How to run a tight ship… (or a cult)

From a friend:

 “A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was
presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee,
replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference,
a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood
up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at
every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy
applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five
minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation,” continued. But
palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the
older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming
insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However,
who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District
Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform,
and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a
newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was
afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and
watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall,
unknown to the Leader, the applause went on–six, seven, eight minutes!
They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now
till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which
was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit; clap less frequently,
less vigorously, not so eagerly–but up there with the presidium where
everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an
independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of
all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still
kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the
secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not
stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their
faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders
were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they
stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even
then those who were left would not falter. . . . Then, after eleven
minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike
expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place!
Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone?
To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been
saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving
wheel.

 That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people
were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same
night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years
on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had
signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his
interrogator reminded him: “Don’t ever be the first to stop
applauding!”

 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 The Gulag Archipelago

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