Bulgaria, Democracy and All of Us

Last week, my attention was drawn to the fact that people in Bulgaria were protesting on the streets against the appointment of Delyan Peevski as the chief of Bulgaria’s National Security Agency. Peevsky controls the larger part of Bulgaria’s media, has no prior experience with national security, and has also been linked to organised crime.

What’s happening in Bulgaria isn’t disconnected, isolated or irrelevant to other European countries. Just as in Turkey, where protests started about the re-development of a public park, but have escalated into far wider discontent with the government overall, the crowds in Bulgaria are protesting less about the fact that Peevski was appointed, but that he could even be considered for appointment at all. It shows how far an apparently democratic state can descend into the sort of corruption and iniquity that would normally be associated with far less stable countries.

Of course power corrupts. That is nothing new and I think we have to accept some ugliness in the democratic process. But there are limits. Here in the UK, the manifestly corrupt are able to return to their positions in their legislature; we accept powerful corporate lobbyists as part of the Westminster landscape, and we have grossly overreaching  mass surveillance without any judicial oversight.  In the US, the republic – in so far as the Framers envisioned it – has been all but completely corrupted. And all this against a background of casino banking, ever-worsening income disparity and “austerity“.

What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.

On hearing about the protests in Bulgaria, I wrote to my MP to ask what, if anything, he knew about them and what, if anything, has the Foreign Secretary said about it publicly. The answer (and at least he did answer) from the member of parliament for Finchley and Golders Green was “nothing” and “nothing” respectively. HMG’s ambassador to Bulgaria had done a bit of tweeting on the subject, but that was about it.

So this post is an expression of solidarity with those Bulgarians who would protest against corruption and the influence of organised crime in government. We are not nearly as far away from them as we would like to think.