Police states have a superb record at turning out crowds as Ayn Rand describes so accurately in We the Living. They make it mandatory to anyone who wishes to retain their jobs or as a new biography reveals, Rand’s own mother and sister probably marched as they worked hard to retain their jobs.
At twelve-thirty the office closed for lunch. At twelve-twenty-five, Comrade Ditiuk said: “I shall remind you once more, comrades, that at one-thirty, instead of reporting back to the office, you are to report to Smolny Institute to take part in the demonstration of all the workers of Petrograd in honor of the delegation of the British Trade Unions. The office will be closed this afternoon.” . . .Nevsky looked as if it were a solid spread of heads motionless on a huge belt that rolled slowly, carrying them forward. It looked as if red banners, swollen like sails between two poles, were swimming slowly over motionless heads, the same heads of khaki caps, fur caps, red kerchiefs, hats khaki caps, red kerchiefs. A dull beating filled the street from wall to wall, up the roofs, the crunching, creaking, drumming roll of many feet against the frozen cobblestones.
Tramways stopped and trucks waited on corners to let the demonstration pass. A few heads appeared at windows, stared indifferently at the heads below and disappeared again: Petrograd was used to demonstrations. . . .
Kira marched between Nina and Comrad Bitiuk. Comrade Bitiuk had changed her hat to a red kerchief for the occasion. Kira marched steadily, shoulders thrown back, head high. She had to march here to keep her job; she had to keep her job for Leo; she was not a traitor, she was marching for Leo - even though the banner above her, carried by Tina and the Party candidates, said:
WE, SOVIET PEASANTS, STAND AS ONE FOR OUR BRITISH CLASS BROTHERS!
Kira could not feel her feet any longer; but she knew that she was walking, for she was moving ahead like the others. Her hands felt as if her mittens were filled with boiling water. She had to walk. She was walking.
Somewhere in the long snake that uncoiled slowly down Nevsky, someone’s horse, loud voice began to sing the “Internationale.” Others joined. It rolled in raucous, discordant waves down the long column of weary throats choked by frost. . .
The demonstration stopped. It stood, knocking heels together to keep warm, listening to speeches. There were many speeches . . .
“This is a thrilling sight. We were sent here by England’s workers to see for ourselves and to tell the world the truth about the great experiment you are conducting. We shall tell them that we saw the great masses of Russian toilers in a fee and magnificent expression of loyalty to the Soviet Government.”
For one insane second, Kira wondered if she could tear through the crowd, rush up to that woman and yell to her, to England’s workers, to the world, the truth they were seeking. But she thought of Leo at home, marble pale, coughing. It was Leo against the truth to a world which would not listen. Leo won.
Government officials are touting the celebrations today as a referendum on the past few months, on the Green Movement. What do you think? Was this a defeat for the Green Movement?
Well, they bussed in as many people as they possibly could from many towns and locations — I even saw them rounding up people myself — and depositing them at Azadi Square, surrounded by and escorted by thousands of officers. This is while they started beating the others (opposition) starting at 8 am. Of what value is such a pro-government turnout? If they allowed this side (opposition) to gather, they would see how the masses really turn out. For example, at Sadeghi Square, where we were, folks told us they started beating up on them since they started arriving at 8 am. They kept gathering and they kept dispersing them. What value was their [the government’s] turnout under these circumstances?