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Post Communism

Paul Foot

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Twenty-six million people live in beleaguered Uzbekistan, almost exactly the same number of people who live in Iraq. President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan is a dictator who has perfected many of the techniques of repression developed by Saddam. There are at least 5,000 people unjustly imprisoned in Uzbekistan, many of them for their political or religious views. They are systematically tortured and murdered. There is in Uzbekistan nothing remotely resembling a free press or free speech.

Obviously Uzbekistan should be next in line for liberation by Tony Blair and his armed forces. A sure sign of the impending British invasion of Uzbekistan is the attitude of the British ambassador there, a feisty Scotsman called Craig Murray. He shocked the Uzbeks last year with a series of speeches complaining about, among other things, the rather un-British habit of boiling dissidents to death. He even incited the Uzbek people to "fight for democracy". That is how you would expect a representative of Tony Blair's government to behave.

But wait. Mr Murray has been recalled and scolded by the Foreign Office, who reminded him (as if he didn't know) that the Uzbek dictator provided airfields and bases from which the US air force could carry out their bombing raids on Afghanistan. Surely Mr Murray could understand that this generosity put Mr Karimov's dictatorship firmly on the side of the good guys, the democrats and the freedom fighters, and that Murray's speeches had caused nothing but embarrassment in the lands of the free.

Dictators, in other words, can have their uses, and Mr Murray should shut up. To his credit, he didn't. He went back to Tashkent and continued to denounce the government there. Indeed, he committed the shocking sin of comparing the treatment of prisoners in Uzbekistan to what happened in Iraq under Saddam (and is still happening under the auspices of the country's liberators). Before long, I predict, Mr Murray will be packed off somewhere safer.


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:rolleyes: Dear Colleagues,

You are right when you say that in many of post soviet countries there are authroritarian dictatorships like in Uzbekistan, people form this country are telling horrible things that nobody will never hear. Some of them about torture, killings and human rights violations became known because UN expert on torture attended country last year. But as there are US military bases in Uzbekistan it means that this country will never appear on agenda even in UN CHR. Turkmenistan is even more horrible country with regime like during Stalin rules. Kazahstan became authoritarian as well and all the president's relatives have power in his administration like in Kurgyzstan but all the se states are part of CE and going to join EU in the future.

Azerbaidjan and Georgia are no better because of corruption, injustice and permanent civil wars. Poverty is growing and rich people became richer now. This gap exist everywhere in post soviet republics - wild capitalism with wild face. Baltic states are members of all possible European organisations but half of their population do not even have the right to vote for member of EU parliament and denied any rights within their own countries. What are you building in Europe, which one common house for national minorities, what about human rights for them?

All these post soviet countries need 50 years just to prepare their civil society to live in democracy. They understood one thing after the collapse of the USSR that that they should talk about rule of law and democracy just to join your community, During socialism, people in power were talking about right things but doing completely different and you can see that a lot of former communist are in power now in many post soviet countries, but now they call thelselves democracts.

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And, to take up a theme from the thread on Reagan and the Left, if you just recreate the oppression the Russian Revolution fought against, sooner or later another group of revolutionaries will arise and fight against that too.

The idea that the state the post-Communist countries are in is somehow permanent is as daft as the idea that the capitalist countries' state is also permanent. I was watching a 60-minutes slot on the decreasing mileage gained by SUVs in the face of a coming shortage of oil. A car buyer in a small town in the USA was asked whether he would be interested in sacrificing a little bit of performance (say, 0-100 kms/hour in 10 seconds, rather than 5) in the interests of better fuel economy. "Nope, this is America and this is the lifestyle we have here".

Well, that's true … until the oil runs out!

The wide-scale looting of the Soviet economy and the general decline in the living standards of the population since the fall of Communism is bound to cause a reaction. The only question is what is going to influence that reaction. It was a tragedy that politicians of the low stature of Bush (the first) and Thatcher were in power when the Iron Curtain fell. What they signally failed to do was to 'sell' Western ideas of democracy and human rights at the same time as they sold Western ideas of raw capitalism.

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