Tuesday, February 28, 2006

50 years after Stalin

Fifty years ago in a day like yesterday, 25 February, an important event marked its place in world history. Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Union’s third leader, condemned Stalin’ era’s misdeed and exposed crimes that had victimized a large portion of humanity for thirty years.

It was about the middle of twentieth century. The world hadn’t yet gone through the information revolution that forced it to transform itself into the global village it is now, where all is connected and everything is exposed. Thus, it took several days before people were able to hear Khrushchev’s historic speech. And at that, not every one; rather only those who wanted to listen and were ready to abandon their absolutism did hear him. Stalin once had been known as, a world war hero, the hero of Stalingrad, the initiator of Stalinism, successor of Lenin, a naïve innocent villager, one who had lost a son to war while his daughter dwelled in abject poverty, and never connected to corruption and financial misdeeds; one who remained faithful and steadfast with his ideologies. But that very person became the most ruthless murderer in history. Had the remainder of victims of his apparatus been as powerful as Jews, the world would have also realized then how horribly thousand upon thousands of souls perished by his command. The “great war hero” became such a genocidal maniac that one like him “has not been seen throughout the history of human civilization.” Most who were present in February of 56 didn’t want to accept Khrushchev’s claims about Stalin. While in Iran CIA and Imperialism were accused of fabricating slanderous lies and stories against Stalin, those in the Soviet Union who did believe the report issued by their twentieth congress were accused of being “pro-Imperialism.” And later, when the reports accuracy was proven, Khrushchev was branded as “revisionist.” In the political jargon of those days the term “Imperialism” equaled the term” World Arrogance” today, and being known as a “revisionist” then, was just as bad as being called a “reformist” now in Iran. How could the world have closed their eyes to Stalin’s atrocities and carried on as if concern for millions of his victims simply didn’t fit in their agenda, while individuals like Trotsky and Kafka wrote about it at the price of their lives and dignities?
In loyalty to their ideals and aspirations, at the head of which Stalin ruled uncontested, people easily denied existence of the Gulags. In our own Iran, a great man named Khalil Maleki had to endure great suffering and slander for years, just because he blew the whistle when no one could bear to hear it.
The greatest crime in human history was supposed to be buried under the snow in Siberia. And as it relates to Iran, there were those dear souls who in search of justice and with a vision of a Stalinist utopia crossed the northern borders only to end up laboring and dying in forced labor camps of Siberia. After Khrushchev revealed Stalin’s terrible crimes, the Soviet media became saturated with statements of disavowal and denials of involvements; many years after the death of millions.

How was Stalin able to do all that and get away with it? That question is easy to answer, although the knowledge of its reasons isn’t.
Stalin quieted dissent so effectively that even wives and husbands wouldn’t confide in each other. Then he started a brutal campaign of ideological interrogation. The situation worsened to a point where hordes of young volunteers dutifully snitched on their parents to the “Party” and its intelligence machine. Then he started on Lenin’s partners and allies. He entrapped them one after another and after he subjected them to the most inhumane methods of torture and interrogation, he decreed their executions to be a duty to those loyal to him. He did all that under the pretext of fighting against blood sucking capitalism of the United States and Britain. He achieved so high a degree of ferocity and violence in his despotic rule that even hours after his death members of his office and his cohorts were to afraid to announce his death. People feared him even after his death. Is there a mightier status than what Stalin held, when people feared even his corpse? But that was all he was good at; instilling great fear of himself in people so that they would feel his presence everywhere. However, his campaign slogans and greatest promises had been global realization of social justice, fight against capitalist oppression, destruction of social divide, and battling the decadent western culture.

Hundreds of Iran’s Toodeh party’s “justice and freedom seeking” members made an unprecedented gathering in streets of Tehran upon hearing the news of Stalin’s death.

Fifty years ago this day Khrushchev brought down that idol.

The horrible truth about Stalin would have come out any way. But the fact that his successor was the one who uncovered it merits much significance. That same story repeated itself thirty years later in smaller dimensions. Though he tried and wanted to be like Stalin, Brezhnev couldn’t. Nobody could match Stalin’s thirst for blood. But again, what Gorbachev did wasn’t any less important than what Khrushchev accomplished. And again, there were those who weren’t prepared to accept and believe the inevitability of self destruction of a structure which had the skull and bones of millions of people mixed in its mortar. As soon as he found the chance Nour-ad-din Kianoury wrote in his memoirs, and still contends, that Yeltsin is an American lackey and carries a CIA identification card!

But it happened.

Soviet system came crashing down as it was destined to. What was hardest to bear was witnessing tears of those who had invested a life time on the promise of an ideology that was destined to doom, and now they were witnessing its demise.

Fiftieth anniversary of Khrushchev’s historic report deserves remembrance because it is a reminder of the destiny of all dictators and despots. And because it shows how the benevolent freedom and justice seeking nature of man on its quest for utopia can end up in hell of hells if it is tied to dogmatic beliefs and ideologies; it should be taken lessons from.

Dictators do eventually leave the scene and take with them nothing more than damnations. But always, in all history and territories, it is the hopeful but gullible hearts are that are left behind. Those who believed in promises of Saddams and Molla Omars of history are the ones who have the hardest of times when truth finally comes out. But the truth does come out; even if it takes its time.

It is written that once in a public session after his famous report Khrushchev was again recalling Stalin’s atrocities when a voice shouted out from the audience:” Where were you during those times?” Khrushchev then calmly asked: “Who is asking?” and when he heard no reply, he answered:” Where you are right now!”

Because history carries so many similarities within, some may think that it repeats itself. No, history does not repeat itself. Rather, the selfish and self deceiving nature of man again creates an opportunity for the hopefuls to be happily deceived. This cycle will never end. Mobilization and movement of hopeful masses will never end. Being present in war against Hitler made a hero out of Stalin and his war against western civilization gave him the chance to victimize millions. Those millions of souls didn’t all live in the Soviet Union. Some lived rather proud lives throughout the world. Stalin did to his victims what no other dictator had ever done.
When he was alive, nobody dared to speak. But after his death the truth did come out. And his ideology died despite the wishes of all the hopeful justice seekers it had nurtured within its bosoms.

It’s been said:” The sifter, follows behind the caravan.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two Simple Questions

The Iranian media called the massive march of February 11th (the day of the victory of Iran 1979 revolution in 1979 that overthrew the monarchy and established an Islamic Republic) the “nuclear referendum” and a “national referendum”. The purpose behind these names appears to be aimed at strengthening the hand of the government in its talks with the international community over the country’s nuclear programs. But this approach raises the question of who is the target of this publicity, which in turn brings up other questions as well.

If the target audience of this propaganda are foreign governments – specifically that of the United States and the Europeans – who are challenging Iran’s nuclear programs, then it must be said that both the governments and world public are well aware of such tactics practiced in the East. The tactic is then futile. In fact, they may even come to believe that the policy makers in Tehran are doing this out of weakness and are demonstrating the support of the public for policies that are essentially wrong. We know that in a closed society with a controlled media, there is always that possibility that the truth is being withheld from the public.

So one may conclude that this march and the propaganda surrounding it is for domestic consumption, and specifically, for the purpose of covering up the failures of the new administration in the realm of foreign affairs. I call it a failure because the purpose of any talk with others, or such policies, is to come to an agreement, not to end up in confrontation or conflict. Any other outcome than an agreement is a failure. In other words, if the purpose of all of this was to come to the point of confrontation, then there was no need for talks to begin with as opposing views and discord existed from day one of all of these events.

The editor of conservative and pro-government Keyhan newspaper, which over the past two years has been beating its chest that talks with the Europeans are futile and should not take place, now changes course and states that the government has received the vote of the public, without in fact even needing it. The newspaper goes even further and claims that no government in the world – whether it was in power through honest votes or through the use of force and deception – ever returns to its public for a vote of confidence and to test its legitimacy. Only the Islamic Republic of Iran does this every year, without even needed to do it, the newspaper asserts.

So it becomes clear then that this purpose better explains the target audience of the February march. It clearly shows that the target of the exercise is not others, but to prove to the people of Iran that the government is popular, legitimate and right. It is very clear that to learn of the kind of relationship that a government has with its people – especially in the East - the international community does not wait for a million-man march to reach its conclusion. History attests to this, and just recently in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when in his last year of rule his party extracted 100 percent support and votes from ballot boxes, the exercise did not amount to anything for the world community. Supportive demonstrations have even a less impact. So the audience is not the world community.

The fact that the goal is the domestic population, however, does not diminish from the importance of the event itself. But it certainly raises a few questions which those who claim exclusive legitimacy should also be prepared to respond to.

The first question is that when the country is going through such a sensitive period, why is the media not allowed to exercise its freedom and express the different views around the country. Web bloggers with some 20 to 30 hits to their websites get arrested for discredited the regime for its human rights abuses. An example is Arash Sigarchi whose writings are publicly available and none smell of any opposition to the regime or contain any insults of it. But the “just” judge easily sentenced him to 13 years of prison, which was subsequently reduced by an appellate court to a third of that.

The second question is that if the regime is as popular and exclusive as the editor of Keyhan claims, then why does it not leave the public to themselves so that they chose whoever they wish as their representatives. Why is it that for any elections Mr. Janati (from the Guardians Council) must hand pick a few candidates to be presented to the public for voting. Why the vetting?

The editor of Keyhan is so drowned in the idea of selection as opposed to election, that he writes the following in another editorial. If the German chancellor is honest, then can he explain the fact in a country where there are only a few hundred Jews, why have 100 Jewish non-German representatives been put into the German parliament. As you see, selection is so ingrained in his mind that the election and vote of people have no place in his mind. He assumes the 100 representatives and probably all the others too have been selected to the Parliament by the German Chancellor.