Letter: When it is better to tolerate than to suppress

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Sir: Colin Penfold's grasp of 20th-century political history culminates in his assertion that the demise of capitalism is the only guarantee of an end to the threat of fascism (letter, 16 April). He fails to appreciate that there is little to distinguish between totalitarian regimes of left or right. Both see ideologies as more important than people, and both have been quite prepared to persecute and destroy those who oppose them.

Much as Mr Penfold may hope that there is still some life left in Communism, I would have thought that the only bright spot in a pretty miserable century of wrong-headed and simplistic ideology has been the collapse of Communist regimes by popular demand, while the survival of our parliamentary democracy, of which he appears so contemptuous, has managed to guarantee his right to say and think what he likes.

Mr Penfold's opinion deserves tolerance rather than respect; because in most residual Communist backwaters, he would enjoy no such freedom, and would find himself governed by the kind of totalitarian values that have always distinguished Marxists and fascists from democrats of all political persuasions.

Yours sincerely,

NICHOLAS PAGET-BROWN

London, SW10

18 April

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