In Russia's Prisons


Not for the first time do the Russian Revolutionists, of various schools, implore you to charge yourselves with the defence of the life and liberty of those who in Russia, giving no truce and allowing themselves no rest, are battling for the Social Revolution - for the liberation of Labour and of the individual. We know how powerfully reaction has fortified itself in all your countries, and how great are the energy and sacrifices the struggle against that reaction requires of you. Nevertheless, the latest news from Russia compels us, despite ourselves, to address you once more, and even more urgently, appealing to your sense of solidarity and asking your brotherly assistance.

For a long time past hundreds and thousands of revolutionists have been suffering in the prisons and penitentiaries of Russia. Since the beginning of this year the Bolshevik Government has strengthened once again the system by which it brutally persecutes those who think differently from itself - whether they be members of Socialist parties or working-men and revolutionary peasants belonging to no party.

The Government, which professes to be the personification of the Social Revolution, persecutes, mercilessly and with unprecedented energy, the revolutionists of the Left - the Revolutionary Socialists, Maximalists, Anarchists, and Anarchist-Syndicalists who played an active part in the Russian Revolution, and still continue to defend their position at the cost of countless sacrifices and with an idealism that cannot be denied.

For a long time past all independent publications have been suspended; all free activity within the workers’ organisations has been crushed; arrests and repressions have followed fast. The situation is actually far worse than it was formerly. The Government aims at the physical extermination of Russian Revolutionists.

Marie Spiridonova, who under Tsarism trod the path to Calvary; who passed eleven years in prison, and three in Bolshevik gaols; Marie Spiridonova, though completely broken down in health, is once more in prison. The Left Social Revolutionist, Troulovsky, having waited vainly for liberation after a three years’ imprisonment, tried to burn himself to death, but was saved by a comrade. Since then he has been deported to a wild and unhealthy district, Prjevalsk, on the border of Thibet. In Petrograd twelve Left Social Revolutionists, while awaiting deportation to various distant points, have found themselves forced to hunger-striking and the threatening of suicide en masse.

In the North, at the Pertoncinsk [Pertominsk] concentration camp, near the White Sea, Anarchists and Anarchist-Syndicalists, having found deportation conditions insupportable, refused for eleven days to take any food. When the authorities tried to feed them by force, they barricaded themselves in, poured petrol over their mattresses, and set them on fire. Only the efforts of other prisoners saved their lives, and many of them, among whom is Aron Baron, have been severely burned. Such cases as these here cited threaten to became common, as a consequence of the methods to which the Government is resorting.

We cannot believe that Europe’s toilers will assist, by their silence, in the systematic extermination of those who are struggling for the freedom of the Russian working man and peasant. Every worker, every group of workers, every revolutionary organisation - Syndicalist, political, or whatever it may be - ought to raise at once an indignant voice, and do everything possible to stay the hand that threatens the life of Russia’s Revolutionists. Vote protest resolutions. Whenever at any meeting a Communist takes the platform, question him and insist that he answers. The Bolshevist Government’s representatives in European and American towns are bound to hear of these angry protests. It is indispensable that committees for the defence of, and assistance to Russian Revolutionists be formed everywhere. Always the demand must be made that all the imprisoned and deported be released, and that an end be put to the absurd system of terrorism now inflicted on the workers.

May the voice of your indignation be a warning to Russia’s present rulers, and add new force and energy to those who, in the countless prisons and amid the cold marshes of our country are carrying the Revolution’s cross!

Signed by - The Foreign Delegation of Left Social Revolutionists and of the Union of Maximalist Social Revolutionists; the Anarchist-Syndicalist Committee of Russian Defence, appointed by the International Working Men’s Association; the group of Russian Anarchist refugees in Germany; and the representatives of the Moscow Committee for aid to Anarchists imprisoned in Russia.

All communications should be sent to Fritz Kater, Kopernikusstr. 25, II, Berlin, O. 34. (On behalf of the Committee for aid to imprisoned Russian Revolutionists.)

From: Freedom (London) September 1923 p46.