Ljubo Sirc

DIRECTOR'S REPORT TO THE CENTRE FOR RESEARCH INTO COMMUNIST ECONOMIES (CRCE)

Changed economic-political situation

At the end of 1994, we first have to deal with political and economic changes going back to a watered down Communist dominance with the main exception of the Czech Republic. There, Vaclav Klaus took the political bit between his teeth from the start and even elicited a formal condemnation of Communists from the Parliament. In contrast, there was some feather bedding with respect to economic reforms.

Everywhere else in Eastern Europe outside the CIS, the Communists and their allies have recaptured some positions both in politics and the economy. While Russia itself is in a somewhat dubious position, the rest of the CIS is well-nigh outside Western influence, certainly for the moment outside CRCE's reach.

What are the reasons for this reversal? In the first instance, the extreme leniency shown to the Communists everywhere, even where a tougher line was possible. People fell for the Communist shouts of foul play and revanchism, regardless of how blood-thirsty the Communists themselves had been in the past, as soon as anybody lifted a warning finger at them. It is hard to believe that in Hungary somebody who participated in the repression of the 1956 uprising could become Prime Minister, that in Poland a spy convicted in the United States could be suggested as the head of the secret service, and that, in Slovenia, the last President (Secretary General) of the Communist Party could become the most popular politician and be elected State President.

Quarrels amongst non-Communists are the second reason for the reversal. These quarrels were, in part, due to the conviction that the Communists are finished and solidarity is no longer required. Further, some non-Communists were so left-wing that they immediately found fault with economic reforms. Moreover, nationalist extremism seeing just the rights of one's own nation instead of trying to work out justice for everybody in a compromise did much harm and strengthened the position of some Communist chiefs.

Unnoticed economic power of the Communists. Almost everywhere, Communists were sitting at levers of economic power. They ran the bureaucracy and managed enterprises. Their leaders succeeded in smuggling large amounts of money abroad and are using it as a safety net for themselves abroad and for their own promotion at home.

When it came to privatization, supposed to be an economic reform, it was handled in such a way the Communists could draw the maximum advantage from it. It is certainly amusing and amazing especially in Poland, the new private entrepreneurs mostly voted for the Communist successor parties. Further, the Western 'useful idiots' as Lenin called them, came in to help the Communists. The only privatization the Communists could not subvert was the restitution to previous owners. It would make political, legal and moral sense, but the Western 'useful idiots,' including some leading members of liberal-conservative Mont Pelerin Society, condemned it as impractical. Some countries nonetheless introduced restitutions, for instance, in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. According to Czech privatization Minister Jezek it worked extremely well. In Slovenia, on the other hand, the communists were moving heaven and earth to empty restitution of its content. At any rate, the advice not to restitute undermines the very economic order based on private property. The Communists are now trying to show that the right to property is not a human right.

The privatization that hands property to individual Communists would be unjust but it might not be harmful. The problem is that so many Communists still abide by party loyalty and discipline an use property in ways dictated by underground party leaders. The money emanating from it come into the hands of Communist-sponsored political mafia which will subvert freedom in the world.

Western blindness

These dangers are unfortunately not perceived by many Western officials in decisive posts. This Director has recently had two letters from two different foreign ministries, both concerning Slovenia which -we hope nobody will deny -- he knows very well.

One head of a section dealing with Slovenia seems to believe that all is for the best in the best of worlds, as Voltaire put it. Yes, denationalization is slow but there are an enormous amount of cases the bureaucrats are too few. Neither the head nor his informers seem to be aware that most bureaucrats and certainly all judges are Communists so that at least some of them remain susceptible to orders their Communist superiors to go slow because otherwise - God forbid! -non-Communists could wield some economic power. The United List of Social Democrats (read: Communist Party of Slovenia) is supporting an initiative by Communist managers which would change the restitution of physical especially land and premises, halfway trough the implementation of the Act on Denationalization to the issue of (probably) useless paper. Apparently, the Communist 'enterprises', which are beyond salvation anyway, would not work properly if the property they were allocated after the dispossession of private entrepreneurs were to be reamed to their owners.

When a request to protect human rights in Slovenia was sent to a high official in another foreign which takes much interest in the country, the answer was that they could not and would not. Furthermore, it was said the President and the government of Slovenia were freely elected. So was Kurt Waldheim but nobody refrained from boycotting him for years because of his unsavory attitudes. Apparently Communists cannot be treated as Fascists although they are like two eggs laid by the same hen. Furthermore, the Helsinki Agreement and the European Convention of Human Rights give all countries the right to protect human rights, including the right to property for all other European States.

What is more sinister, the representative of the same foreign ministry in Slovenia expressed the view that it should be welcomed if the Communists take over everything. They are the only schooled and clever people, and anyway, their children have all studied in the West, especially in the States, and will gradually adopt Western attitudes.

These cases are all about Slovenia, but it can hardly be doubted that regarding other countries the attitudes of Western officials are very similar.

International repercussions

From the viewpoint of the Western officials and at least to some extent of the public, it probably does not matter if the Communists dominate the (ex-?) Communist countries and, at the minimum, mess up their economies to the detriment of the local population. But they will not get away as easily as all that. Knowing the Communists, they are certainly re-making their old networks, possibly to a large extent underground ones, which will go unnoticed until too late if Westerners refuse to believe those with experience. In all probability, East European Communist successor parties, under colorful liberal names, are exchanging recipes on how to undermine privatization and hang on to power. What is worse, they seem to be in touch with the 'alive after death' East German and Italian Communist Parties, which in their turn are rubbing shoulders with the left-wing Socialists and Social Democrats, such as the Clause Four opponents of Tony Blair. If no-one will pay attention to all this we shall end up with a left-wing Socialist- Communist majority in the extended European parliament. The left in the Socialist International is doing its best to bring this about. Again falling back to the Slovene example, they seem to be about to admit the United List of Social Democrats from Slovenia - the best died-in-the-wool Communists.

The Liberal International is close behind and has already admitted the Communist Youth-sponsored Slovene Liberal Democracy. Once it looked as if this party could be an escape route for young Communists wanted to mould into something normal. But party loyalty and discipline have pulled them back into the President Kucan (last Communist Party Secretary General) orchestrated majority in the Slovene Parliament. This consists of the United List, Liberal Democracy and a group planted onto the far right. They can muster one or two votes more than the rest. Recently, this combination threw out an Act giving some recognition to several thousand Slovenes whom the Communists wantonly killed during the war. This Act was first adopted with a one-vote majority, but was then thrown out by the Parliament's office holders lead by the Speaker, a young Communist elected by Kucan's majority. The second voting produced a one-vote majority against.

The Liberal International, in which German left-wing liberals play a leading role, is particularly suspect if one knows that the spiritual father of German liberals, Genscher, applauded vigorously when it was said in the German newly elected parliament that West Germany may have material advantages, but East Germany certainly had moral superiority. This was said by the oldest member, when opening the first session. He was Stefan Heim, an old somewhat dissident Communist, elected on the PDS slate.

What must be done?

If these untoward predictions are to be disproved, vigorous action by Western governments and political organizations, in both parts of Europe, will have to be taken.

Footnote: Respect for those foreswearing Communism

The strictures of Communism and (ex-) Communists above do not apply to all those former Communist party members who were intelligent and courageous enough to forswear Communism and its misdeeds and nonsense. They deserve our respect when they work with us for the restoration of normal conditions in countries formerly ruled by Communists.

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