21 April 2011
Irina Virganskaya on her father, Mikhail Gorbachev: «Never in my life have I seen you scared»
You know, I’m not particularly keen on reading or hearing anything about you: it all stirs up memories and cuts with lies like a knife at an exposed heart. Still, in the past few months on the eve of your birthday, I read and listened, perhaps, to almost everything that was written about you. And again with every cell of my soul I relived your (and our) drama and the triumph of your (and thus, our) life.
At times I got amazed at the simplicity of analysis, thoughts, and assessments. Like, you are a political leader who came to power and then oil prices dived – something had to be done and you did not know what and how. It still remains unclear: Why didn’t you follow in the footsteps of comrades like Kim Il-sung? Throw in a bit more marches and parades, a bit more fodder for them to eat — and everything would be OK: some 20 years more in power and the prices would recover (they really did, as we know). However, the mentioned group of “analysts” does not give an answer to the above question. You did not have a thoroughly elaborated action plan when you came to power, so you simply went with the stream, you did not know which way it was taking you – the rest of them did know it, but you did not listen.
The truth is that you have been out of power for 20 years now and they still know everything but the country remains exactly where we see it. On your 80th birthday, as a person who has been close to you for more than half a century, I want to say some things about you as a personality, which means I will also touch upon politics.
Our world, now a globalized one, is extremely cynical as far as politics is concerned. All big politics is subordinated to profit making – either by big business or by the government itself. Where they have civil society and democratic institutions politicians act mostly in the corporate interests (naturally, solely for the benefit of prosperity of ordinary people and average citizens, accompanying their actions with debates on hyper-consumption and its drastic consequences for all things living, the environmental and human rights issues, etc.). Where civil society institutions are underdeveloped the main goal of politics is power itself and personal gain. And, of course, the spheres of influence. If we carefully look around, we’ll see how cynically and calmly the difficult problems faced by entire countries and peoples are ignored: they are simply denied basic welfare and freedoms.
Why is it so? This is because any multinational company finds it thousand times easier to strike a deal with any authoritarian or dictatorial regime, i.e. virtually with one or two individuals, than to deal with a civil society, particularly if the country in question is rich in natural resources. In the early 1980s, this general picture of the world was complemented by circumstances like a political stand-off between the two systems, a real threat of a nuclear conflict, and unbridled arms race, and the Cold War. The world was divided. In the Soviet Union itself and to a varying degree in the socialist camp countries, totalitarian regime was depriving citizens of many basic needs but could go on for years (examples are numerous – just look at the North Korean comrades and others).
And then you came and said that ignoring basic human values, above all the right to a decent life and freedom, makes politics immoral. It was your personal conviction, rooted in your human nature, but you succeeded in making it a cornerstone of your foreign policy, which in effect changed the course of world history at the end of the 20th Century, and a driving force of change in your own country. Of course, in your homeland you had to act in a real-life situation, dealing with the country that had never lived in democracy and with a freedom of choice, the country with absolute state ownership, the Communist Party’s dictatorship, severe shortages, and the real people who had long forgotten, if they ever knew, what freedom and the right to choice were. And then, when “the process got under way”, real configuration of political forces was thrown into the picture, the configuration that was changing and escalating into confrontations.
From all opposing sides you heard voices saying you lacked determination, radicalism — either right-wing (alleging you were lagging behind) or left-wing (alleging you were moving too fast). They said you did not know what stand to take or were afraid. Never in my life have I seen you even just scared. In the heat of the struggle no one stopped to think that sometimes taking an extreme stance means going against one’s own human nature. You always sought the truth in reforming the country between the two extremes. But the truth, like the proverbial moderation, is that fine line that is as difficult to discern as walking a tightrope.
So you went after consensus, i.e. sought a common platform to bridge the gaps between both citizens and nations and nationalities. And everybody thought it funny: What was is that consensus, what to do with it and, most importantly, what for? I never look into incomprehensible conflicting theories (which are in abundance) that you were doing something on the sly, that you were allegedly part of some conspiracies. It would not be you: had you wanted to do something on the sly — you would have retained you post, like the Korean leaders did. I still remember every outburst of radicalism in those years, every conflict - because every time it happened your face darkened with pain – and our faces, too.
You have never been naïve – I know it for sure. They say you did not know your people. How come? A person who sprung from the people – could you be wearing rose-coloured spectacles? It’s just that the realization of things did not negate your convictions and your belief in the ability of people to change for the better in a different set of circumstances. Events unfolded as they did, things are as they are – that was the people’s choice: every people when opportunities opened up made their choices and used those new opportunities. Our road proved to be a long and winding one.
You had the courage not just to stay in the country where in effect they had ousted you, where for years they’ve been trying to smear you with lies, not just you, but your wife, too, where they even tried to place the entire blame for the things committed by the Communist dictatorship over the entire seven decades of its existence at your feet – you had the courage to continue doing many things for the benefit of the country, and people in general. In terms of human dimension you are much stronger and wiser than those who try to blame you or judge you.
We are proud of you; you are the root of our life – in every sense of the word. Here’s to you!
The New Times, 07.03.2011