by Maxim Sokolov
Translated from expert.ru, I make no claims to contents of the article.
Generally speaking, using “fascist” to mean “a bad man particularly out of favour with the speaker for some reason” has been commonplace for a while, and the current growing of tensions in the international politics has made the terminology used completely unbridled. With unbelievable ease whole great countries can be labeled “fascist” now. The only exception to this usage inflation is perhaps only Italy itself, where fascism was born. In the Apennines the term ventennio fascista, that is, “the fascist twenty years” is plainly used to mean the historical period from 30 October 1922 to 25 July 1943. That is, from the march to Rome that brought the Duce to power and until the coup when the Grand Council of Fascism spoke up against Mussolini, and the King suddenly remembered that according to the Constitution he can dismiss the Prime Minister.
That period gets mixed characterizations: that is, both good and bad things happened, and it seems that more good did, and what’s most important, there’s little fanaticism involved in the discourse. Yes, there was an authoritarian period in the history of Italy, so what? Should we be vomiting blood? That rings especially true given that the authoritarianism of the Duce was a rather mild one, and the devotion of the regimes established after 1945 to democracy was rather relative. One-and-a-half-party system and the recent rule of Berlusconi are not exactly examples of democracy as something unbelievably bright and pure. Otherwise, in the popular memory (as well as history textbooks) Mussolini remains mainly as an active ruler who transformed nature to serve man, reclaimed the putrid Pontine Marches near Rome, built milk factories and wineries for the peasantry (according to Lenin, “socialism is a rule of civilized cooperators”, fascism, apparently, is too), introduced a social security system that had been virtually absent before him, overcame the Mafia (which the Americans in Sicily in 1943 had to hastily restore), who saw the trains run on schedule, which for Italy was new and wild. The Rome’s subway also was started under Mussolini (today’s line B from Termini Central Railway Station to the Piramide), but the war stopped the project and the stations were used for bomb shelters. Could be an ideal hero for whom both the cult of Duce and the repressions against the anti-fascists (rather mild ones, by the way, in no way are they comparable to the ones the other nations saw in the 1920ies-1930ies) could be forgiven if not for the war. The deaths of the Italian boys in the Don steppes are seen as his principal fault. His more cautious colleague Franco was a hundred times wiser for staying neutral and eluding joining the war. On the other hand, Franco had it easier – it’s enough to glance at the map to see that the Italian boot sitting right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea was much harder to keep out of the war than the Iberian Peninsula; had Hitler not drawn it in, the United Nations would’ve. By the way, Franco showed remarkable stubbornness pushing Hitler back – Hitler used to say he would’ve preferred a dentist visit to one more negotiations round with the Caudillo. Mussolini lacked shiftiness.
That is all to say that only one ruler in the modern day Europe can be called a fascist in the etymological, Italian meaning of the word, one whose twenty years at power anniversary (ventennio fascista) was recently celebrated: Alexander Rygoravych Lukashenko**. From the sovkhoz “Gorodetz”, Shklov region, Mogilev oblast came a leader who by his longevity, authoritarianism, consistency and at the same time evasiveness, by his gift of first-rate demagogue and at the same time shrewd politician, worthy of standing beside Mussolini and Franco. “The Soviet land can give birth to its own Platos and fast-minded Newtons”*. The esthetic disgust towards the sovkhoz level of the demagogy used – “O, das ist der grosse Schelm!” – hampered and hampers still the ability of many (including the author) to see the admittedly incredible results Lukashenko has produced in the twenty years of his rule. These results are especially obvious when compared to another East Slavic republic of the former USSR. He managed to keep social peace, stomp out the attempts of a Maidan in Minsk at their very beginning (today a dispersal of the Maidan in Kiev with Lukashenko’s brutality, which proved to be far from the highest seen, would be seen post factum as a blessing), prevent the appearance of an oligarch class capable of influencing the politics – thank god, neither Gomel nor Vitebsk has its own Kolomoyskyi. At the same time the nation’s economy, forcefully directed by him, is capable of supporting modest but stable well-being of the citizens. The Ukrainians can already envy the prosperity level of the authoritarian Belarus, and will envy it even more in the future. At that, the question of where the regime is more oppressive is far from getting a solid answer already, and it will become even more doubtful as time goes on. Comparing Ukraine with its already fifth President to Belarus with its unchallenged Batka***-Duce shows that the question of absolute goodness of liberal democracy is a bit more complex than presented in the textbooks. The usual counter-argument that Batka is quite openly blackmailing Russia and this is the secret behind the Belarusian economic wonder is of course correct, but blackmail from Ukraine and factual subsidizing of its economy by Russia also took place, but no wonder, not even one like Belarusian, took place. It’s obvious that we have to admit that luck is sometimes followed by talent, even if the talent’s owner is not especially pleasant to us.
Once we admit this, we have to perform certain practical arrangements. The question of how A.G. Lukashenko managed to keep and later develop the real sector of the economy, which produces the goods perhaps not the most innovative and luxurious, but quite acceptable for the most part of the Russian citizens, while Russia itself faces constant troubles in that – much more significant ones than Belarus – that question has both theoretical and practical value. We already know that our centers of economic thought are capable of producing forecast scenarios and strategies out to 2020 or even 2050. These centers better answer a much simpler question: “Why could Luke, and we can’t?”
* A quote from an ode that Lomonosov wrote to commemorate the crowning of Katherine II; naturally he mentioned Russian, not Soviet, land though.
** A transliteration of the Belorussian form of the name is used in the Russian text, thus the usual Grigorievich becomes Rygoravych.
*** “Batka” is a common Belarussian term for Lukashenko; it means “father” in most Slavic languages including Belorussian, Russian and Ukrainian.