I don't know enough to take any sort of authoratative position, but I believe that democracy is about more than the quantitative - the numerical count of votes. For democracy to be meaningful, dissent, difference and debate must be able to flourish. Jonathan Steele, one of the Grauniad's liberal foreign affairs infoolectuals thinks that Uncle Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus, has basically been given a bad press by the evil right-wing cabal who control the Western press and the opposition to him is funded by the CIA and therefore meaningless. Lukashenko may be a control freak, Steele says, but the people are happy and economic progress is being made.
This is the logic of the liberal fellow traveller. Stalin may have been guilty of a few excesses, the fellow traveler logic goes, but he put bread on the table; there was full employment. (A parallel logic, not uncommon on the Tory far right, is that Hitler may have been a little nasty but at least he got the trains running on time and tried to do something for his country.)
But Jonathan Steele is a man who dignifies the insurgency in Iraq with the title "resistance". He is a man who thinks the genocide in Darfur is basically an insignificant squabble between neighbours over property inflated by Zionist neocons and "Christian right"). Shalom Lappin nailed this well at Engage:
"It is important to recognize that Steele is not denying the relevant facts concerning the atrocities committed in Darfur. He is systematically misrepresenting them by whitewashing the actions of the Janjaweed, and the government that it serves. He is misconstruing these actions as the unfortunate side effects of a clash between competing regional and social groups in the area, rather than as a deliberate campaign of mass violence that the government is waging against part of its own population. This is a particularly grotesque instance of the sort of propaganda journalism that runs rampant in the Guardian, as well as several other parts of the British press."Paul Bogdanor goes further, and lists Steele with a list of "left-wing deniers", putting him on a par with Holocaust deniers. (BevanKieran, at a comment here, goes even further, but you can find his choice words yourself.) Meanwhile, who supports him? The SWP's most prolific blogger.
Tags: Belarus, Sudan, Darfur, genocide