Anarchists in the Gulag (and prison and exile)

Bolshevik repression of anarchists after 1917

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Emma Goldman on Heroic women of the Russian Revolution

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Pre-revolutionary Russia stood unique in the world’s history for the host of remarkable and heroic women she contributed to the movement for liberation. Beginning with the “Decembrists”, the first political rebels against autocratic Tsardom, almost a century ago, whose wives voluntarily followed them into Siberian exile, down to the last day of the Romanov regime, Russian women have participated in every form of revolutionary activity and went to their death or to prison with a smile upon their lips.

In his vivid and powerful poem, “Russian Women”, the poet Nekrassov [1] paid a high tribute to the fortitude and valour of the women who had sacrificed wealth, social station, and culture to wend their weary way across the frozen Northern plains in order to share the cruel fate of their  imprisoned and exiled husbands. Later it was Ivan Turgenev who with fine feeling and sympathetic appreciation painted the picture of the Russian women revolutionists of his time. In his superb prose poem “On the Threshold” he immortalised the exalted idealists of the Sophie Perovskaia [2] type of Russian women whose passionate faith and selfless devotion to liberty beacon-like illuminated the dark horizon of Russia in the early eighties.

The February Revolution of 1917 opened the prison doors to the survivors of the torture, the  dungeon, and Siberian exile meted out by Tsarism to its political opponents. In triumph they were brought back to Moscow and Petrograd, scores of the revolutionists of the younger generation, among them such revered names as Maria Spiridonova, her intimate friend Alexandra Izmailovitch, Irena Kakhovskaya, Evgenia Ratner, Olga Taratuta [3] – representing various political tendencies, but all inspired by a common love of the people and devotion to its cause.

Olga Taratuta, the daughter of intellectual parents, though of slight physique, possessed a powerful mentality and was in a certain sense a pioneer. When barely twenty she organised, together with several friends, the first Anarchist group in Southern Russia. It was a dangerous undertaking, and her activities soon attracted the attention of the political police. Arrested at the beginning of the revolution of 1905, Olga was doomed to 30 years’ katorga (hard labour prison) in Odessa. Ingenious and daring, she succeeded in escaping, again taking up her former work, this time under an assumed name. For a considerable time all the efforts of the gendarmerie to find her were fruitless, but in 1906 her disguise was discovered, she was re-arrested, and sentenced once more to 30 years’ prison. On her return to freedom, in 1917, Olga devoted herself to the political Red Cross work, aiding the victims of the Hetman Skoropadsky regime in the Ukraine, and subsequently giving relief and cheer to the new groups of political prisoners created by the Communist State.

In the latter part of 1920 an All-Russian Conference of Anarchists was to take place at Kharkov. Though the gathering was to be held with the knowledge and consent of the Soviet Government, all the delegates were placed under arrest on the very eve of the Conference, without warning or explanation. Among the several hundred prisoners was also Olga Taratuta. She was sent to the Butyrki Prison, in Moscow, the very place where so many of her comrades had suffered and died in the days of the Romanov regime. There Olga underwent the most harrowing experience of her eventful life. On the night of April 25th the political wing of the prison was raided by the Tcheka, the  prisoners were attacked in their sleep and badly maltreated, and then rushed to the railroad station – some of them with nothing on save their night clothes – and transferred to other prisons.

Olga found herself in the dreaded Orlov prison, which served as a central point of “distribution” under Nikolas II. The character of the administration and of the regimen of that prison were such as to drive the politicals quickly to a hunger strike in protest against their treatment. Olga was again removed to another prison, thence being sent out to exile in the dismal region of the Veliky Ustiug, and finally ordered to Kiev, where she had formerly ministered so devotedly to the Communist prisoners of the Hetman reaction. A recent letter of Olga to a friend abroad contains the significant remark that persecution by the Soviet Government has robbed her of more vitality than all the years of incarceration she had suffered at the hands of the Romanov autocracy.

Unlike Olga Taratuta, most of the other heroines of the Russian Revolution are of proletarian origin. Among them LEAH GOTMAN and FANYA BARON [4] are two anarchist women of outstanding personality. In their teens they left Russia for America, where they were employed in factories and took active part in the labor movement. I knew the girls well, splendid specimens of independent womanhood, of attractive appearance, fine feeling, and strong mentality. At the first call of the February Revolution these two girls, together with scores of other Russian refugees, hurried to their native land. It was just such as they that had helped to make the October Revolution. Leah and Fanya felt their place to be in the midst of the proletariat, preferring particularly to work with the Southern muzhik, among the agricultural elements of the Ukraine, to whom they gave all the love and devotion of their rich natures. Subsequently both girls carried on cultural activities among the rebel peasantry led by their famous Bat’ka (“Little Father”) Nestor Makhno.

The hand of Kremlin, lifted against Makhno, fell heavily also upon Leah Gotman and Fanya Baron. Both were arrested on the eve of the Kharkov Conference, referred to above, and were sent to Butyrki Prison, where they fell victims to the Tcheka raid, on the night of April 25th, 1920. Torn out of her bed in the dead of night, Leah was dragged by her hair down a flight of stairs, and forced to remain for hours, half-dressed as she was, in the prison yard together with the other politicals, waiting to be transferred to some unknown destination. She has remained in prison ever since, being now one of the hapless inmates of the terrible Solovetsky Monastery, situated in the Arctic zone.

FANYA BARON, who always impressed me with her unbounded courage and exceptionally generous spirit, belongs to the rare type of woman who can perform the most difficult tasks of revolutionary ardor with calm grace and utter selflessness. Following the Butyrki raid she was transferred to Riazan Prison, whence she soon escaped, making her unaided way back to Moscow on foot. Arriving penniless and almost without clothes, her desperate condition compelled her to seek refuge with her husband’s brother, at whose home she was discovered by the Tcheka. This big-hearted woman who had served the cause of the Revolution all her life was done to death by the Party that pretends to be the advance guard of the Revolution. Not content with murdering Fanya Baron (in September, 1921) the Communists put the stigma of “banditism” on the memory of their dead victim.

Not Anarchists only, but members of every other political group have had to pay heavy toll to the juggernaut of the Communist autocracy, including the Social-Revolutionists of the Right and of the Left, the Mensheviki, the Maximalists, and even the Communist[s] of the Left wing. I shall name but some of the most outstanding personalities.

EVGENIA RATNER, a young woman of keen mind and forceful character, joined the Social-Revolutionist Party soon after completing her medical studies in Switzerland. Her activities, after she returned to Russia, repeatedly involved her in difficulties with the authorities, who finally condemned her to a long prison term. Freed by the February Revolution of 1917, her exceptional ability and energy caused her to be elected as a member of the Central Committee of her Party, while she at the same time was chosen by the peasantry as one of their representatives in the Moscow Soviet. Her Party having been outlawed by the Bolsheviki, Evgenia was arrested in 1919, and placed on trial in 1922 together with eleven of he comrades, all of whom were condemned to death.

The intercession of the Western world, which aroused an emphatic international protest against the execution of the sentence – signed by such men as Anatole France, Romain Rolland and others – saved the lives of the twelve Social-Revolutionists, Evgenia Ratner among them. She is now dragging out a miserable existence in the Butyrki Prison.

Of the Left Social-Revolutionists, Irena Kakhovskaia, Alexandra Izmailovitch, and Maria Spiridonova have suffered the greatest martyrdom. Kahkovskaya, grand-daughter of General Kakhovsky, the famous “Decembrist” rebel against Nikolas I. is a woman of recognised literary ability and revolutionary idealism. She began her work in the liberation movement of Russia when a very young girl, in 1904. Subsequently she was arrested and sentenced to 20 years’ katorga, from where she was later transferred to Akatuy, one of the most feared places of Tsarist exile. In 1914 she was permitted to settle in the Trans-Baikal territory, whence she was freed by the February, 1917, Revolution.

Upon her return from exile, Irena Kakhovskaia became on of the most valuable workers in the Left Social-Revolutionary Party, much esteemed for her understanding of the peasant psychology and the needs of the proletariat. After the Brest Litovsk peace and the German occupation of the Ukraine, the German authorities arrested Irena as a participant in the conspiracy against the life of General Eichorn, the Prussian Field Marshal in the Ukraine, who was killed by the Left Social-Revolutionist, A. Donskoy. [5] Kakhovskaia was subjected to torture and sentenced to death. Fortunately for her, the outbreak of the revolution in Germany prevented her execution, and she was saved.

Irena continued in the work of her political convictions and in 1921 she was arrested again, this time by the Bolsheviki, by whom she was exiled to Kaluga, in Siberia.

While in prison, Irena Kakhovskaia wrote her most interesting memoirs, an unusual story of a very unique personality. Romain Rolland, after perusing the work said: “I am opposed to the ideas of Kakhovskaia, but her narrative has a captivating human, or rather superhuman, quality. It is a psychological document of the highest value. The absolute simplicity of the narrator, her truly Russian ability of objective vision, her incredible energy devoted entirely to the cause she has at heart – all this aroused admiration in the reader, no matter what his attitude may be towards the value of the action accomplished or contemplated. What heroism, patience, utter self-abnegation, what treasures of the soul does not humanity waste on terrible and shameless purposes”.

Alexandra Izmailovitch, the daughter of a Russian Army General, is another instance of Russia’s young womanhood whom the Romanov autocracy has driven to individual acts of violence as the sole form of protest possible under the despotic regime. In 1906 she attempted the life of Governor Kurlov, of Minsk Province, who was responsible for most fiendish pogroms against Jews. Sentenced to Siberia for life, she was liberated with the other politicals in 1917. As a member of the Left Social-Revolutionary Party, she became a leading figure in the All-Russian Soviet of Peasant Deputies. When the Bolsheviki decided to “liquidate” her Party “for good”, in 1919, she was arrested together with a number of her comrades, remaining almost continuously in prison ever since.

The most characteristic feature of this exceedingly able and energetic woman is her life-long devotion to her friend and comrade Maria Spiridonova. They spent together eleven years in Siberia, together they returned to Russia to join their efforts in behalf of the people, and together they were arrested by the Bolshevik Government and are sharing their imprisonment these many years. It is no exaggeration to say that the tender care and devotion which Alexandra Izmailovitch has given to her friend are the main cause that Maria Spiridonova is still among the living.

MARIA SPIRIDONOVA is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable and heroic figures in the Russian revolutionary movement during the last twenty years. Of aristocratic family, beautiful and cultured, young Maria left luxury and social position to devote herself to the cause of the oppressed. Fine-feeling and sympathetic, she could not bear without protest the injustice and tyranny she witnessed on every hand. At the age of 18 she committed an attentat [on] General Lukhanovsky, the Governor of Tambov Province, who was universally execrated for his truly Asiatic savagery toward the peasantry.

The Russian Tsars were never partial in their treatment of women politicals: they were equally relentless to all their opponents, be they men or women. But in the case of Maria Spiridonova the henchmen of Nikolas II. surpassed even the methods of Ivan the Terrible. Upon her arrest, Maria was beaten into insensibility, her clothes literally torn from her body, and the young girl then turned over to the drunken guard who amused themselves with burning her naked flesh with lighted cigarettes. After weeks on the verge of death, Maria was finally condemned to death.

The torture of Spiridonova aroused the entire Western world, whose protests saved her from the scaffold. She was “pardoned” to Siberia for life. The effects of her ghastly experience left her with [6] injured lungs, a crippled hand, and the loss of the sight of one eye. But though physically marred and broken, her spirit remained aflame.

Few of the returned politicals received such popular ovation all the way from Siberia to Petrograd and Moscow as Maria Spiridonova upon her release from prison in 1917. But she would waste no time in the mere enjoyment of her newly won liberty. She threw herself into work with the whole ardour of her intense personality, organising the peasants, inspiring and directing the awakened energies of the Russian people. She became the adored leader of the great agrarian millions of Russia, the soul of all their age-long aspirations, and the spokesman of their needs and hopes. As the most outstanding figure of the Left Social-Revolutionist Party, Maria wielded tremendous influence in the All-Russian Soviet of the peasantry, where she elaborated a comprehensive plan for the socialisation of the land, then the most vital problem of Russian life.

Already in 1918 Maria Spiridonova became aware that the Revolution was in greater danger from some of its alleged friends than from its enemies. She saw the growing autocracy of the Communist State and set herself sternly against it. The final break between her Party and the Bolsheviki came over the Brest Litovsk peace, which Spiridonova condemned for reasons of principle as well as practical grounds. Shortly after that she was arrested together with 500 delegates to the Peasant Congress.

When I came to Russia I was told by the Bolsheviki that Maria Spiridonova has suffered a nervous breakdown and that she was therefore placed in a sanatorium where she as receiving the best of care. But soon I discovered that Maria had escaped from “the best of care” and was living in Moscow disguised as a peasant, as she used to do in the days of the Tsar. Fortune presently favored me with the opportunity of spending several days with this extraordinary woman. I found not a trace of hysteria in her – in fact, her poise and mental balance and the objectivity of her recital of events since her return to Russia were most admirable.

A few months later, in the autumn of 1920, the Tcheka again became busy discovering conspiracies. During the numerous raids thoughout Moscow they came upon Maria Spiridonova who lay ill with typhus. She was arrested and removed to the Ossoby Otdel – the Secret Section of the Tcheka. In 1921, when Maria was almost on the verge of death, the efforts of her friends succeeded in in procuring her temporary release on condition of her returning to prison as soon as her health should improve. The only alternative was to let Maria die in prison of neglect, or give her back – improved in health – to the “best of care”. In fact, no sooner did she begin to recuperate when the Tcheka took charge of her again. Guards with blood-hounds were placed at the house where Spiridonova was being ministered to by her devoted friend Alexandra Izmailovitch. Their every step was watched and existence made so unbearable that the tortured Maria demanded to be taken back to prison. Together with the inseparable Izmailovitch she was then ordered to a furthermost corner of the Moscow Province, whence now the sad news comes that Spiridonova has been driven to the desperate method of hunger-striking in protest against her ceaseless persecution. From reliable sources has just arrived the information that both Izmailovitch and Spiridonova have been exiled to the wilds of Turkestan.

The martyrdom of the heroic women of Russia has become more poignant and intense under the tyranny of Bolshevik dictatorship than in the days of Tsarism. Then their suffering was merely physical, for nothing could affect their spirit. They knew that while they were hated by the autocracy, they enjoyed the respect and love of the vast masses of the Russian people. Indeed, the “simple folk” looked upon them as “holy ones” suffering in their cause, and the moral influence exerted by the politicals in prison, katorga, and exile was very great.
All that is changed now. The new autocrats of Russia have discredited the ideals of socialism and have besmirched the fair name of its exponents. There is no public voice in Russia save that of the ruling Party, and the martyrs – men and women – of revolutionary Russia have become pariahs in the fullest sense. They have no redress and no appeal to the conscience of their country, for the latter has been paralyzed. Alas, not only the conscience of Russia, but even that of the rest of the world seems to be silenced.

What has become of the sense of justice and generosity formerly extended by the Western world to the political victims of the Tsarist regime? Then liberty-loving English men and women were courageously outspoken in their protests against Russian iniquities and helpful in behalf of the persecuted for opinion’s sake. Now in the face of overwhelming evidence of cruellest oppression and persecution in Russia, the world remains silent and callous. The heroic martyrs are left to the tender mercies of the Tcheka, to suffer the Golgotha of the body as well as of the spirit, in the name of an ideal that has long since been betrayed by the Communist State and its Party dictatorship.

1, Nikolai Alekseevich Nekrasov (1821-1878)
2, Sofiia L’vovna Perovskaia (1853-1881) Russian revolutionary, member of Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will).
3, Maria Spiridonova (1884-1941), Alexandra Izmailovich (1878-1941), Irina Kakhovskaya (1887-1960) and Evgenia Ratner (1886-1931) were all members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Spiridonova and Izmailovich were killed by the NKVD in a mass execution of political prisoners. Ratner died of cancer in prison in Moscow. Olga Taratuta (1876-1938), anarchist. See
4, Leah Gotman was born in 1896 in Kovel. Her date of death is unknown. Fanya Baron (1887-1921) was executed by the Cheka (or Tcheka), the first Soviet secret police.
5, Boris Mikhailovich Donskoy (1894-1918)
6, handwritten correction to typescript

Emma Goldman Papers at the International Institute of Social History (IISH), folder 221 See Goldman gave a lecture on “Heroic Women of the Russian Revolution” at the Folk House in Bristol on May 4th 1925. A report is in Reel 50 of the Emma Goldman Papers microform edition


Update: this was published in Welfare (Calcutta) in 1925. More details on Emma Goldman’s Indian connections at (Ole Birk Laursen).

reposted from

Written by gulaganarchists

8, November 2017 at 11:23 am

Emma Goldman: political thinking in the streets by Kathy Ferguson [Book review]

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Emma Goldman is much discussed and often mythologised. Here’s a book which look at her ideas in context.

This is an academic work, so in places you get analysis about “producing opportunities for embodied participation in anarchist lifeworlds.” (p83; I have to point out that the next line is “Among the anarchists’ greatest successes were their beerhalls.”) Ferguson can also deliver some dry humour: “Given that the same agents and agencies tracked [Goldman and Berkman] over long periods of time, one would think that their Jewishness would cease to be news.” I also enjoyed her musings on the archive effect. “There is always one more dusty file to read … One tries not to lose what one has painstakingly gathered, but in the end, one wants a book about Goldman, not a reproduction of the Goldman archive.” (p9, 11)

Looking at Goldman’s ideas in context makes for useful insights. Ferguson suggests it is impossible to discuss the attitude of radicals to political violence if we ignore the violence they experienced from state and capitalist forces. The book also discusses how Goldman can be so much closer to Mexican and Mexican-American movements than African-American ones.

Ferguson does not come across as a confrontational writer, but her book is a corrective to myth-making around Goldman. She notes how Goldman has been recruited “to serve as an icon of feminist struggle.” (p211) Very telling is her inclusion of Paul Avrich’s misgiving: “Avrich was concerned that the full force of Goldman’s anarchism would be defanged by the popular image of Goldman as a free-sprited crusader for a revolution in which we could all dance.” (p39)

Emma Goldman: political thinking in the streets is so interesting because it does not demand that Goldman be perfect or a role model. The quest for “coolness”, to celebrate rather than understand, is corrosive but not confined to academia.

Ferguson challenges the image of Goldman as lonely pioneer, a woman ahead of her time: “Goldman was very much of her time: her time and her place were saturated with the bodies, voices, and ideas of many hundreds of radical women … They have largely been forgotten, not by innocent oversight but rather by the highly attenuated, individuated and celebrity-oriented way that memory is produced, leaving us with a stunted version of our radical history. Rather than a rich and complex history of radical thinking and acting, we inherit an emaciated account in which a few stalwart people, either lionized or demonized, fought the establishment. My goal is not to minimise Goldman, but to explore the context that made it possible for there to be an Emma Goldman, and in the exploration to claim radical movements, not just radical individuals, for contemporary feminist histories.” (p251, 252)

If you’re interested in Goldman’s life or ideas, read this book. A “rich and complex history of radical thinking and acting” is a lot to ask for. But what other sort of history would you want?

Emma Goldman: political thinking in the streets by Kathy Ferguson is published by Rowman & Littlefield (paperback $35/ £21.95)

From KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 74-75, August 2013 [Double issue]

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18, August 2013 at 5:15 pm

The Political Soviet Grinding Machine by Emma Goldman (1936)

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Fifteen years have passed since comrade A Chapiro [Schapiro], my old pal Alexander Berkman, now gone from me, and myself came out of Soviet Russia to give to the thinking world the disclosures of the political grinding machine we found there. It was only after a long conflict that we decided to do so. For well we knew the price we will have to pay for speaking openly about the terrible political persecutions that was a daily affair in the so called Socialist Republic. The price we paid for our determination was high enough, but was nothing compared to the avalanche of abuse and vilification hurled against me, when my first ten articles about Soviet Russia appeared in the public press. Since I foresaw as much, I was not very shocked over the fact that my own comrades misunderstood what I had to say and the motive which induced me to appear in the NEW YORK WORLD. Much less did I care for the poison that oozed out against me from the Communists in Russia, America, and other countries.

Even while yet in Russia we protested against the grinding mill as we saw it in its sinister force. For myself I can say, and I can say the same for my comrade Alexander Berkman, we lost no opportunity to go from Bolshevist leader to leader; to plead for the unfortunate victims of the Cheka. Invariably we were told “wait till all our fronts are liquidated and you will see that the greatest political freedom will be established in Soviet Russia.” This assurance was repeated time on end so convincingly that we began to wonder whether we had understood the effect of Revolution on the rights of the individual as far as political opinion was concerned. We decided to wait. But weeks and months passed and there was no letup in the relentless extermination of all people who dared disagree even in the least with the methods of the Communist State. It was only after the massacre of Kronstadt, that we, our comrades Alexander Berkman and Alexander Chapiro [Schapiro] felt that we had no right to wait any longer, that it became imperative for us old revolutionists to cry the truth from the very housetops. Nevertheless we waited until the fronts were liquidated, though it was bitter hard to keep silent after 400 politicals were forcibly removed from the Boutirka prison and sent to remote places. When Fanny Baron and Tcherny [Lev Cherny] were murdered. At last the holy day arrived, the fronts were liquidated But the political grinding mill ground on, thousands being crushed by its wheels.

It was then that we came to the conclusion that the Soviet promise reiterated to us again and again, was like all promises coming from the Kremlin – an empty shell. We therefore came to the conclusion that we owed it to our suffering comrades, to all revolutionary political victims as well as to the workers and peasants of Russia, to go abroad and place our findings before the world. From that time on and until 1930, comrade Berkman worked incessantly for the political prisoners and on raising funds to keep them alive in their dreadful living tomb. After that, comrade [Rudolf] Rocker, [Senya] Fleschin, Mollie Alperine [Steimer], Dobinski [Jacques Doubinsky] and many other faithful comrades kept up the work which our beloved Alexander was forced to discontinue. I can say that until this day the devoted efforts to bring our hapless comrades in Soviet Russia some cheer and a few comforts have never ceased, which merely goes to prove what devotion, love and solidarity can do.

In justice to the heads of the Soviet Government be it said that there was still a semblance of fair play while Lenin was alive. True, it was he who issued the slogan that Anarcho-syndicalists and Anarchists are but like the petit bourgeoisie, and that they should be exterminated. Nevertheless it is true that his political victims were sentenced for a definite period and were left with the hope that they would be set free when their sentence expired. Since the advent of Stalin, that bit of hope, hope so essential to people in prison for an idea, and so necessary for the continuation of their morale has been abolished.

Stalin, true to the meaning of his name, could not bear to think, that people given 5 or ten years, should be left with the expectation that they would one day see freedom again. Under his iron rule, people whose sentence expires are re-sentenced and shipped to another concentration camp. Thus we have today numerous comrades who have been shoved from exile to exile since 15 years. And there is no end in sight. But why should we be surprised at the relentless grinding mill Stalin has inaugurated for such opponents as Anarchists and Social Revolutionists? Stalin has proven that he is as cruel with his former comrades as with the rest who dare doubt his wisdom. The latest purge, quite equal to the purge of Hitler ([handwritten addition in margin] and the latest victim arrested and perhaps exiled, Zensl Muehsam) should prove to all who are still capable of thinking, that Stalin is determined to exterminate everybody who has looked into his cards. We need not hope, therefore, that our Anarchist comrades or any of the Left wing Revolutionaries will be spared.

I am writing this from Barcelona, the seat of the Spanish Revolution. If ever I believed, even for a moment in the explanation of Soviet leaders that political freedom is impossible during a revolutionary period, my stay in Spain has completely cured me of it! Spain too is in the clutches of a blood stained civil war, she is surrounded by enemies within and without. No, not merely by fascist enemies. But by all sorts of social exponants, who are more bitterly opposed to Anarcho-syndicalism and Anarchism under the name of CNT and FAI, than they are to fascism. Yet in spite of the danger lurking in every corner of every city, to the Spanish Revolution, inspite of the imperative necessity to concentrate all the forces on winning the antifascist war, it is yet amazing to find more political freedom than ever was dreamt of by Lenin and his comrades.

If anything, the CNT-FAI, the most powerful party in Catalonia, is going to the opposite extreme. Republicans, socialists, Communists, Trotzkists, in fact everybody daily marches through the streets heavily armed and their banners flying. They have taken possession of the most elaborate houses of the former bourgeoisie. They merrily publish their papers and hold huge meetings, Yet the CNT-FAI has never once even suggested that their allies are taking too much advantage of the tolerance of the Anarchists in Catalonia. In other words our comrades are demonstrating that they would rather prefer to give their associates the same right to liberty as they take for themselves than to establish a dictatorship and a political grinding machine that would crush all their opponents.

Yes, 15 years have passed. According to the glad tidings from Russia one hears over the Radio, in the Communist press and on every occasion: “Life is joyful and splendid” in the Socialist Republic. Did not Stalin issue this slogan and has it not been reechoed over and over again. “Life is joyful and splendid”. Not for the tens of thousands of political victims in prison and in concentration camps. Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Intellectuals, masses of the workers and tens of thousands of the peasantry know nothing of the new joy and splendour proclaimed by the Torquemada on the Communist throne. Their lives, if they are still alive, continues hopeless, drab, a daily purgatory without end.

The more reason for us, comrades, and for all who are sincere Libertarians, to continue the work for the political prisoners in the Soviet Union. I do not appeal to the Libertarians who shout themselves hoarse against fascism or against the political abuses in their own countries and yet remain silent in the face of the continued persecution and extermination of true Revolutionaries in Russia. Their senses have become blunted. They therefore do not hear the voice that rises to the very heavens from the hearts and the stifled throats of the victims of the political grinding machine. They do not realise that their silence is a sign of consent, and that they are therefore responsable for Stalins acts. They are a hopeless lot. But the Libertarians, who oppose every dictatorship and fascism, no matter under what flag, they must continue to rouse human interest and sympathy in the tragic fate of the political prisoners in Russia.


Barcelona Dec 9/36 Emma Goldman

[Typed article with handwritten corrections from Folder 18, G.P. Maksimov (Maximoff) papers, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam. This is an unused appendix for The Guillotine at Work and previously unpublished.]


In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 68, October 2011

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5, November 2011 at 11:33 am