Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Useful Idiot of the Day: Nir Rosen

Gaza: the logic of colonial power:
Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.
Justice is the advantage of the stronger. -Thrasymachus, Plato's Republic
Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an 'eternal law.' -Karl Marx, The German Ideology

It gets worse, and much dumber:
It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or domination by overwhelming power. And there are other questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12 years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and destroyed the lives of many others.
"Attacked without provocation"? It's funny, Iraqis themselves have more nuanced views than the supposedly learned, nuanced questions the useful idiot Nir Rosen is presenting here, cleverly forgetting the most important and obvious part of the equation: SADDAM HUSSEIN AND HIS REIGN OF TERROR.

"Journalists" like Rosen are half-baked, intellectually illiterate scum, and a healthy America, educated in its own "revolutionary principles," would ignore them.

World Thought Police: Part Three

Continued from Part Two. (Part One here.)

It is obvious to me that even the most charming and talented P.R. agent of APN-KGB would fail to plant disinformation in the foreign media unless he were assisted by the foreign collaborators. Ideological subversion, it was explained to me by my KGB supervisors, is always a two-way street. The effectiveness of Soviet propaganda depends at least 50% on the generous aid of Novosti's foreign collaborators.

The phenomenon of collaboration with the Soviet ideological “active measures” affects a wide variety of personalities, regardless of their nationality, ethnic and cultural background, education, level of intelligence, political ideas and affiliations, or social and class origins. I have come to the realization that virtually no foreigner is entirely immune to this infectious disease.

It would be naive to expect that only the uneducated “proletarians” fall victim to Soviet propaganda and become “revolutionaries.” As a matter of fact, my KGB supervisors explicitly instructed me “not to waste my time” and APN's money on the “true believers in Communism.” My KGB contact in New Delhi, comrade Gadin, suggested to me, after seeing my overly friendly socialization with students and young Indian radicals: “Aim higher-- at the upper middle-class intellectuals and otherwise INFLUENTIAL personalities.” True believers, he said, make the worst enemies if and when they become disillusioned with Communism, or finally see through the deception. What KGB-APN needs is a person who would be ready to compromise moral principles (if he had any) for his personal short-term advantage. According to my observation and practice, such persons suffer from one or more of the following flaws in their characters: egoism, ethnocentrism (or bigotry), greed, mental laziness, cynicism, lack of confidence (or, conversely, overconfidence), fear (especially fear of failure or fear of appearing as “misfits” and underachievers in their own careers and ventures), and the inability to be compassionate toward the sufferings of others. Often among the KGB-APN collaborators I could see persons with various physiological deviations: homosexuals, impotents, or-- conversely-- persons obsessed with sex and other pleasures, persons unable to establish lasting and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex, persons unable to show or receive love, etc. On top of it all, the most “recruitable” people are “materialists, pragmatists,” obsessed with the immediate and complete “success” of THEIR ventures. Another great category of collaborators are those who are unable to laugh at themselves, who take themselves too seriously. Healthy skepticism and a good sense of humor provide one of the best remedies against Novosti infection.

I have met scores of conceited snobbish “intellectuals,” who suffered from self-importance and firmly believed that the public in their own country was too backward to understand their genius. Novosti provides a very receptive audience for such megalo-maniacs, especially when they write books about their “experiences” in the USSR in surrealistic (or rather Social-realistic) terms.

To sum it up, as one Russian Orthodox priest told me, “Communism is not a political, economical, military or geographical problem. It is a MORAL problem.” Novosti Press Agency and her KGB bosses will be successful in the manipulation of public opinion in the free world as long as there are AMORAL persons ready to cooperate with APN-KGB for their own immoral gains and purposes.

The smallest category of collaborations are those who idealistically BELIEVE that Communism (and its first “civilized” stage of Socialism) is indeed a “better system” and better solution for all the problems of mankind. After 67 years of historical evidence, after hundreds of MILLIONS perished under this system, in view of its gross inefficiency in any area of human activity (except the military, an aggressive one)-- such idealism borders on insanity. Therefore I would not take this category of collaborators seriously. Ignorance, to my mind, plays a major role in this type of “idealism.”

But the greatest attraction, according to my observations, is a real (or imagined) REWARD for services rendered by collaborators to the Soviet promoters of “active measures.”

Foreign Press Collaborators
It took the Novosti elite three years, after we were established in 1961, to discover that our propaganda was too boring, dogmatic and unbelievable to print in anything but foreign leftist tabloids. To infiltrate the big press of the West, Novosti had to raise its materials to the international level. In 1964, following the example of the talented chief editor of Izvestia, APN introduced high-quality decadent capitalist methods.

Thus, to satisfy some solidnyi (big press) clientele, Novosti started to invite cooperation from professional foreign journalists stationed in Moscow. Some of them cooperated willingly, trying to convince themselves that they might obtain access, through the Novosti, to “reliable sources close to the Politbureau,” and we carefully maintained that illusion. Others reluctantly realized that they were being taken for a ride, but decided “better the APN, than nothing.” Some did it for the extra income from Novosti, and still others because they truly believed in Communism. Until this very day, none of the foreign collaborators have [had] enough courage to reveal the true nature of their deals with the APN.

The most common recruiting method is to approach a foreign journalist with a “backgrounder,” a crudely written collection of propaganda clichés, fictional statistics, and sometimes real names and dates. For a substantial payment, a foreigner can either rewrite this in his own style and pass it on as his own report, or edit it heavily and recommend it to the editor of his paper for what it is, an “exclusive” article by a Novosti commentator.

In our Asian section we utilized the services of Darshan Singh, a skinny, cross-eyed, intelligent Punjabi, who prior to coming to Moscow had been collaborating for years with the Delhi bureau of Novosti. He was invited to Moscow through Novosti and the Central Committee's Agitprop and, with many other fellow-travelers, was helped to a job as translator with the Foreign Languages Publishing House. There he did routine work, translating the masterpieces of Lenin and Brezhnev, novels by Sholokhov and Gorki, etc., into Punjabi. That was his cover job, which provided his regular income. The real creativity of Darshan Singh was used for a different kind of writing, for APN. Together with our boss, comrade Makhotin, Darshan concocted weekly a gossip column entitled “Letter from Moscow,” based on regular Agitprop material, sometimes simply borrowed from Pravda editorials. Using his old connections with several respectable large-circulation newspapers in India, such as Amrita Bazar Patrika (Calcutta) or a number of Punjabi papers, Darshan Singh established a lively traffic in propaganda, using Novosti teleprinter facilities, photographic services, and even our typists and stenographers. He was paid by the Indian paper as a regular correspondent in Indian rupees, and by Novosti in Soviet rubles.

After about a year of cultivating the foreign news desks of a couple of Indian newspapers, Novosti made them dependent on us as their source of “exclusive information.” Most Indian papers cannot afford to keep their own correspondent in Moscow, but for prestige would not mind having a regular “Moscow letter,” with the latest gossip from “diplomatic circles” planted by APN-KGB often arriving before that same news was reported on other international wire services. They would also appreciate human interest stories including such unorthodox features as photos of a Moscow farm market, pictures from a “typical Soviet wedding party,” and even interviews with some fake Soviet “dissidents,” provided by Novosti for such occasions as slandering Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

I doubt that Darshan Singh really believed in what he was writing. He was too smart for that. Neither was he a dedicated Communist. He was too cynical to love the system, the victory of which would render people like him unnecessary, or worse. My guess is that he was simply greedy and amoral and very conceited at that. It took him one hour to create a masterpiece of propaganda, while others would spend days and weeks concocting vapid articles. Darshan looked upon us, the Novosti rank and file, as primitives, unworthy of his attention. Even our New Delhi bureau deputy-chief Oleg Benyukh did not deserve Darshan's respect, especially after Benyukh decided to become a writer and gave birth to a monstrous creation of his entitled something like “Adventures of a Ukranian in India,” a rhapsody to non-existent “proletarian international solidarity.” The book was, however, published in India, thanks mainly to Darshan's rewriting the whole boring thing into passable Punjabi.

Each of Darshan's “Moscow Letters” cost Novosti about as much as the monthly salary of a junior editor like myself. How much Darshan was paid by the Indian newspapers, I can only guess.

Unlike Darshan, who spent a lot of time on the Novosti premises, and was not ashamed to receive payment, there were some “clean” collaborators, who wanted by all means to look honest and independent while dealing with the APN. They would attend some of our propaganda functions, orchestrated by Agitprop through Novosti, but they would avoid taking our “backgrounders.”

One such “innocent” collaborator was Dev Murarka. I met him on various occasions in the Dom Druzhby (Friendship House) in Kalininski Street, in the club of the Soviet Writers Union in Vorovski Street, and at numerous parties and gatherings on diplomatic or higher cultural levels. He did not like to be seen in deep conversation with APN employees. But I knew, and from very reliable sources, that Mr. Dev Murarka was in fact “our man.” Most of his dispatches from Moscow were presented as “freelance” material in the Western press. But there is simply no such thing in the USSR as a foreign freelancer: a foreign correspondent can obtain a residence visa and accreditation from the foreign affairs press department only if he represents a known newspaper. The exclusion from this rule is made only for Communists, representing non-existent (or barely existing) leftist tabloids. Thus Mr. Murarka's “freelance” status was a fake.

Those stubborn journalists who consistently reject Novosti's passes and try to dig out their own stories normally do not last long in Moscow. Thus my friend Nihal Singh, Moscow correspondent for The Statesman (New Delhi), was recalled after my efforts to cultivate him for Novosti and the KGB failed. Naturally, I did not try hard, and did my dirty job very unwillingly, feeling respect for Mr. Singh's integrity and common-sense conservativism. I tried to give him all kinds of signals and hints to indicate that my interest in him was strictly separate from the job entrusted to me by Novosti and my KGB contact. I am still unsure whether he realized what I was trying to convey. He and his Dutch wife were very nice to me and to Anna, my wife. We genuinely enjoyed their company and tried to make our picnics as natural as possible.

On arrival in Delhi in February 1969, I renewed our friendship, both for my own pleasure and following the recommendations of my new KGB contact, comrade Gadin. We met several times at my place in 25 Barakhamba Road, and in the Delhi press club, on one occasion where he made a rather critical speech about the decision of Indira Gandhi to nationalize India's banks.

Whether because he read my messages correctly, or simply because he .was a noble man, Nihal Singh published a very complimentary article about me in The Statesman after my defection. He had become the chief political correspondent and news editor by that time.

The official Prospectus of the Novosti Press Agency says:
APN enters into contacts and concludes agreements and contracts with both state-owned and privately-owned newspapers, magazines, news agencies, publishing houses, broadcasting and television companies, as well as individuals, to supply them with Agency materials for an appropriate fee.
The above statement is an “overstatement,” if not a “bloody lie.”

All through my career with the Novosti I have never heard of anyone in their right mind giving as much as a penny for Novosti's “material.” Some sick-minded or uniquely stupid individuals and companies, yes indeed, sometimes do pay an “appropriate fee” to Novosti.

Thus, in 1975, editors and publishers of the world-famous Encyclopaedia Britannica bought from APN some 15 or 16 articles about the “Soviet Socialist Republics,” wherein the flora and fauna of the Soviet colonies is described in glorious socialist-realistic detail, but not a word is said about the methods of appropriating (or rather, annexing) the national statehoods of formerly independent East European, Baltic and Asian nations. Both the origin and the current functioning of the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” are described there in mythical terms, in typical Novosti style. But again, there is not a single mention of what happened to about 40% of the native (ethnically non-Russian) populations of the “Soviet Republics”: frozen and starved to death in Siberia, whence they were deported in cattle-vans, old men, women and children; able men machine-gunned by the KGB; or (the happiest ending!) forcibly assimilated by the fraternal invaders.

Also, not a word about the ethnic composition of the power organs of the “republics”-- the local Central Committees of the Communist Party-- predominantly Russian or Ukrainian even in (and especially in) such ethnically distant areas as Central Asia, Caucasus and the Baltics…

Instead the Britannica is full of praises to the Soviet “public and political organizations,” such as the Young Pioneers, the Young Communist League, DOSAAF (a paramilitary youth organization in the tradition of Hitler-Jugend), etc., and again, not a single word of EDITORIAL explanation about the nature of such unprecedented “political pluralism” in a country with a one-party system of power!

I can only guess about the true motivation of the Britannica publishers, borrowing such crude and very un-British propaganda from the Novosti, and PAYING for it with hard (though decadent) British pounds sterling. To my mind it is either a rare case of pure idiocy, or a side effect of an infectious disease of the 1970's called “detente”-- wishful thinking about making the Soviet junta more peaceful by describing it as such.

There is no need to pay an “appropriate fee” to Novosti, because in most cases Novosti is too happy to pay (rubles, dollars or pounds), to anyone who agrees to publish its crap.

In fact, according to my observations and experience, confirmed by dozens of defectors from the KGB and APN, Novosti has a well-developed list of services and payments for all sorts of foreign collaborators, which I quote below.

In its official Prospectus, Novosti states that “APN's publications are disseminated in foreign countries in strict accordance with the laws and regulations of these countries.” That may or may not be true. But let us look at the various methods of dissemination of APN propaganda from the viewpoint of LEGALITY as well as MORALITY (and I mean universal human morality, not the Communist one, where the end justifies the means).

I purposefully neglect considerations of “willingness” and “unwillingness” (due to ignorance, deceit, stupidity etc.) while observing the dissemination of APN's propaganda through the foreign collaborators in THEIR OWN countries. Why? Because it is indeed too hard to prove the degree of that “willingness” on the part of a collaborator. But it is very easy to review the “active measures” promoted and facilitated by collaborators, from the standpoint of Western MORALITY on one hand, and from the standpoint of Soviet law on the other. This comparison is extremely important to realize,:what the Soviet system itself considers ILLEGAL and CRIMINAL and what it does in foreign countries, using the legitimate freedoms of “open society” to achieve Soviet goals.

Thus, the “legitimate” or overt active measures conducted by the KGB-Novosti tandem abroad-- through the foreign collaborators--include the following:

--Publication of a piece of pro-Soviet propaganda material in the Soviet media, authored by a foreign collaborator, with further re-circulation (by quotation, reference or reprinting) in the country of the collaborator;

--A public statement in the interests of the Soviet State, made by a foreign collaborator on Soviet radio, TV, or at an international forum organized by the Novosti within the USSR; replaying of that statement in a foreign country;

--Same as above two, but originated in a foreign country and by the foreign collaborator, with further publication (and/or broadcasting or disseminating in any other way) in the foreign media;

--A speech made by a foreign collaborator at one of the CPSU-sponsored “international congresses” within the USSR, with further publication in the Novosti periodicals;

--Same as above, but in a foreign country, at a “leftist” or “liberal” forum, where the policies of the USA and its allies are being attacked;

--Publication of a book, literary work, piece of art, or scientific research, emphasizing the “virtues of a planned economy” and lambasting the “oppressive” capitalist system;

--Establishing a pro-Soviet newspaper, magazine, radical tabloid, or “liberal” periodical sharply attacking the “roots” of the “establishment” and the moral standards of Western society;

--Introduction and conducting of an academic course (or series of lectures, seminars, study groups, etc.) with an emphasis on Marxist-Leninist ideology, at any Western university;

--Establishing a pro-Socialist political or public organization in the country of a collaborator;

--Distribution of APN's periodicals, booklets, releases and other materials in the collaborator's country;

--Direct cooperation with APN's bureau (in the staff) abroad.

As you can see, there is nothing very dramatic in these active, but rather legitimate (from the standpoint of Western law) measures. Now, let us see what Novosti pays the foreign collaborators for these services, and what would be a Soviet citizen’s “reward,” if he would dare to do the same in reverse by cooperating with a foreign state or private organization-- from the standpoint of Soviet law.

Service No. 1
Publication of pro-Soviet (pro-Communist, pro-Socialist, but anti-American and anti- Western) material, an article, story or a news item, in the Soviet, or Soviet-controlled media, by a foreign collaborator of Novosti, concocted on the basis of an APN 'backgrounder,' supplied by Novosti agents, is worth an average of 25 rubles per typewritten page. (Depending on the rate of inflation, it may be more.) A collaborator may spend his rubles in the USSR, or receive his “royalty” in a currency of his own country according to the Soviet-established rate of exchange.

Now, look how the Soviet law defines this action, if committed by a Soviet (or Soviet-controlled country's) citizen: an author (a journalist, writer, or simply a restless person) who would dare to publish a pro-Western news item or an article (or anything even distantly critical of the Soviet empire) in the Western media, will get an average of 5 years of imprisonment (or concentration camp) for this so-called “anti-Soviet agitation” as defined by Article 70 of the Soviet Criminal Code. See the difference? For 10 pages of pro-Communist crap a Western collaborator gets 200 rubles, but a Soviet citizen - 5 years of hard labor. (Daniel and Synyavsky, the two Russians who ventured to publish their essays abroad, and a Yugoslavian Mijailo Mijailov, who did the same, spent more than 5 years-- but that is a pure “technicality.” Sinyavsky and Mijailov are now living in the West, so they may share their experiences with the Western collaborators of Novosti, if they were willing to listen, which they normally aren't.)

Service No. 2
For a verbal statement of a pro-Soviet nature made by a foreign collaborator of APN within the USSR, or in a “brotherly” territory (Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc), as arranged by APN on a radio or TV station, the foreigner receives from 200 to 1000 rubles, depending on the content of his statement and the reputation (notoriety) of the collaborator.

A Soviet citizen simply cannot make a pro-Western statement on foreign radio, even if he (or she) is allowed to visit a foreign country. This is specified in the Secret Briefing at the Visa Department of the Central Committee, which every Soviet citizen traveling abroad, without exception, must read and sign before his visa is approved. But if a Soviet citizen would dare to smuggle a tape-recorded message out of the USSR, he would be treated according to the same Article 70 of the Criminal Code: five years of hard labor in Siberia or some equally pleasant location.

Service No. 3

For the same as the above two, but directed by the Novosti towards the foreign media (planted in foreign newspapers, for example), a foreign collaborator, as a rule, is paid in both Soviet rubles at Moscow APN headquarters and in foreign moneys by a foreign branch of Novosti in his country. Sometimes the collaborator is also paid by the “useful idiots” of a foreign newspaper, publishing house, or TV network. In those rare cases when the story is “unacceptable” to the foreign media, a local bureau of Novosti may “push it through” by simple bribery, intoxicating an editor at an embassy party, or coercing a publisher in some other way (by promising a free trip to the USSR to meet with Bolshoi ballerinas and famous milkmaids in Murmansk). The amount of the bribe would depend on the importance and news value of the material. To my knowledge, Novosti included several cooperative Indian publishers in the group of “Jawaharlal Nehru Prize Winners,” which simply means a half-million Rupee bribe in a legitimate and rather respectable form.

Naturally, a Soviet citizen, should he dream of collaborating with, say, UPI or France Presse, will not survive for too long as a “freelancer”: instead of a Pulitzer Prize he may get 10 years at a concentration camp in the GULAG for “collaboration with foreign intelligence services” (and UPI is a “stooge of the CIA,” according to Pravda, isn't it?).

Service No. 4
A speech made by a foreign collaborator of Novosti at one of the “international forums” orchestrated by the Agitprop within the Soviet Empire. For the publishing rights of that pronouncement (the text of which is often prepared by the APN staffers long before a foreign guest lands at Moscow Airport), Novosti pays to the collaborator a one-time fee of about 2,000 rubles, plus all his travel expenses. Naturally, the collaborator has to earn the honor by being a good parrot and obedient pet. Mother Russia seldom extends hospitality to “unuseful idiots,” who stubbornly refuse to read their speeches from the prepared texts.

As you may have already guessed, no Soviet citizen has a LEGAL RIGHT to make any unauthorized speech at any international forum, least of all one which is “anti-Soviet” or pro-Western. Violation of this law is considered “high treason” by Article 64 of the Soviet Criminal Code, which, by the way, provides the ultimate punishment: DEATH.

The only possible way for a Soviet citizen to address an international forum is to be ASSIGNED to make such a speech by the Agitprop. Of course, there is another, more troublesome way: to become a dissident writer, to be arrested and sent to the GULAG for 11 years, released, harassed by the KGB for another 10 years, and finally kicked out of the country to the West. Then only-- yes, one may have a right to talk to an international forum, and in the process be ridiculed and offended by the Western liberal media as a “cold war paranoid” and “right wing extremist.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn tried this method.

Service No. 5
For making pro-Communist speeches and pro-Soviet statements OUTSIDE of the Soviet Empire, the collaborators of APN are paid accordingly in the currencies of their own countries, at the rate of exchange established by the Soviet bank (one progressive Soviet ruble for one decadent American dollar, or even less). Often APN-KGB funnels additional moneys to the organizers of pro-Communist gatherings, and also covers the expenses for media coverage of the event. So, the foreign collaborators again have two chances to be remunerated: from Novosti directly, and from local “useful idiots.”

Naturally, pro-Western public statements or speeches are unthinkable within the Soviet Empire even if and when such a science-fictional event might be financed by the CIA or the John Birch Society.

In any case, a Western collaborator of APN-KGB would be paid some $2,000, whilst a citizen of the Communist Bloc may have a choice of firing squad or psychiatric asylum with forceful “treatment” by mind-destructive chemicals.

Service No. 6
Publication of a book, literary work, piece of art, or scientific research, by a foreign collaborator, with APN's aid and ideological “encouragement,” glorifying the Communist (or Socialist) way of life, “collectivist” philosophy, planned economy and/or “bright future for all mankind”-- a one-world system based on “progress and just redistribution of wealth,” and defaming “decadent capitalism” in the process, is usually rewarded by Novosti with a lump sum in five figures in rubles, plus, very often, a similar royalty in “hard currency.” All the expenses for publication, editing, technical production and distribution are normally taken over by the Novosti. The author may also be invited to visit the USSR for a “free trip” and a title of “progressive,” together with some “honorable diploma” from Patrice Lumumba Friendship University, which the collaborator may proudly frame and exhibit to his (or her) academic brotherhood (or sisterhood).

A Soviet counterpart of a foreign collaborator, for even trying to do the same towards the free world, may earn various “royalties” for publishing his work abroad: from 5 years of labor camp (Daniel and Sinyavsky), to public defamation in the Soviet media (Pasternak, Bulgakov, Zoshchenko), to a forced exile from the Motherland (Solzhenitsyn), to a firing squad (Babel, Mandelshtam, Meyerhold and hundreds of other intellectuals during the period of unprecedented blossoming of Socialist Realism in arts and science). If the book published abroad has any scientific value (not even a “secret” or “defense” subject, but, say, something about the sex habits of polar bears), the author, for passing his work to foreign publishers, may be charged with “high treason,” according to Articles 64, 65 and 75 of the Criminal Code (treason, espionage, and divulging of State secrets). And every schoolchild in the USSR knows that every Soviet scientist, without exception, is the property of the State, together with all the contents of his brain. Therefore everything he writes, scribbles or utters IS a state secret.

Service No. 7
Establishing a tabloid, newspaper or magazine in a foreign country, in which, directly or otherwise, Soviet ideology and Soviet foreign policy are justified or supported, or in which Soviet-supported surrogates (Cuba, Angola, Nicaragua, the P.L.O., various 'National-Liberation Fronts') are described in positive, “progressive” terms. For this type of service collaborators of APN-KGH are rewarded through various “front organizations” formally not related to the Soviet embassy or Novosti Press Agency. In my own practice in India we gave birth to dozens of such illegitimate “children” of APN, from radical students' tabloids to “independent progressive” magazines, the circulation of which would not exceed 100 copies and the entire staff consisted of 1 person. The propaganda effect of these papers is negligible. And indeed it is not the main purpose of APN, but the creation of such periodicals gives APN-KGB a legal and overt channel to funnel money and support to the so-called “activ,” a group of radicals and agitators who are officially on the payroll of this or that newspaper as staff writers, columnists, etc., but who are in fact simply signing the materials (articles, commentaries, news items) prepared by the Novosti bureau in a foreign country. Most of the time these activists are engaged in organizational work on campuses and in slums of large “capitalists” cities. Their “salaries” from the newspaper allow them to survive financially without being employed productively anywhere at all.

The money is not paid to the papers directly. It is channeled through real or fake advertising agencies, which place commercial ads for such Soviet businesses as Aeroflot, Intourist, Tractorexport, or even for some non-existent products and services. What matters is that money transfer to the “activ” becomes legitimate.

The most active and survivable organs of such media conceived with the help from Novosti are taken good care of. The editors and the “staff” are regularly invited to the USSR (or one of the “Peoples” Republics of the Soviet Empire) for prolonged visits, or for medical treatment of their V.D. and hernias acquired in the endless “class struggle” in their own countries. Some of the activists spend their vacations in Soviet Crimea, or at Bulgarian Black Sea resorts. Some send their children to Soviet schools for a “free education” (paid by the Soviet taxpayers), or to Soviet summer camps like Artek in Crimea.

To realize what a mirror replica of such an activity would mean to a Soviet citizen within the USSR, try to establish a pro-Western (pro-“capitalist”) newspaper in the city of Sverdlovsk.

Service No. 8
Introduction of a “Marxist-Leninist” (or similarly “progressive”) course of lectures, seminars, study groups, etc. in any Western school or college by Novosti's collaborators is normally compensated by either one-time payment in the form of “prizes” dedicated to “peace, friendship and mutual understanding between the nations,” or by several (often regular) free trips to the USSR to attend various “international conferences” under the guise of “cultural and academic exchange.” Most of the expenses for such trips are paid by the APN-KGB. Some Western scholars, suffering from self-importance, are being “bought” by simply publishing their vapid books and “scientific works” (essays, research papers, etc.) in the USSR or other “fraternal” countries. Disproportionately large “royalties” paid by the Novosti to such collaborators soon become quite an addiction to a “professor,” especially if his “work” is poorly appreciated in his own country for being too “leftist” even for enfeebled Western brains.

For a comparison, try to imagine a Russian professor introducing a course of lectures on, say, profit-oriented management in… Leningrad University! Some Soviet academics have gotten themselves into deep trouble even for much less ideologically dangerous lectures on the subjects of genetics or cybernetics (“pseudo-science of the decadent West.”) Many Soviet academics perished in the GULAG simply for quoting from Western textbooks, or for being too slow to adjust to the ever-fluctuating “general line” of the Party Ideology. Some ended up in “sharashkas” (special prisons for scientists, where they continue to work for the glory of Soviet technology, as did Tupolev, Koroylyov, and many others. The “sharashkas” are excellently described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his novel “First Circle.”)

Thus: half a million dollars for a Western collaborator of APN; life-time imprisonment for his Soviet colleague for trying to “build bridges between scientists of the world.”

Service No. 9
Establishing (founding) a pro-Communist public organization (such as the “Soviet-American Friendship Society” etc.), and popularization of the activities of such organizations through the local media, representing them as “true expressers of public opinion in a democratic society,” is rewarded by the Novosti through various “foundations” and front groups. Most of the funds and revenues are generated locally, in a target country, with the help of a professional fund-raiser, employed by the Novosti through intermediaries. Very often the activists of “peacenik” and “freeznik” movements do not realize that they are, in fact, on the payroll and under control of the APN-KGB. Some prefer to overlook or not to understand this sensitive issue... for the sake of financial comfort. An Indian friend of mine in New Delhi, an activist of the “Indo-Soviet Cultural Society” (ISCO), was paid as much as 600 Rupees a month, the average salary of a junior bureaucrat in Indian government plus some “expenses” and occasional trips to the USSR for fun, rest and further indoctrination. Surely he understood that the society he administered had nothing to do with either “culture” or “friendship” between the people of India and the USSR. But who could refuse an invitation to Sochi (a Black Sea resort) or resist the temptation to be mentioned in the world press as a “progressive and sober-thinking personality”?

The most active public figures, instrumental in the process of creation of pro-Soviet organizations and groups, are being systematically showered with all sorts of “international prizes”: Lenins, Nobels, Jawaharlal Nehrus, etc. A one-time “prize” from the Novosti maybe, sometimes, [is worth] as much as a million American dollars.

By comparison, a person in the USSR who would try to establish a pro-Western, pro-Democratic, or (what a horror!) pro-Jewish (pro-Israel) organization in Moscow, will get as much as 15 years in a concentration camp or even the death penalty, in strict accordance with the Soviet Criminal Code, Articles #70, 64, 65, 71, 75 (Propaganda, Treason, Espionage, Propaganda of War, and Divulging of State Secrets). Helsinki monitoring groups in the USSR (what could be more “peaceful” and “friendly”!!) were harassed by the KGB to their complete extinction. Rare daredevils of Soviet “peaceniks” who demanded the freeze of SOVIET nuclear weaponry were put in KGB psychiatric asylums and tortured by chemicals.

In other words: a million dollars for a Western peacenik and a slow painful death for a Soviet one. Do you sleep well, Western collaborators of Novosti? Does anything bother you, aside from the Pentagon’s warheads'?

Service No. 10
Dissemination (distribution) of APN periodicals and propaganda booklets in the free world through legitimate circulation agencies and retail book stores, on campuses and through school libraries is rewarded by a regular salary roughly equal to that of an agent for subscription in the target country. The collaborators-distributors are also rewarded by regular free trips the USSR (or fraternal countries), and sometimes by one-time prizes and valuable presents, from a “Matreshka” doll to a camera, watch, TV set, or even a Soviet-made car.

Promotion of subscriptions to Soviet propaganda publications is also rewarded by a generous “commission” of up to 60% of the retail price of the publication, such as “Soviet Life,” (officially published by the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C.), and other magazines, and books.

A similar “service” by a Soviet citizen to a publisher in any free country is unheard of, but punishable by the same above articles of the Criminal Code.

Service No. 11
Direct cooperation with Novosti Press Agency, either in one of the foreign bureaus or within the USSR, pays regular wages, roughly equal to the wages of the media workers in the target country. Bonuses may include a variety of awards, from a free automobile to a free space at the cemetery near the Kremlin Wall, next to many other collaborators-- from John Reed to Dean Reed (an American pop-singer, residing mainly in Moscow. He is not dead yet, though.)

Direct employment of a Soviet citizen by a foreign mission or a news agency is high treason, unless the employee is an officer of the UPDK) a branch of the KGB responsible for hiring domestic servants, secretaries, drivers, interpreters, etc., for foreign nationals residing in the USSR. UPDK means “Directorate of Affairs of Diplomatic Corpus”-- Upravlenie Delami Diplomaticheskogo Korpusa, in Russian).

Any other Soviet citizen who would dare to be hired by a foreigner in Moscow is treated as an enemy of [the] People, with every regular consequence.

This is a brief and far-from-complete list of “services” which the foreign collaborators of Novosti render to the self-proclaimed enemy of their own countries. These actions are OVERT: any sensible person can, if he wants, observe them and monitor the results in both short and long time spans. There is not a SINGLE law in any free country that would prevent collaborators from OPENLY and LEGITIMATELY cooperating with the APN-KGB. But there is a law in the USA, which forbids the American intelligence services to contact (or use in any other way) their own American media to even EXPLAIN (to say nothing about JUSTIFY) their operations against the KGB-controlled Novosti Press Agency, the ideological subverter that feels at home in any “belligerent capitalist country.” I was told it is a price Democracy must pay for its freedom. To my mind, it is a price the Free World pays for self-destruction.

Continued in Part Four.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

World Thought Police: Part Two

Continued from Part One.

Most foreign media people, not to mention average readers, grossly misconceive the nature of the APN-KGB relationship in particular, and the relationship between Soviet journalists and Soviet intelligence services in general. This general misconception is obvious to me, now that I have been some years in the West, and have revealed details about my own and my Novosti colleagues' activities to several seemingly intelligent Western reporters. All of them, both “leftists” and “rightists,” made the same mistake, calling me a “former Russian spy,” which sounds very romantic, and, depending on one's political affiliation, either complimentary or derogatory. It is very far from reality.

Spying, in the classical sense of the term, is the ancient occupation of stealing secret information, or buying it for money or favors, and making it available to one's government, superiors, or a client who pays for it. Spying in itself is a profession, just like any other, requiring training and experience. By itself it is void of any moral or ethical connotation. Spying can be noble and patriotic, if it serves the cause of the security and prosperity of one's nation, and docs not harm friends. It can be defensive, if it helps to protect one's country or one's friends from an aggressor. But spying can also be vile, treacherous and offensive, when it helps an aggressor, invader or robber of one's own people, or a friendly and peaceful neighbor.

Depending on the amount of money or support, and on the state of counter-intelligence in an area, spying can be dangerous and risky. It can also be a safe and pleasant indulgence in all imaginable sins.

But, whatever spying is, Novosti people do not do it for the KGB more than 10% of the time. Most of Novosti's work is subversion, by definition always immoral, aggressive, dishonest and unpatriotic (the latter, because in most cases subversion hurts people in one's own country as much as the real or imaginary enemy is hurt). The Novosti specialty is ideological subversion, which often has nothing to do with either secret information or stealing.

Thanks to the permissive legal systems in most democratic countries (as well as in some right-wing “fascist and racist” regimes), the activity of [a] Novosti-KGB agent is not considered criminal or even anti-social. Thus, we cannot be called spies: we do not risk anything, least of all our lives, in a country of the “decadent capitalist camp.” The greatest danger to ourselves comes not from the counter-intelligence services, the police or the courts, but from our over-indulgence in alcohol, sex, food, and from driving too fast. Few Novosti men have ever been apprehended as spies and expelled from foreign countries (and then mainly from “developing” ones!). It is a rare case when a real KGB spy, pretending to be a Novosti journalist, is caught red-handed.

APN-KGB subversion may be painless, but its long-term result is more devastating than a nuclear explosion. It effects an irreversible (at least within one generation) change in the public's perception of social, political and economic reality, to such an extent that the concept of destroying individual and collective property, safety, freedom and often life itself (considering the inevitable consequences of any “socialist revolution”) no longer seems to be such a bad idea. On the contrary, thanks to semantic manipulation, millions of people, regardless of race, intelligence or historical experience, have come to see Communism as an adequate or even desirable alternative to capitalism, in spite of the obvious.

Not too many people in the free world (free from the Soviets) want to understand the danger of APN-KGB ideological subversion. Every Novosti staffer, engaged in KGB work, knows otherwise. We seldom had illusions about the true nature of our activity; we could easily observe the horrible results of it. For this reason some of us would be burdened with guilt, and seek refuge in cynicism or in the accumulation of possessions, or in sex, alcohol, and drugs. The majority, though, overcome pangs of conscience, and enjoy the comforts of KGB affiliation. It goes without saying, of course, that only a few Novosti staffers, mainly relatives of the nomenklatura, dare to say “no” to the KGB.

On direct orders from KGB superiors, or through the KGB senior staff within Novosti, employees of APN may perform the following functions: the spreading of disinformation among both Soviet and foreign media and diplomatic representatives; opinion probes and intelligence gathering among foreign diplomats and VIPs; the screening of human material, to be recruited by the KGB, among foreign delegations and guests of Novosti; character assessment of the same; surveillance of both domestic and foreign suspects and/or potential recruits; and reference and research on specific subjects related to foreign media, public and political life in certain countries. Apart from that, Novosti staff may participate in any number of projects and operations planned by the KGB in various capacities, acting mainly as public relations representatives.

Contrary to popular Russian belief, not all Novosti people work for the KGB. Some exceptionally stupid “international commentators” are of no use to the KGB. Just like some exceptionally bright journalists who happen to have “dissident” ideas, these latter are kept within Novosti because it is an easily controllable fishbowl.

Naturally, there are no official statistics on the percentage of KGB affiliates within APN. Neither is there any Soviet counterpart of Daniel Ellsberg (alive, that is) within Novosti to reveal the APN's atrocities by publishing “Novosti Papers” in the New York Times. Thus, the very question seems to be rather foolish, or too abstract to require an answer. Every time a foreign guest of Novosti asked me something like, “How much money is allotted to the KGB for surveillance of the Soviet people?” I would unhesitatingly tell him to multiply an average salary by 250 million and divide by two.

My own private observations led me to conclude that there are definite categories of people within Novosti who most certainly work for the KGB. These include all stazhory-- temporary employees, tall, muscular, quiet men, who spend some time within Novosti prior to their assignments abroad. Usually these boys already have a rudimentary knowledge of a foreign language or two, and basic facts about the country of their future assignment. They only need to pick up Novosti talk and habits, to get acquainted with as many APN staffers as possible, and learn the ABCs of journalism, enough to use all of that as a cover for their real job. The old-timers of APN seldom express surprise at the rapid promotion of these stazhory to positions like senior editor or higher. We avoided asking these guys too many questions. We “understood.” And tried to be helpful, just in case.

When, after three or four months, the stazhory departed for the capitals of exotic countries, we were not envious; they were not going to take our jobs in foreign bureaus. As a matter of fact, we might never see them when we arrived there, except at embassy receptions, where they circulate among Novosti staffers to show their foreign counterparts their APN affiliation.

Another large group of APN-KGB hybrids are those who rest in a comfortable APN job after completing a foreign assignment, having been expelled by a foreign government, or having returned quietly and anonymously if the mission was a success and a new assignment is pending. For example, Colonel Bolshakov, kicked out of Washington for his role in covering up Soviet rockets in Cuba, returned as a hero and was awarded one of the most prestigious administrative jobs on the North American editorial board of Novosti. He knew that everyone knew that he was a KGB colonel, and was as proud of his Washington affair as a demented graffiti artist in a New York subway.

In roughly the same hybrid category were those “exiled” to Novosti for various misdemeanors while on active KGB service in a foreign country. We had a dozen or so speed demons who had run over a developing brother or sister while driving their Volga cars at breakneck speeds. They were wanted by the local police, so Moscow urgently recalled them home for health reasons. Besides, killing a chernozhopyi is not considered a serious crime for a Soviet citizen.

Neither are alcoholism, sex with foreigners, or trading personal effects (cameras, watches, etc.) for decadent foreign currency. But in excess, any of these might lead to “exile.” In 1969, for example, burnt-out comrade Tzigankov was recalled from the New Delhi bureau of Novosti, not so much for boozing (everyone drinks, but manages to walk and talk) as for stealing watches and cameras from the diplomatic staff while they were in the Soviet embassy swimming pool, selling those goods on the black market, and investing the profits in alcohol.

In the same category, we had several “sex maniacs” who took Karl Marx's slogan too seriously, thus impeding their work for the KGB. Exiled to APN, they had to subsist for several years on a diet of only local girls, while full of nostalgia and stories of their past escapades.

Such as this one: A Novosti man in Tokyo disappeared without a trace. A month later the KGB found him in a geisha's house. Brought to the ambassador, he was sternly asked to explain his unpatriotic behavior.

“Have you ever screwed a teenage Japanese girl in a suspended and rotating basket?” asked the Novosti man.

“Never,” admitted the puzzled ambassador. “How, then, can I explain it to you?!”

The elite of Novosti's KGB men are those highly placed journalists and editors who have traveled extensively abroad and established a reputation as “experts” on a country or a geopolitical area. These APN-KGB comrades sometimes are not “recruited,” but rather grow into the KGB at a higher level. Some are not full-time officers of the service. In rare cases when a drunken colleague would reproach one of these “elitists,” the latter would be genuinely offended. They do not consider themselves to be KGB informers. Naturally! They are the “new class,” nomenklatura, something above the KGB in their own estimation.

The younger generation of careerists, like myself, graduating from privileged colleges (Institute of Oriental Languages, Institute of Foreign Relations, etc.), could perhaps be labeled “volunteers.” We knew perfectly well that cooperation with the KGB would greatly promote our careers as journalists and open the door to foreign assignments. That's why we were behaving like teenage girls at a school dance: standing by the wall, showing indifference, but inwardly burning with the desire to be noticed and picked up. Often we created situations wherein the KGB had to notice our diligence and ability, especially when accompanying foreign guests of APN. Our ultimate desire was to become one of the “experts” to be approached by the KGB and the Central Committee for advice. It looked so clean, so patriotic, so romantic, so intellectual! And no dirty jobs, like informing on one's friends. Well, sometimes on foreign friends, but they are foreigners, so it doesn't really count.

A small but highly unpleasant group of APN-KGB people are the retired KGB, who think of Novosti as a charitable institution. Into this category fall some security guards, drivers, administration officials, members of the personnel department and the “military desk,” some cleaners, doormen, technicians, and, last but not least, our movie projectionist, Uncle Vasya. He was a short, chubby man, with an expressionless face bearing countless pock marks, like the face of the Great Father of All Progressive Journalists, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, whose bodyguard, they say, Uncle Vasya was. When I last saw him, Vasya's main occupation was screwing up the sequence of foreign film reels shown to the Novosti staff, and getting drunk in between.

Like most of his colleagues, the other KGB old-timers, Uncle Vasya never said a word about his past career. No wonder. These days Novosti employs quite a number of children of posthumously “rehabilitated enemies of the people,” liquidated under Stalin. Reminiscences about the old days might result in severe fractures to Uncle Vasya's skull. It should be remembered that every second family of an intellectual, writer, journalist, etc., lost at least one relative to the GULAG death camps or Lubyanka's shooting ranges. This is one reason the old guards keep wisely silent, opening doors for the children of their victims, the Novosti's “new class.” Some of the KGB's victims' children are now KGB themselves.

Naturally, we despised and avoided those who, unlike us, were stukachi-- lower-grade sleuths and informers, provocateurs and subverters of our own Novosti personnel. Even lower, in our estimation, but somewhat more attractive, was the last category of Novosti KGB: lastochki, single girls employed by the APN not so much for what they were doing officially during the daytime-- typing, filing, editing copy-- as for their ability to combine the three most ancient professions: espionage, prostitution and journalism. They knew that we, the male chauvinists of Novosti, had a long-established unwritten rule: never get involved with a Novosti girl, or you will give the KGB an easy time collecting information about you. Only those comrades with high Party standing could occasionally violate this rule, for the cause of the Party, no doubt.

How does one distinguish a KGB-APN from a non-KGB? Basically, by the possession of certain objects and rights which most ordinary citizens, including Novosti rank and file, are denied. The most valuable asset, in a society which hungers for information, is freedom to socialize with outsiders and obtain information from them. So this is the first and foremost attribute of a Novosti employee working for the KGB. Relative affluence is the second.

This latter includes a rather long list of possessions granted to an employee in return for his or her services: television sets, tape recorders, cameras, or an export model of a Soviet-made car (Lada, instead of Zhiguli, for instance), or even an imported car (Fiat, VW, Skoda); a better apartment in a certain district of Moscow. Every Novosti old-timer knows that if a person lives in Kutuzovski Prospect, Naberezhnaya Frunze, or in several newly-developed areas around Moscow, chances are he is a KGB agent.

Access to a foreign currency shop (Beryozka) and possession of sertificaty may be another indication. This inevitably leads to foreign-made clothes and shoes, tape recorders and transistor radios, and other decadent capitalist toys.

All this in combination with frequent attendance at diplomatic parties, picnics with foreigners, an abundance of imported liquor, the presence of lastochki, access to “closed” libraries containing foreign magazines and newspapers, frequent trips across the USSR and outside with foreign (and Soviet) delegations, are unmistakable features of a KGB cooperative, or even a full-time KGB agent.

Even more so numerous phone calls during office hours and quiet disappearances for lunch, tendentious forgiveness of blunders and professional mistakes by the bosses, or even of extreme laziness on the job, frivolous anti-Soviet anecdotes and loose talk on issues considered taboo for mere mortals.

Most of these things are easily observed by anyone with minimum intelligence and knowledge of the Soviet system. One principle remains true all through: anyone employed by a media organ of ideological significance (unlike, say, a magazine on fishery), and dealing with foreign media and their representatives, automatically falls under KGB control. There is simply no such thing, in the Motherland of Socialism, as a journalist in the international arena independent of the KGB.

An abundant source of raw material for Novosti propaganda can be found in foreign media, both “progressive” and “reactionary.” Any leftist or openly Communist (wherever they are legalized) newspaper as a rule toes the Soviet propaganda line and reprints an average of 40% of the materials which are supplied either by Novosti itself (directly or through the foreign bureau of APN), or written locally. Some are borrowed from press releases of TASS, and from Soviet “official” publications abroad (such as Soviet Life, Soviet Land, Soviet Woman), and finally from publications of various front organizations created and maintained by the Central Committee through KGB or Novosti (World Council of Churches, World Peace Council, all sorts of “anti” groups-- antiwar, antipollution, antinuclear, some trade unions and radical student groups, etc.).

A great part of the local coverage of such events as strikes, anti-establishment demonstrations, or violent clashes between the police and “protesters,” almost automatically finds its place on the pages of leftist media, and is consequently picked up by Novosti for reprocessing as “an expression of predominant public opinion.”

All these reports, depicting the West (or free Eastern countries, such as South Korea, Philippines or Thailand) in the darkest possible colors, are lovingly collected by Novosti personnel abroad and sent to Moscow. Here the material is updated, distorted, supplied with editorial comments and such references as: “quoted from an influential Western (Eastern) newspaper” (The Daily Worker, Aka Hata, etc.), and re-issued to foreign countries, sometimes the countries of its origin, this time as Novosti releases.

A considerable amount of this propaganda is used by the Soviet domestic media for the purpose of convincing the people of the USSR that the outside world, in strict accordance with the prophecies of the classics from Marx to Suslov, rapidly stagnates and is ripe for “liberation” by the world Communist movement, or as the media calls it, “national liberation forces.” Sometimes, for authenticity, Pravda or Izvestia would even reprint a facsimile of the front page of a foreign Communist periodical. The most common cause of such “borrowing” is the reprinting of photographs from foreign publications and supplying them to the Soviet (or socialist countries') domestic media with APN-made captions, with distorted or totally opposite meanings.

The impact of such propaganda on the Soviet public opinion is substantial. If not the content itself, then the mere fact of its existence, unpunished and unopposed by the Free World, impresses an uninformed Soviet reader in favor of the “historically inevitable advance of Communism the world over.” In combination with “straight” news about various “majority rule” and “anti-colonial” wars successfully waged by the Soviet-trained and indoctrinated terrorists forces in Asia, Africa and Latin America, this further convinces the Soviet public, even those who have access to short-wave foreign broadcasts, that Communism IS victorious, invincible and desired by millions of their “developing” brothers. The final and tragic result of it for the Soviet people is that if and when a Soviet soldier were given an order to “liberate” Afghanistan, Angola or El Salvador, he would do it with unprecedented cruelty, in direct proportion to his ignorance and the volume of propaganda pumped into him, thanks to the vicious circle of untruth.

The “reactionary” media, not under the direct control of Communists or the KGB, also renders a great service to Novosti by focusing its attention mainly on bad news as though it were the only news fit to print. Such sensational stories as Watergate, CIA wrongdoings, the Pentagon Papers, etc., forcibly fed to the public, are a great inspiration for the APN, but contribute hardly anything to the restoration of justice in America. Most of the materials of that type were reprocessed by a special Department of Political Publications (GRPP), headed in the 1960's by Norman Borodin, a KGB disinformation expert.

Homemade Propaganda
The most useful internal source of propaganda material is Novosti’s daily press release, some thirty pages thick, containing from six to ten articles from the Soviet or “brotherly Socialist” media (both printed and electronic), and sometimes from leftist foreign media, all pre-packaged and already translated (badly) into four European languages: English, German, Spanish and French. If, on orders from my boss comrade Makhotin, I found several appropriate articles in Komsomolskaya Pravda or Krasnaya Zvezda, before I bothered to sit down and edit them for Indian readers I would check the title list in the morning APN bulletin. If my titles were in it, I would simply wait for an English copy of the bulletin, which came to our room after lunch, tear the needed article from my copy of the bulletin, attach the anketa, maybe cut out two or three paragraphs, and voila! put it on Makhotin's desk.

The APN bulletin was an excellent filler, but not sufficiently high quality to meet some requests by Indian newspapers. In this case I had two alternatives: either process the English copy myself, rewriting parts of it in an appropriate style for Indian readers, write a new original under my own name combining something from TASS, something from the clipping room files, and something from my own imagination. The latter needed a special OK from Makhotin or a senior editor of the section. Sometimes the subject assigned to me was unfamiliar to me, and I had another alternative: find an author within Novosti who happened to be an expert in the given field. This took some telephoning, some running along corridors, some chasing into the cafeteria or a restaurant, and finally, a certain power of persuasion.

Not unlike the GULAG prison “research institutes,” called sharashki, where our people's state lovingly collects experts in all imaginable professions, from snake charmers to rocket designers, Novosti employs several hundred jacks of all trades good for only one thing: fabricating the “truth.” Without leaving the premises of APN, one may find an author capable of writing an article on almost any subject. They may be officially employed (oformleny) as junior or senior editors, commentators, translators, layout artists or even typists, but come the chance and inspiration (in the form of a fat honorarium), they spring into creative activity.

We had our own astronomers and mathematicians in a special science department headed by a Madame Lunacharsky, the daughter of the late famous Soviet commissar of culture, who, so the story goes, saved dozens of pre-revolutionary intellectuals from Lenin's labor camps or Dzerzhinsky’s execution basements. Madame Lunacharsky did not have to do the same, thanks to Brezhnev: today all our worthy intellectuals are simply treated as mental cases and sent to Serbsky Institute, affiliated with the KGB.

We had our own agronomists, on a par with Lysenko, or possibly better, for during all their career within Novosti they never need bother to visit a collective farm, find a “sabotazhnik” refusing to grow corn Khrushchev style, and send him to the KGB prison, the way Lysenko did to hundreds of his opponents in agriculture.

Novosti Space Bluff
“Conquering space” was Novosti's favorite subject for propaganda, from the time of its establishment. Space research was also the most salable subject in the West. Novosti, while losing money on topics like collectivization or “national liberation,” made a fortune selling rhapsodic, sweet stories about Soviet space “pilots,” from Yuri Gagarin on, to stupid Western (and Eastern) newspapers and magazines.

The initial Soviet space “ships” were nothing but tin cans launched into orbit, with a helpless Cosmonaut huddled inside, just to impress the West and to prove non-existent Soviet supremacy in the space race.

To keep the hard currency rolling in, Novosti opened a special “space center,” headed by a curly-haired young man, the son-in-law of a famous (but under an assumed name, for reasons of secrecy) Soviet space rocket designer. This curly cretin, who looked like a football player, walked Novosti's corridors in foreign-tailored suits, imitating an American movie star. From time to time he would call dispatch for a black Volga car with a radio-telephone to rush him at breakneck speed from Novosti's glass entrance to the “Star City.” He was one of the few APN staffers privileged with a permanent pass to the “Star City,” a small suburban township where Soviet cosmonauts and their families live in conditions similar to those of American university students. There was no need for paranoid security arrangements such as tall fences with barbed wire at the top, guard dogs and sentries with machine guns. The Soviet space guinea-pigs (called “pilots” in the Western press) didn't know any secrets worth stealing (apart from the commonly known “secret” that the Soviet space research programs were designed mainly for military and aggressive purposes). The most insane PLO terrorist would not dare or bother to kidnap the cosmonauts, knowing pretty well that the Kremlin would not give a kopeck of ransom for the lives of the “pilots.” The main purpose of the security was to conceal the relative affluence of the Star City inhabitants from the hungry stares of common Soviet people. They say there is a self-service gastronom (grocery store) where one takes as much food into a cart (a cart, not a bag!) as one wishes…

On returning from the Star City sometimes in the company of a suspiciously happy foreigner or two, all of them breathing vodka, our curly cretin would be frantically active for a couple of days. Cosmonauts would meet foreign guests, sign autographs, give interviews and smile for cameramen. The result of all this farce was usually several articles in respectable Western magazines, such as Pari-March, with lots of photographs which made our space monkeys look like a hybrid of Tarzan and Einstein and Levitan and Rostropovich: they played cellos, wrote endless formulae on blackboards, painted imaginary scenery from distant planets, did unimaginable tricks on the parallel bars, and above all, were dedicated Party members and excellent family men. Large circulation foreign papers picked this up obediently, especially if we claimed that the stuff was “exclusive,” or better yet, “secret,” and de-classified only as a personal favor of APN to George Pompidu.

The space features supposedly written by the cosmonauts, and supplemented with impressive drawings and diagrams were okayed not by our Novosti censors, but somewhere high above, possibly by comrade Korolyov himself (the chief Soviet space rocket designer, who died in the early 1970's). The stuff was written, though, not by any cosmonauts, but by the same curly schizoid who headed Novosti’s “space center”; and far from being “exclusively” written for any client, it was a typical APN mass production designed to convince the duped Western (even more so Eastern) public of the supremacy of the “new man of the Communist tomorrow.”

Unlike the “useful idiots” of the Western media, we the Novosti men of that time knew well that the Soviet supermen simply did not have time for playing cellos and attending to their families; most of their time was divided roughly between alcoholic orgies in Moscow’s Sandoony steambaths, and being exploited as instruments for propaganda during various “international scientific and peace forums.”

After Yuri Gagarin died in a jet plane crash, we were the first “ordinary people” to hear the rumors that our lovable superman was gloriously drunk, and some of us, who knew Gagarin personally, suspected that Yuri preferred death-- in space or on Mother Earth-- to the miserable existence of a propaganda doll. But even this tragic event Novosti turned to the advantage of propaganda, hinting in several “unofficially leaked” reports something to the effect that, “One dare not call himself Russian if he is not fond of a fast troika ride” (an expression popularized by Gogol, a classic 19th century Russian writer).

Space mania lasted roughly from 1963 to 1969, the time of the spectacular American landing on the moon, skillfully played down by some Western media traitors. All these years we knew that our “achievements” were a bluff and could not help but feel sorry about the enthusiasm of the Western media. Few of us were brave enough to give a tip to foreign press, but would they listen to us? Several years later Soviet defector L. Vladimirov-Finkelstein, former editor of a science magazine, tried stubbornly to break through the wall of naïveté and ignorance of Western publishers and to reveal the truth about the space race in his brilliant and brutally honest book “Russian Space Bluff.” It took the US landing on the moon to make the West change its mind about the faked Soviet space “supremacy” and get rid of its inferiority complex. It only proves, to my mind, how deadly efficient Novosti's propaganda [can be].

Human Interest Propaganda
Apart from the subject of space, Novosti would periodically have fits of propaganda on various topics of “human interest.” There was never a lack of authors within Novosti capable of concocting anything in this area. Thus, in the mid-sixties, simultaneously with the KGB-inspired student riots in Western universities, Novosti unfolded a “Youth Campaign,” trying to prove to the decadent West that we do not have any “gaps” between our generations. We are monolithic, united and profoundly patriotic! More, we are internationalists, always ready to extend our helping hand to all the oppressed youth in capitalist countries (which we did very successfully!). At the time your Jane Fondas and Pete Seegers promoted “peace” in Vietnam, singing: “[Billy], don't be a hero, don't go to war,” our Novosti boys were busy concocting fiery propaganda songs on the “liberation struggle.” Partly thanks to APN and Fondas, America [was] stalemated by barefoot bandits in Asia and plunged into endless radical youth terrorism at home. The Novosti authors of the “youth” propaganda had sleepless nights and endless alcoholic cycles, burdened with guilt for what we did to the feeble minds of Western youth. Fondas and Seegers do not have even a hint of repentance.

Yielding to the renaissance of Russian Christianity after half a century of atheistic Communism (a phenomenon comparable to the revival of Zionism and Hebrew in Israel), Novosti in the late 60's and early 70's started vigorously promoting the “Old Mother Russia” motif in its propaganda. We wanted to prove to the world that we love our churches and keep them in perfect order as museums, and to let the tourists see our freedom of faith.

Most of Novosti's foreign periodicals carried cover photos of countless troikas, blinis, samovars, icons, etc.-- the stuff naive Westerners love so much. It was fun for the foreign media, and a chance for APN to earn extra money, but also a time to shine for some genuine lovers of Russia's neglected and trampled culture. I knew a fellow who was a self-made expert on old Russian architecture and folklore. On his day off, instead of wasting his time watching football or hockey on TV, he would spend the day walking through Moscow countryside villages in search of ruins of old churches and monasteries. He had a large collection of photographs of Russia's past monuments. For several years, though officially a junior editor of Soviet Land magazine (part of India's section), he was an authority for Novosti's “Mother Russia” campaign.

Less spectacular authors wrote on metallurgy, postage stamps, telekinesis, heart transplants, ballet, sports, etc.

The sports section of Novosti catered very successfully to the sensationalist tastes of such media clients as Canada's CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Obsessed with hockey, the Canadians paid Novosti astronomical sums for grossly unfair matches between such rivals as professional (in the commercial sense) Canadian teams and the “amateur” gladiators of the Soviet Army. Naturally, Novosti never forgot the main purpose of the deal: to convince the Canadian (and other Western) hockey addicts that Socialist hockey is invincible!

Some Novosti sports commentators were of as high a journalistic caliber as their Western counterparts or higher. I personally knew Sasha Mariamov, a tall, skinny fellow of about 35 whose sports reviews read like detective stories. These pieces of propaganda I would dispatch to the Indian media feeling no guilt; they were more or less harmless and did not call for any “class struggle.”

Indo-Soviet Friendship: My Cup of Tea
The privilege of writing “originals” on subjects related to Indo-Soviet relations was, of course, given to the staff of the Asian Department (GRSAS), including myself. The OK was given to me by comrade Makhotin in those cases where neither the clipping files nor any other part of Novosti's plumbing contained the needed material, or when there was a chance to cover some Indo-Soviet happening in Moscow.

The latter included such occasions as, for example, the opening or an exhibition, ironically, of Indian dolls and puppets in a branch of Moscow's Museum of Oriental Cultures. The process of covering such an event is similar to that in any other country's media, with certain peculiarities. They were always attended by exactly the same set of people, a kind of professional team of “official guests.” Whether it was a puppet exhibition, or an “evening of Indo-Soviet economic cooperation anniversary” in the Friendship House, or whatever, I always met the same “representative of the Soviet public”: illiterate professor of Indian languages Dr. Balabushevich, for instance. Or youngish divorcee Irina Ershova, an official of the “USSR-India Friendship Society.” Comrade Ershova was a pretty lady who had the unusual ability to sit long hours in various presidiums without showing the slightest sign of boredom or tendency to fall asleep. She was a lovely and almost compulsory decoration to any Indo-Soviet propaganda gathering.

Another must was a young but extremely promising diplomat, Igor Boni, several years a consular official in Bombay, who had acquired the reputation of a “pukka sahib” (real gentleman) among the Indian staff for his fluent Hindustani and flawless manners.

His opposite was a professor of Hindustani from the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations, comrade Oleg Ultsiferov, an uncultivated young man speaking fluent but badly broken Urdu, especially while consuming considerable volumes of liquor at diplomatic receptions. This character would appear to be very trustworthy; many would confide in him; and all the secrets and the gossip were guaranteed to reach the KGB in record time.

A valuable contribution to any gathering was KGB Colonel Erzin, dean of something-or-other at the notorious spy school called the Patrice Lumumba Friendship University. Comrade Colonel also spoke some foreign languages.

After these there would follow an assortment of small fry: several students from Lumumba, a couple of lastochki from UPDKA (the department of the KGB rendering domestic and secretarial services to foreign diplomats in Moscow), and finally, a troika of Indian diplomats: sometimes his excellency Kewal Singh, the ambassador, and a combination of first and second secretaries (Mr. Lamba, Mr. Dhume, Mr. Dhundyal, Mr. Mahajan or Mr. Sidharth Singh).

“Friendship meetings” always proceeded in the same order. First Dr. Balabushevich would read from a typewritten page something no one in the audience could understand or bothered to listen to. Several Indian students would secretly hold hands with lastochki, or with girls who worked in garment factories named after Rosa Luxembourg or Clara Tzetkin, invited to Dom Druzhby as a filler, to become a “collective member” of the USSR-India Friendship Society, in a ceremony at the end of the evening.

The ambassador of India would then take the floor and say something nice about the Russian winter, carefully avoiding mention of the Bhilai Steel Plant or any other industrial monster, for which India is supposed to be eternally thankful to the USSR. (That would not prevent me from inserting it into my report for Novosti, anyway). By the end of the ambassador's speech some Indian boys would have exchanged telephone numbers with Russian girls and move one step further, from holding hands to touching knees. When the lights would go off and a new documentary on old Bhilai started, some hands would go around waists. After the movie the lucky ones would go to dance in the adjacent hall, others down to the bullet to have a beer and discuss politics (ever so carefully!).

Long before the party was over, I would leave for Novosti, sometimes in an office car with an APN photographer, my article almost ready. Most of it had been written in advance anyway, with blank spaces for names and percentages of growth.

During a “youth” propaganda campaign I concocted several articles for Soviet Land. One of them I remember with especially bitter feelings. My boss at the time, comrade Surov, a gray and humorless invalid (his leg was wounded), wanted me to find an Indian student at Moscow State University (MGU) and ask his (or her) impressions of Moscow. I found not only a student of physics, Ashok Kumar, studying superconductivity under ultra-low temperatures in a cryogen laboratory, but also Savitri, a pretty girl from Nepal, studying medicine, who wanted to be a pediatrician in the Himalayan mountains. Both were very happy, talkative and sociable. They related to me stories about their trips across the USSR during vacations, their life in the MGU obshchezhitiye (dorms) where they had to share rooms with two or three other Soviet students (for more complete indoctrination, not for lack of space, but they did not know it), about the eating habits of Russians as opposed to Indians, etc. A human interest story was on the way!

But the old hack Surov rejected both interviews. According to him, they both lacked the expression of gratitude which supposedly overflows in the hearts of Indian students for their “free education” in the USSR, towards the Soviet people, our government and our glorious Party. He wanted me to include “their” thoughts, that such a paradise as MGU is possible only thanks to the scientific theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. He insisted that I put in the Indians' mouths admiration of the “fact” that in “brotherly multi-racial” Moscow there is no discrimination, unlike the USA, where our guests would hardly find a friend for being “colored.”

I wasted my time explaining to comrade Surov that both my Indian students were aware of frequent racial scandals within MGU between Russian and African boys fighting over Russian girls, and the drunken orgies some of the “liberated” black brothers organized in the dorms, and the brutal treatment of some “black-asses” by the druzhinniki (voluntary Komsomol police). I could have explained also the surprise expressed by the Indians that any political activity except that prescribed by Komsomol is strictly banned in MGU. But the boss wanted only the “truth.”

Another frequent assignment was coverage of “press conferences” with visiting Indian VIPs. I remember when, in July of 1966, Mr. Kumaraswami Kamaraj, an outstanding member of the Indian National Congress Party and an opponent of Indira Gandhi's faction, came to Moscow. The Kremlin wanted to cultivate him, as he might win the intra-party struggle for leadership and become the prime minister. On July 30, Novosti and Foreign Affairs staged a marvelous farce in the grand hall of the Metropol Hotel.

The Indian guest pretended not to notice that “media representatives” asked him only questions which already contained answers, and most of the answers were in favor of Soviet foreign policy. Every Novosti person, including myself, prior to arriving at the Metropol, had been given his “questions” typed on a piece of paper, to memorize, or to read aloud if memory failed. My question was about the positive effect of the spirit of the Indo-Pakistani peace conference of Tashkent on the establishment of stability and mutual security on the Indian subcontinent. Getting Mr. Kamaraj's affirmative answer, I simply incorporated a few of his words into an already typewritten “report” on the press conference.

The next morning, Pravda and other Soviet central papers carried the rhapsody to Soviet peace-making efforts. And as far as I knew, at that very moment Soviet submarines were making a home in the Indian ports of Bombay and Visakhapatnam, Soviet air force advisors were training Indians to fly MIGs, and the Soviet Defense Ministry was pushing more and more Soviet-made military hardware on both India and Pakistan, trying to make both dependent on our supplies.

The covering of trade agreement signing ceremonies was more pleasant. One might actually see and even touch some articles of shirpotreb (consumer demand) which average Soviet people would never see, for most of them are sold in closed shops for nomenklatura only. I loved most of the exhibitions and informal parts of the ceremonies which followed the actual signing and the abstract speeches (the only interesting part of which would be the response of the Soviet trade representatives. The comrades would put so much emphasis on “mutually beneficial trade,” their eyes shining with delight and expectation, that I almost visualized the concrete meaning of these words to the fat apparatchiks (bureaucrats): we give you turbines made by our slaves, in exchange for those lovely leather shoes for us and leopard fur coats for our wives, and copper plates and jewelry to decorate our apartments…).

Cocktails would follow. In the beginning of the Soviet-Indian trade era, Indian hosts would hire waiters to carry silver trays loaded with delicate cocktail glasses and exquisite Indian hors d'oeuvres: shish-kebabs, pakora, pani-puri, etc. Later, after learning the Soviet way of life, the Indians abandoned this etiquette. The booze would be dumped unceremoniously on one of the tables, next to a pile of plastic cups-- self-service po potrebnosti (according to needs-- a Socialist principle implemented only for the nomenklatura).

And finally, as an unplanned source of propaganda material, sometimes we were allowed to find our own topics for the “originals” and “exclusives.” That I always did at my own risk, for there is no guarantee that a story which takes me four days to prepare may not be thrown into the waste basket, and instead of an honorarium I may get a reprimand from the Party boss. One such story was my innocent opus about pen pals corresponding between India and the USSR.

They were schoolchildren. I found them in the Dom Pionerov (Young Pioneers Club) on Vorobyov Hills. They were smart little devils, at the tender age of 6 already learning how to outsmart the all-forbidding Soviet State.

Correspondence with foreigners is unofficially prohibited in our country; it is overtly discouraged, and secretly tampered with at the special section of the main post office (Glavpochtampt). The clever kids invented a “collectivized” version of pen pal correspondence, writing their letters in the presence of the senior Komsomol counselor (pionervozhatyi). Thus there was an appearance of legitimacy and ideological control. The ratio of correspondence was about one-to-ten in favor of the Soviets: for each “collective” letter sent, the Moscow kids would receive at least a dozen replies from the Indian kids, who had not yet learned the advantages of the socialist system and wrote individually, and without any control. Thus every week the Soviet kids had a pretty large collection of Indian and Pakistani postage stamps, which they successfully converted into rubles at the black market spot in Kuznetski Most Street.

Naturally, I did not mention the profit motive, untypical for Soviet children. I wrote about peace and friendship, mentioning the stamp “exchange” only briefly. But that was enough to awaken the suspicion of my boss, comrade Surov, who, as it turned out later, was himself a postage stamp collector and was aware of the potential profit in the hobby. The opus was scrapped, and I only hoped the young pioneers were not investigated for profiteering.

A convenient source of endless “originals” was Soviet travelogues with visiting foreign guests of Novosti. I was attached to a large number of delegations from India and Pakistan during my career in Moscow. Thus I earned considerable extra money in the form of honorariums and also as leftovers from my travel allowances. During those years I took our unsuspecting guests at least a hundred times along the same officially prescribed tour of Potyomkin’s collective farms, and wined and dined them in the same Intourist hotels. I would bet that if, in some distant future, all the “progressive” Indians would get together, they might discover a lot in common about their trip to the USSR.

By the end of my Moscow era, I knew almost every waitress by name: every nurse in every “typical” kindergarten, intimately; every Soviet ballet, ad nauseum; and I could walk Hermitage, Tretyakovskaya Gallery and Sofia Cathedral in Kiev with my eyes closed and my mind switched off. Even after defection to the West, I feel nauseous when I watch on TV a Soviet ballet on a tour in the West. Also I have a strong allergy to classical paintings and daycare centers.

Continued in Part Three.