Two Letters from Exiled Comrades [Anarchists deported on the Buford during the Red Scare]

Ellis Island, N.Y.

December 19, 1919

Dear Comrade:

It is almost over a month since we have been separated – separated not only from our useful work for the cause, but from the friendship, which we shared on our dangerous road.

Yes, my friend, our enemy succeeded to separate us as individuals, but they will never separate us from the cause to which we are bound.

Dear Comrade! Being a member of the first dangerous “group of deportees to the Bolsheviki land” I feel sorry for the American working-class.

But the days of salvation will come. I do firmly believe that the American toilers will realize the slavish position in which they are placed by the petty bourgeoisie, and they will throw down the yoke of economic and political slavery.

Dear Comrade! Let us hope that I will return in a very short time to America, and will find that our Anarchist Ideals are carried out completely, that the American soil bears the name of American Anarchist Federated Commune Soviets!

Friendly your,


My best wishes to all our comrades


Detention in Hell,

December 17, 1919

Dear Comrades:

It seems we are going to be sent away soon, without letting us know when, so as to avoid having friends and comrades see us depart. I am not very sorry to leave all the “freedom” and “democracy” here, but I certainly do not want to leave you, my comrades and some friends so dear to me.

The first time I was arrested, it did not have any great affect on me, but it is different this time, that Friday I shall not forget very soon. Years of study would not teach me as much. Now, more than ever before, I am convinced how corrupt governments are, what “law” and “order” mean on which governments keep themselves. What a mockery! How these brutes act in the name of “justice”! What conception they have of “justice”! If only the workers would see who they (the governments) are, they would never have faith in them.

It was wholesale clubbing. The name “red” was in place, for blood was everywhere, blood of our comrades! Such a scene I have never witnessed before. But comrades, how brave are those who suffer for their ideals! All were so brave they would face death itself, with a smile.

I was thinking every dog has his day, and so comrades, after all these hardships in which the government meant to punish us, after all this, I stand more firm, more convinced, stronger than ever before, ready to give my life away for my ideals! So evidently they cannot succeed. They can destroy the body, us, but the ideal – never…

Yours for a world of Freedom and Love,


Anarchist Soviet Bulletin April 1920

Biographical Notes:

Arthur Katzes (or Ketsas; Ketses; Ketsus; Ketzus). Member of the Union of Russian Workers, and on the editorial board of Khelb i Volia ([name given as “Arthur Katz”]: Victor Lynn in Avrich’s Anarchist voices).

Arthur Katzes, a twenty-two year old pressman who had emigrated from Russia in 1914”, and involved in the Anarchist Soviet Bulletin. “Ethel Bernstein and Arthur Katzes were arrested on September 30, at two o’clock in the morning, when a policeman noticed them stuffing copies of the Bulletin into mailboxes along East 99th Street.” Polenberg, Fighting Faiths. Apparently one of leaders of Ellis Is. hunger and silence strikes. Deported on the Buford, 21st December 1919.

Ethel Bernstein, Member of the Union of Russian Workers and Frayhayt and Anarchist Soviet Bulletin groups. “A twenty-one-year-old dressmaker who had emigrated from Russia in 1911 (and who was Samuel Lipman’s lover). Polenberg, Fighting Faiths [Lipman was a socialist member of the otherwise anarchist Frayhayt group in New York, which included Mollie Steimer. The repression of the Frayhayt group gave rise to the “Abrams case”.] “Ethel Bernstein and Arthur Katzes were arrested on September 30, at two o’clock in the morning, when a policeman noticed them stuffing copies of the Bulletin into mailboxes along East 99th Street.” Polenberg, Fighting Faiths.

Bernstein and Lipman would be reunited after he was deported to Russia in 1921. They had a son (who was killed in the Second World War). Lipman “was murdered in the Stalinist purges. (His wife, Ethel Bernstein, was sent to a Soviet concentration camp; she would be released after ten years and told that her imprisonment had been a mistake.)” Polenberg, Fighting Faiths.

Ethel’s sister, Rose Bernstein, was an anarchist and International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and Political Prisoners Defense and Relief Committee member. She corresponded with Ricardo Flores Magón using the pseudonym “Erma Barsky” [see] and contributed to prisoner relief funds.


New York Times 22 Dec 1919

Avrich, Paul. Anarchist voices.AK Press 2005.

Polenberg, Richard. Fighting Faiths: the Abrams case, the supreme court and free speech. Viking, 1987.

From: Anarchist Soviet Bulletin April 1920.