Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Putin 'em in their place

An article on Vladimir Putin's Russia claims that democracy in that country can and must wait until "the rule of law" has been restored and "state institutions" have been rebuilt, presumably to what they were during the glorious Soviet years. And if Putin happens to use his autocratic powers to imprison and assassinate his opponents, rebuild the secret police, shut down dissenting media outlets, and make unprovoked and belligerent threats against foreign governments -- why, all of this is merely "the lesser of two evils", the greater evil being a Russian economy ungoverned by central planning.

It shouldn't be any surprise that this theory is brought to you by the New Left Review. Large sections of the international Left, in spite of their avowed interest in representing the interests of "the people", spent many decades of the past century in apologizing for the worst kinds of dictatorships -- provided of course that those dictatorships were also of the Left. Putin promises to satisfy their ongoing need for anti-Western and anti-capitalist strongmen, who have largely been reduced over the past few years to the ragged crew of Castro, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad.

It's amusing, though, to imagine how easily this article could have been re-written by a nefarious right-winger to justify a conservative autocracy instead. Just suppose that George W. Bush in the US, rather than Putin in Russia, was the one being given carte blanche to destroy his democracy in order to deal with "lawlessness" and fix problems with the economy. (There are many on the Left who already say exactly this about Bush, but in his case they don't mean it as a compliment.) So Mr. Putin is going to restore "the rule of law"? This sounds almost like the high-Toryism of the Daily Mail. Is he going to make the trains run on time too? Call me hopelessly idealistic, but the naked worship of power is repellent no matter which side of the political spectrum it finds itself on.

1 comment:

Rajeev said...

It's curious to see Chavez using similar tactics in Venezuela with the television stations etc.

In spite of Chavez's autocratic tendencies, Ken Livingstone
remains a strong supporter
. The left is quite clearly bankrupt.