KARL Marx knew that only poor, uneducated people make good communists, because only they are humiliated every day by economic inequities; only they have chains to lose.
People who join the party for spiritual or intellectual reasons soon drift away.
Robert Fico – like Ivan Gašparovič, Ján Slota and Vladimír Mečiar – knows that poor, uneducated people also make ideal customers for populism, because only they can be intimidated by the prospect of a free competition between ideas, skills and resources.
People with greater spiritual or intellectual capital tend to have more appetite for the individualistic nature of liberal democracy.
So as groans go up from liberals across the land at Ivan Gašparovič’s first round victory in presidential elections, let us ask ourselves – why do we still claim to be surprised and anguished at the wide support that political trolls enjoy in this country?
Shouldn’t we instead be shaking our heads at another failure by the right to understand a perfectly simple and centuries-old formula – that unless democracy offers some tangible benefits to the masses, they will not vote for democrats?
It may seem a stretch to call eight years of Mikuláš Dzurinda government a fluke, but that’s what they were.
Dzurinda would not have been in a position to form a government in 1998 if Mečiar hadn’t been so pathologically heavy-handed, just as he would not have been able to cobble together a right-wing administration in 2002 if Fico’s campaign hadn’t been so pathologically hostile.
Without these two accidents of recent history, Slovakia could quite easily be looking back at 16 years of more or less authoritarian, xenophobic and anti-progressive government.
So as Iveta Radičová and her supporters prepare for round two, and as the opposition girds itself for the parliamentary struggle next year, they might – for once – spare a thought for winning poor, rural and uneducated votes.
Perhaps by employing fewer rich stars to sell their candidates, or fewer haughty candidates to sell their policies.
Because unless they find a way to sell reform to the masses, young, educated and cosmopolitan voters in this country will always be ruled by the proletariat – and by the cynical kleptocrats who represent them.
One would think this lesson would have been learned during four decades of Communism.
30. Mar 2009 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson