March 5, 2010
God bless the Wall Street Journals Mary Anastasia OGrady. Shes a defender of liberty. Her March 1st column, Viva Zapata, urges us to remember the Cuban human rights champion, Orlando Zapata. This humble stone mason died in a military prison in Havana last week. Zapata was only 42. He had gone on an 84-day hunger strike to protest Fidel Castros inhuman treatment of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Cuba, one of the last of the Stalinist regimes in the world.
I say one of the last in a spirit of hope. Surely China is a Stalinist regime. So is North Korea. What does it mean to call Castros island prison a Stalinist regime?
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin died on this day in 1953. Then, Fidel Castro was already planning an invasion of his homeland. The bearded revolutionary had not yet brought down his iron fist on Cuba, the pearl of the Antilles. Orlando Zapata had not even been born yet. Nor had any of todays tyrants in Beijing or Pyongyang.
Yet all of these latter-day Stalins look to him as their model. So did Saddam Hussein.
The Israeli political leader Natan Sharansky survived the Soviet Gulag that Stalin had done so much to build up and expand. In his memoir, Fear No Evil, Sharansky describes how his father brought him the news in the pre-dawn darkness of March 5, 1953, that Stalin was dead.
Poppa Sharansky whispered to kindergartener Anatoly (in Israel, he would later judaize his first name.) Stalin is dead! Listen to me. When the children in school cry, you cry. When the children write poems and sing songs to Stalin, you join them. But remember this, my son. Stalin was going to send all of us Jews to Siberia. This is a deliverance for our people.
How like the biblical story of Esther was Stalins death for the Sharanskys in their crowded Moscow apartment house. What must it have been like to have to put on a sad face even in the kitchen and bathroom your family shared with neighbors, while inside your own hearts you thanked the God of Israel for this miracle?
Ive always felt a bond with Natan Sharansky, a man Ive never met. My own father came to me in the pre-dawn darkness of March 5, 1953, to bring me the momentous news that Stalin was dead. Even though I was just a second-grader, my Pop could explain to me how important this news was. He had traveled to the Soviet Union as an American merchant sailor. He taught me what a brutal regime it was.
The world expected a thaw in the Cold War with the Soviet dictators death in 1953. But Mao Zedong in China was not giving in. Nor was Kim il-Sung (the current North Korean dictators equally despotic father). Nor were Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Communist guerillas plotting to take over Cuba.
The Leader of the Peoples, Josef Stalin, died that March 5th in his Kremlin apartments, choking and shaking his finger angrily at the ceiling. His daughter, Svetlana Allilueyeva, perhaps the only human being he ever loved, recorded his death in her memoirs. Its an old Russian proverb that you never point your finger upwards. Some might think you are angry with God. Stalin was angry with God.
It is deplorable that we still have little Stalins among us. Not just the Chinese dictators, the North Koreans and the Cubans. We have had little red czars in the White House. Our Presidents ex-communications director had a favorite political philosopher in Chairman Mao, Stalins loyal follower.
In todays Moscow, the State Security apparatus has reinstated a bust of Iron Felix Dzerzhinsky. Iron Felix had been the first chief of the Chekathe Communist regimes first secret police. In the heady days of 1991, when the Iron Curtain came down and when the USSR dissolved, many of us thought the new day had dawned for Russian freedom. But if Iron Felix is back, then the malevolent spirit of Joe Stalin lives.
Last week in Havana, Stalins minions helped to kill another victim. Orlando Zapata should be remembered. Castro has killed over 40,000 Cubans and yet he still gets a worshipful press among liberals here. The only doctors whom President Obama praises are Castros Cuban doctors, who spread the gospel of Marx throughout the Caribbean..
Do we have to learn again historys lessons from the Evil Empire? For Orlando Zapata, the choice for God and Liberty was clear. Another Cuban exile, Armando Valladares, has prayed for his beloved country Against All Hope. Lets remember these Christian patriots. Lets proclaim Liberty throughout the land.