Stalinismo tropical / Teodoro Petkoff

Tropical Stalinism

This year the government’s celebration of the events of April 2002
 had a precise objective: to destroy the figure of general Raúl Baduel. The vast amounts of hot air spent during those days, Yo El Supremo’s superfluous speeches broadcast on required TV and radio bulletins, the liturgy of Puente Llaguno and general García Carneiro’s intervention, all had a guiding thread: to demonstrate that Baduel had nothing to do with the president’s return to Miraflores Palace and that this “Hero of the Revolution” is actually nothing more than a traitor.

The procedure recalls the manipulations of history that took place in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s era and which always ended, after a certain amount of time, not only with the death but also the disappearance from history of the people Stalin condemned. It would begin with a campaign of insults against the “enemies” that covered them in mud, in order to then, once they were sufficiently destroyed politically and morally in the eyes of the citizenry, not only execute but also erase them from history with impunity. Stalin dedicated himself with zeal to destroying in this manner the entire Bolshevik elite who led the revolution of 1917. In this manner the great leaders of the Bolshevik assault, along with thousands of old revolutionary fighters, were erased from history, including Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and finally Leon Trotsky himself. The slaughter had a quality that could seem comical if it hadn’t been such a tragedy: each time Stalin liquidated a member of the communist directorate of 1917, that individual was eliminated from the photographs where he appeared as a leader. So every year the official photographs had to be retouched.

Fidel Castro has also been given to these types of exercises, although with less amplitude than what was done in the USSR. There is a famous photograph of Castro with Carlos Franqui, the director of Radio Rebelde in the Sierra Maestra mountains and later one of the first dissidents, standing to his right. After Franqui left Cuba, he too was taken out of the photo.

This constitutes one of the profound differences between a democratic conception of life and a totalitarian one. A democratic vision of history assumes contradictions. No one would think of erasing general Manuel Piar from our history. A totalitarian regime, on the other hand, is proud of projecting a monolithic image. Both the part relating to past history, of which it claims to be a descendant, as well its own, cannot present fissures or contradictions, and much less positions countering the leader.

We continue to be perplexed by the effort to copy practices that are not just aberrant but frankly stupid, such as the notion of writing history to please the chief. But, on the other hand, if this Stalinist campaign against him demonstrates anything, it’s the importance of having the name Raúl Baduel.

{ Teodoro Petkoff, Tal Cual, 21 April 2008 }

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