Fw: From Bill Blum ("Killing Hope")

Jay Moore research at SPAMneravt.com
Fri Oct 6 20:40:17 MDT 2000

We might get a better idea of what's taking place in the streets of
Yugoslavia today by looking at what happened in Bulgaria, as well as in
Albania. -- Bill Blum


Teaching communists what democracy is all about

For American anti-communist cold-warriors, for Bulgarian anti-communist
cold-warriors, it couldn't have looked more promising.
      The cold war was over. The forces of Western Civilization, Capitalism
and Goodness had won. The Soviet Union was on the verge of falling apart.
Communist Party of Bulgaria was in disgrace. Its dictatorial leader of 35
years was being prosecuted for abuses of power. The party had changed its
name, but that wouldn't fool anybody. And the country was holding its first
multiparty election in 45 years.
     Then, the communists proceeded to win the election.
     For the anti-communists the pain was unbearable. Surely some monstrous
cosmic mistake had been made, a mistake which should not be allowed to
It should not, and it would not.

Washington had expressed its interest early. In February, Secretary of State
James Baker became the most senior American official to visit Bulgaria since
World War II. His official schedule said he was in Bulgaria to "meet with
opposition leaders as well as Government officials". Usually, the New York
Times noted, "it is listed the other way around". Baker became deeply
involved in his talks with the opposition about political strategies and how
to organize for an election. He also addressed a street rally organized by
opposition groups, praising and encouraging the crowd. On the State
Department profile of Bulgaria handed to reporters traveling with Baker,
under the heading "Type of Government", was written "In transition".{1}
      In May, three weeks before election day, a row broke out over
assertions by the leader of the main opposition group. Petar Beron,
of the Union of Democratic Forces, a coalition of 16 parties and movements,
said that during UDF's visits to Europe and the United States, many
politicians pledged that they would not provide financial assistance to a
socialist Bulgaria. This would apply even if the Bulgarian Socialist
Party --
the renamed Communist Party -- won the elections fairly. Beron stated that:

Western leaders want lasting contacts with governments which are building
Western-style democracy and economies. The British Foreign Secretary,
Hurd, was particularly categorical. He said he was drawing up a declaration
to go before the European Community to refuse help for the remaining
socialist governments in Eastern Europe.{2}
      Meanwhile, the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington's
created stand-in for the CIA (see Nicaragua chapter), with funding in this
case primarily from the Agency for International Development, was pouring
some $2 million into Bulgaria to influence the outcome of the election, a
process the NED calls promoting democracy. This was equivalent to a foreign
power injecting more than $50 million into an American electoral campaign.
One major recipient of this largesse was the newspaper of the opposition
Union of Democratic Forces, Demokratzia, which received $233,000 of
newsprint, "to allow it to increase its size and circulation for the period
leading up to the national elections". The UDF itself received another
$615,000 of American taxpayer money for "infrastructure support and party
training" ... "material and technical support" ... and "post-electoral
assistance for the UDF's party building program".{3}
     The United States made little attempt to mask its partisanship. On June
9, the day before election day, the US ambassador to Bulgaria, Sol Polansky,
appeared on the platform of a UDF rally.{4} Polansky, whose early government
career involved intelligence research, was a man who had had more than a
passing acquaintance with the CIA. Moreover, several days earlier, the State
Department had taken the unusual step of publicly criticizing the Bulgarian
government for what it called the inequitable distribution of resources for
news outlets, especially newsprint for opposition newspapers, as if this was
not a fact of life for genuine opposition forces in the United States and
every other country in the world. The Bulgarian government responded that
opposition had received newsprint and access to the broadcast outlets in
accordance with an agreement between the parties, adding that many of the
Socialist Party's advantages, especially its financial reserves, resulted
from the party's membership of one million, about a ninth of Bulgaria's
population. The government had further provided the printing plant to
the UDF newspaper and had given the opposition coalition the building from
which to run its operations.{5}
     The Socialists' lead in the polls in the face of a crumbling economy
perplexed the UDF, but the Bulgarian Socialist Party drew most of its
from among pensioners, farm-workers, and the industrial workforce, together
representing well over half the voting population.{6} These sectors tended
associate the BSP with stability, and the party capitalized on this,
to the disastrous results -- particularly the unemployment and inflation --
of "shock therapy" free enterprise in Russia.{7} Although the three main
parties all proposed moving toward a market economy, the Socialists insisted
that the changes had to be carefully controlled. How this would be
in practice if the BSP were in charge and had to live in an extremely
capitalist world, could not be predicted. What was certain, however, was
there was no way a party named "Socialist", née "Communist", recently
to the Soviet Union, could win the trust and support of the West.
     As it turned out after the second round of voting, the Socialists had
won about 47 percent of the vote and 211 seats in the 400-seat parliament
(the Grand National Assembly), to the UDF's 36 percent and 144 seats.
Immediately following the first round, the opposition took to the streets
with accusations of fraud, chanting "Socialist Mafia!" and "We won't work
the Reds!" However, the European election observers had contrary views. "The
results ... will reflect the will of the people," said the leader of a
British observer delegation. "If I wanted to fix an election, it would be
easier to do it in England than in Bulgaria."
      "If the opposition denounces the results as manipulated, it doesn't
in with what we've seen," a Council of Europe delegate declared.
     Another West European observer rejected the opposition claims as "sour
      "Utter rot" was the term chosen by a conservative English MP to
describe allegations of serious fraud. He asserted that "The conduct of the
poll was scrupulously fair. There were just minor incidents that were
      "The opposition appear to be rather bad losers," concluded one Western
     These opinions were shared by the many hundreds of observers, diplomats
and parliamentarians from Western Europe. Nonetheless, most of the American
observers were not very happy, saying that fear and intimidation arising
"the legacy of 45 years of totalitarian rule" had produced "psychological"
pressures on Bulgarian voters. "Off the record, I have real problems with
this," said one of the Americans. Asked if his team's report would have been
as critical had the opposition won, he replied: "That's a good
      Members of the British parliamentary observer group dismissed reports
that voting was marred by intimidation and other malpractices. Most
complaints were either "trivial" or impossible to substantiate, they said.
"When we asked where intimidation had taken place, it was always in the next
village," said Lord Tordoff.{11}
      Before the election, Socialist Prime Minister Lukanov had called for a
coalition with opposition parties if his Bulgarian Socialist Party won the
election. "The new government," he said, "needs the broadest possible
of public support if we are to carry through the necessary changes."{12} Now
victorious, he repeated the call for a coalition. But the UDF rejected the
offer.{13} There were, however, elements within the BSP which were equally
opposed to a coalition.
     The opposition refused to accept the outcome of the voting. They were
war with the government. Street demonstrations became a daily occurrence as
UDF supporters, backed by large numbers of students, built barricades and
blocked traffic, and students launched a wave of strikes and sit-ins. Many
the students were acting as part of the Federation of Independent Student
Societies (or Associations), which had been formed before the election. The
chairman of the student group, Aptanas Kirchev, asserted that the
organization had documentation on electoral abuses which would shortly be
made public. But this does not appear to have taken place.{14}
     The student movements were amongst the recipients of National Endowment
for Democracy grants, to the tune of $100,000 "to provide infrastructure
support to the Federation of Independent Student Associations of Bulgaria to
improve its outreach capacity in preparation for the national elections".
students received "faxes, video and copying equipment, loudspeakers,
equipment and low-cost printing techniques", as well as the help of various
Polish advisers, American legal advisers, and other experts -- the best that
NED money could buy.{15}
     The first victory for the protest movement came on 6 July, less than a
month after the election, when President Mladenov was forced to resign after
a week of protests -- including a hunger strike outside of Parliament --
his actions during an anti- governmental demonstration the previous
His resignation came after the UDF released a videotape showing Mladenov
talking to his colleagues and appearing to say: "Shouldn't we bring in the
tanks?" Said a UDF official of the resignation, "We are rather happy about
all this. It has thrown the Socialists into chaos."{16}
      The demonstrations, the protests, the agitation continued on a daily
basis during July. A "City of Freedom" consisting of more than 60 tents was
set up in the center of Sofia, occupied by people who said they would stay
there until all senior Bulgarian politicians who served under the old
communist regime were removed. When they were denied what they considered
adequate access to the media, the protesters added to their demands the
resignation of the head of Bulgarian television.{17} At one point, a huge
ceremonial pyre was built in the street in which text books from the
communist era were burnt, as well as party cards and flags.{18}
                           go to notes
     The next head to fall was that of the interior minister, Atanas
Smerdjiev, who resigned in a dispute over the extent to which the
of former dictator Todor Zhivkov should be public or behind closed doors.
Bulgarian people indeed had a lot to protest about; primarily a rapidly
declining standard of living and a government without a president which
seemed paralyzed and unable to enact desperately-needed reforms. But the
question posed by some MPs -- as thousands of hostile demonstrators
surrounded the parliament building during the Smerdjiev affair -- was "Are
going to be dictated to by the street?" "The problem," said Prime Minister
Lukanov, "is whether parliament is a sovereign body or whether we are going
to be forced to make decisions under pressure." His car was attacked as he
left the building.{19} Finally, on 1 August the head of the UDF, Zhelyu
Zhelev, was elected unopposed by Parliament as the new president.
     A few weeks later, another demand of the protesters was met. The
government began to remove communist symbols, such as red stars and
hammer-and-sickles, from buildings in Sofia. Yet, two days later, the
headquarters of the Socialist Party was set afire as 10,000 people swarmed
around it. Many of them broke into the building and ransacked it before it
wound up a gutted and charred shell.{20}
     The protest movement in Bulgaria was beginning to feel and smell like
the general strike in British Guiana to topple Cheddi Jagan in 1962, and the
campaign to undermine Salvador Allende in Chile in the early '70s -- both
operations of the CIA -- where as soon as one demand was met, newer ones
raised, putting the government virtually under siege, hoping it would
over-react, and making normal governing impossible. In Bulgaria, women
demonstrated by banging pots and pans to signify the lack of food in the
shops,{21} just as women had dramatically done in Chile, and in Jamaica and
Nicaragua as well, where the CIA had also financed anti-government
     In British Guiana, the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade had come down
from the US to spread the gospel and money, and similar groups had set up
shop in Jamaica. In Bulgaria in August, representatives of the Free Congress
Foundation, an American right-wing organization with lots of money and lots
of anti-communist and religious ideology, met with about one-third of the
opposition members in Parliament and President Zhelev's chief political
adviser. Zhelev himself visited the FCF's Washington office the following
month. The FCF -- which has received money from the National Endowment for
Democracy at times -- had visited the Soviet Union and most of the Eastern
European countries in 1989 and 1990, imparting good ol' American know-how in
electoral and political techniques and for shaping public policy, as well as
holding seminars on the multiple charms of free enterprise. It is not known
whether any of the students were aware of the fact that one of the FCF's
chief Eastern European program directors, Laszlo Pasztor, was a man with
genuine Nazi credentials.{22}
     By October, a group of American financial experts and economists, under
the auspices of the US Chamber of Commerce, had drawn up a detailed plan for
transforming Bulgaria into a supply-side free-market economy, complete with
timetables for implementing the plan. President Zhelev said he was confident
the Bulgarian government would accept virtually all the recommendations,
though the BSP held a majority in Parliament. "They will be eager to
proceed," he said, "because otherwise the government will fall."{23}
      Witnesses and police claimed that Konstantin Trenchev, a fierce
anti-communist who was a senior figure in the UDF and the leader of the
Podkrepa independent trade union, had called on a group of hardcore
demonstrators to storm the BSP building during the fire. He had also called
for the dissolution of Parliament and presidential rule, "tantamount to a
coup d'etat" declared the Socialist Party. Trenchev went into hiding.{24}
     Trenchev's Podkrepa union was also being financed by the NED -- $327
thousand had been allocated "to provide material and technical support to
Bulgaria's independent trade union movement Podkrepa" and "to help Podkrepa
organize a voter education campaign for the local elections". There were
computers and fax machines, and there were advisers to help the union "get
organized and gain strength", according to Podkrepa's vice president. The
assistance had reached Podkrepa via the Free Trade Union Institute,{25} set
up by the AFL-CIO in 1977 as the successor to the Free Trade Union
which had been formed in the 1940s to combat left-wing trade unionism in
Europe. Both the FTUC and the FTUI had long had an intimate relationship
the CIA.{26}
      In the first week of November, several hundred students occupied Sofia
University once again, demanding now the prosecution, not merely the
of leading figures in the former communist regime, as well as the
nationalization of the Socialist Party's assets. The prime minister's rule
was shaky. Lukanov had threatened to step down unless he gained opposition
support in Parliament for his program of economic reform. The UDF, on the
other hand, was now demanding that it be allowed to dominate a new coalition
government, taking the premiership and most key portfolios. Although open to
a coalition, the BSP would not agree to surrender the prime minister's
position; the other cabinet posts, however, were open to negotiation.{27}
     The movement to topple Lukanov was accelerating. Thousands marched and
called for his resignation. University students held rallies, sit-ins,
strikes and protest fasts, now demanding the publication of the names of all
former secret police informers in the university. They proclaimed their
complete distrust in the ability of the government to cope with Bulgaria's
political and economic crisis, and called for "an end to one-party rule", a
strange request in light of the desire of Lukanov to form a coalition
government.{28} In June The Guardian of London had described Lukanov as
"Bulgaria's impressive Prime minister ... a skilled politician who impresses
business executives, bankers and conservative Western politicians, while
maintaining popular support at home, even among the opposition."{29}
     On the 23rd of November, Lukanov (barely) survived a no- confidence
motion, leading the UDF to storm out of Parliament, announcing that they
would not return for "an indefinite period". Three days later, the Podkrepa
labor organization instituted a "general strike", albeit not with a majority
of the nation's workers.{30}
     Meanwhile, the student protests continued, although some of their
demands had already been partly met. The Socialist Party had agreed to
restore to the state 57 percent of its assets, corresponding to subsidies
received from the state budget under the previous regime. And the former
party leader, Todor Zhivkov, was already facing trial.
     Some opposition leaders were not happy with the seemingly boundless
student protest movement. UDF leader Petar Beron urged that since Bulgaria
had embarked on the road to parliamentary democracy, the students should
democracy a chance and not resort to sit-ins. And a UDF MP added that "The
socialists should leave the political arena in a legal manner. They should
not be forced into doing it through revolution." Student leaders dismissed
these remarks out of hand.{31}
     The end for Andrei Lukanov came on 29 November, as the strike spread to
members of the media, and thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers staged
demonstrations. He announced that since his proposed economic program had
received the broad support he had asked for, he had decided that it was
"useless to continue in office". A caretaker coalition would be set up that
would lead to new general elections.{32}
      Throughout the period of protest and turmoil, the United States
continued to give financial assistance to various opposition forces and
"whispered advice on how to apply pressure to the elected leaders". The vice
president of the Podkrepa union, referring to American diplomats, said:
wanted to help us and have helped with advice and strategy." This solidarity
gave rise to hopes of future American aid. Konstantin Trenchev, the head of
Podkrepa, apparently out of hiding now, confirmed that opposition activists
had been assured of more US assistance if they managed to wrest power from
the former communists.{33}
     These hopes may have had as much to do with naiveté as with American
support for the UDF. The Bulgarians, like other Eastern Europeans and Soviet
citizens, had led very sheltered political and intellectual lives. In 1990,
their ideological sophistication was scarcely above the equation: if the
communist government was bad, it must have been all bad; if it was all bad,
its principal enemy must have been all good. They believed such things as:
American government leaders could not stay in office if they lied to the
people, and that reports of homelessness and the absence of national health
insurance in the United States were just "communist propaganda".
     However, the new American ambassador, H. Kenneth Hill, said that
Washington officials had made it clear to Bulgarian politicians that future
aid depended on democratic reform and development of an economic recovery
plan acceptable to Western lenders, the same terms laid down all over
     The Bulgarian Socialists, while not doubting Washington's commitment to
exporting capitalism, did complain that the United States had at times
violated democratic principles in working against the leadership chosen by
the Bulgarian people. One reform- minded Socialist government official
contended that Americans had reacted to his party's victory as if it
represented a failure of US policy. "The U.S. government people have not
the most clean, moral defenders of democracy here," he said. "What cannot be
done at home can be gotten away with in this dark, backward Balkan
      In the years since, the Bulgarian people, particularly the students,
may have learned something, as the country has gone through the now-familiar
pattern of freely-rising prices, the scrapping of subsidies on basic goods
and utilities, shortages of all kinds, and IMF and World Bank demands to
tighten the belts even further. Politically, there's been chaos. The UDF
to power in the next elections (with the BSP a very close second) but, due
the failing economy, lost a confidence vote in Parliament, saw its entire
cabinet resign, then the vice president, who warned that the nation was
heading for dictatorship. Finally, in July 1993, protesters prevented the
president from entering his office for a month and demanded his resignation.
     By 1994, we could read in the Los Angeles Times, by their most
anti-communist foreign correspondent:

Living conditions are so much worse in the reform era that Bulgarians look
back fondly on communism's "good old days," when the hand of the state
crushed personal freedom but ensured that people were housed, employed and
had enough to eat.{35}

But for Washington policy makers, the important thing, the ideological
line, was that the Bulgarian Socialist Party could not, and would not, be
given the chance to prove that a democratic, socialist-oriented mixed
could succeed in Eastern Europe while the capitalist model was failing all
around it.
     Nor, apparently, would it be allowed in nearby Albania. On 31 March
1991, a Communist government won overwhelming endorsement in elections
This was followed immediately by two months of widespread unrest, including
street demonstrations and a general strike lasting three weeks, which
led to the collapse of the new regime by June.{36} The National Endowment
Democracy had been there also, providing $80,000 to the labor movement and
$23,000 "to support party training and civic education programs".{37}


1. New York Times, 11 February 1990, p. 20.

2. The Guardian (London), 21 May 1990, p. 6.

3. National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, D.C., Annual Report, 1990
(October 1, 1989 - September 30, 1990), pp. 23-4. The NED grants also
included $111 thousand for an international election observation team.

4. Los Angeles Times, 3 December 1990, p. 13.

5. New York Times, 6 June 1990, p. 10; 11 February 1990, p. 20.

6. The Guardian (London), 9 June 1990, p. 6.

7. Luan Troxel, "Socialist Persistence in the Bulgarian Elections of
1990-1991", East European Quarterly (Boulder, CO), January 1993, pp. 412-14.

8. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1990.

9. The Guardian (London), 12 June 1990, p. 7.

10. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1990; The Times (London), 12 June 1990, p.
The Guardian (London), 12 June 1990, p. 7.

11. The Times (London), 20 June 1990, p. 10.

12. The Guardian (London), 28 May 1990, p. 6.

13. The Times (London), 20 June 1990, p. 10.

14. The Times Higher Educational Supplement (London), 29 June 1990, p. 11.

15. NED Annual Report, 1990, op. cit., pp. 6-7, 23.

16. The Times (London), 7 July 1990, p. 11.

17. The Times Higher Educational Supplement (London), 13 July 1990, p. 9.

18. The Guardian (London), 12 July 1990, p. 10; The Times (London), 20 July
1990, p. 10.

19. The Times (London), 28 July 1990, p. 8; 30 July, p. 6.

20. Ibid., 27 August 1990, p. 8.

21. The Times Higher Education Supplement (London), 14 December 1990, p. 8.

22. Russ Bellant and Louis Wolf, "The Free Congress Foundation Goes East",
Covert Action Information Bulletin, Fall 1990, No. 35, pp. 29-32, based
substantially on Free Congress Foundation publications.

23. New York Times, 9 October 1990, p. D20.

24. The Guardian (London), 29, 30 August 1990, both p. 8.

25. NED Annual Report, 1990, op. cit., p. 23; Los Angeles Times, 3 December
1990, p. 13.

26. Howard Frazier, editor, Uncloaking the CIA (The Free Press/Macmillan
Publishing Co., New York, 1978) pp. 241-8.

27. The Guardian (London), 7 November 1990, p. 10.

28. The Times Higher Educational Supplement (London), 16 November 1990, p.

29. The Guardian (London), 9 June 1990, p. 6.

30. The Times (London), 24 November 1990, p. 10; 27 November, p. 16.

31. The Times Higher Educational Supplement (London), 30 November 1990, p.

32. The Guardian (London), 30 November 1990, p. 9; The Times (London), 30
November 1990, p. 10.

33. Los Angeles Times, 3 December 1990, p. 13.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid., 6 February 1994, article by Carol J. Williams.

36. Ibid., 13 June 1991, p. 14.

37. National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, D.C., Annual Report, 1991
(October 1, 1990 - September 30, 1991), p. 42.

This is a chapter from Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since
World War II   by William Blum
(Notice the capital "A" and the underline ( _ )

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