1 FEBRUARY 1992, Page 19


Dominic Lawson writes: Three years ago we appealed to our readers to buy half- price subscriptions to The Spectator, which we undertook to send to people in Poland. The scheme was immediately ridiculed by Mr Neal Ascherson in the Observer, who declared that the people of Eastern Europe needed technical medical journals but did not need The Spectator. However, our readers reasoned not the need and generously contributed nearly 200 sub- scriptions.

The response from our new Polish read- ers was overwhelmingly appreciative. As one opposition politician wrote: `I would like to thank you for this kind and thoughtful initiative, not only in my own name, but also in the name of all my friends with whom I share every issue of your excellent magazine.' Articles from The Spectator were frequently repro- duced, in translation, in the samizdat jour- nals, and many of our Polish subscribers have since become prominent writers and editors in that country's new independent press.

After the astonishing events in Eastern Europe in the final months of 1989 we not only renewed our appeal for gift subscrip- tions, but also broadened it to include Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Rumania. This time our readers excelled themselves, contributing more than 500 subscriptions. As a result of this avalanche of generosity, we were able to direct 110 free subscrip- tions to Rumania. And we were particular- ly glad to be able to strengthen our links with Rumania in this way, since The Spec- tator had been one of the few journals in the West to show a serious interest in the plight of that country before Ceausescu's fall.

Last year, understandably enough, the avalanche dwindled. The excitement of November and December 1989 had faded; the 'human interest' stories coming out of Eastern Europe had waned. Many readers may have felt, if only subconsciously: `they've got rid of communism, they're all right now, they don't needour help.' Whether communism has really disap- peared is doubtful, especially in Rumania. That people in these countries can now manage perfectly well without any kind of help from the West is an even more dubi- ous proposition. For ordinary people, con- tacts with the West are now increasingly dependent on our generosity: as their arti- ficial price-structures crumble, the real disparity between their economy and ours is more starkly revealed. Any Rumanian is now free to buy a plane ticket to London, for example, but it will cost him more than a year's wages. The cost of a subscription to The Spectator, even at our specially reduced rate, is itself more than a quarter of the average annual wage.

If the people there are so poor, readers may wonder, should we not devote our money instead to more desperately need- ed things, such as medical aid — or techni- cal medical journals, perhaps? There can be no absolute or categorical answer to that question. But by way of a reply, let me just quote the opening words of a letter from one of our readers in Bucharest:

Each and every week The Spectator issue brought by the postman reminds me of your thoughtfulness — indeed, what Rumanians

need now, perhaps more than decent food and clothes, is food for thought, information, a substantial connection with all things West- ern they have gone without for almost half a century. I cannot thank you enough for the presence of such a periodical on my table week in, week out. It does much more to keep us alive than any other aid.

The eventual solution of Rumania's problems can only come from the internal political development of that country, which depends in turn on the development of a political culture, a culture of attitudes and ideas. If we can help that development in any way we shall be glad; but we shall be gladder still if we can also be a source of sheer entertainment and interest to our individual readers there. As well as letters about politics from journalists and politi- cians, we have also had a letter from a doc- tor comparing his experiences with Theodore Dahymple's, and a letter from another Rumanian reader asking whether Taki really exists.

However, we have also had letters from people asking why their subscriptions have ceased; and to these we can only reply that we are dependent on the generosity of our readers for their continuation. As in previ- ous years., The Spectator will make no profit from these gift subscriptions, which are at the specially reduced rate of £41. Also as before, names and addresses of recipients will be supplied by the Mihai Eminescu Trust, the Jagiellonian Trust and the Stefan Batory Trust. We are also happy to send subscriptions to people in all these countries (and Bulgaria and the ex-Soviet states) chosen by readers, so long as they supply us with their full addresses.


I would like to give subscription/s to an individual or institution in Eastern Europe at the subsidised rate of £41 per annual subscription.

Name Address If you wish to give the name and address of a particular individual please enclose it with your payment. As we wish to add all the names to our _computer at the same time please reply by February 29th, 1992.

PAYMENT OPTIONS: (Equivalent US$ and Eurocheques accepted) C2 1 enclose my cheque/money order made payable to The Spectator for £/$ Please charge my credit card for Please tick: VISA U ACCESS U DINERS CLUB CI Card No' Expiry Date Signature' Date Please return this form to The Spectator, 'Eastern Europe', 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL