I am about half way through Pulitzer Prize winning Anne Applebaum’s “The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 “. Very interesting, and disturbing account of the Soviet transformation of Post WWII East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia into Soviet dominated communist satellite states.
Note that I said “interesting and disturbing” account. Obviously, with the space constraints of the Pub, all I can do is offer my summary of what she said happened and how, but I think I can distill those interesting events in to a reasonably accurate picture, and then explain why it is also “disturbing”.
Of all the techniques employed by the local communists and Soviets that Applebaum has covered so far in my reading, the co-opting of each country’s political system is by far the one I would like to toss out for discussion.
As the Red Army “liberated” Eastern Europe from the Nazi’s, they gained legitimate occupation “control” over peoples who were dealing with what appeared to have been a failure of the pre-Nazi regimes to adequately defend them. Effectively, all social, economic and political structures were in disarray, at best, and destroyed, at worst. In short, a new and fresh start seemed necessary. Moscow, saw this as extremely fertile ground for the easy cultivation of a dominant Socialist Workers’ regime in these countries. After all, Marxism was the ultimate antithesis of the hated Nazi-Fascist form of government. With help from local pre War communist figures already amongst the population, rallying the masses to support a Soviet style regime would be piece of cake, at least in Moscow’s eyes. It worked in Russia. Moscow was confident that the Yalta and Potsdam agreed upon “free elections” could be easily counted upon to deliver a communist victory, given a good preparation with stock in trade propaganda and a little skullduggery.
The truth was that other, albeit left leaning, parties far outdrew the local communist parties for the support of the population. What would be typically called “Social Democrats” and “Christian Democrats” was what was widely desired, not the “extreme Left” of the Soviets. The task, then was how to finesse a communist win while still conducting elections. A communist win that had all the appearances of a local political party, while ensuring it be Marxist and subservient to Moscow. While fear, election fraud and the like were indeed used, other, more interesting techniques helped immeasurably.
One technique was to coerce or convince other parties to merge into a left leaning “coalition party” with the local communist party. Of course, the communists rarely operated under that particular name, lest they be seen as being in league with the Soviets. By “combining” a few left leaning political groups, the possibility for a “ruling majority” was increased significantly, an attractive offer to all the parties concerned. And, the former competing parties' identities disappeared in forming the "new" party. Now “inside” a new party that is elected into power, the communists could then drive out the leadership of their “rivals”, manipulate the party to become totally under the control of the communist element, and then move forward to extinguish external opposition parties in the minority. Thus, a party that had a minority of the popular support could create a new party with 50% or more support, and rewicker that party, once it was in power, to execute only the will of the communist minority (soon to become majority), obtaining an extreme left wing government under the mantle of what originally was a more mainstream, left learning official identity.
Now, of course, the satellite states’ communists had the power (military and financial) of the Soviet Union to assist when necessary, but it became apparent (much to Moscow’s surprise) that overtly singing the “Moscow Party Line” was not a widely popular approach. So the political pitch was given a coat of “national movement”, populist, only left leaning lipstick to appeal to the more moderate beliefs and national identities of each country. And, in conjunction with a host of other factors, it worked. While Moscow was never quite able to create complete “little Soviet Unions”, they were able to facilitate the emergence of tyrannical communist regimes, totally loyal to, and dependent upon, Moscow.
Now, as to the disturbing part. Fast forward to recent years in the US. When many in the GOP saw the need to moderate their stand on a variety of issues to maintain any semblance of popular support, a new political “movement” arose. Not a “party”, but a “movement” – the Teabaggers. How many candidates for office in the US have run as a "member of the Tea Party" on the Tea Party ticket? NONE. Rather, they may run as TeaBaggers for nomination to represent the GOP. Or run as "Tea Party endorsed" Republicans". How many GOP elected officials live in fear of a TeaBagger challenge – not in an election, but in a primary? Rather than stand on their own two feet, the TeaBaggers, radical right wingers, have entered a party that in many ways, would be an “opposition party”, if they were honest about it. Then by pure and simple intimidation, such as the threat of outside funding of a candidate the TeaBaggers support in party primaries, have co-opted many Republicans into either tolerating or embracing TeaBagger excesses. Thus, elected GOP representatives, in the TeaBaggers’ view, must be either card carrying Teabaggers or puppets of the Teabaggers. And, while the TeaBaggers claim to be a “grassroots” movement, they receive the bulk of their money from wealthy individuals in large lump sums. A minority financed by an even smaller minority, and more often than not, a financing minority from outside the jurisdiction in which they are supporting candidates to influence elections. And thus, the GOP slowly, but surely, becomes a arm of the Tea Party "Movement" and the "Movements" deep pocketed "foreign" (to the electoral jurisdiction) financiers. Only without a name change.
In short, a deeply ideological minority, backed by disproportionate outside resources, imposing their will on a much greater majority, under the guise of the “democratic process”. And where they can’t impose their will totally, they take every and any opportunity to thwart the will of the majority via loopholes in the existing system. Is this not tyranny in the guise of “democracy”?
And that I find "disturbing”. Am I missing something that might refute or at least mitigate that? If not, it is just another reason why WASF.