Philip Dimitrov, the former prime minister of Bulgaria, asserted that Communism continues to be a threat at a lecture in Kaufman Auditorium on Friday.
“To me, the threat of Communism is still there. Claiming that it doesn’t exist simplifies the problem to a point that puts us all at risk,” Dimitrov, now a professor of political science at the American University in Bulgaria, said.
He suggested that the terms “right” and “left” are outside the realm of Bulgarian Communism, which is far too complex and subtle to include them. “I personally do not believe in the distinction between right and left when it comes to utilitarianism and politics,” he said.
Present-day totalitarianism, he argued, is neither communist nor Nazi nor fascist, but is rather a combination of all three. He identified the Communist sect of totalitarianism as the most threatening because it is the only totalitarian doctrine with distinct characteristics.
The first characteristic was the fact that proponents of Communism have mastered the language of democracy.
“Communism, as a school of thought, believes that democracy has failed. Yet it is smart enough to use its language to gather force and followers,” Dimitrov said, indicating that this can have a negative impact because people do not realize that they are supporting communist ideals.
Furthermore, Dimitrov stated that communist language, even if rooted in democracy, promotes feelings of solidarity between Communists.
The other characteristic of Communism he labelled as particularly threatening is the political cynicism associated with it. He explained that in the modern world, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the Western world and its politics, and that by employing a tactic of discouraging those around them, the Communists have turned this anti-Western sentiment into one of anti-capitalism and anti-democracy. They have also worked to convince people that these anti-Western feelings are perfectly natural and normal and should be acted upon.
According to Dimitrov, these two characteristics form the basis for a widespread international network that unconsciously spreads communist notions. In Russia, over the last eight years, 20 well-known journalists have been killed simply for writing about the corruption of the Russian government and for criticizing the Putin regime.
“One thing I wanted to do was to take away the Communist Party in my government,” he said, discussing his time as prime minister. “Naturally, though, I would have glimpses of the party houses in Bulgaria. The Communist Party was so huge that I was tempted to confiscate it but I discovered that that could not be done because the land was, in fact, municipal land given to the Communists by the Bulgarian Government. The Communists have total power.”
Michelle Garvie ’11 said she found the lecture scintillating. “It was very, very, impressive. I’m grateful that he came and spoke to us. This issue seems to be overlooked. We’ll talk about Russian, Chinese even Cuban Communists but it’s sad that this was my first exposure to the Bulgarian injustices.”
As a supplement to Dimitrov’s discussion, a movie entitled The Survivors: Camp Tales, which was created by the internationally acclaimed Bulgarian director Atanis Kiriakov, was shown. The documentary presented the fact that the existence of Communism is denied in Bulgaria even today, though there are still Bulgarian people alive who survived the Communist concentration camps.
One of the interviews depicted a man who would not speak of his experience in the concentrationcamps because he said that he was worried the KGB would go after his son and daughter.
In another interview, a woman told stories of how her father was taken away to a camp and detained for five years because investigators refused to release him out of fear he would tell the public of his experience.
For Stefan Latev ’09, a student from Bulgaria, the movie hit particularly close to home. “This movie was fascinating. I’m from Bulgaria and don’t know much about the camps myself. They are certainly a well-kept secret. I wasn’t expecting this — I know for a fact that my grandfather died in a camp but because they are so secretive, I don’t know anything else about it.”