Thomas Molnar (“Left and Right in Eastern Europe,” March 1996) should be commended for pointing out the “scandalous impunity” with which communist criminals escaped punishment for their atrocities in Central and Eastern Europe. The communist nomenclaturas, supported by the West, acquired a thin veneer of “democracy,” and continue to rule. Naturally, they would not indict themselves for their past crimes. Therefore, no “Nuremberg” trials, regardless how the victims felt.

But for somebody presumed familiar with European history, Molnar commits some incredible blunders. He writes of the division of Europe “effected by the Turkish occupation before and after the year 1500,” and asserts: “The separation was reinforced . . . along the same line drawn at Yalta. For example, Vienna, which the Turks were unable to take then, remained also outside the Soviet orbit” (emphasis mine).

When Vienna repelled the Turkish attack with the help of Polish and Czech soldiers [editors’ note: King John Sobieski of Poland broke the siege and rescued the city] it also blocked any further Turkish expansion to the Northwest into the Czech kingdom and Poland. These lands continued to be a part of the West, cultivating (in Molnar’s words) their “art, science, institutions, and history.” Molnar’s assertion that the line drawn at Yalta was “the same” as the 16th-century division imposed by the Turkish raids is ridiculous. Vienna did remain free then, but so did Prague and Krakow. (The Turks were forced to give up even occupied Hungary by 1699.) Knowingly or unknowingly, Molnar is whitewashing the Yalta betrayal of a part of the West. The effort to shove nations like the Czechs and Poles into “Eastern” Europe is one of the war crimes of World War II.

Molnar is no less hazy about the terms “left” and “right.” He lumps “liberals” (presumably in the American sense) with the “conservatives” as “the right.” If there is a pragmatic definition of those terms, established by observed practice, it is this: the left promotes the rule of a small self-appointed nomenclatura, allegedly on behalf of “the people,” who are in fact powerless. The right promotes the rights of the individual citizen (limited only by the rights of others), the rule with consent of the governed, and the primacy of law. Accordingly, American liberals are leftists, as were Hitler’s Nationalsozialistischc Deutsche Arbeiterpartei and Mussolini’s fascists. Calling the Nazis, the fascists, and the Russian “conservatives” (translation: fossil arch-communists) “the extreme right” is a transparent leftist trick: it protects them from having the reputation of their totalitarian soulmates rub off on them, and it gives them a chance to pin the label of “fascist extremists” on their truly rightist democratic opponents.

Moreover, I would not be too sure that the “rightist protest over this scandalous impunity” (failure to prosecute the communist atrocities) “died out.” It survives underground. It survives among the exiles. The individual criminals might escape by dying out. But as shown in former Yugoslavia, nations have long memories. I would not be surprised if a nation betrayed by its friends and allies at Munich, betrayed at Yalta, betrayed in 1948, betrayed in 1968, and betrayed again in 1989-90, refused to trust—and aid—its “friends” in the next European crisis.

        —K.A. Skála
Denver, CO