Over at the excellent libertarian group weblog, Cattalarchy, there is a fine and thoughtful collection of articles, which was published a few days ago, to mark the May Day parades of old socialists with a wide-ranging broadside against what communism has wrought. I urge folk to fire up some coffee and take time out to read them all.
With all that fine material in mind, I was stunned to read a screed in the latest edition of The Spectator by ultra-rightwinger Peter Hitchens. As well as saying some decidedly uncomplimentary things about former South African President and anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela, a topic to which I may return later, Hitchens also bemoans what he claims has been the lack of any real improvement of life in countries which have been released from communism.
Really? Have there been no improvements at all? I mean, for a start, surely a declared Christian like Hitchens should be glad that fellow believers are no longer persecuted as they were in the old days of Communism. The Gulag is no longer in operation. Members of the KGB no longer drag you off in the middle of the night. And yes, key parts of the economies of those nations are not just recovering, but offering some of the tastiest investment opportunities in the world today, as this article illustrates.
There is a priceless passage in which Hitchens even refers to the elderly generation in the former Eastern bloc who miss the good old days of guaranteed jobs, even if that era came with bread queues, bureaucracy and compulsory military service. That’s the spirit! None of this messy and vulgar capitalist nonsense, with all that bothersome choice, and ugly advertising, noisy department stores and red light districts.
I honestly do not know what to make of folk like Hitchens and whether he has any coherent political philosophy at all apart from a desire to shock what he thinks is the received wisdom (not always a bad or dishonourable urge, mind). A few weeks back he wrote a superb article shredding the case for state identity cards, of the kind that any libertarian would be proud to write. Yet a few issues later we get a gloomy piece almost pining the days when half of Europe was run by the communist empire of the Soviets.