By: Sara Kovač (Nova24tv.si)
“That quiet social power is very important, when you can, without exposing yourself, establish that this is acceptable and that is not acceptable, organise campaigns that ensure that you discourage people from looking in a certain direction, at what is happening. It happened to me personally two years ago that I wanted to write about a prominent member of the NOB values fighters, that I know he was at work at Udba and that I find it unacceptable that he preaches to me in readers’ letters, but they did not allow me to publish it,” among other things said Alenka Puhar in the show Interview, who in the 1990s firmly stood up for the Slovenian Spring and for the democratisation of society. Her sense of justice and human rights can be found in numerous books, anthologies, which she wrote and edited.
Publicist Alenka Puhar started by talking about the JBTZ affair. “When Janez Janša was arrested, a large group of his friends and colleagues decided to do something, to resist, to protect his rights. This is how the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights was created. Since at that time all the possibilities of demonstrating and manifesting were extremely small, practically non-existent, we worked semi-illegally under various guises, inventing everything that could be done. So, one fine day, the idea came up that the women would organise protest marches in front of the barracks, where Janša was imprisoned in the military prison. This started around June 10th, 1988, and it took place for an hour every day,” she said, adding that they also came up with the idea of asking the gatekeeper in threes to be admitted to General Višnjić, in order to ask what was happening with the prisoner Janša. The latter always avoided talking to them and sent the officer on duty.
When asked why the unity of the Committee for Human Rights broke down on so many factors, Puhar answered that it was because very different people participated in the committee, especially members of the Communist Party stuck together. “They also met separately. I assume they were receiving special instructions.” This faction, when they started thinking about a multi-party system, organised something called the third block. According to her, these are those who did not go to Demos, mainly members of the Socialist Youth Union, which eventually grew into a liberal party.
The entire left is in a phase of self-recrimination
Regarding the memorial in honour of the Erased in the form of the letter ć, Puhar commented that this entire left, not only Slovenian, but also Western, is in a terrible phase of self-blame. They are literally looking for reasons to feel sorry for themselves and to accuse themselves of various sins. “Remember how the colonialist past hurts generations and they brought it to light, throwing monuments from pedestals into rivers. This is an interesting phase – self-hate. At the same time, this is a very attractive method, how you accuse those you consider to be right-wing, of fascist, and it is such an auxiliary war. They will bring to light all sorts of injustices, real, and imagined. Also, so that they can forget the far more important injustices committed by the ancestors of the left a few decades ago.” Regarding the revolutionary monuments, she said that the vast majority have no artistic value. She likes the move by the former director of the Museum of Modern History, Dr Jože Dežman to move these monuments and organise them into one park. In contrast to the Minister of Culture, she believes that the statues that were brought there should stay there and some other else should join them (Boris Kidrič, Edvard Kardelj). “More wisdom should be introduced into who, when, and where another monument is erected.”
In the following, Puhar touched on her book Through the thick night, which is a collection of letters between the prominent pre-war lawyer and dean of the Faculty of Law, Boris Furlan, who was sentenced to death at Nagode’s political trial, and his daughter Staša. In the spring of 1951, Furlan was paroled from prison to a hospital because he was terribly ill. According to Puhar, he was in the hospital for a bad year, and only then did they allow him to write letters. “They did not allow him to do that before. Because he knew that everything was under control and that they were looking for a reason to put him behind bars again, he was extremely careful”. As his two sons were forced to inform on their father, one of them even applauded at the sentencing at Nagode’s political trial, Puhar was asked what her state of mind was then. She said that she had complete, blind, and crazy faith in the fact that we were promised a communist system that would solve all the problems of this world and that the Communist Party was the only political force that would guarantee our future. “Cooperation with it and its political police is the obligation of every communist, and here all means are allowed.” Since it is known that the old order was destroyed by the communist revolution (by destroying people, killing, arrests, horrible court proceedings, extrajudicial proceedings, mass killings), Puhar mentioned that many relatives, like Furlan’s sons, were convinced that they work for some future good – to destroy old morals, old views of rights and duties, religion, family relations between parents and children. “It was a totalitarian system in the sense that it was convinced that everything had to be replaced with something that would correspond to the new morality, the new time.”
Nagode’s trial was, according to Puhar, a terrible farce. “It started with the interrogators, who were mostly grossly uneducated, but some of them are today emeritus professors of the University of Ljubljana and are celebrated as great pioneers (Roter, Benko – they were among Dean Furlan’s interrogators). They gave him lessons about revolutionary law, to which he must bow.” Niko Šilih, Zdenko Roter, Vlado Benko, Miloš Bučar, Mitja Ribičič were particularly diligent in the team of interrogators, and the prosecutor Viktor Avbelj was the most vocal during the trial. “Many were his students, some were “failed” students. Furlan decided that he could not argue with them in a prison cell and preferred to remain silent.” Puhar was sure that many people were surprised when Angela Vode’s Hidden Memories was published. “There are hundreds and hundreds of people who do not understand this in the least. Unfortunately, they all have speakers in their hands, so we will not say there are f***ing more of them.”
She said that she devoted some of her energy to the Museum of Slovenian Independence, which was negligently destroyed or abolished. “Two directors lost their jobs or were ordered not to come to work. Look, these are the methods from the hardest communism. This is the Berufsverbot, which is characteristic of totalitarian regimes. They calmly indulge themselves under such a modern mask in the name of European values. I am just amazed and outraged,” she commented and recalled that a few months ago she helped organise a symposium on Jože Pučnik on behalf of the Museum of Slovenian Independence. “What were the protests against this, it was immediately labelled as mythologising of Jože Pučnik, at the same time there were accusations that we kidnapped him, appropriated him,” she pointed out critically. Regarding these Slovenian peacekeeping initiatives in connection with the war in Ukraine, she said that she is mainly interested in why everyone is talking only about America and referring to America, which must be stopped in this conflict. “How is it that they do not feel any kinship, sympathy for all these small, sometimes it was said, ahistorical nations that also wanted to have their own countries. The thesis about poor, humiliated Russia that needs to be spared another humiliation is constantly coming to light,” she added.
The men behind the scenes always make sure that certain things are kept completely silent
Puhar also spoke about the Udba in the Delo newspaper, about which Igor Omerza wrote a book. “Every now and then, I find out from Igor who among my colleagues and friends has informed on someone and on whom. Among others, on me as well. I was a thorn in the side of many colleagues, I was removed from various positions several times. I am terrified of what awaits me when I read the books that are still coming on this topic. I find it disgusting, but it is necessary to disclose this, because a whole series of these people enjoy various privileges, high positions. Among others, there are also those who take care of the education of the Levica party and the people of Metelkova Street, and so on. This indoctrination is also spreading further with the help of the Udba informants,” she pointed out. When asked if it was only a matter of ratings and privileges, she answered that she had no doubt that money, ratings, jobs, and similar tangible results are very important. “That quiet social power is very important, when you can, without exposing yourself, establish that this is acceptable and that is not acceptable, organise campaigns that ensure that you discourage people from looking in a certain direction, at what is happening. It happened to me personally two years ago that I wanted to write about a prominent member of the NOB values fighters, that I know he worked in Udba and that I find it unacceptable that he preaches to me in readers’ letters, but they did not allow me to publish it. In this society, the silent men behind the scenes still ensure that certain things are kept completely silent. Mainly about the dark sides, their sins to remain spotless. This is how these young generations, who know nothing because they have little opportunity to learn anything, can spout such nonsense as repeating Lenin, Kardelj, and Comrade Tito,” she concluded.