Our syndicalist and anarchist friend Francesco Ghezzi, having sought refuge in soviet Russia following a heavy sentence in fascist Italy and a threat of extradition to Germany, has, for the past eight months, been under arrest and held in Suzdal at the pleasure of the GPU. At the time of that scandalous arrest we protested in Lutte des Classes. Jacques Mesnil said everything there is to be said, everything being thought by Ghezzi’s friends and comrades, in several articles in La Revolution proletarienne. A petition by intellectuals sympathetic to the USSR and endorsed by Romain Rolland, Istraiti, Langevin, Andrée Viollis, Challaye, Léon Werth, Mathias Morhardt, etc., and forwarded to Moscow has thus far proved pointless. A Defence Committee was set up recently and is to circulate a pamphlet. Lazarévitch has briefed Belgian labour opinion in several meetings. The agitation is just beginning.
But Ghezzi is sick, weak, afflicted with TB and treated in Suzdal in an inhuman manner that will inevitably put his life in danger. Are we going to confine ourselves to platonic protests or will we finally decide upon vigorous action to save this revolutionary worker? Why not visit reprisals upon the contemptible persons of the likes of Cachin or a Barbusse, or some other swine of that sort, until they hand us back our comrade safely? These traders in sovietism would stop egging on the repression of revolutionary ideas in the USSR if they knew that at the same time they were taking a risk as well as reaping the benefits from their sordid trade, and they might think twice over yonder before battering a unanimously respected militant if they had to expect counter-action within the International. The issue should be thrashed out quickly among comrades prepared to react against the passivity of our once revolutionary circles.
Boris Souvarine (1895-1984) Co-founder of the French Communist Party and served three years as a Comintern official. He was alert to factionalism within the Russian CP and opposed Stalin from 1924 onwards before breaking with Trotsky in 1929. He later withdrew from activism to become a leading sovietologist and writer.
Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) French realist novelist and pacifist who launched the Clarté group after the Great War. An enthusiastic supporter of the Russian revolution - not least because of its conclusion of an early peace - he was a communist fellow-traveller from 1920 onwards and died in Moscow in the same year as he published his book, Stalin.
From: Bulletin Communiste, Organe du communisme international No 31, February 1930 [This was Boris Souvarine’s paper]. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.