[FOUNTAIN]How soon they forgetIn the former Soviet Union, it was up to the secretary in charge of party propaganda to construe the ideology of the Communist Party. The party’s general secretary was the undisputed leader, but the propaganda secretary’s role in interpreting the communist ideology worked as a check-and-balance against the party secretary.
The propaganda secretary’s role was strengthened after the deaths Lenin and Stalin, who ruled with authority and charisma.
The most well-known propaganda secretary in the history of the Soviet Union was Mikhail Suslov. Hailed as the “cardinal of the Kremlin” during the reign of Brezhnev, he upheld the communist ideology and Soviet regime with a unique interpretation of communism.
In the wake of Mr. Suslov’s death, no one propaganda secretary stood above the crowd. But the Soviet Union had a new star in General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. He assumed both the role of interpreting communist ideologies and carrying them out as policies. His influence was unparalleled and his exercise of influence and power extensive. Compared with his predecessors, he was also young, reform-oriented and well-versed in debating. He often visited places to see how policies were affecting the lives of the people. His political discussions were aired live.
The public adored him and the West embraced him heartily. But the orthodox communists and conservatives were put off by Mr. Gorbachev. Yegor Ligachov, the propaganda secretary at that time, attacked Mr. Gorbachev as revisionist but he lacked the ammunition that Mr. Suslov had. Also the public’s long-repressed desire for reform led to the branding of Mr. Ligachov as an anachronism.
On the other hand, Mr. Gorbachev was heralded as “a socialist with a human face.” But he was later demoted to a “totalitarian king of enlightenment,” and later was called an “idealist” who was ignorant of reality.
Britain’s Tony Blair, rolling over the protestations of the Labor Party’s left-wing, pushed ahead with the plan to cast the Labor Party in a conservative mode. His reforms earned him the name “Britain’s Kennedy” for pumping a new energy and change into Britain. But lately he has been derided as “Bush’s poodle” for his support for war against Iraq.
As shown, the image and fate of the reformist politician diminish. Once the needs of the times are eclipsed so does his positive image, and the public’s support for him fades away.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.