When to love authoritarians

Submitted by AWL on 16 November, 2021 - 8:44
Xi and Putin

In the early days of the pandemic the Morning Star (24 March 2020) carried two articles, side by side on the same page: one called upon the British government to “learn from China ... and adopt the Chinese approach that saves the maximum number of lives”; the other warned about the emergency powers being enacted in the UK and “Britain’s record of creeping authoritarianism.”

The fact that the paper’s editorial team evidently saw no contradiction between the two articles tells us a great deal about the people who run the Morning Star (primarily the Communist Party of Britain): democracy and human rights must be defended in Britain and the west, but are unimportant — undesirable, even — elsewhere.

With its apparent success in reducing new infections and deaths, China has presented itself as a model for mobilizing state resources to fight Covid and the Morning Star’s adulation has been unbounded. The 13-14 Nov edition even carried an article headed “Xi hailed as the ‘people’s leader and great helmsman’”.

Other recent articles have included International Editor Steve Sweeney’s uncritical pro-Ortega coverage of the Nicaraguan election, describing the ruthless crackdown on all opposition and critics of Ortega (including former Sandinistas) as legitimate measures against “figures [who] face serious charges, including money-laundering ... [and who] have acted as informants as part of attempts to destabilise the country and overthrow the Sandanista government.”

Most of the time comrade Sweeney seems to have quite an easy job, repeating the press releases and official statements of regimes he approves of. With Russia, though, things become more difficult. TheMorning Star clearly likes Putin’s approach to geo-politics, quoting him with approval as he denounces the west, threatens Ukraine and backs the Assad regime in Syria. The paper’s Nicaraguan coverage included (12 November) congratulations from the man himself and a denunciation by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of “unprecedented pressures” on Ortega from the US.

However, there’s a problem: the Russian Communist Party doesn’t like Putin. In its coverage of September’s elections, the paper reported: “Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov said his party — which is the largest opposition group in the Duma — had mobilised 300,000 election observers across the country and that these were reporting “widespread violations ... He reported ‘ballot stuffing’ in Kletnyansky district and similar violations in the greater Moscow, Saratov and Samara regions, as well as reports of public-sector employees being marched by their bosses to polling booths to vote for United Russia, the electoral vehicle which supports President Vladimir Putin”.

There can be little doubt that it’s only the stance of the Russian CP that prevents the Morning Star from being openly pro-Putin.

Which brings us to the tragic and disgraceful scenes on the border between Poland and Belarus. Quite rightly, the Morning Star has denounced the brutality of the Polish authorities towards the migrants who are dying in sub-zero temperatures. And quite rightly, the paper has pointed out that Poland has the full backing of the EU and is simply enforcing the policy of “Fortress Europe”. But coverage of Lukashenko’s use of migrants as pawns in a cynical diplomatic manoeuvre to destabilise the EU, and the obvious support he’s receiving from a gloating Putin, is notable for its absence.

All of which raises a question to which there is no clear answer: does the Morning Star (and the CPB) approve of authoritarianism as a matter of principle and despise any form of democracy as inimical to the glorious, Chinese-style “socialist” future? Or is it cruder than that — simply “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”?

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