Regarding Europe, I’ve got a nagging twofold question I’d love to have answered: Why has no one remarked on the incredible, glaring double standard in Establishment treatment of ex-Nazi and Communist regimes? And what in blazes is the justification for that double standard? We start with a stipulation, presumably made both by myself and by all members of the Establishment (i.e., the spectrum from left-liberals like the New York Times over to official conservatives and neoconservatives): that both the Nazi and Communist regimes were despotic, evil, and genocidal. So, in that case, how come the double standard, both in actual treatment of former officials in the two regimes, and in Received Opinion about such treatment?

After the end of World War II, Nazis and their collaborators, both real and alleged, were a) slaughtered on the spot by vengeful Communist success-or-regimes or by Communist partisans (as in Italy or France); b) indicted and convicted, first by the Allies and then by successor regimes, for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” with the leaders put to death or sentenced to long jail terms; c) masses of officials were “denazified” and either jailed or prevented from holding office; and d) for the past 47 years, alleged ex-Nazis, down to the status of concentration camp guards, were yanked out of their beds as American citizens or out of some South American jungle to stand trial for these crimes either in their Communist-run homeland or in Israel. Moreover, Received Opinion of the Establishment is constantly berating Western countries, including the United States, for having been too soft on ex-Nazis, etc. And then as the decades pass, we are urged on every side to “never forget” the Nazi crimes.

Okay, but now consider the contrast in treating Communists. The revolutionary implosions of Communist regimes since 1989 have occurred peacefully, and successor regimes peacefully established. Not only guards, but high officials, even secret police officials, have not only not been executed or tried for their crimes against humanity, but most of them are still there, still in place—either as bureaucrats serving new regimes, or as “former” Communists now calling themselves “Social Democrats” or whatever.

It is a massive understatement to say that there has been no decommunization whatsoever, nothing comparable to the denazification of yore. Not only have the KGB and the East German Stasi not been brought to book for their crimes, but now the big argument in the former Communist countries is whether the infamous secret police files should even be opened to the public, much less acted upon.

How has the Establishment reacted to this shocking contrast in treatment of ex-despots and state criminals. Have they denounced it? On the contrary, the entire Establishment, from left-liberal to Official Conservative to neoconservative, has lauded this wonderful, peaceful, forbearance; this clasping of former Communist rulers and secret police thugs and informers to everyone’s bosom; this pursuit of mercy over vengeance; this oh-so-beloved “velvet” revolution. The Establishment is also quick to denounce even the slightest sign of wanting to throw the rascals out, and to bring them to trial for their monstrous crimes. Why “never forget” in the one case, and quick peace and “healing” in the other?

The New York Times and other mainstream organs, far from wanting decommunization, even want to protect the vicious secret police informers from the people’s vengeance. Not the Gestapo, of course, but the KGB, the Stasi, and equivalents. Thus, stories in the New York Times often complain about the fact that the old secret police files have been opened, so that people find out that their spouses, or lovers, or close friends had reported regularly on them to the secret police. As a result, marriages, loves, friendships have broken up. Wonder why? But the Establishment puts the blame for these broken marriages and friendships not on the informers but on the process of opening up the files.

Once again, as too often in history, the reaction is to shoot the messenger of bad news. The moral of the story is not to close the files, but to open them further, and to act upon them; that is, to take action against these monstrous betrayers and informers. Stringing them up in the public square doesn’t seem too harsh.

The New York Times‘ man in Eastern Europe, Stephen Engelberg, always seems to be in the forefront of the antiopen-files, antivengeance forces. Recently, Engelberg was wailing about the one country in Eastern Europe that really wants to decommunize, Czechoslovakia. It seems that a former prominent Czech exile in London, Jan Kavan, editor of an exile magazine, has been uncovered as an informer to the Commie secret police. Since Kavan is a prominent Czech Social Democrat, Engelberg has been complaining of the injustice now being done to poor Kavan, who according to this miscreant only engaged in a few harmless conversations with the Czech equivalent of the KGB.

Under the active drive of one of the few real free-market reformers in the ex-Communist countries, Czech Minister of Finance Vaclav Klaus, Czechoslovakia has passed a unique, and most welcome, “lustration” law. “Lustration” is a venerable term for religious purification, generally of an entire community. And so Klaus and his crew of genuine anticommunists and antisocialists want to “lustrate” their country by prohibiting any ex-Communist official from enjoying government employment for the next five years. To me, this seems a very mild first step, and a fate far too good for this criminal gang.

But to the U. S. Establishment, the New York Times and all their fellow-travelers, this is an act of vengeance to be deplored, a harsh measure depriving the country of their best men, blah blah. It should be obvious that the reason for this tenderness is the idea that Commies, no matter how deplorable, were really not terrible monsters such as the Nazis, but good-guy socialists who suffered from an unfortunate excess of zeal. It should be equally clear that this strange tenderness has surfaced because there really is not that much difference between Commies and Social Democrats and between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, and that clearing the land of Communists will therefore inevitably sweep up in its net a myriad of Social Democrats, the group most favored by the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Review of Books, Commentary, et al. In every Eastern European country, it is the Social Democrats and their western buddies who receive all the plaudits and laurels of the U. S. Respectables. Thus, virtually every Establishment attitude toward Poland must get filtered through the lenses of the incredibly beloved (in America, not in Poland) Adam Michnik, Social Democrat agitator.

It has become all too evident that the reformers in the old Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe have only been paying lip-service to privatization and to the free market. One crucial problem is that progress, especially toward privatization, has been stalled by the existing bureaucrats, many of whom have found it expedient to change their ideological allegiance from Communist to Social Democrat, but who are still socialists, statists clinging to power.

The accepted method of spurring the reform, touted from left-liberals to neo-conservatives, is to drain more U. S. tax money into billions of foreign aid. But such aid will not and cannot accelerate genuine reform; all it can do, on the contrary, is to delay the free market and to prolong statist repression of the ex- Communist economies. The old socialist elites, whether calling themselves “democrats” or not, need to be blasted loose, and that blasting can only be delayed or even prevented by American aid.

The Establishment media have not allowed us to grasp this crucial fact: that it is no coincidence that the Czech lustration program is being pushed by the same people, headed by Vaclav Klaus, who also insist on rapid privatization, a program that contrasts starkly with the lionized Yeltsin’s scheme of “free prices” while retaining the same old pattern of ownership. The Klaus forces are behind both lustration and privatization because both are part-and-parcel of a unified policy of destatization. Getting rid of socialist bureaucrats, whether they call themselves Bolsheviks or Mensheviks, is an essential part of genuine reform. Lustration and vengeance go hand-in-hand with genuine privatization; mercy and “social peace” go hand-in-hand with the Establishment’s neoconservative policy of phony free-market reform and of continuing Menshevik rule.