Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

A Letter from Yarchuk

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Dear Comrades:
In one of the recent numbers of the “Freie Arbeiter Stimme” I learned that the American Anarchist Red Cross has resumed its activities.
I heartily congratulate the comrades who again have undertaken this most important work.
In the days when Tzarism reigned in Russia, the American Anarchist Red Cross was famous for its energetic work in helping the Russian comrades persecuted at that time.
Hundreds of Anarchists who were tortured in the Tzaristic prisons and fortresses, all those revolutionists who have gone through the great inquisition in their fight for freedom, found great help and relief in the devoted work of their comrades of the American Anarchist Red Cross.
The revolution came. The doors of the prisons opened, the tortures of the exiled were at an end.
A great number of revolutionists left the cold, solitary, miserable Siberia, and returned to revolutionary Russia, where they at once became a part of the great movement.
With body and soul, and full of energy, they spread all over Russia, to propagate their ideal, and call the peasants and workers to organize for the final conflict, to destroy the old society completely, and organize life on a new ideal basis, devoid of God, Tzar and masters.
The American Anarchist Red Cross, in that great moment of enthusiasm realizing that the time when the triumph of the persecuted proletariat over their masters was approaching, gave up their activities.
The American Anarchist Red Cross could then feel, see and realize that their work was not in vain. By the great solidarity of its work the Anarchist Red Cross not only saved the lives of the comrades, but still more helped to keep up the spirit and love for the great struggle for freedom.
Great uncontrollable hopes! Several years elapsed. Enthusiasm! Joy! Hope passed with the storm in the struggle for the great unattainable ideal for complete freedom…
The Russian Revolution is destroyed!
What did happen during those few years? In the height of the world’s imperialism, in February, 1917 the proletariat of Russia raised the banner of revolt, a revolt which brought thousands of victims for the great cause, and destroyed the vast capitals which for years have been saved with the sweat and blood of the Russian proletariat.
Their desperate struggle was final; with their enthusiasm they were ready to infect the proletarians of the world. Their slogan became. “Long live the solidarity of the world proletariat.”
In October came the final challenge to the arch enemies of the workers – power and capital. This was too much for the world’s capitalists and governments. In their great fright that the proletariat of the world would follow the Russian brothers, they determined to crush the Russian revolution. The memorable blockade followed, troops from all sides surrounded Russia. Their only purpose was to choke the great enthusiasm of the Russian revolution.
The heroic struggle of October brought to the foreground the best sons of Russia who perished in the final battle for freedom.
They died, but they helped to bring to life the dictatorship of “Sovnarkom” (Soviet of Workers’ and Peasants’ Comm’s). The workers of Russia fought for Social Revolution; instead winning they suffered the most terrible losses. They are shattered; their battling organizations, the immediate Soviets in the factories and shops, destroyed Everything for which they paid with the blood of their comrades and abominable sufferings was seized by the Bolshevik governmental machine. The revolutionists who propagated the free communism, those fighters who gave their life and energy for the final and complete overthrow of the government, dictators and power, those have undergone the most terrible persecutions under the new power, “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” In the prisons, where epidemics of all kinds and miseries prevailed, these were the only places where Anarchists were found.
Our imprisoned comrades, tormented by hunger, tzinga [scurvy], tuberculosis and all other famous prison tortures, are constantly struggling with the administration and Cheka for some kind of human treatment, for at least a bit of freedom within the prison walls. At times, however, the torment of hunger was so great that everything else, as books, the right to see friends, fresh air, etc. was forgotten; the comrades were so weak and sick that they hardly found strength to move from their places.
In 1920, however, when demands for better treatment of prisoners began to penetrate from Europe and America, the conditions were somewhat improved.
But in Russia itself help for prisoners is not tolerated. The organizations, which our comrades outside tried to organize in order to help the imprisoned, were persecuted and destroyed by the Cheka, which gave “plots” as its reasons.
Another method of Nicholas the Second was revived by the Bolsheviks – to exile the revolutionists to Siberia and other desolated places, where the comrades met with great disaster.
At such a time you, my American comrades, again took up the work of the Anarchist Red Cross, which discontinued in 1917, never dreaming that the time would come again when our comrades would be dispersed in exile and your work in the Anarchist Red Cross become of great necessity again.
Those who have lived through the persecution of the Czaristic regime, in far Siberia and the fortresses, have then gone through all the struggles of the revolution and are at present again in the same miseries of being exiled, and tormented.
However, those heroic spirits who were able to withstand all this, and who again have the comradely aid and encouragement of their comrades on the other side of the ocean, are still full of hope and energy, and are ready again to struggle for the attainment of our ideal – the Social Revolution and Free Communism.
With comradely greetings and best wishes for success,
Your comrade
E. Yarchuk
Behind the Bars, 1, January 1924.

From KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library #55. PDF at http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net

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Written by gulaganarchists

8, November 2008 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Texts

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