Why is banning communism symbols so hard to achieve as opposed to banning of Nazi symbols?

  • NOTE: to narrow down the question, I will make the following narrowing:

    • Nazi symbols: salute and the swastika used in clear connection to Nazi (i.e. not this one)

    • Communist symbols: hammer and sickle on red background clearly associated with totalitarian communist regimes

    According to this article, several countries made efforts towards banning communist symbols:

    • Indonesia - "Communism alongside Marxism-Leninism are officially banned in Indonesia"
    • US - "many states passed laws forbidding the display of red flags [...] United States Supreme Court held that such laws are unconstitutional.
    • Moldova - "the law came into an effect in 2012. The Constitutional Court of Moldova found it unconstitutional"
    • Ukraine - "the corresponding law was introduced in 2015"
    • Estonia - "government signed the draft law to ban politically motivated display of Soviet and Nazi symbols in public place [...] it eventually failed the parliamentary committee on the grounds of the freedom of speech"
    • Lithuania - "banned Soviet and Nazi symbols in 2008"
    • Latvia - "Parliament has approved the ban of the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols at all public events"
    • Albania, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovakia - "general bans on totalitarian ideology and its symbols"
    • Poland - ban "fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbols" unless used " as part of artistic, educational, collecting or academic activity.". Constitutional Tribunal of Poland found this ban unconstitutional due to the violation of freedom of expression.
    • EU - "In December 2013, a group of MEPs including Landsbergis addressed a letter to the President of the European Parliament, in which they requested a ban of symbols of totalitarian regimes."

    According to this article, Nazi salute is not legal (or severely limited) in several European countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Sweden.

    Regarding Nazi flags, this Wikipedia article states:

    in several European countries the display of flags associated with the Nazi regime (see: Nazi flags) is subject to restriction or an outright ban.

    Other arguments for the association between communism symbols and criminal acts:

    1. Declaration on Crimes of Communism (source)

    The Declaration on Crimes of Communism is a declaration signed on 25 February 2010 by several prominent European politicians, former political prisoners, human rights advocates and historians, which calls for the condemnation of communism.

    1. Council of Europe resolution 1481 (source)

    In the resolution 1481/2006 of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) issued on January 25, 2006 during its winter session, the Council of Europe "strongly condemns crimes of totalitarian communist regimes".

    1. Condemning the Communist Regime in Romania (1945-1989) as Illegitimate and Criminal (unofficial report) - this report comes in response to the appeal by the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, that the communist regime in Romania should be condemned on the basis of a report elaborated by a scientifically validated commission.

    2. Death toll - according to this source many people died under communist ruling in many countries: Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cambodia, Africa, Afghanistan, Vietnam and many others

    Question: Given above arguments why banning of communist symbols seem to be harder to obtain than banning of Nazi symbols?

    There is quite a lot wrong with this question, least of all it is comparing apples and oranges, both in comparing Naziism and communism and in comparing laws in various countries. And it also severely misrepresents and vilifies communism. Why no discussion about capitalist symbols? Capitalism is also associated with plenty of totalitarian regimes and many horrible atrocities. And finally, it cites quite a lot of evidence that contradicts its own premise! "Why is it so hard to ban communist symbols? Here's a long list of bans of communist symbols." WHAT

    Most European countries have big leftist (e.g. socialist, social democratic) parties; many have sizable communist parties. They are very different from the Leninist-Stalinists, but they too are successors of the legacy of Marx and Marxist thinkers like Bernstein and Kautsky, so I'm pretty sure parties like PCF, Die Linke, Syriza, and PCE - or even mainstream leftist parties like PS (France), SPD, PD (Italy), and Labour - will be really welcoming about banning communist symbols and denouncing communism. Should we also shut down Marx House, since he's the source of all evil?

    @JDoe It's true that capitalism is _associated_ with totalitarian regimes, but the association isn't nearly as clear cut. Most capitalist countries are stable and function exceedingly well. Indeed, capitalism is the reason that we are able to post on this website! Conversely, communism is _invariably_ associated with totalitarianism.

    @blip "'Communism' is a much fuzzier concept and therefore not as easy of a target." Seriously? Lenin and the Red Terror, Stalin's purges, Mao's Great Leap Forward, Kim Jon-Un's North Korea, Castro having political prisoners murdered. Communism is directly responsible for millions of deaths at the hands of various dictators. The list goes on.

    @andy they were terrible people that happened to run regimes called "communism" but they were also all very different and not the only governments that fit into the term. Nazism is very specific.

    @blip No, those governments are the inevitable result of communism as an ideology. Nazism is a specific form of fascism, just as Stalin's USSR was a specific form of communism.

    @andy they are a common result of a flawed interpretation of communist ideoloy.

    @blip Communism itself an inherently flawed ideology; the only way it can come to be is brutal suppression of people's rights, which is why that's all we have ever seen. I'd say communist governments to date have been spot on. You don't even need to believe me, go reread Karl Marx's own words. The result of his philosophy is that anything society wants is fine, and if some individuals need to be crushed to accomplish whatever goal, that's fine.

    @Alexei I understand that several movements that identified itself with the political philosophy Communism were actually authoritarian (the irony) but in many countries these were actually beneficial for society. Countries like France, Italy, Portugal, Spain or Greece have "Communist" Parties with representation in the EU parliament. As far as I know most embrace democratic ideals and many are progressive. The BE in Portugal has advocated (with success) same-sex marriage, same-sex co-adoption, abortion, drug decriminalization, etc. Many may not like them but they are certainly no threat.

    @armatita - do any of them use symbols like hammer and sickle? (which are easily associated with authoritarian regimes). I am referring to these symbols only, not communist symbols in general.

    @Alexei Yes. That includes the communist parties of Greece, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, etc. And that was my point. What you see as a symbol for authoritarian regimes, in other places it's just associated with proletariat movements (nowadays usually political parties and syndicates). There's a very different history path for Eastern and Western Left movements. In one you had Socialist and Social Democratic Parties, in another you had totalitarian socialist states. In one banning that symbol means opposing dictatorship, in another it would be repressing democratic movements.

    @armatita - ok, so my question makes sense only for Eastern movements. That's a very interesting perspective and I think it can lead to a good answer.

    I think the answer to the question is actually very simple. If you forbid communist symbols, you forbid de facto the flags of China and Angola. Except if your country wants to be in a huge diplomatic mess with China and Angola, it is wiser not to forbid them.

    Where? Both are hard to ban in many places.

    @ohwilleke - the accepted answer is general enough to virtually cover all countries. But since you asked, I mostly interested in the Eastern European countries.

    The premise of your question doesn't seem to be true namely that it is "harder" to ban communist symbols than Nazi ones. You didn't seem to list any countries that tried to ban both symbols but only came away with a ban on one. You list several countries that banned both or banned neither. Perhaps the question should be why do more countries ban Nazi symbols than Communist symbols.

    No-no, @DeanMacGregor, purpose of the question is not to reveal its visible meaning, but to put a virtual "=" sign between both means. In the west(and especially between *politics* of the eastern europe and US neocons), it is wide point of view, some post-shadow of the cold war. During the cold war, west puts this sign, and treated communism as the most possible evil - that is understandable. But why now? Because new cold war is in progress). Just imagine: WW2 totals. As a western politic, claim such "=" between this, you may start a process of reviewing of WW2 winners/loosers.

    Nazism's main, terrible, point is murdering Jews. Communism as an idea doesn't involve anything of the sort; in practice, however, Communist countries have killed a lot of people. **There's still a HUGE difference.**

  • Nazis are a specific group of people who have committed atrocities in Europe. It is directly linked with the idea of Racial Superiority and Antisemitism.

    We can agree that Nazism is morally bad. One who subscribes to being a Nazi is suggesting that the holocaust was justified.

    Communism is a political and economical theory. It describes a supposedly idealistic society where all property is communally owned, among other things.

    Regimes that are supposedly communist or strive to be communists have indeed committed atrocities. However, communism does not suggest that we do these atrocities.

    We cannot agree that Communism is bad. We definitely cannot say that Communism is morally bad. One who subscribes to communism does not suggest that he agrees with the purges of Stalin.

    Regarding the Hammer and Sickle Exclusively

    1. It is indeed banned in the several countries you've mentioned. It is important to note that Nazi symbol isn't banned universally either. In many countries (USA/Canada), they are allowed.

    2. Banning a Symbol is a violation of Free Speech. This article suggests that even in Germany, the ban on Nazi symbolism is soft.

    3. The Hammer and Sickle is a universal symbol of the communist revolution, rather than a specific symbol. While it is associated with totalitarian regimes, it is not only used for those regimes. The flag of Japan is not banned because it was used by the Japanese during World War II.

    4. To ban a symbol despite the Freedom of Speech is a show of extreme disapprobation. It suggests that any association with the symbol is an act terrible enough to be criminalized. The Soviet Union is not hated that much, despite the atrocities they've committed, especially in Russia.

    5. The Hammer and Sickle is a symbol for many communist regimes. To ban this symbol is to show extreme disapprobation to all these countries. It is questionable whether many people even though some of these regimes.

    6. Things that affect people personally have more effects. Western Europe was not subjected to Stalin's purges. As such, they do not harbour a hatred for Stalin as much as they do for Hitler. It is telling that most bans on the Communist symbolism are in countries that were Communist.

    7. Politics triumphs over justice. The Communists did not lose a major World War.

    In response to "But history tells us that many communist regimes failed on multiple levels (politically, economically, morally)."

    That is indeed correct. However, I would like to answer this with several arguments.

    • History have shown that many communist regimes failed when implemented at a state level (a large scale). It has also worked on small scales (village level).

    • History have shown that many capitalist regimes failed on several levels. It has shown that many democracies failed (and are failing) on several levels. It has shown that many of all form of government fail on several levels eventually. Communism have failed quicker than many though. Can communism work on a state level? History cannot prove that it can't. Economic and political systems continues to grow and adapt. What was considered to be the pinnacle of government 500 years ago is considered barbaric today. What is considered to be an ideal democracy today will be considered hilariously outdated in 100 years.

    • It is irrelevant whether communism will ultimately lead to failure. Consider the following eco-political theory, which I will dub the Pigeon Theory:

      • All properties should be owned by a single person between the age of 50-57 who is judged to be the best at economics. When this person has reached the age of 57, we cut off one of his legs.

      The theory's symbol is a pink pigeon.

      I do not need history to tell me that the Pigeon Theory is a terrible theory, and would fail at multiple levels if implemented. However, we should most definitely not ban the symbol of the pink pigeon, or criminalize the support of the Pigeon Theory.

    Aren't forms of the hammer and sickle also used for syndicalism?

    Those darn pigeons - always crapping on everything.

    'communism does not suggest that we do these atrocities' of course it does, any collectivist, supremacist ideology has violence, oppression and atrocities baked in. The reason why communism is not treated the same as Nazism is the moral vanity and ego of the leftists makes them believe that if they were running the revolution then things would be different.

    @user1450877 "has violence, oppression and atrocities baked in". Well that's just plainly untrue.

    @Rob clearly it is true. if you are going to seize the means of production so it can be controlled by the state what happens to the people that currently own the means of production and resist the seizure ?

    @user145 - Communism is certainly a collectivist philosophy, but hardly supremacist. And, anyway, there are plenty of people who believe that communism will not be imposed through violent revolution, but gradually. It didn't take violent revolution to get the ACA passed, did it? ;)

    @Obie how is it not supremacist, the only thing you can be in a communist system is a communist

    @user1450877: There's a huge difference between the view/claim that someone or some group is inferior because of their inalienable being (e. g. physical ability, race, ethnicity) or because of their ideology (e. g. political or religious). The former implies that this person/group can *never* be accepted into the mainstream, while the latter implies that this person/group will be accepted *once they change* their voiced views or actions. That's a totally different outlook. Supremacism ≠ Exclusionism but probably Supremacism Exclusionism.

    Could also add that for example in Norway, the hammer - especially on a red flag - (rather than hammer and sickle) was a symbol for labor-rights and socialism.

    @user1450877 - you can say the same about almost any style of government. Why do you think those collectivist philosophies initially gained traction? Because of the deplorable abuses against working people committed in the name of free market capitalism. The fact that you lump together "collectivist" and "supremacist" as if they are inexorably linked or both necessary to a communist philosophy strikes me as a bit dishonest.

    @PoloHoleSet not really. In a liberal democracy you are free to setup up communes and other collectivist communities. You're just not allowed to coerce anyone into it.

    @user1450877 - a liberal democracy can also choose to have a communist government and economy, so you're creating a separation, conceptually, that isn't necessarily so.

    @user1450877 I think you must be a citizen from US, in every discussion about communism you guys tend to have a strong bias to define it like fascism. While the reality of its definition is just like Fluidized put it in the beginning of his answer, and validated by Rob (Australian apparently) as well as others here, and me (French). I suggest that you have a bias and maybe need to take perspective and rethink of it calmly :) Also I liked your argument about seizure, nice food for thought.

    In a like manner, when I was stationed in Germany in 2000, I remembered that in my household goods was a copy of an English translation of _Mein Kampf_. I contacted someone in the know on base and asked if that was going to be an issue, in case German customs found it while conducting and inspection. My contact replied that as long as I didn't start preaching Nazism or anything that looked like racial supremacist views, it wasn't going to be a problem.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM