Subject: "Why Ex-Communists Hold The Power In East Europe"

Investor's Business Daily is a national daily newspaper for serious investors with a paid circulation of nearly 300,000. IBD is privately owned by founder William J. O'Neil, author of several best-selling books on investing. The paper is based in Los Angeles, California, and has bureaus in New York; Washington, D.C.; San Diego, Calif.; Sunnyvale, Calif. (Silicon Valley); and Seattle, Wash. Brian Mitchell is chief of IBD's Washington, D.C., bureau.


"Why Ex-Communists Hold The Power In East Europe" by Brian Mitchell
Investor's Business Daily
June 25, 2002
Page A-16

The West worried at first that Russian President Vladimir Putin would kill reform and restart the Cold War. After all, Putin was a Communist Party member, an apparatchik and a spy.

But who does the West want to run Eastern Europe these days? Party members, apparatchiks and spies.

Ex-communists today are the preferred rulers of the former Warsaw Pact. Ex-anti-communists are the new enemy.

"The problem," said Jonathan Sunley, a British business consultant based in Budapest, "is that in this part of the world a large number of communists have, by changing their colors marginally, ended up even more powerful. And all with the blessing if not the active connivance of the West!"

In country after country, the U.S. and its European allies have worked to defeat popular center-right governments and replace them with left and center-left governments.

The aim is to elect governments that are gung-ho for NATO and eager to sell public assets to foreign investors.

The result has returned power to the very men who ran things in the Soviet era - men like Peter Medgyessy, Hungary's new Socialist prime minister.

Voters knew before April's election that Medgyessy had spent his life in the finance ministry of the communist regime. They didn't know until last week that he was a KGB asset, code-named D-209.

Then there's Rudolph Schuster, president of Slovakia. He was a member of the Central Committee of Czechoslovakia's Communist Party for 20 years, right up until the end in 1989.

Schuster attended his last Communist Party meeting in 2000. The die-hard delegates honored him with a bottle of Stalin's Tears vodka. "I am proud of what I did under the former regime," he told them.

If you think such men are out of place in the modern West, think again.
Today's ruling class is full of yesterday's radicals.

Lionel Jospin, until recently France's Socialist prime minister, was once a card-carrying Trotskyite with the nom de guerre "Comrade Michel." Joschka Fischer, Germany's Green foreign minister, had friends in the murderous Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Such roots help explain the fondness of Western officials for people like Zoran Djindjic, prime minister of Serbia.

In his younger years, Djindjic ran with a radical crowd that hated Yugoslavia's pro-Western brand of socialism. His doctoral dissertation was on the early Karl Marx - not the Marx of economic theory, but the Marx of cultural revolution. Djindjic was an anti-Western "cultural Marxist" of the so-called Frankfurt School.

By contrast, Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia's president, was a conservative, Christian, pro-Western anti-communist. A constitutional scholar, he translated "The Federalist Papers" into Serbian.

Kostunica also condemned NATO's bombing of Serbia, so Western diplomats and journalists tagged him a nationalist.

"When they call someone a nationalist, it's the kiss of death," said Srdja Trifkovic, once an adviser to Kostunica, now at the Rockford Institute in Illinois. "That person is no longer invited to diplomatic cocktail parties, and U.S. money for political purposes will go elsewhere."

Under Clinton, the U.S. kept its distance from Kostunica until he and Djindjic joined forces to defeat Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Since then, Djindjic has given the West whatever it wants - most of all, Milosevic, whom he handed over.

Kostunica opposed the move on constitutional grounds. Something about the rule of law.

It isn't just Serbia. NATO member Hungary elected two center-right governments in the 1990s. The U.S. opposed both, helping the Socialists to power in 1994 and 2002.

Little has changed under President Bush. His ambassador to Hungary, Nancy Goodman Brinker, met with leftist leaders before presenting her credentials to the center-right government last fall. Within weeks she was complaining about Hungary's xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

"The question of minorities is very often instrumentalized by the Americans and their European allies as a way of undermining countries," said John Laughland, a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group.

"When you want to do a country down, you turn on the tap of concerns about their minorities," he said. "When you've got the government in place that you want, you turn the tap off again."

This works with liberal Western journalists. In strange lands, journalists trust their own stereotypes. The good guys are young radicals, old communists and minorities. The bad guys are conservatives, nationalists and the Catholic or Orthodox Church.

That makes bad guys of many East Europeans. After 50 years of official atheism, many are harking back to their Christian heritage. After 50 years under Russia's thumb, many are also wary of foreign influence.

The West, however, has pushed hasty privatization of state-owned assets - a fire sale to foreigners. It also has urged countries to buy NATO arms they don't need.

Hungary's center-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, turned down a big buy of NATO fighter planes. He also tried to build up the middle class by helping small and midsize businesses invest in housing, highway construction and tourism.

"Orban put his faith in the things that people have around them - above all their family and their nation - and the policies of his government gave priority to strengthening both," said Sunley in Budapest.

So when first lady Laura Bush visited Hungary last month, the only newspaper she talked to was Nepszabadsag, a pro-Socialist, anti-Orban newspaper formerly the mouthpiece of the Communist Party.