A Communist Writes about Russian Anarchists

In his second article about Soviet prisoners and exiles, published in Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik, the communist Ciliga writes:

“Of the anarchists, besides Sergei Tujilkin, I remember from the Cheliabinsk isolator Smirnov, a former Komsomol member, and Liubimov (from Moscow). Of the exiles I can recall a dozen people. Among them were: Batrak, a student of Moscow University, a former member of Komsomol, badly treated in Turukansk – he was almost dead before the GPU agreed to transfer him to the south, to Tashkent; Jonas Varshavsky, a veteran Odessan anarchist, who served his last exile in Turukansk krai, was released in 1934, and then soon arrested again; Barmash, an old anarchist, an agronomist by profession, who was arrested in 1934 while serving a term of exile in Yeniseisk and sent back to the Verkhne-Uralsk isolator.

“One section of the anarchists are extremely gutsy and comradely folks, who take part in any struggle against the administration in support of other groups. In the case of hunger strikes – rather frequent in Soviet prisons and concentration camps (in the Verkhne-Uralsk isolator, for example, in 1928—1934 there were five large-scale hunger strikes), a comparatively large number of fatalities occurred among the anarchists. In a hunger strike in the Mariinsk camp in 1934, for example, there were two such cases.

“One must note two interesting phenomena encountered among the anarchists: (1) a significant proportion of the anarchists are former communists, in particular, members of the Komsomol, which is a rarity in other socialist groupings; (2) while the socialist and communist groups (with the exclusion of the Zionist-socialists) are composed of people who joined the movement in 1917 (and some of them even earlier), or during the civil war, or at the beginning of NEP, the ranks of the anarchists include some younger folks of later and fresher vintage.

“After the Trotskyists, the anarchists, because of their numbers, level of activity, and militancy, are the most noticeable section of Soviet prisoners and exiles. These two groups are currently the overwhelming majority of political prisoners in the concentration camps.”

From: Probuzhdenie № 76-77 (Nov. -Dec. 1936), p. 19. (excerpted from the Menshevik journal Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik). Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.