European Union

Another (Beatrice) Webby Nominee: UK Edition


When a colleague passed on a link to an article defending the Belarussian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko, I took it for granted that it was written by professional useful idiot Neil Clark, an unreconstructed communist that, for reasons unclear, manages to publish in most of Britain's mainstream newspapers and political magazines. His latest masterpiece, from The New Statesman:

[Minsk] is a capital city where the streets are safe and clean, where ordinary people can still afford to buy medicine and basic foodstuffs and where the unemployment rate is less than 1 per cent. It's the side of Belarus you won't read much about. After last month's presidential elections—in which Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected to serve a fourth term with almost 80 per cent of the vote—the arrest of opposition candidates and hundreds of their supporters led to the reappearance of the old "last dictatorship in Europe" headlines… While other former Soviet republics rushed to embrace capitalism following the fall of the Berlin Wall, privatising their state-owned enterprises and removing subsidies to industry and agriculture, Belarus kept the old collectivist flame alive….

Our guide Natalia proudly escorts us round the factory museum, with its scale models of BelAZ vehicles. There is a photograph of a beaming Hugo Chávez, a strong ally of Luka­shenko (he recently said that Venezuela would supply Belarus with oil for the next 200 years), driving a BelAZ truck. This is more than just a company—it's an extended family. There is a sanatorium for the workers, two sports and fitness centres, and a cultural centre where a theatre collective plays. Such enterprises used to be common in eastern Europe before 1989—but economic reform put a stop to all that.

Of course, Clark loves the "wonderfully retro ministry of economy" in Minsk, the "statues of Lenin [that] still line the streets," and that his "guidebook describes [Belarus] as a country 'so unspoilt by the trappings of western materialism that it's very easy to feel a sense of having slipped into another time and dimension.'" For a reality check, read Timothy Snyder's post on the Belarussian elections at the notoriously imperialist New York Review of Books.

And for weekend reading, I offer some of Clark's greatest hits: Here he is writing at The First Post (owned by The Week) in defense of Hungarian communism ("Because the accounts we read in the West are nearly always from the hostile perspective of upper or middle-class émigrés or dissidents, the achievements of communism in eastern Europe have tended to be ignored"); calling Iraqi interpreters seeking political asylum "Quislings" in The Guardian (or this piece, shrugging that Serbian leader Zoran Djindjic was assassinated because he was too was "a Quisling"); an earlier defense of Lukashenko (and Milosevic and Chavez) and a celebration of Ahmadinejad's economic policies that "empower the working class," both from The Guardian; and a good chuckle at those who believe the old saw about "communist tyranny" (Clark's scare quotes) in Eastern Europe.


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  1. So, when you look up “useful idiot” in the dictionary, that’s Clark’s picture there next to the definition?

    I love the way he brushes off the arrest of the opposition candidates and their supporters as being not even worthy of a moth-eaten headline.

    1. I think PJ O’Rourke put it best when he said that they were such devoted comsymps that even when the coms left, they went right on symping.

  2. The Anglo left’s purge nostalgia is always worth pointing to, because it’s always there, but the Belarus “crackdown” story also has a today’s-news angle on it?one that Snyder seems rather too pointedly to ignore: It appears that Lukashenko’s Gestapo is using unpublished Wikileaks cables fed to him by Israel Shamir to pick out whom to “crack.”
    And that’s interesting. News-wise.

    1. “purge nostalgia”

      That’s good. What other “nostalgias” can we come up with for TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE?

      1. Reagan nostalgia is the obvious one for RED

        1. “Iran/Contra Nostalgia”

          1. “Camelot”

            1. Guess?

  3. hummm…got something against people living the way they prefer? 80% of the vote…

    1. hummm…got something against people living the way they prefer? 80% of the vote…

      1. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot did too.

    2. You are the most boring troll we’ve ever had. At least call us pigcunts or something, moron.

    3. hummm…got something against people living the way they prefer? 99% of the vote, bitchez…

    4. “hummm…got something against people living the way they prefer? 80% of the vote…”

      That’s GREAT!
      Did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi and the…..?

  4. I bet the trains run on time, too, so there’s that. Probably why 80% of the people voted for him in a completely above board, honest and open election. No, really, it just shows how much dicatators are loved when they get 80 to 90% of the vote.

    1. I liked how Lukashenko used his young son as prop in his corrupt dealings. As if to say he can’t be corrupt because this ‘pure’ and ‘honest’ kid is accompanying him.

  5. so unspoilt by the trappings of western materialism that it’s very easy to feel a sense of having slipped into another time and dimension

    This is really the consistent thread running through a lot of modern communist apologia, and it’s absolutely repulsive.

    I personally have minimalist tastes. I find a lot of what other people do with their time and money visually offensive. You’re all very vulgar, whether you realize it or not. I would be perfectly happy if the US looked like a giant Shaker village (as long as there was gambling and booze available in some of the unadorned buildings).

    But these assholes so overvalue their aesthetic minimalism that they are perfectly happy in seeing other people enslaved if that keeps them poor enough that they can’t afford to indulge their non-materialist tastes.

    “I would rather have you be poor and suffering, than have you put a beer light in your window as a decoration” – that’s what these people are saying. That’s the bottom line. Every paean to Cuba and all Ostalgia has this sentiment at its root somewhere.

    1. I’ve always liked the Marxist/Communist/Soviet critique of Western materialism. Because Marxists are all so anti-materialist, dontchano?

    2. One of the things that helped fuel the collapse of the Soviet Empire was the ecological disasters caused by Communist policies.

      Chernobyl and the Aral Sea collapse are two of the better known ones, but there were literally thousands.

      1. Very true. Left-wing policies are terrible for the environment.

        1. Fucking silly capitalists and your concern for air quality…

    3. I saw a facebook post the other day that said “we keep forcing progress on the third world, so they can’t even enjoy simplicity anymore”. I was too pissed to even respond, but should have mentioned how much simpler life is when your kids all die of cholera.

      1. The utter irony of that: a post on Facebook condemning progress….Only a postmodern moron could make such a statement. That is the New Left in all its naked glory, yearning for poverty.

    4. Bill Bryson said something similar in Neither Here Nor There. He described, in hilarious detail, the pitiful lack of modern conveniences in Bulgaria or someplace when he visited soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then in a WTF moment, he went on to lament the end of the communist experiment.

    5. You’re all very vulgar, whether you realize it or not.

      According to fluffy.

      1. I HEART vulgarity.

        1. We propose a new agency to deal with vulgarity. Michelle will advise.

    6. +1 Fluffy

      I dislike much of what I see when I drive through the cities and towns of this country, but I love that America is the most architecturally diverse nation on earth.

      People who bitch about American architecture is boring and homogenous don’t tend to be truly well-traveled.

      They’ve maybe visited other places briefly, long enough to notice the novelty of other modes of design, but not long enough to notice (maybe they’re too self-loathing to notice) how uniform it tends to be.

    7. You’re absolutely right. All the communist apologists I know personally (and I know quite a few) seem entranced by the clean, classy Communist aesthetic as the alternative to the tasteless, trashy suburban big boxes they’ve lived around their whole life. They put Soviet propaganda as the background on their Apple computers, Rage against the Machine blaring and they never seem to realize the sweet, sweet irony. While wearing Che shirts they bought for $20 at the head shop up the street.

      I don’t think those people really want to live under the oppressive thumb of state socialism and give up their modern conveniences and upper middle class lifestyles. They just use the aesthetic and the philosophical debate to exhume an aesthetically tasteful, well-designed, historically revisionist utopia as an exciting alternative to their bloated suburban ennui.

      They never lived it and will likely never have to, so it’s a classic case of “the grass is greener.” I’m sure all the people in Belarus fantasize about living in gaudy, maximalist Las Vegas (in secret).

  6. Is next . . . svimvear!!!

    Vedy nice!!

  7. where the unemployment rate is less than 1 per cent

    But it’s closer to 0 percent in Stone Age societies. Take that, Minsk!

  8. Such enterprises used to be common in eastern Europe before 1989 – but economic reform put a stop to all that.

    Yep. A million people came out in Wencaslas square every night for a month to put a stop to all that.

    1. Large businesses in the US often have various perks for their employees. For example, Boeing has an on-site clinic, IIANM. But I guess they don’t waste money on a “theater collective”, which I’m sure is vastly superior to theater that people are willing to spend money to go see.

  9. Even the gulags are a workers’ paradise.

  10. LOL, OK thats pretty funny when you think about it.

    1. No, anonbot. It really, really isn’t.

  11. The main reason Belarus didn’t experience a Cuban-style collapse was due to generous energy subsidies payed by Russia. Belarus earned huge amounts of hard cash by purchasing cheap gas from Russia and reselling it at a huge markup to Western Europe. But eventually Russia got tired of propping up Belarus and demanded they pay the market price for gas. This was the main cause behind the fallout between Putin and Lukashenko, and the latter’s embrace of Hugo Chavez.

  12. When our allies have elections, they’re just proving that they’re free and open democracies.

    When our enemies have elections, those elections are shams that make a mockery of our institutions, the will of the people, and justice itself.

    Moynihan gets it, why are you guys so thick?

    1. What is your point? That an 80% approval for a dictator might actually be real?

      1. Well, it might be relatively real, but that isn’t my point. My point is that the term “dictator” is unevenly applied, with the only consistent criterion being opposition to US foreign policy.

        1. support American policy?

          1. The House of Saud?

            1. They overtly welcome American support while acting like vile serpents behind the scenes.

        2. I think the big difference is that the rulers of *most* countries we consider allies are not trying to hold on to perpetual power by snuffing their political opponents, setting up elections determined to be complete frauds by independent analysts and claiming perpetual rule by decree. But what’s your definition of a dictator?

  13. so unspoilt by the trappings of western materialism that it’s very easy to feel a sense of having slipped into another time and dimension

    It is an alternate universe where they had cars in the dark ages.

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