It has been said there are two ways to combat darkness: be a candle, or the mirror that reflects it. At the summit, President Reagan must be the mirror reflecting the few candles not yet snuffed out by Gorbachev's neo- Stalinism. One flame flickering low is Sergei Khodorovich.
In 1977 he became manager of the Russian Social Fund. That post was open because the previous occupant had been arrested. The Social Fund, based in Zurich, is a charity founded in 1974 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and funded by worldwide royalties from "The Gulag Archipelago." It does nothing other than support families of prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union, all of them victims of Soviet disregard of the Helsinki accords.
On March 1, 1983, after 15 months in a KGB investigation prison, Valeri Repin, manager of the Fund for Leningrad, was put on Soviet television to make one of those "confessions" that loom so large in the Soviet charade of justice. Appearing broken, he said he had confessed "with the help of an investigator." He "confessed" that the Fund is, as the Kremlin has constantly charged, a "Western spy organization." Five weeks later Khodorovich was also arrested.
In the years before his arrest, he had been fired from his job, harassed in his home and provoked in the streets by KGB thugs posing as thugs. In prison he was regularly beaten by persons gifted at leaving no visible traces on victims. His face was unmarked. The rest of his body was almost entirely black and blue. Ribs were smashed.
He received a "light" sentence of three years in a "strict regime" concentration camp on the Arctic coast. That term is due to end next year. But in a transparent trick to confuse foreign critics, the Kremlin has amended the criminal code to permit arbitrary extension of "light" prison terms. Vicious sentences are imposed piecemeal under a law concerning "malicious insubordination to the demands of the administration of a corrective labor institution."
Yuri Andropov gave the Soviet Union two things -- that law, and a prot,eg,e named Gorbachev.
Khodorovich is, of course, "protected" by the Helsinki accords. Soviet law is a tissue of such "protections." When a young artist, Sergei Batovria, was arrested for dissenting and wanting to emigrate, he told his interrogator that his activities were protected under the libertarian language of the Soviet "constitution." The interrogator said: Fine. You will be charged with "unwarranted exercise of constitutional rights."
In March 1985, Khodorovich was sentenced to 46 days in an isolation cell, with his warm clothes taken away, subsisting on reduced rations. Then came four months' hard labor with 30 minutes a day allotted for a "walk." His health is declining. His life may hang on Reagan's willingness to express, in Geneva, a special interest in him.
Reagan, like most people, only more so, has a cinematic mind. He clarifies his thinking and animates his passions with reference to particular cases, identifiable individuals whose situations can be framed, focused and frozen in clearly imagined scenes. This is not a weakness, least of all one peculiar to actors. It is a common and useful habit of mind that can yield moral strength.
So when Reagan enters the room in which he will raise human-rights issues with Gorbachev, he should bear this in mind: Gorbachev's minions sometimes leave open the windows of the rooms in which "investigators" help prisoners to "confess." This helps the community to hear the sound of dissent being corrected.
People surprised by Reagan's emphasis, in his U.N. speech, on Soviet behavior, including human-rights violations, have not been paying attention. A month earlier, on ABC's "This Week," Robert McFarlane said human rights would "remain high, in fact, the leading issue on our (summit) agenda." If so, this might be the best kind of summit -- short and acrimonious.
When human-rights questions are raised with Soviet officials, they put on elaborately rude displays of boredom, rolling their eyes, doodling, glancing at their expensive Western watches, and finally saying with heavy weariness, "Can we not go on to serious matters?" This summit will be worth the considerable trouble if, as summit enthusiasts hope, Reagan and Gorbachev "get to know one another." If that happens, the summit enthusiasts will be dismayed because Reagan will return to Washington furious, and U.S.- Soviet relations will be better, meaning more realistic, meaning colder.
That is one reason why Reagan should raise with Gorbachev the case of Khodorovich. As Reagan does this, he should see, cinematically, in his mind's eye, the methodical breaking of Khodorovich's ribs.