A People’s Politics

The Totalitarian Subversion of the Individual

Written by Terrell Clemmons

On April 12th, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to leave Earth and orbit in space, and upon successful completion of the mission, a huge reception was held in his honor. At that reception, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev reportedly cornered him and asked, “So tell me, Yuri, did you see God up there?”

Gagarin paused before answering, “Yes sir, I did.”

Khrushchev frowned. “Don’t tell anyone.”

Khrushchev went on to tell the Communist Party Central Committee that “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there,” and before long Khrushchev’s falsehood about Gagarin was attributed to Gagarin. No one ever heard Gagarin say this, but no one was about to contradict Khrushchev.

Long after Khrushchev was gone, the Western world learned that Gagarin was a baptized member of the Russian Orthodox Church, “faithful throughout all his life,” according to his friend and fellow cosmonaut General Valentin Petrov. “He always confessed God whenever he was provoked, no matter where he was.”


Twenty years later, Kim Phuc Phan Thi eagerly started university in Saigon to begin pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor. Having survived severe burns at age nine, she wanted to help children in the same way that she had been helped.

Early into her first year, four men pulled her from class, identifying themselves as officials from Hanoi. At first, she was happy to oblige them. They were important, and if they needed her, then she must be important as well.

“Are you really Kim Phuc?” one of the men asked.

“Yes, yes,” she said, pushing up her sleeve to expose the scars on her left arm.

“She is the one,” another man said. “Hanoi will be pleased; she is still alive.”

A few weeks later the men showed up again. She was to give interviews to journalists, one of them explained. They had come from many countries to ask her how she was doing. Kim was puzzled. It’s been ten years since the napalm attack, and I am just a nobody. Why would these journalists care what I have to say? Naïve and inexperienced, she kept these thoughts to herself.

Kim was the infamous “napalm girl” – the one who’d been photographed running down the road naked, screaming in pain, her clothing having been incinerated on contact, and over the ensuing weeks, the men pulled her from class many times. She would be required to change into a state-issued school uniform, and then she would be taken to one hotel meeting room or another, where she would answer questions as truthfully as she could, pausing and waiting patiently at intervals while translators conveyed what she said.

She came to call the men “the minders,” and their unannounced “kidnappings” increasingly interfered with her schoolwork. But when she protested that she was falling behind, she was sternly reprimanded. “You are very important now! Your government needs you, and you must comply.” Within weeks, her academic problems disappeared when she was abruptly dismissed from university by order of Hanoi.

Many years later, she would learn that the translators never translated what she actually said, but instead fed the foreign media whatever lines they’d been given by their higher-ups.


Behind the Iron Curtain, Yuri Gagarin and Kim Phuc would have faced stiff penalties for noncompliance with Party expectations, not only for them personally but also for their families. To their credit, their own voices didn’t toe the Party line, but rather, others’ voices overrode their own. This is the way things go under totalitarian rule – people are tools to be used, ignored, or discarded, depending on the aims of the powerful.

In America today, the Democrat Party is looking more and more like this kind of a regime. For decades, its identity politics has been supplanting individuals’ voices with the “voice” of the racial, ethnic, or sexual collective, or some intersectional combination thereof. And now, the oddest thing about all this is, the ones at the top echelons of the Party have fallen in line too.

Case in point: According to Ben Shapiro, Elizabeth Warren used to be a reasonable political liberal. He audited one of her classes at Harvard, and he speaks well of her as a teacher and as a not-completely-crazy-leftist political thinkerat that time. No more. Despite their histories, she and every other top Democrat contender for president are now talking like full-on Leftists.

The time is now, well-meaning liberals, to choose what you will do with your voice. If you choose to lend it to the Left, sooner or later you may well awoken to find it’s been overridden by those you thought were going to protect you from the Right.