14 December 2013

Don't ever be the first to stop applauding

File photo: Chang Song-thaek (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang, 15 April 2013

The barmy list of 'crimes' for which the uncle (top left) of North Korea's supreme leader (top right) was executed included half-hearted clapping that apparently 'touched off towering resentment' among those in the audience:

'When his cunning move proved futile and the decision that Kim Jong Un was elected vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea at the Third Conference of the WPK in reflection of the unanimous will of all party members, service personnel and people was proclaimed, making all participants break into enthusiastic cheers that shook the conference hall, he behaved so arrogantly and insolently as unwillingly standing up from his seat and half-heartedly clapping, touching off towering resentment of our service personnel and people' (more on the offences of this 'despicable human scum' HERE).

The accountability of not clapping or not clapping vigorously enough is something I've blogged about before HERE and HERE.

But the most alarming, if slightly less ruthless, precursor to last week's execution in North Korea was the fate of any audience member daring enough to be the first to stop clapping Stalin in the former Soviet Union, as described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago (pp. 60-70):

At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name).... For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the 'stormy applause, rising to an ovation,' continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.

However, who would dare to be the first to stop?... After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first!... At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly - but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them?... With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers!...

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:


‘Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.’

1 comment:

DSA said...

Thing about Solzhenitsyn is: 1) Is it a novel or 'history,' and 2) Up to 70% is unbelievably boring!
But this bit is so good I remember reading it in the seventies (The Gulag was on sale at York W.H.Smut's) - For Russian geeks here it is the po-russki: http://www2.unil.ch/slav/ling/cours/a07-08/MA/STYL/1-SOLZH/txt.html
@dsa99uk