The Armenian Weekly Magazine
Dec. 2015: The ARF at 125
Vahan Navasardian—undoubtedly one of the more prominent Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) leaders of the 20th century—starts one of his many published works on the ARF’s political credo with the following sentence: “There were Dashnaktsakans before there was Dashnaktsutiun.”
Indeed, there were “ARF-ers” long before there was an ARF, because who can pinpoint the date when the urge for justice first flashed in the heart and mind of humankind? When the need for freedom began tormenting the body and soul of both individual and tribe? When empathy wormed its way into the human conscience?
The answer? Most probably when the early human stopped expressing feelings with grunts, screams, gestures, and blows, and eventually became articulate with actual words, whereby feelings could be expressed without bruises—leading to sentences, ideas, and thoughts that expressed those urges and needs, leading to collective action in pursuit of values that could grace life with both physical and spiritual fulfillment.
However, not all empathic human beings endowed with a strong sense of Justice and a boundless desire for Freedom can survive long in the ranks of the Dashnaktsutiun. Those ideals that constitute the bedrock of the Dashnaktsakan credo are to be voluntarily given up by those in the ranks, if they are to remain on active duty. The Dashnaktsakan pays annual dues for the privilege of giving up a good portion of personal freedom and not being too fussy as to how just certain disciplinary measures are, where personal feelings must take a back seat to collective endeavor. The sworn Dashnaktsakan grins and bears it, for the privilege to fight to the end for the freedom of others, and their right to justice, when in mortal conflict with corruption and oppression of all kinds.
One may ask, where does Empathy fit in all this? A good portion of the one-and-a-quarter of a century-long existence of the ARF—in essence, a national liberation movement—was devoted to actively assisting other nations in their struggle to shed the shackles of tyranny, sharing their pain in defeat and joy in victory. The empathy that prompted the ARF-er to fight and die for the liberation of neighboring nations from oppressive regimes was based on the conviction that no nation is an island; that one’s own freedom was in constant danger, if surrounded by enslaved neighbors (the endless Israeli-Arab conflict is a good example of this).
Therefore, the true Dashnaktsakan is an empath with a revolutionary soul, sworn to a life of service, ready to challenge all forms of injustice and oppression emanating from systems based on privilege and discrimination. In this epic struggle, the ARF-er is not alone, and never will be, for as there were Dashnaktsakans before there was a Dashnaktsutiun, there will always be Dashnaktsakans, long after the Dashnaktsutiun is only a memory.