Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE tiny Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is full of hopes for Serbia's new President Mr Kostunica because he was democratically elected. But so was Slobbo. In fact, as Plato (429-347 BC) saw in his Republic, dictators and democratic governments are in many ways indistinguishable.

In his early days, Plato contends, the dictator `greets everyone with a smile, makes lots of promises to his associates and in public speeches, and poses as an altogether agreeable and gentle person'. But since he cannot stand contradiction, he gets rid of anyone he sees as a threat and surrounds himself with those he can control, i.e. the second-rate. As a result, he needs more and more protection and that means a bodyguard consisting of those who owe no allegiance to the community but only to him, i.e. (in ancient Greek terms) slaves. So far, then, a perfect image of Mr Blair with his cronies and spin doctors.

But Serbia is not the UK and the challenge facing Mr Kostunica is: what will he do when the people point out that they did not yield him power to be dominated by slaves and other rift-raft? …

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