Oswaldo Payá, one of the greatest of Cuban dissidents, died on Sunday. How did he die? In one of those “mysterious car crashes.” Dissidents and other inconvenient people sometimes meet their end in these crashes. One was Andrei Amalrik, the Russian, who had his crash in 1980. As I say in Impromptus today, Natan Sharansky talked about Amalrik with me several years ago.
In 1969, Amalrik wrote a book called Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? When that Orwellian year came around, Sharansky was in the Gulag, and “the KGB guys were telling me, ‘It’s 1984, and your friend is not here, but the Soviet Union is: It will exist forever.’” Not quite: A mere seven years later, the Soviet Union was caput.
Sharansky recalled to me an image used by Amalrik: A totalitarian society is like a soldier who must point his gun at a prisoner 24 hours a day, every day. Eventually, his muscles will tire, the gun will start to sag, and the prisoner will escape. So, here is my question: When will the Castros’ arms tire? It seems they are willing to point, and use, the gun indefinitely. There must come an end sometime — right?