Czech freedom fighter, President Vaclav Havel noticed that the communist system rests on two pillars: fear and lies. He explained that courageous truth tellers are more efficient than military interventions. My professor of history, Polish Home Army officer, who received death sentences under the Nazi and, later, Soviet regimes, emphasized that the best weapon against communist propaganda is humor.
When I heard what these brave men said, I knew they were right. I learned as a small child instinctively, that ridicule is in fact a powerful weapon. Let me share with you a story.
The sky was dark and cloudy. If some of the clouds were not dispersed one could think that it was already late evening. Eastern side was almost black. Only a little bit of light at the Western side had suggested that it must have been earlier in the day.
The corridor on the middle floor of my primary school had red decorations reminding the children, about the greatest holiday of the Soviet Union. The special appeal, gathering of all school children in two-rows, army-like groups was about, as it had been called, Great October Revolution. After singing the school and national anthems some children would recite poems and sing songs about that supposedly great event in history. The school director, a devoted communist, would close her eyes listening with unhidden delight about her great comrade Lenin and even greater one, at that moment of history holding power in Kremlin, Andropov.
After the appeal, students from the first to third years would go to the gym where the remaining part of the communist propaganda’s sponsored celebration was planned. Children were told that special guests were coming. In fact, as it turned out these guests were already there. Three Soviet Army officers were supposed to entertain young, dynamic Polish children. It looked like all of them had just left a manufacturing company. The same funny visor hat which reminded me of a big Christmas plate of Polish pierogi (dumplings). The uniform jacket with so many medals that from afar, looked like a Christmas tree. And the boots that were a bit similar to my red rubber boots, kaloshe, a necessary item of clothing when the porous pavements would become a giant puddle.
Guests Are Coming
They had something else in common which drastically distinguished them from the rest of the audience: a belly and mustache. Round, big belly which revealed they were overflowing with food, while the Poles could only buy meat on the day indicated on their meat coupons.
One does not have to guess hard that these three Soviet officers looked like they came from another planet. The Soviet officers had not found authority or respect among the children. Their fat bellies, hats, medal orders and boots became a subject of divagations, debates and, of course, jokes.
Soviet officers planned, as the year previously, to spread their communist propaganda: speak about the heroism of their soldiers, supposedly liberating the persecuted from the oppression of capitalism. None of them could speak Polish and I guess even if they did they clearly wanted to show Russian superiority, which they would call “beauty” of their language. Many children hated the Russian language, because it was a compulsory language taught intensively as Polish history, art or physics. Teachers of the Russian language were also often promoting the supposed greatness, of the Soviet Union. Soviets tried very hard to get the attention of children being helped by the director. She would ask, comment and eventually shout at the children. Her efforts were futile. Students were not paying attention to what the Soviets were saying. The interpreter, whose Russian accent was clearly heard, lost himself in translation being forced from time to time repeat: cisza that means silence.
Doors were constantly squeaking as they were opening and closing behind children going to the toilet or leaving the gym under this pretense. Among them were two young boys who agreed to implement a certain plan. They knew that as soon as Soviets would finish their boring speeches they would distribute sweets from Soviet Union. It was obviously part of indoctrination that children would associate Soviets and the day of October Revolution with these small chocolate treats. Many children were not aware that the best of chocolates was produced in Poland and sent to Soviet Union together with other goods as “a brotherly help to comrades”. There Soviets would put labels Made in USSR and redistribute it throughout the Warsaw Pact countries.
Special Operation Begins…
Those two young boys who went with other children out of the gym quietly snuck out through the side entrance school door. There was a black Soviet Army van with boxes of sweets inside. They were accessible only through the back door with a very small window. The three white painted letters on both sides of the van were leaving no doubts that it belonged to the most feared and hated branch of the Soviet Army – its military intelligence GRU. One of the children hid behind a cement trash container at the school entrance watching if anyone paid any attention. No one was coming, or watching. It was the perfect time for action. He waved small book from his pocket – it was the sign to start. The other boy pushed a small needle into the back door lock. It took him a few seconds to complete his mission – but it seemed like forever. Both children snuck back unnoticed into the school and ran to the bathroom on the second floor, the best observation point of the back entrance door. As soon as they took their position at the window the entrance door opened. First they saw a big belly followed by a round red mustached face and the rest of the body.
The Soviet officer self-assured, clearly proud of himself approached the back door to the van with his keys. He tried to open once, twice, third time but every time his key would slip off from the lock. A little bit nervous and visibly annoyed he started to push the keys one after another breaking one or two. When his forehead covered with sweat and face became even more red he banged his hands against the door revealing his resignation and helplessness. He looked around but nobody was there, except two boys trying not too lose any of these precious moments of the delightful view. All of a sudden the eyes of the Soviet officer stopped on a big, sharp stone, a part of the artistic decoration on loan to the school, installed just previous summer. Without further delay he grabbed it and hit the van window. He tried to crawl inside to reach for the boxes. They were placed on the front of the car, too far for his hands. Out of desperation he decided to crawl in, but his fat belly was stuck inside the small window. The sound of the breaking glass pierced through the relative silence. From the windows the tens of curious children stuck their heads out. Before their eyes there was a black Soviet van with the Soviet officer’s legs fluttering in the air. He was panicked.
Muddy Boots Are Kicking in the Air
Many curious children had left the gym and the October Revolution appeal was shortened. They laughed and joked watching a fat Red Army comrade, caught in what seemed like the most uncomfortable position he would find himself in his life. His shouting and screams were overshadowed by the jumping amused Polish children. It seemed like a victory over the hated Soviet Empire and the communist propaganda. Reality denied myths about mightiness, beauty and natural domination of this Evil Empire over other nations.
In one moment its strength was reduced to the helplessness of this lower part of the Soviet officer blocked by his fat belly between the frames of the van window.
The view of fat thighs and muddy boots kicking in the air were far from what one would deem as beauty.
The shouting military man stuck because of his obesity, and stupidity, in the van window could not aspire not only to dominate over others but even to control his fat belly. He was miserable.
Enraged Soviets released their colleague and drove off fast from the school. They never returned to my primary school. Investigations of this incident run by the annoyed headmaster brought no results. A small anti-Soviet diversion had proved to be successful.
Years went by and in 1989 tears were flowing down one of those boys’ cheeks as he watched the brave Chinese heroes, demanding freedom being crushed by the tanks of the hated communists. He never believed that China was a prosperous communist economy as he had been taught during the lessons of geography in his school. He knew that the Chinese people were fighting for their liberation as much as Poles did. Unfortunately, as he would learn later, the West betrayed the Chinese heroes in June 1989. The same time when it supported transformation reforms in Poland at its high noon. This grown child never stopped to doubt that Chinese people will win their victory.
For the honest observer, who survived the totalitarian system it is obvious that very soon the Chinese clock of history will show the high noon also thanks to the courageous Falun Gong freedom figthers. The revelation about the horrible mismanagement of the economy, the moral depravation of ruling elites, an increase of protests against the oppressors and the wave of desertion from the Chinese communist party are only a few symptoms of an unstoppable wind of freedom.
This wind can become stronger through ridicule. An expert on propaganda methods Dr. J. Michael Waller put it eloquently: “Ridicule is a powerful weapon of warfare. (…) It spreads on its own and multiplies naturally. It boosts morale at home. (…) divides the enemy, damages its morale and makes it less attractive to supporters and prospective recruits”.
Probably one of the most important effects of ridiculing is that it gets better with each re-telling. Such was the intention of this author.
Long live China free from communism and communist propaganda!
Tom Pompowski – journalist and publicist