communist regimes around the world and noted that communism is still the dominate political force in China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.

“Communism is not dead,” he said. “It is very much alive.”

Richard Pipes, a Polish emigrant and Soviet specialist who served on President Reagan’s National Security Council, had some advice for President Obama, urging him “not to tolerate Russian bullying of its neighbors.”

He appealed for Mr. Obama to show strength in foreign policy, saying that dictatorships are defeated “not by kind words and appeasement but with strong action.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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