Dictatorial Literature

August 28th, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi reading his Green BookWherever Muammar Gaddafi may be at the moment and whatever may be left of his powers as a dictator, it’s safe to predict that the number of readers of his famous “Green Book”–or, to call it by its full title, The Green Book: The Solution to the Problem of Democracy, The Solution to the Economic Problem, The Social Basis of the Third Universal Theory–is headed for a swift decline. Such is the fate of long, dull, dogmatic diatribes written in the oxygen-thin atmosphere of absolute power (and without the benefit of an impartial editor) when one can no longer command them to be handed out in triplicate to all of one’s subjects and made the object of hours of close study and memorization.

Libyans will no longer profit from the insights of the Third Universal Theory–although they can now freely ask what happened to the first two. They will have to search for a solution to the problem of democracy without Gaddafi’s handy crib book. And they may find themselves struggling with the basics of human reproduction without the Great Leader’s wise advice:

Women are females and men are males. According to gynaecologists, women menstruate every month or so, while men, being male, do not menstruate or suffer during the monthly period. A woman, being a female, is naturally subject to monthly bleeding. When a woman does not menstruate, she is pregnant. If she is pregnant, she becomes, due to pregnancy, less active for about a year, which means that all her natural activities are seriously reduced until she delivers her baby…. The man, on the other hand, neither conceives nor breast-feeds. End of gynaecological statement!

Gaddafi’s The Green Book now takes its place on a shelf much over-filled with the works and memoirs of former dictators. No longer mandatory reading, these volumes languish, neglected by all but die-hard loyalists, masochists, and those inclined to morbid curiousity.

Admittedly, there is something about these books that makes watching paint dry seem thrilling. Vladimir Lenin set the tone a hundred years ago with such cliff-hangers as Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution, and Stalin followed suit with Economic Problems of Socialism in the U. S. S. R. and other page-turners. Mao had the bright idea to package his best tid-bits in what became a global best-seller, Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, otherwise known as the Little Red Book. Although perhaps it sold a little too well, for a couple years later he released a tract titled, Oppose Book Worship.

At least Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao wrote their own material. Seeing the number of volumes that comprise the collected works of Kim Il Sung or Enver Hoxha, it’s hard not to speculate about secret forced-ghostwriting camps.

One odd tribute to the freedom of the Internet is the fact that one can get free access to most, if not all, of the works of late 20th century’s dictators. Gaddafi’s Green Book is available at www.mathaba.net/gci/theory/gb.htm, for example, and Lenin and Stalin’s works at the Marxists Internet Archive. Although Saparmurat Niyazov, otherwise known as Türkmenbashi, Leader of all the Turkmens, died in 2006, you can still savor the wisdom of his magnum opus, Rukhnama: Reflections on the Spiritual Values of the Turkmen at www/ruhnama.info, at the official Turkmenistan government site, and at several Rukhnama (or Ruhnama) fan-sites (although Ruhnama.com is now defunct).

Rukhnama: Reflections on the Spiritual Values of the Turkmen is my favorite dictatorial opus. In addition to more Turkmen geneaology that you could possibly imagine, there are little parables that I am still pondering the meaning of, such as:

Once upon a time, a wife and a husband without any children were preparing to go to Mecca on pilgrimage. However, they could not decide what to do with the two hundred sikkes, which was their life-savings. Finally they divided the sikkes into two equal bundles. They left one of these bundles in the care of one of their neighbors. And they left the other bundle in the care of their Turkmen neighbor.

The Turkmen neighbor said to them: “Open the box in that corner and put the bundle in it.”

On returning from pilgrimage, the husband and wife went to take their money.

The first neighbor said them: “Oh neighbor, I used your money and increased your 100 sikkes to 150 sikkes. I have taken some of them for myself.”

Then they went to their Turkmen neighbor and asked for their sikkes. Their Turkmen neighbor said to them: “Open the box in the corner and take your money.”

Nothing happens by chance in life. A Turkmen saves the goods left in his care better than his own goods.

Niyazov appears to have taken this particular lesson very seriously. Estimates of his personal holdings in private Swiss and German bank accounts range as high as $3 billion. As one report during his time in power put it, “A figure such as Niyazov, who is not subject in practice to any basic checks and balances, can dispose of state funds through the banking systems of Germany and other European countries without anybody knowing what exactly it is that he does with the money.” A Turkmenbashi, it seems, saves his countrymen’s goods much, much better than his own goods.

North Korea is now headed into its third generation of Supreme Leaders, and we can only hope that Kim Jong-un will produce something to rival his father Kim Jong Il’s On the Art of the Cinema, where we learn that “The director is the commander of the creative group” and that “A director, however talented, cannot imagine a new and audacious cinematic presentation if he does not know the Party’s policies well.” Here we see the fatal weakness that undermines the capitalist boss-gang productions of Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Scorsese: utter ignorance of PArty policies in the absence of helpful “field guidance” from the Supreme Leader. Thanks to the spirit of Juche, we can all spend hours clicking through the E-library of the works of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Suk (wife to the first, mother to the second).

Not all dictators have had their works preserved online, however. There appears to be just one copy of the English translation of Haitian ruler Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Essential Works Volume 1: Elements of a Doctrine available for sale, and that at a price of $200. Ugandan strongman Idi Amin appears to have been a man of few written works, although a few copies of his pamphlet, The Middle East Crisis: His Excellency the President Al-Hajji General Idi Amin Dada’s contribution to the solution of the Middle East crisis during the third year of the Second Republic of Uganda can be found–the book surviving better than his solution to the crisis. It’s not been transcribed for the web, but there are still plenty of copies of Answer to History, the rambling memoirs of the ex-Shah of Iran, who was dying of cancer as he worked on the book–the very last thing he dictated, so to speak.
Cover of Enver Hoxha's 'With Stalin: Memoirs'
The pinnacle of dictatorial literature, though, has to be Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha’s With Stalin: Memoirs, written a few years before he died (and available online, thanks to Marxists International). In it, Hoxha recalls five trips he made to Moscow to meet with Stalin, between 1947 and 1951. As far as I know it’s the only book in which you get two dictators for the price of one.

In their first conversations, Stalin seemed most interested in how effectively Albania was serving as a buffer against encroachments from Greece, which was coming out of its civil war and headed towards western democracy. But most of the time they discussed such timeless topics as whether the trains ran on coal or oil and how much cotton per hectare the collective farms were producing. Stalin seems to have been especially fond of agriculture. As they parted company for the last time, he and Hoxha had this memorable exchange on the subject of seeds:

“What about eucalyptus? Have you sown the seeds I gave you?”

“We have sent them to the Myzeqe zone where there are more swamps,” I said, “and have given our specialists all your instructions.”

“Good,” said Comrade Stalin. “They must take care that they sprout and grow. It is a tree that grows very fast and has a great effect on moisture. The seed of maize I gave you can be increased rapidly and you can spread it all over Albania,” Comrade Stalin said and asked: “Have you special institutions for seed selection?”

“Yes,” I said “we have set up a sector for seeds attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and shall strengthen and extend it in the future.”

“You will do well!” Comrade Stalin said. “The people of that sector must have a thorough knowledge of what kinds of plants and seeds are most suitable for the various zones of the country and must see to getting them.”

Stalin clearly saw that people who had been farming their lands through many generations desparately needed party cadre officers to tell them what to plant. One had only to look at the remarkable results the Soviets had achieved through collectivization to know that.

Hoxha did see Stalin in person one time after that, in 1952 at the 19th Party Congress, where “for the last time I heard his voice, so warm and inspiring.” He closes by assuring his readers that “the Party of Labour of Albania would hold high the title of ‘shock brigade’ and that it would guard the teachings and instructions of Stalin as the apple of its eye.” One can see the teardrop forming as Hoxha finished this line.

So, as one more dictator debates that eternal choice: suicide or exile?, we can take comfort in the knowledge that no matter what may follow in his wake, there will, at least, be the consolation that a captive audience no longer has to read his nonsense and be expected to take it seriously.

4 Responses to “Dictatorial Literature”

  1. Patrick Murtha Says:

    Travel writer Daniel Kalder has been doing an entertaining series on “Dic Lit” for The Guardian newspaper and The Dabbler website. Worth checking out.

  2. editor Says:

    Thanks for passing this on. I note that Kalder started his series with a look at Hoxha’s “With Stalin”–although I didn’t catch the same whiff of handcream.

  3. M.K. Hajdin Says:

    A bad book written by someone of a “democratic” country is just a bad book.
    A bad book written by anyone from a country that opposes “democracy”* is proof that any systems other than “democracy” are corrupt, evil and incompetent, and that inhabitants of “democracy” may be justified in the smug satisfaction they express whenever they compare their own culture with a “non-democratic” one.

    * “Democracy”: a system dominated by corporate owned political parties who keep a stranglehold on the nation’s resources, by tricking the public into believing their interests are being represented.

  4. James Says:

    “Vladimir Lenin set the tone a hundred years ago with such cliff-hangers as Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”

    ## On the other hand “What Is To Be Done ?” is not without its lighter moments – comparatively speaking. Gramsci, OTOH, is for the serious insomniac. For wedging a door shut, the volumes of Marx’s “Kapital” are ideal.

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