Friday, August 31, 2007

"To Kill A Nation" by Michael Parenti [31]


In 1999, a former member of the UDF, Bulgaria's center-right anti-Communist party, wrote an "open letter" to the Serbian opposition. The author was Blagovesta Doncheva, who had her letter to be published on Balkan Revisionist Jared Israel's Emperor's Clothes.

A cursory Google search for Doncheva turns up various links to her letter and a second letter, as well as a handful of other works in support of Serbia against NATO, and very little else. One does learn that Doncheva, at least for awhile, was enamored with a Russian writer by the name of Alexander Dugin. To get a taste of his ideals (from an article translated into English by Doncheva herself--a real labor of love), you should check out this link:

War Is Our Mother!

Parenti, perhaps desperate for fresh material and quote sources, essentially turns Chapter 18 over to Doncheva. Most of this chapter is simply a discussion of the issues and concerns she raises in her "Open Letter to the Serbian 'Democratic Opposition.' "

Even if Doncheva were merely a disappointed and distraught former UDF member, Parenti's decision to essentially lean on the text of her open letter to the Serbian opposition betrays the intellectual weakness of Parenti's argument and the lack of substance to his objections.

In order to appreciate how weak Doncheva's arguments are, and to experience how crudely she expresses them, read for yourself:

With Her Eyes Opened

Aside from the maudlin, almost Dickensian, tone of the letter (it should be noted that I have not found a single post or letter or article by Doncheva which does not mention how destitute she is), a few things stand out. Given that this letter was written in implicit support of Milosevic and the Socialist Party in Serbia, the last item on her short list of actions taken by Bulgaria in support of NATO's war is worth noting:

"For the first time since the end of the 500 year Turkish Yoke last century Turkish ground force passed through Bulgaria."

Oh the horror--the Turks are coming! This is not the only example of such sentiment in her work. Not surprisingly, Parenti makes no notice of her implicit bigotry.

As for much of the "substance" of her charges, two factors need to be kept in mind. One--I myself spent an entire summer in Bulgaria in 2000, and my wife and I have many Bulgarian friends who have lived through the entire post-Communist period and continue to live there. There were indeed hard times, and Doncheva is not lying when she says that street beggars, extreme poverty, and a weakening of the health care system are elements of the new Bulgaria. It is also true that in 1999, it would not have been at all clear that things were going to get better--the latter half of the 1990s had not been good even for educated and employed Bulgarians, and there were no obvious indicators that the worse was behind for good.

However, Doncheva was being rather selective in her use of statistics and anecdotes to paint a picture of life in Bulgaria. 1999 was not nearly as bad as 1996 had been, for example, and even in 2000 at least some of the Bulgarians I know were cautiously optimistic. There were still areas of real concern--indeed, there still are--but there were also signs that the imminent collapse into Third-World level economic collapse had been avoided.

Secondly, Doncheva makes much of the social and economic disruptions incurred by the sudden (and admittedly often painful and poorly or even criminally managed) transition to a free-market economy. Left unsaid is the fact that the society and economy being disrupted were the products of draconian wholesale top-down changes carried out by the Bulgarian Communist Party; Bulgaria's agricultural sector was completely collectivised, and like all Warsaw Pact nations Bulgaria's economy was geared to serve as part of the larger Socialist Bloc economy, rather than as an organically developed and diversified domestic economy. Any changes to the old system--a system which was brought down from the inside in part because it was failing--was bound to bring about drastic and often painful social and economic changes.

Parenti apes Doncheva's logic throughout this chapter, extending his thesis to suggest that the fate of Serbia under NATO/UN/EU/IMF rule might be even worse than Bulgaria--maybe Yugoslavia would end up just like Romania. Revealing his true nature and his real values underneath the patina of humanist concern, Parenti writes:

"A November 1999 poll stunned the capitalist-restorationist Romanian government when it reported that 61 per cent felt that life had been better under the Communist government of Nicolae Ceausescu. Despite the shortages and serious problems under that regime, everyone had some measure of security and the problem of survival was neither an everyday challenge nor frequent tragedy."

Given that Parenti think Stalin has been unfairly maligned by historians, such an interpretation should not come as any surprise. Still, I trust the reader possesses the requisite intellectual flexibility needed to reject Parenti's simple-minded interpretation of that bare statistic.

Parenti also brings Iraq into the discussion; given current events and my desire to keep this blog moving to the next subject (only two short chapters to go), I will not take up this comparison, which is only in passing at the end of the chapter regardless.

Doncheva published a second letter on this subject, just as bathetic and bombastic as the first. If the reader is interested:

Slavery Is Freedom

While virtually worthless as a serious critique of Bulgaria's situation, of the geopolitical issues regarding Serbia in 1999, or of Western foreign policy, this chapter does an admirable job of exposing the thinness and reactive nature of Parenti's analysis of world events. If the man wanted to be taken seriously, he could have started by deleting this entire chapter from his manuscript before he ever submitted it to the publisher.

1 comment:

Owen said...

Did you catch Docheva's dramatic falling out with Diana Johnstone over the election of Kostunica?