Stalin & Trotsky
In recent days the General Council of the Judiciary seems to have opted for the dictator's methodology
“Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat,” said Mark Twain concerning human stupidity. Joseph Stalin, who ran the Soviet Union with an iron fist for decades until his death in 1953, was famous for his purges in which some 700,000 of his political adversaries — real, suspected or merely potential — were “liquidated,” mostly by a bullet in the back of the head, though a few died by other means, such as the icepick that killed Leon Trotsky.
But the physical elimination of his rivals was not sufficient, because memory remained. Thus the regime took pains to wipe out every trace of their existence, rewriting history to that end.
The non-person’s name was suppressed in books and encyclopedias, and photos in which they had appeared with Stalin or Lenin were carefully doctored to remove his image. The most famous of these photos shows Lenin haranguing a crowd, leaning out over a handrail in a vehement gesture often reproduced in paintings and posters. He speaks from a rough wooden podium, beside which Trotsky is standing. In the retouched version issued after the latter’s fall from grace and flight into exile, Trotsky has vanished, his place being covered by a convenient extension of the podium’s boards.
In recent days the General Council of the Judiciary (one surprise after another) seems to have opted for Stalin’s method.
Last Thursday it withdrew from the internet — in what was intended to be a permanent move but which lasted only a few hours — four videos of international visits made by Carlos Dívar, the CGPJ president and chief justice of the Supreme Court, to Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Chile. Council sources explained that the move was intended to prevent certain news media from obtaining pictures of a person who normally accompanies Dívar on all his journeys and who, according to some sources, was the person who shared high-priced dinners with him, paid for by the taxpayer.
This newspaper and some digital dailies such as vozpópuli, had already published photos of the person, though without identifying him. In the Council it was explained that the videos would be reposted, but with the person’s face pixeled out, as is standard media practice when a police bodyguard is concerned. However, in none of the photos was his face retouched. Instead, in the old Soviet manner, whole scenes were eliminated in which this person appeared, as in one from the Colombian video, where the chief justice and his entourage descend a staircase in Cartagena de Indias. Finally, and on learning that EL PAÍS was going to report the fact, the original videos were reposted.
But this is not the only spoor that the Council tried to cover. This personal aide to the president was housed on the first floor of the Council building, in a former archive equipped with a security door, beside which a sign proclaimed: “Chief of Security and Aide to the President,” followed by his name.
A few days ago the sign was removed, apparently lest someone equipped with camera were to pass by and take a photo of it. After some jocular commentary among the Council staff, it was replaced last Friday. In view of the way things are shaping up, the security chief had better take good care of the five decorations he can boast. To wit: one Police Merit medal with white device; another Merit medal of the Civil Guard with white device; one Cross of San Raimundo de Peñafort Simple, and another Distinguished; all awarded between 1996 and 2005. In 2010 he was awarded the Police Merit medal with red device, which carries with it a pay supplement of 10 percent of his salary. It is normally awarded for acts of valor on dangerous missions. It can be possessed by few people indeed who perform routine services of his sort.
For his sake let us hope he does not fall from grace, let alone end up like Trotsky.