Andrei Sakharov
'Our society is infected by apathy, hypocrisy, petit bourgeois egotism, and hidden cruelty. The majority of the representatives of its upper stratum - the Party apparatus of the government and the highest, most successful layers of the intelligentsia &n

bsp;- cling tenaciously to their to their open and secret privileges and are profoundly indifferent to the violations of human rights, the interests of progress, to the security and future of mankind.’
Who is writing and about what society? The reader may well recognize strong elements fitting a description of Zimbabwe to day. In fact it is Andrei Sakharov, the Russian nuclear physicist who played a major part in developing the hydrogen bomb, writing in 1971 to Leonid Brezhnev, the ruler of the Soviet Union at the time. Sakharov started out as a privileged member of the Soviet elite but came to think his way out of the system and ended as one of its most effective critics. In his early life he put his whole heart and mind into giving the Soviets a weapon that would make them a world power. But he came to see that this power was going nowhere and he questioned it with the same energy he had used to build it.
Sakharov described the reality of life in the Soviet Union against the light of the international treaties that that same Union had signed. In particular he pointed to the UN Declaration of Human Rights shaming his government by pointing to the gap between the reality and its propaganda. As a result the secret service, the KGB, became obsessed with Sakharov, devoting huge energy to tracking his every move and word. As the economy crumbled in the 1980s and their soldiers died in Afghanistan, the 15 busy old men in the politburo found time to discuss whether Sakharov’s wife should be allowed to travel abroad for an eye operation.
What the Soviet leaders feared was the power of his ideas: ‘the country’s spiritual regeneration,’ he wrote, ‘demands the elimination of those conditions that drive people into hypocrisy and time-serving and that lead to feelings of impotence, discontent and disillusionment.’ Sakharov and his fellow ‘dissidents’ represented a threat to the Soviet Union more powerful than the bomb he had helped to create. And in fact, despite the propaganda, the indoctrination in schools and universities and press restrictions, most educated Russians abandoned Marxism in the early 1990s virtually overnight.
As our economy crumbles and our people die of the effects of poverty and hunger what is our politburo discussing? How to sort out inflation once and for all? How to empower people to rekindle the dying embers of the economy? Or are they simply discussing who is responsible for the importing of fake fertilizer?

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