The Sacco-Vanzetti case in Russia

Now comes the news of the arrest of Comrade Warshavsky, a well-known Anarchist of Odessa, on the charge of having in his possession a leaflet in behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti.

The leaflet contains an appeal to the workers to protest against the judicial murder by the State of Massachusetts and calls upon the international proletariat to boycott American products and protest to U. S. official representatives in foreign countries. The appeal concludes with a reference to the Bolsheviks keeping in prison and exile the Russian comrades of Sacco and Vanzetti while at the same time the Communist Government pleads for the friendship and favor of the American financial and commercial plutocracy. “Fellow-workers,” the leaflet reads, “while protesting against the murder of Sacco and Vanzetti, do not forget their comrades imprisoned and exiled in Russia. Demand the right to propagate in our country the ideas for which Anarchists in every land are sacrificing their lives. Demand freedom of speech for those who are struggling in our country for the right of the workers to strike, for the liberty of labor union and co-operatives independent of the State, for free Soviets and the coming day of true liberty.”

Obviously not a very “counter-revolutionary” leaflet, not even anti-Soviet. Yet for this leaflet people are arrested and imprisoned as “enemies of the proletariat”. May those who defend “the Bolsheviks, right or wrong”, stop and ponder what cause they are serving by justifying Bolshevik terrorism as directed “only against the bourgeois and counter-revolutionist”.

In connection with this case it is interesting to read the letter addressed by Olga Taratuta to the Odessa G. P. U. Olga Taratuta is one of the best known Anarchists in Russia, famed for her life-long service and devotion to the cause of revolution. During the Romanov regime she was sentenced to a long term at hard prison labor (“katorga”). She was freed by the Revolution of 1917.

The following excerpts from Olga Taratuta’s letter show the indomitable spirit and wonderful courage that still animate the true Russian revolutionists in spite of all Bolshevik terrorism. She writes to the G. P. U.:

While you are trying to exterminate all the Anarchists without sense or reason, why do you go about it in such an underhand and cowardly manner? If you are convinced that it is right for you to let all the Anarchists-idealists rot and die in prison, why do you get so excited when some one speaks about these facts or publishes them in the papers? If the Anarchist Appeal (the Sacco and Vanzetti leaflet) is criminal, then why don’t you arrest me for it? If the two copies of the Appeal found in my possession are not criminal, then why did you arrest those two comrades who, as you well know, had nothing to do with the publication and distribution of that leaflet?

The shameful practice of the continuous persecution of Anarchists during the past ten years has stamped you as criminals even from the viewpoint of the law which you yourselves have made. On the basis of what paragraph of your Criminal Code have you the right to keep those two Anarchists in prison now for six weeks, without having brought any charge whatever against them? You pretend that you arrested them in connection with some other matter, but it is a lie and you know it! Your purpose and methods are too obvious. The contents of the Appeal do not justify you in arresting Olga Taratuta, because you know that her arrest for it would cause too much protest in Russia as well as abroad. But because you are afraid of the effect the ‘Appeal’ may have among the Russian masses, you revenge yourselves by arresting two innocent victims,.

I herewith declare to you most emphatically that your action is so contemptible and outrageous that it must be made known to the masses. I announce to you that I will use every means in my power to inform the workers about the matter. Full well I realize the consequences of this, my declaration. But remember that the methods employed by the Tzar failed to accomplish their purposes. Neither will you succeed in killing ideas by bullet and prison. As concerns myself, it is the same to me whether you put me into the smaller prison or leave me in the large one into which you have turned Soviet Russia.”

(The same “Bulletin,” No. 5, March, 1928). i e Bulletin of the Relief Fund of the IWMA for anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists imprisoned or exiled in Russia

From: The Guillotine at work, p567-8.