Δευτέρα, 23 Μαρτίου 2015

Adam Michnik, Communist Poland: A New Evolutionism 1976

Adam Michnik, Letters From Prison and Other Essays (part)

Communist Poland: A New Evolutionism 1976

The historic events that we call the Polish October [1956] were a source of hope that the communist system could evolve. This hope was grounded in two visions, two concepts of evolution. I will label them ''revisionist" and "neopositivist."The revisionist concept was based on a specific intraparty perspective. It was never formulated into a political program. It assumed that the system of power could be humanized and democratized and that the official Marxist doctrine was capable of assimilating contemporary arts and social sciences. The revisionists wanted to act within the framework of the Communist party and Marxist doctrine.

They wanted to transform "from within" the doctrine and the party in the direction of democratic reform and common sense. In the long term, the actions of the revisionists seek to allow enlightened people with progressive ideas to take over the party. Wladyslaw Bienkowski, one of the most typical representatives of this group, defined these ideas as enlightened socialist despotism.Stanislaw Stomma, a leading exponent of the second type of evolutionist vision, called his orientation "neopositivist." In that vision, the strategy chosen by Roman Dmowski at the turn of the century, was to be applied to today's historical and political conditions. Stomma considered himself a Catholic and recognized Catholicism as a permanent component of Polish public life. As head of the Catholic Znak group, he wanted to repeat the maneuver of the leader and ideologue of the national democratic camp and, like Dmowski when he joined the tsarist Duma in 1906, Stomma and his colleagues entered the Sejm of the Polish People's Republic in January 1957.

The group of Catholic activists around Stomma, who based his thinking on analysis of the geopolitical situation, aimed at creating a political movement that, at the right moment, could lead the Polish nation. For Dmowski, that moment came with the outbreak of World War I; for Stomma, it could possibly come with the decomposition of the Soviet bloc.From 1956 to 1959, Stomma's ideas had the partial support of the episcopate, owing to the concessions granted the Catholic Church by Wladyslaw Gomulka's ruling group. Stomma's evolutionist concept differed fundamentally from the revisionist idea.

First of all, neopositivism took for granted Poland's loyalty to the USSR while at the same time rejecting Marxist doctrine and socialist ideology. Revisionists, by contrast, tended toward anti-Soviet rather than anti-Marxist sentiments, as was the case in Hungary. To use a metaphoric comparison, if one considers the state organization of the Soviet Union as the Church and the Marxist ideological doctrine as the Bible, then revisionism was faithful to the Bible while developing its own interpretations, whereas neopositivism adhered to the Church but with the hope that the Church would sooner or later disappear.The two concepts shared the conviction that change would come from above.

Both the revisionists and neopositivists counted on positive evolution in the party, to be caused by the rational policies of wise leaders, not by incessant public pressure. They both counted on the rational thinking of the communist prince, not on independent institutions that would gain control of the power apparatus. Most probably without making these assumptions, neither the neopositivists nor the revisionists would have been able to conduct their public activities, although, as it turned out, adoption of these assumptions inevitably led to political and intellectual defeat. Both the Church's revisionist critics and the neopositivist opponents of the Bible's principles were defeated.The revisionist orientation definitely had some positive characteristics alongside its negative ones. We should remember both the intellectual fruits of the revisionism of that era and the political activity of important groups of the intelligentsia who were inspired by revisionism.The former are obvious: it is enough to recall the outstanding books written by Leszek Kolakowski, Oskar Lange, Edward Lipinski, Maria Hirszowicz, Wlodzimierz Brus, Krzysztof Pomian, Bronislaw Baczko, and Witold Kula. Revisionism, in its broadest conception, was manifested on the literary front in the works of Kazimierz Brandys, Adam Wazyk, Wiktor Woroszylski, and Jacek Bochenski.

All these books, whatever their scientific or artistic value, popularized the ideas of truth and humanism, which were under attack in the official propaganda. The publication of each of these books rapidly turned into a political event.In addition to positively influencing Polish learning and culture, revisionism inspired political activity among the citizens. By opposing passivity and internal exile, revisionism laid the basis for independent participation in public life. Faith in one's ability to exert influence on the fate of society is an absolute prerequisite for political activity. In the case of the revisionists, this faith depended on a belief that the party could be reformed. We can see clearly today that their faith was based on delusions; still, civic activity and open demonstrations of opposition were its real and positive results in the years from 1956 to 1968.

The majority of oppositionist initiatives during that period originated in these circles, not among steadfast and consistent anticommunists. It is important to remember this fact in weighing the responsibility for the Stalinist beliefs of Poland's leftist intelligentsia. It was the revisionist ex-Stalinists who originated and disseminated dissenting points of view among the intelligentsiapoints of view which would later help to revive civil life in Poland in the midst of its difficult reality.And yet revisionism had been tainted at its very source by the belief that the strivings and goals of the "liberal" wing in the party apparatus were identical to the demands of the revisionist intelligentsia. I think that the revisionists' greatest sin lay not in their defeat in the intraparty struggle for power (where they could not win) but in the character of that defeat. It was the defeat of individuals being eliminated from positions of power and influence, not a setback for a broadly based leftist and democratic political platform. The revisionists never created such a platform.

Revisionism was terminated by the events of March 1968. In that month the umbilical cord connecting the revisionist intelligentsia to the party was severed. After March 1968 the idea that a progressive and democratic wing existed in the party's leadership was never to regain wide currency. One of the few people who continued to cherish this political hope was Wladyslaw Bienkowski,2 although his formulations were generally considered as protective coloring and not genuine reasoning. In fact, by popularizing his work, Bienkowski created a completely new style of political activity. Previously, "staying inside the party"that is, appealing for support only to party memberswas an unwritten law of revisionism. Bienkowski gave new substance to the old formulas; revisionism, conceived by him as a belief in the existence of a wise party leadership, was transformed into merciless and unceasing criticism of current leaders and their stupidity. On the one hand, he propagated ideas clearly hostile to the authorities and a program that was explicitly oppositional; but on the other hand, his program was addressed to the authorities and not to the public. Those of Bienkowski's readers who were not party members could not learn from his writings how to live, how to act, and what to do to further democratic change.Also in 1968, the year revisionism died, the demonstrating students chanted: "All Poland is waiting for its Dubcek." For a while, the leader of Czech and Slovak communists became the symbol of hope. To this very day, the myth of Dubcek and the Prague Spring has played an important role in Poland, and the meaning of this myth is far from simple. It serves to justify both radiant optimism and the darkest pessimism; it provides a defense for attitudes of conformism as well as for gestures of heroism. Why?

In October 1956 the threat of Soviet intervention in Poland made a national hero out of Wladyslaw Gomulkaa man who would walk off the political stage covered with infamy and contempt fourteen years later.3 His example reveals the basic ambiguity in the whole myth of the heroic party leader. There are reasons to believe that even if there had been no armed intervention the extreme polarization and open conflict between the progressive wing of the party and the extraparty opposition KAN (club of the Non-party Engagés movement) were bound to surface in Czechoslovakia. It is difficult to predict the future, but I would venture that more than one ''Dubcekite" would quickly have been transformed into a tamer of the turbulent opposition.The myth of the "good" party leader is necessarily ambiguous. Many of those who joined the PUWP defended their decision in the following manner: "This way I will be able to serve the cause of Polish democracy, because in this way alone I will be able to lend effective support to the Polish Dubcek when he appears." So far, this service to the cause of democracy has amounted to service to the totalitarian powers. Those who did not join the PUWP and who declared themselves to be totally anticommunist also use the example of Czechoslovakia to justify their decision to shun all oppositional behavior. These people call oppositionists "political troublemakers," and view the fate of Czechoslovakia and Dubcek as proof that "there is no way anything is going to change here."For me, the lesson of Czechoslovakia is that change is possible and that it has its limits. Czechoslovakia is an example of the fragility of totalitarian stability, and also of the desperation and ruthlessness of an empire under threat.

The lesson of Czechoslovakia is that evolution has its limits and that it is possible.The experiences of the neopositivists should also be closely examined. There is no doubt that their actions had the positive effect of helping to create an independent public opinion and of popularizing a way of thinking that differed completely from the obligatory official style of party propaganda.As I have already mentioned, a starting point for the ideas of the Znak movement in 1956 was geopolitical realism and a rejection of the Poles' supposed predisposition to revolta lesson learned from the tragedy of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. In return for backing Wladyslaw Gomulka's new party leadership, the Znak movement received significant concessions from the authorities. Several Clubs of the Catholic Intelligentsia were formed, and Tygodnik Powszechny, the Znak [Sign] monthly, and the Znak publishing house were reactivated. The Znak movement gained the right to express its own opinions and to formulate its own model of national culture. One cannot overestimate the importance of the assimilation of contemporary Christian thought by Polish intellectual life. It would be equally difficult to overestimate the role of books written by Stefan Kisielewski, Hanna Malewska, Jerzy Turowicz, Jerzy Zawieyski, Stanislaw Stomma, Antoni Golubiew, or Jacek Wozniakowski. Because of the works by these authors, a broad base for a culture independent of official norms and molds came into existence in Poland. Thanks to speeches made in the Sejm by Stefan Kisielewski, Jerzy Zawieyski, and Stanislaw Stomma, young Poles were given an opportunity to become familiar with an ersatz political pluralism. By its very definition, the small group of Znak deputies was destined to fulfill the role of a realistic, pragmatic, and Catholic "opposition to Your Royal-socialist Majesty."

Τρίτη, 17 Μαρτίου 2015


Vladimir Tismaneanu, The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS 2012 (part)


Herein lies the essence and mystery of the totalitarian experiences of the twentieth century: The complete rejection of all barriers and all restraints that politics, civilization, morality, religion, natural feelings of compassion, and universal ideas of fraternity have constructed in order to moderate, repress, or sublimate the human potential for individual and collective violence. The real similarities between the Communist and Fascist experiments (the crucial role of the party, the preeminence of ideology, the ubiquitous secret police, the fascination with technology, the frenzied cult of the New Man,the quasi-religious celebration of the charismatic leader) should not blur significant distinctions (one being the absence of Nazi show trials or intraparty permanent purges). Nevertheless, historian Eugen Weber judiciously remarked that the distinction between fascism and communism is relative rather than absolute, dynamic rather than fundamental. Under the circumstances, one cannot help but ask the same question as Weber. Isn't this fundamental similarity between totalitarian creeds and systems at least as important as their differences of view?  This book engages in a dialogue with the most influential contributions to these morally and politically urgent questions. The twentieth century was plagued by agonizing ideological polarizations whose effects continue to haunt our times.

I agree with political scientist Pierre Hassner that despite the differences between Stalinism and Nazism, their fundamental and defining common characteristic was their genocidal frenzy. Or, to use Sheila Fitzpatrick and Michael Geyer's formulation, The phenomenon of the gulag as a manifestation of Soviet state violence and the Holocaust as the central site of Nazi terror conveys the unmistakable message that the two regimes were bent on genocide [my italics].  On the one hand, both Stalinism and Nazism looked for objective enemies and operated with notions of collective, even genetic guilt. Obviously, the Bolshevik vision stigmatized political sins, whereas the Nazi Weltanschauung reified biological distinctions. In his enormously significant toast of November 7, 1937, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Bolshevik coup, as recorded by the Comintern leader Georgi Dimitrov and in his diary, a speech meant to be known only by the top party and People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) elite, Stalin said,œWhoever attempts to destroy the unity of the socialist state, whoever seeks the separation of any of its parts or nationalitiesthat man is an enemy, a sworn enemy of the peoples of the USSR. And we will destroy each and every such enemy, even if he was an old Bolshevik; we will destroy all his kin, his family. We will mercilessly destroy anyone who, by his deeds or his thoughts,yes, his thoughtsthreatens the unity of the socialist state. To the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin! (Approving exclamations: To the great Stalin!)

At the same, the party apparatus never played as powerful a role in Nazi Germany as it did in Stalin's Russia. In fact, Hitler envied Stalin for having been able to place political officers as ideological watchdogs in the army. Historian Ian Kershaw stresses the fact that even when Martin Bormann took over the party leadership in May 1941, thus bringing the Nazi Party's interference and scope for intervention in shaping the direction of policy to a new plane, the internal contradictions and incoherencies of the National Socialist state remained.  The Nazi Party (NSDAP) never enjoyed the same charismatic status that the Bolshevik vanguard had acquired. In Hitler's Germany, loyalty belonged to the FΓΌhrer as the embodiment of the pristine vΓΆlkisch community. In Stalin's Russia, the zealots allegiances went to the leader to the extent that they saw him as the incarnation of the party's wisdom.

When he maintained that the cadres decided everything, Stalin really meant it (with him being the ultimate arbiter of promotions and emotions): €œA great deal is said about great leaders. But a cause is never won unless the right conditions exist. And the main thing here is the middle cadres. They are the ones who choose the leader, explain our positions to the masses, and ensure the success of our cause. They don't try to climb above their station; you don't even notice them. Generals can do nothing without an officer corps.

Παρασκευή, 13 Μαρτίου 2015

Σωκράτη Παπαδόπουλου, Στο νεκροταφείο του κομμουνισμού

Σωκράτη Παπαδόπουλου, «Στο νεκροταφείο του κομμουνισμού», Το Όραμα, 13/11/2010.

Έπιναν καφέ κάτω στον ίσκιο του πλατάνου και ο Ν.Χ. λέει:

- Πολλά κακά έχουμε, αρπαγές, απαγωγές, κλοπές και σκοτωμούς για το τίποτε, για έναν φράχτη, ενώ στα χρόνια της δικτατορίας είχαμε μεγάλη ησυχία.

Τότε ο Β.Θ. που ο κομμουνιαμός τον είχε στιγματίσει ως "χολέρα" του απάντησε:

- Έχεις απόλυτο δίκιο, σε κάθε νεκροταφείο υπάρχει απόλυτη ησυχία, όπως

υπήρχε και στο νεκροταφείο του κομμουνισμού...



Εκείνα τα χρόνια που ο γιος φυλαγόταν από τον πατέρα και η γυναίκα από τον σύζυγο της και αντίστροφα, μερικοί ήθελαν να προσφέρουν όσο πιο πολύ στο απαίσιο Σιγκουρίμι των κομμουνιστών, που σε έστελνε στο Σπατς ακόμα κι αν έλεγες ότι στην αγορά δεν υπάρχουν πατάτες.
Ένας από αυτούς τους "κυνηγούς" κατέδωσε έναν συγχωριανό του, ραδιουργώντας πως θα λιποταχτούσε και έτσι πέρασε τα νιάτα του στα κάτεργα των πιο τρομερών φυλακών της Αλβανίας.
Με την κατάρρευση του ολοκληρωτικού καθεστώτος, ο δεύτερος αποφυλακίστηκε και μία μέρα βρέθηκε αντιμέτωπος με τον "εφιάλτη" του, ο οποίος μόλις τον είδε του λέει:
"Βλέπεις, σ' έκανα πλούσιο, αφού πήρες καλό μάτσο για τα χρόνια που σε φυλάκισα, γι' αυτό σε παρακαλώ, δώρησε μου τα μισά..."


Στην Αλβανία, στην περίοδο της λεγόμενης δικτατορίας του προλεταριάτου, στον καιρό του κομμουνισμού, η προπαγάνδα και ο διαφωτισμός έπαιζαν ιδιαίτερο ρόλο.
Από την Ελλάδα τότε, ήρθε στο Αργυρόκαστρο υψηλόβαθμο στέλεχος. Το ενδιαφέρον του ήταν για τα δικαιώματα της Εθνικής Ελληνικής Μειονότητας. Του είπαν πως όλα είναι εντάξει και στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Αργυροκάστρου λειτουργεί και η Έδρα της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας.
Οι αρμόδιοι είχαν καλέσει και μερικούς ελληνοδιδασκάλους με τους οποίους γέμισαν την αίθουσα και στην είσοδο της είχαν βάλει την πινακίδα που έγραφε: "Έδρα της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας".
Ο προϊστάμενος που δεν είχε κανέναν φοιτητή, παρουσίασε στους Έλληνες τη δράση της Έδρας του, ενώ οι "φοιτητές", μερικοί φαλακροί, κάθονταν με το κεφάλι σκυμμένο, λες απ' τις πολλές γνώσεις...
Οι Ελλαδίτες τρίβοντας τα μάτια τους, μίλησαν με τα καλύτερα λόγια για τον υπαρκτό σοσιαλισμό στην Αλβανία που έπρεπε να γίνει παγόσμιο μοντέλο!

Δευτέρα, 9 Μαρτίου 2015

Η ιστορία του βορειοηπειρώτη κατάσκοπου Λουκά Χρηστίδη

Σταύρος Τζίμας, «Είκοσι οκτώ χρόνια στις φυλακές του Ενβέρ Χότζα», Η Καθημερινή 11/08/2009

Όσο εξιστορεί το δράμα του ο ογδοντατριάχρονος Λουκάς Χρηστίδης, είναι ψύχραιμος. Αφηγείται τα όσα φοβερά υπέστη στις φυλακές του καθεστώτος του Ενβέρ Χότζα επί είκοσι οχτώ ολόκληρα χρόνια λες και ήταν σχολική τιμωρία. Όταν όμως φτάνει στο σήμερα σπάει: «Ο,τι έκανα το έκανα για την Ελλάδα, και τώρα δεν αναγνωρίζουν ότι είμαι Ελληνας κάνουν πως δεν με ξέρουν», λέει βουρκωμένος.

Το παράπονο του Λουκά Χρηστίδη, είναι το παράπονο ενός κατάσκοπου τον οποίο οι μυστικές υπηρεσίες της πατρίδας του έριξαν στο «στόμα του λύκου» απ' όπου βγήκε ζωντανός ως εκ θαύματος και όταν επέστρεψε του γύρισαν την πλάτη! Τον στρατολόγησαν και τον έστειλαν στην Αλβανία, όπου συνελήφθη, φυλακίστηκε, βασανίστηκε φρικτά και τώρα, στο τέλος της ζωής του, ψυχικό ερείπιο πλέον, εγκαταλελειμμένος και από την ίδια του την οικογένεια, περιμένει τη δικαίωση από την πολιτεία μέσω μιας ταυτότητας που να βεβαιώνει ότι είναι Ελληνας. Η περιπέτεια του Χρηστίδη θα μπορούσε να είναι σενάριο κατασκοπικής ταινίας. Βορειοηπειρώτης από το ελληνόφωνο χωριό Δρυμάδες της Χειμάρρας, δραπέτευσε το 1944 για τη «μητέρα Ελλάδα» σε ηλικία είκοσι χρόνων και από την Κέρκυρα όπου έφτασε με βάρκα κατέληξε εθελοντής χωροφύλακας στη Ναύπακτο και από εκεί με το τέλος του εμφυλίου εγκαταστάθηκε στην Ηγουμενίτσα όπου δημιούργησε οικογένεια. Εκεί το 1962 στρατολογήθηκε από τις ελληνικές μυστικές υπηρεσίες που τον προόριζαν για κατάσκοπό τους στην Αλβανία.

Δίκτυα Ελλήνων πρακτόρων δραστηριοποιούνταν ανέκαθεν στον αλβανικό Νότο με σκοπό τη συλλογή πληροφοριών για την κατάσταση της ελληνικής μειονότητας αλλά και τη στρατιωτική κινητικότητα δεδομένου ότι από το 1959 στην Αυλώνα ελλιμενίζονταν σοβιετικά υποβρύχια. Ομως την περίοδο εκείνη υπήρχε ένας επιπλέον λόγος που οι Δυτικοί «καίγονταν» για επιπλέον πληροφόρηση: Ο Ενβέρ Χότζα τα είχε σπάσει ήδη με τον Χρουστσόφ, είχε στραφεί προς τον Μάο και τους Αμερικανούς ενδιέφερε η τύχη της ναυτικής βάσης του Αυλώνα, καθώς φοβούνταν ότι οι Κινέζοι θα διαδέχονταν τους Ρώσους. Περισσότερες πληροφορίες τις οποίες μόνο οι Ελληνες Βορειοηπειρώτες μπορούσαν να συγκεντρώσουν, μιας και η Αλβανία ήταν απροσπέλαστη στους Δυτικούς.

Η αποστολή: «Συνεργάστηκα με το Α2 του στρατού και την Ασφάλεια για να πάω κατάσκοπος στην Αλβανία μαζί με άλλους δύο πατριώτες, από τη Βόρειο Ηπειρο, τον Γεώργιο Βήτο και τον Γεώργιο Ντάτση. Προορισμός μας ήταν το χωριό Δίβρι κοντά στους Αγίους Σαράντα, όπου θα συναντούσαμε έναν Βορειοηπειρώτη ο οποίος θα μας έδινε πληροφορίες για το εάν υπήρχαν Ρώσοι ή Κινέζοι στην περιοχή. Γι' αυτή την αποστολή θα παίρναμε πέντε χιλιάδες δραχμές ο καθένας…». Στο τάγμα των Φιλιατών Θεσπρωτίας τους δόθηκαν από το τμήμα πληροφοριών, το γνωστό Α2, συγκεκριμένες οδηγίες και οπλισμός -αυτόματα, πιστόλια, χειροβομβίδες, κ.ά.- και νύχτα πέρασαν στο αλβανικό έδαφος.

«Επειτα από πεζοπορία πέντε ημερών φτάσαμε στο χωριό Δίβρι και κρυφτήκαμε στο δάσος. Ο αρχηγός μας συνάντησε κρυφά τον πληροφοριοδότη, έμαθε αυτά που θέλαμε και πήραμε τον δρόμο της επιστροφής. Στα μισά της διαδρομής και ενώ διασχίζαμε μεσάνυχτα μια χιονισμένη χαράδρα γλίστρησα και έπεσα σε γκρεμό βάθους εφτά μέτρων περίπου. Φώναζα βοήθεια αλλά οι άλλοι δύο φοβήθηκαν μήπως μας ακούσουν οι αλβανικοί περίπολοι και με εγκατέλειψαν. Εμεινα όλη τη νύχτα θαμμένος στο χιόνι και το πρωί με εντόπισε ο σκύλος μιας στρατιωτικής περιπόλου». Ο Γολγοθάς του Ελληνα πράκτορα μόλις άρχιζε. Στις φυλακές των Τιράνων τον ανέκριναν επί δύο ολόκληρα χρόνια! «Ημουν δεμένος χειροπόδαρα και με βασάνιζαν όλο το εικοσιτετράωρο. Τα ποντίκια ήταν μεγαλύτερα από γάτες και δεν μ' άφηναν να κοιμηθώ. Το μαρτύριο της αϋπνίας ήταν στην ημερήσια διάταξη, ακόμη και η εικονική εκτέλεση». Με βαρύτατες κατηγορίες τον οδήγησαν στο δικαστήριο και τον καταδίκασαν σε καταναγκαστική εργασία είκοσι πέντε χρόνων.

Στο ορυχείο: «Με μετέφεραν σ' ένα ορυχείο εξόρυξης χρωμίου και χαλκού στο Σπατς. Το στρατόπεδο αυτό ήταν το χειρότερο. Οι κρατούμενοι απελπισμένοι έπεφταν στα συρματοπλέγματα όπου τους εκτελούσαν οι στρατιώτες. Η θερμοκρασία στις στοές έφτανε στους 40 βαθμούς Κελσίου. Βγαίνοντας από το ορυχείο με το βαγόνι η θερμοκρασία ήταν 20 υπό το μηδέν. Επί δεκατέσσερα χρόνια ο Χρηστίδης έσκαβε στο ορυχείο ώσπου μια μέρα τον φώναξαν στο γραφείο του διοικητή και του είπαν ότι απολύεται. «Πήγα στο διοικητήριο να πάρω το απολυτήριο όμως εκεί με περίμεναν αστυνομικοί που άρχισαν να με ξυλοκοπούν φωνάζοντας: βρωμοέλληνα γιατί έβρισες τον σύντροφο Ενβέρ Χότζα; Στο δικαστήριο με ψευδομάρτυρες μου έβαλαν άλλα δέκα χρόνια φυλακή για εξύβριση του Χότζα». Η «περιήγηση» στα κολαστήρια του Χότζα-Λεζα, Αυλώνα, Μπαλς κ.α. συνεχίστηκε για τον Χρηστίδη μέχρι το 1990, οπότε με την κατάρρευση του καθεστώτος σε ηλικία εξήντα τεσσάρων χρόνων αποφυλακίστηκε. Ερείπιο, σωματικά και ψυχικά, πήρε τον δρόμο της επιστροφής για την πατρίδα. «Είχα μπει νέος και έβγαινα γέρος. Ενας γέρος καμπουριασμένος, σκελετωμένος από τις κακουχίες και το βάρος της σκλαβιάς».

Η απόρριψη: Το μεγαλύτερο χτύπημα το δέχτηκε αφού πέρασε τα σύνορα. Η οικογένειά του που μέχρι τότε πίστευε ότι είχε σκοτωθεί, τον απέρριψε, εκείνοι που τον έσπρωξαν στην καταστροφή αδιαφόρησαν. «Εφτασα στο σπίτι μου σαν ξένος. Ολοι οι άνθρωποι μέσα εκεί, η γυναίκα μου και τα τρία παιδιά μου μεγάλα πια, μου ήταν άγνωστοι. Το ίδιοι και εγώ για εκείνους. Μ' έδιωξαν από το σπίτι και πήγα να ζήσω σ' ένα καλύβι, αλλά και από εκεί μ' έβγαλαν. Για όλους ήμουν ένας παρείσακτος».Ο Χρηστίδης απευθύνθηκε στις αρχές ζητώντας βοήθεια για να επιβιώσει. Βρήκε όμως κλειστή την πόρτα τους με εξαίρεση του γηροκομείου: «Ο διευθυντής Γιάννης Θεοδωρίδης έμαθε την ιστορία μου, συγκινήθηκε και μου εξασφάλισε στέγη στο ίδρυμα». Οι μυστικές υπηρεσίες τον αγνόησαν, η πολιτεία αδιαφόρησε. Δεν του εξασφάλισε ούτε μια μικρή σύνταξη, δεν του έδωσε έστω κάποια οικονομική ενίσχυση, ούτε τον δικαίωσε ηθικά. Μόλις προσφάτως, δεκαπέντε χρόνια μετά δηλαδή, του εστάλη μια τιμητική διάκριση από το υπουργείο Εξωτερικών. Στο αίτημά του να του χορηγηθεί αστυνομική ταυτότητα που να βεβαιώνει ότι είναι Ελληνας, η απάντηση ήταν η έκδοση δελτίου ομογενούς, όπως αυτό με το οποίο είναι εφοδιασμένοι δεκάδες χιλιάδες Βορειοηπειρώτες. «Εγώ έγινα κατάσκοπος για να υπηρετήσω την Ελλάδα. Πριν κλείσω τα μάτια μου ας μου δώσουν ένα χαρτί που να λέει αυτό που αισθάνομαι και είμαι, Ελληνας δηλαδή», λέει και δακρύζει.

Σάββατο, 7 Μαρτίου 2015



 Βetween Personality Cult and Bumper Car - In Kim Jong Un's North Korea”


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has isolated his country almost completely from the rest of the world. A film crew was fortunate to be allowed to film for ten days in a land where there is virtually no freedom of speech. 

North Koreans have no contact with the outside world or access to the Internet.

"Only when the beloved General is satisfied with my work will I attend to marriage and my own personal happiness," says Ri Hui Ran. The North Korean works in a state-run factory, standing between huge bright blue and pink rolls of fabric used to make underpants. All the interviewees in this documentary were selected by the North Korean Ministry of Culture to talk to the invited journalists. The filmmaker Carmen Butta was one of them: she was able to shoot for ten days in the state, which only rarely allows a glimpse behind its borders and keeps its population firmly suppressed.

North Korean comrades only wear their hair up to five centimeters long, with a maximum of seven for older people, if they want to avoid being labeled counterrevolutionaries or decadent followers of Western styles.

The North Korean regime tried to present the journalists with a different yet very revealing image of itself: a dolphin show to entertain the capital city’s residents, picnics in the park, tourists visiting beautiful Mount Kumsang, a hair salon in Pyongyang, and children who perform and sing with irritating perfection. And yet the real nature of the dictatorship shines through in each of the numerous interviews. The selected interviewees claimed they lack neither freedom of religion nor of expression. They all said North Korea was the happiest country in the world.

Only members of the nomenclature and businessmen with hard currency from trade or smuggling with China are able to gamble.

The film presents us with the sort of images that have never before been seen from North Korea. It shows how Kim Jong Un has tried to court his country’s middle classes, which itself questions his regime’s future. How long will it take before information from abroad and the stories of refugees give North Koreans the idea that maybe something is missing in the “best country in the world.”

Παρασκευή, 6 Μαρτίου 2015

Slavoj Zizek, "20 Years of Collapse"

Slavoj Zizek, “20 Years of Collapse”, New York Times, November 9, 2009


TODAY is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this time of reflection, it is common to emphasize the miraculous nature of the events that began that day: a dream seemed to come true, the Communist regimes collapsed like a house of cards, and the world suddenly changed in ways that had been inconceivable only a few months earlier. Who in Poland could ever have imagined free elections with Lech Walesa as president?

However, when the sublime mist of the velvet revolutions was dispelled by the new democratic-capitalist reality, people reacted with an unavoidable disappointment that manifested itself, in turn, as nostalgia for the “good old” Communist times; as rightist, nationalist populism; and as renewed, belated anti-Communist paranoia.

The first two reactions are easy to comprehend. The same rightists who decades ago were shouting, “Better dead than red!” are now often heard mumbling, “Better red than eating hamburgers.” But the Communist nostalgia should not be taken too seriously: far from expressing an actual wish to return to the gray Socialist reality, it is more a form of mourning, of gently getting rid of the past. As for the rise of the rightist populism, it is not an Eastern European specialty, but a common feature of all countries caught in the vortex of globalization.

Much more interesting is the recent resurgence of anti-Communism from Hungary to Slovenia. During the autumn of 2006, large protests against the ruling Socialist Party paralyzed Hungary for weeks. Protesters linked the country’s economic crisis to its rule by successors of the Communist party. They denied the very legitimacy of the government, although it came to power through democratic elections. When the police went in to restore civil order, comparisons were drawn with the Soviet Army crushing the 1956 anti-Communist rebellion.

This new anti-Communist scare even goes after symbols. In June 2008, Lithuania passed a law prohibiting the public display of Communist images like the hammer and sickle, as well as the playing of the Soviet anthem. In April 2009, the Polish government proposed expanding a ban on totalitarian propaganda to include Communist books, clothing and other items: one could even be arrested for wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt.

No wonder that, in Slovenia, the main reproach of the populist right to the left is that it is the “force of continuity” with the old Communist regime. In such a suffocating atmosphere, new problems and challenges are reduced to the repetition of old struggles, up to the absurd claim (which sometimes arises in Poland and in Slovenia) that the advocacy of gay rights and legal abortion is part of a dark Communist plot to demoralize the nation.

Where does this resurrection of anti-Communism draw its strength from? Why were the old ghosts resuscitated in nations where many young people don’t even remember the Communist times? The new anti-Communism provides a simple answer to the question: “If capitalism is really so much better than Socialism, why are our lives still miserable?”

It is because, many believe, we are not really in capitalism: we do not yet have true democracy but only its deceiving mask, the same dark forces still pull the threads of power, a narrow sect of former Communists disguised as new owners and managers — nothing’s really changed, so we need another purge, the revolution has to be repeated ...

What these belated anti-Communists fail to realize is that the image they provide of their society comes uncannily close to the most abused traditional leftist image of capitalism: a society in which formal democracy merely conceals the reign of a wealthy minority. In other words, the newly born anti-Communists don’t get that what they are denouncing as perverted pseudo-capitalism simply is capitalism.

One can also argue that, when the Communist regimes collapsed, the disillusioned former Communists were effectively better suited to run the new capitalist economy than the populist dissidents. While the heroes of the anti-Communist protests continued to dwell in their dreams of a new society of justice, honesty and solidarity, the former Communists were able to ruthlessly accommodate themselves to the new capitalist rules and the new cruel world of market efficiency, inclusive of all the new and old dirty tricks and corruption.

A further twist is added by those countries in which Communists allowed the explosion of capitalism, while retaining political power: they seem to be more capitalist than the Western liberal capitalists themselves. In a crazy double reversal, capitalism won over Communism, but the price paid for this victory is that Communists are now beating capitalism in its own terrain.

This is why today’s China is so unsettling: capitalism has always seemed inextricably linked to democracy, and faced with the explosion of capitalism in the People’s Republic, many analysts still assume that political democracy will inevitably assert itself. But what if this strain of authoritarian capitalism proves itself to be more efficient, more profitable, than our liberal capitalism? What if democracy is no longer the necessary and natural accompaniment of economic development, but its impediment?If this is the case, then perhaps the disappointment at capitalism in the post-Communist countries should not be dismissed as a simple sign of the “immature” expectations of the people who didn’t possess a realistic image of capitalism.

When people protested Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the large majority of them did not ask for capitalism. They wanted the freedom to live their lives outside state control, to come together and talk as they pleased; they wanted a life of simplicity and sincerity, liberated from the primitive ideological indoctrination and the prevailing cynical hypocrisy.

As many commentators observed, the ideals that led the protesters were to a large extent taken from the ruling Socialist ideology itself — people aspired to something that can most appropriately be designated as “Socialism with a human face.” Perhaps this attitude deserves a second chance.

This brings to mind the life and death of Victor Kravchenko, the Soviet engineer who, in 1944, defected during a trade mission to Washington and then wrote a best-selling memoir, “I Chose Freedom.” His first-person report on the horrors of Stalinism included a detailed account of the mass hunger in early-1930s Ukraine, where Kravchenko — then still a true believer in the system — helped enforce collectivization.

What most people know about Kravchenko ends in 1949. That year, he sued Les Lettres Françaises for libel after the French Communist weekly claimed that he was a drunk and a wife-beater and his memoir was the propaganda work of American spies. In the Paris courtroom, Soviet generals and Russian peasants took the witness stand to debate the truth of Kravchenko’s writings, and the trial grew from a personal suit to a spectacular indictment of the whole Stalinist system.

But immediately after his victory in the case, when Kravchenko was still being hailed all around the world as a cold war hero, he had the courage to speak out passionately against Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts. “I believe profoundly,” he wrote, “that in the struggle against Communists and their organizations ... we cannot and should not resort to the methods and forms employed by the Communists.” His warning to Americans: to fight Stalinism in such a way was to court the danger of starting to resemble their opponent. Kravchenko also became more and more obsessed with the inequalities of the Western world, and wrote a sequel to “I Chose Freedom” that was titled, significantly, “I Chose Justice.” He devoted himself to finding less exploitative forms of collectivization and wound up in Bolivia, where he squandered all his money trying to organize poor farmers. Crushed by this failure, he withdrew into private life and shot himself in 1966 at his home in New York.

How did we come to this? Deceived by 20th-century Communism and disillusioned with 21st-century capitalism, we can only hope for new Kravchenkos — and that they come to happier ends. On the search for justice, they will have to start from scratch. They will have to invent their own ideologies. They will be denounced as dangerous utopians, but they alone will have awakened from the utopian dream that holds the rest of us under its sway.