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January 01, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-01-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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24

FRIDAY, JANUARY 1, 1988

Public Opinion Unknown
Under A Dictatorship

FRANKLIN H. LITTELL

0

ne of the interesting
developments in con-
nection with the
Reagan-Gorbachev Summit is
the rumor that the Soviets
plan to abandon the "Anti-
Zionist Committee of the
Soviet Public." According to
the report, the committee has
failed in its campaign to
create the opinion that
Zionism equals racism.
An anonymous official in
Washington has attributed
the source of the story to
Samuil Zivs, deputy chair-
man of the committee, who
was a member of Mikhail
Gorbachev's entourage at the
summit.
This report interests me for
several reasons. On the face of
it we may gather that world
opinion has failed to go along
with the obscene UN resolu-
tion equating Zionism with
racism, and has been immune
to the propaganda made of
the resolution by Israel's
enemies. The resolution was
rammed through the UN
Assembly in the first place by
an alliance of Arab League
and Communist blocs, abet-
ted by the cowardly appease-
ment of a number of free-
world representatives.
The "Anti-Zionist Commit-
tee of the Soviet Public" was
set up to influence public opi-
nion in the free world, not in
the Soviet Union or its
satellites. There is no public
opinion under the Arab and
Communist regimes. No, the
"Anti-Zionist Committee of
the Soviet Public" was a fraud
from the start. First, it was
set up as a front to push the
dictatorship's policy outside
Soviet Russia. Second, the
"Soviet public" does not exist
as an opinion-initiating or
opinion-articulating entity.
Newspapers in the free
world from time to time
report debates and ferment in
Russia and the satellites in a
way that may confuse
readers. When there are
debates, they come within the
limits of the Party, the
bureaucracy or the military
establishment. Of "civic in-
itiative" there is not — and
cannot be — any evidence.
No one can truthfully say
that he knows the direction or
intensity of popular ideas
under a despotism or a
dictatorship.
I shall never forget the
animal roar of a Nazi party

Rev. Littell is founder and director
of the Anne Frank Institute.

rally! But was that public opi-
nion? The person who thinks
that both a lynch mob and a
conscientious jury are
democratic expression of self-
government has
misunderstood the heart and
soul of both liberty and
self-government.
The so-called Anti-Zionist
Committee never represented
any "public opinion" in the
Soviet Union, although it un-
doubtedly helped to confuse
public opinion in the free
world. "Summit fever" can
lead us to a basic miscalcula-
tion of the differences bet-

Summit fever can
lead to a
miscalculation of
the differences
between the
Soviet system and
American society.

ween the Soviet system and
the American society. There
is no real symmetry.
Of course the Russian peo-
ple, like the American people,
want peace. Of course their
basic human wishes — food,
shelter, work, recreation, love,
hope — are the same as ours.
And like sensible Americans,
they rejoice in arms reduc-
tions that are mutually
beneficial and thoroughly
verifiable.
But let us never forget the
basic differences in our
political situation. The Soviet
rulers, once they have juggl-
ed the three power centers in-
to place, can forget about
public opinion. The American
executive has enough trouble
just keeping various official
bureaus and agencies in line
with official policy, and he
certainly can't run the risk of
ignoring civil initiative
groups that are working on
the public mind.
Chairman Gorbachev must
above all guard his back
against disaffection in his
Party. It was the Party that
saved his neck when his
friend Yeltsin pushed reform
too hard and infuriated the
bureaucratic new elite. Presi-
dent Reagan cannot function
with the force of his party
alone: Indeed, he has to fight
against the fulminations of
the radical right that has cap-
tured major segments of the
Republican Party.

The Russian leader has no
worries about hostile public
opinion: The media are all
controlled by his regime. The

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