Finding justice in the USSR

The opinion-page column "Witch Hunting in the Soviet Union," Aug. 30, echoes the opinions of many Soviet communists and American leftists: The gulag's bureaucrats are to be protected against any just retribution. Although the author is right about the need to follow normal procedures of law and evidence, she seems to emphasize the criminal's rights over those of the victim, which in this case is all of Soviet society. Of course the new KGB chief and his cronies are against so-called "vengeance known to normal Soviet citizens as justice - for they are the ones who will likely and deservedly go to jail. The author may be right about the public's passivity, but the charge of failing to act against the coup is leveled against high party leaders, not innocent citizens who have been the victims of their 74-year reign of terror. We should not forget that these faceless communists have real blood on their hands. Finally, cleaning out the worst communists (however defined) is not necessarily detrimental to the cause of democracy. In fact, such a vital purge will further the rebuilding project. If communists remain in positions of power, they will obstruct reform as they have in East Europe. The concern that this cleansing might tear down "structures on which a true democracy might be built" begs the question: What structures? Jim Holmes, Washington, Council for Inter-American Security

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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