HC Deb 03 April 1996 vol 275 cc421-3 5.34 pm
Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require Her Majesty's Government to establish a permanent memorial to the victims of Communism; and to promote appropriate methods of honouring their memory.

Outside the infamous Lubyanka building in Moscow, tucked away on the edge of what was until recently known as Dzerzhinsky square, is a small memorial to the victims of Stalin's labour camps. To my knowledge, it is their only memorial and it lies on the cold earth like an unvisited gravestone in an untended cemetery.

Political executions, deliberate politically determined famine and the appalling conditions of the labour camps killed millions of people in the Soviet Union. One Russian historian, Roy Medvedev, says that 12 million people were executed. Another, Dmitri Volkogonov, says that 22 million were either executed or died in the camps. Robert Conquest, quoting Soviet statistical work, says that 8 million people died in the famine of the 1930s, which was caused by the brutal policy of forced collectivisation. Stalin said: One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic. Those are Soviet statistics. How many millions died in the cultural revolution in China? What of Korea, Albania and Romania?

Few people have been brought to trial for the crimes against humanity committed by communist regimes throughout the world against their own people. In those countries lucky enough to have thrown off the shackles of Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and other forms of Marxism, there has been no effective process of decommunisation in the way that Germany was denazified at the end of the second world war. By ignoring the past, we learn nothing from it and are probably condemned to repeat it.

Communism is stronger now than at any time since the fall of the Berlin wall. Chinese destroyers fire missiles at targets in the straits of Taiwan and threaten a democratic republic as free elections are held. In Russia, the Communist party, resurgent and unrepentant, is mounting its challenge to President Yeltsin with reawakened vigour. North Korea looks menacingly over its border to the south. Communism is not dead; it continues to present a greater threat than any other ideological system to the traditional freedoms of western civilisation. Its historical record shows it to have been more destructive and brutal than even the Nazi tyranny, yet its crimes are forgotten and the threat of its re-emergence is ignored.

It is 50 years since Winston Churchill made his famous speech to the students of Westminster college at Fulton, Missouri, in which he warned that an iron curtain had descended across the continent of Europe. The fact that that curtain has been lifted is due in no small part to Britain's resolute opposition throughout the cold war to communism and everything that it symbolised. Our victory in the cold war, the break-up of the Soviet Union and re-emergence of the nation states of eastern Europe as independent democracies was a triumph of which Great Britain can be proud. It was achieved by our determination to remain strong and unyielding in the face of evil, despite all the protestations of left-wingers, so-called peace campaigners and fellow travellers.

History will remember the west's victory in the cold war as the greatest achievement of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. That victory should be celebrated along with the other proud moments in our history when Britain fought off tyranny and championed the cause of freedom, but it should be celebrated in a different way, because the enemy has not been finally vanquished. Totalitarian ideologies such as communism or fascism cannot be entirely destroyed once they have begun to seep into the well-springs of human consciousness. They continue to hold their poisonous allure and, at times of crisis, the vulnerable, the weak and the desperate are drawn to them. That is why we must remember the past and commemorate those who suffered or were sacrificed. My Bill seeks to provide for a permanent memorial to the victims of communism.

It is right that there should be such a memorial in this country. British troops fought to prevent the consolidation of the Bolshevik regime during the Russian civil war. They fought for freedom against communism in Korea and during the Malayan emergency. Britain was at the centre of resistance to communism during the cold war.

There is another reason, however. Britain became a refuge to hundreds of thousands of people who fled from communist regimes, so we should have some permanent memorial. Thousands of Chinese, Hungarians, Poles, Ukrainians, Baits and Czechs came to Britain because they were driven out of their own homes and countries. The freedoms that they had known ceased to exist and they fled to this country to make new homes in towns such as Leeds, Bradford and Manchester. They found a refuge here from the political system that had destroyed their families, friends and nations, but they have no memorial, no garden of remembrance, no cenotaph and no public recognition. There is no church service for them; no civic reception; no two minutes' silence. It is time that Britain gave them a permanent memorial to everything they lost and everything we have to cherish by the preservation of our freedom.

I do not intend to suggest what the memorial might be—perhaps a simple sculpture in a public park or a much grander project, such as a museum or an archive which could preserve the experience of those who died, fought or suffered. It might also record those who sought to explain, apologise or collaborate—those many prominent leftists and other fellow travellers who, by design, wickedness or naivety were prepared to see their country go the way of Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

My Bill would also require the Government to promote other appropriate methods of honouring the victims of communism. There could be no more appropriate method than for them to ensure that the truth about communism, about those who suffered and still suffer under it, about those who excused it and about those who heroically resisted it is taught in our schools. The left-wing political correctness that has progressively crept into some of our schools, driving British heroes such as Nelson, Wellington or Churchill into the margins of history text books, should be replaced by history lessons that teach the lessons of history.

The history of communism in the 20th century is a history of bloodshed, suffering, misery and evil. We must ensure that that dark period of human history is never forgotten. A memorial to the victims of communism would help us lest we ever forget.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Harold Elletson, Mr. Jonathan Aitken, Mr. Peter Ainsworth, Mr. Nigel Evans, Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Mr. Henry Bellingham, Mr. Michael Fabricant, Mr. Matthew Banks, Mr. John Sykes, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Mr. Bernard Jenkin and Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva.