28 March 2006
What is wrong with Belarus?
What exactly is wrong with Belarus? It is a landlocked country of about 10 million souls that most people had probably never heard of until recently. Now the USA and its supporters are screaming that the end of civilisation is nigh just because the good people of that country turned out to return President Alexander Lukashenko to office with over 80% of the votes cast. It seems like only yesterday when they were praising the 97% that Mikhail Saakashvili scored in the Georgian elections. Now they claim that 80% is evidence of a fix.
It could be of course. However, it could also be that the people of Belarus have seen what happened in their neighbouring countries and have decided that the old soviet system had its good points after all. The economy is growing, wages are not only paid on time, but they have risen by almost a quarter during the past year. The opposition candidate in the election promised that he would end the supplies of Russian subsidised gas and oil into Belarus. In other words he told people that their heating bills were going to rise by about 70%. Given a choice like that it is a wonder that Lukashenko didn't manage a complete clean sweep and get 100% of the vote.
So why all the complaints? The only answer that I can come up with is that the Belarusians are trying their best to keeep out of the clutches of the New World Order. The country does not have a parasitic middle class that relies on low inflation and cheap credit to finance its lifestyle at the expense of the rest of the population. The government controls the economy and makes sure that there is a reasonable buttie for everyone. It may not be paradise, but it is better than quite a few other places that I can think of.
Perhaps this is why it has to be demonised? The issue seems to be that here is a country where ordinary people have a decent standard of living, especially when compared to capitalist puppets like Poland: a country that seems to be exported a sizable chunk of its unemployed labour force to Britain, where they are cheerfully engaged in helping to keep the wages down.
Belarus is not a shining light on a hill, but it is is an example of a country that can make its own way without adopting the Classical Liberal model. If people come to believe that full employment is possible once again, then they might just reject the system at home. The whole point about the Thatcher-Blair continuum is to remove that option from people's minds. Belarus, in her own small way, has shown that there are other paths to take.