Today’s Stuff White People Like brought up a subject of political prisoners. Strangely, I probably know more about American political prisoners and dissidents than many of you. Soviet propaganda machine loved to get the people involved in a cause of standing up for a political prisoner. It served many purposes, not the least of which was to show the Soviet people that the grass wasn’t that much greener on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. Growing up in mid-seventies and early eighties I recall a few campaigns when millions of “outraged” Soviet people of all ages wrote letters and collected signatures to free some unjustly imprisoned victim of imperialism.
According to the Soviet press, Angela Davis was arrested for her progressive views and the government fabricated the charges of her being and accomplice in a murder case. Her arrest was supposed to “discredit and hurt the Black Panther movement and start a misinformation campaign against the Communist Party of the USA”. Thousands of people signed petitions to “Free Angela Davis” and Soviet school kids participated in a “Million Roses for Angela” drive where they were mailing postcards with hand-drawn roses and their pleas for Angela’s freedom to the American president. As a special touch they weren’t attaching any stamps so that evil bastard President would owe the missing postage. In reality Angela Davis was arrested when her gun was used in a hostage situation and a shootout and she was charged as an accomplice to conspiracy, kidnapping, and homicide. After 18 months in prison she was acquitted and released, clearly as a result of the White House being flooded with a million postcards; she went on to visit the USSR and meet L.I.Brezhnev and is presently working at UC, Santa Cruz.
There were some others that I don’t personally recall like Assata Shakur or the ones where the person was not a dissident but just a victim of capitalism like a fake homeless guy Joe Mauri.
The common thread was the forced enthusiasm with which the Soviet people stood up for anyone, anywhere, for any reason. Propaganda, constant barrage of falsified information and mandatory attendance of these “spontaneous” events created an impression, an impression is what we were after in the first place.
I’ll conclude with an anti-American poster from the olden days.