Posts Tagged ‘gulag’
Abiego, in the foothills of Barbastro, a CNT stronghold, was represented at the CNT’s congress in Zaragoza in May 1936 by the 80-member Abiego CNT Union, part of the powerful Barbastro comarcal (county) organisation. Also represented there were nearby villages such as Castillazuelo (70 members), Pozán del Vero (47), Costeán (320 and Naval (13) which also sent delegates to the congress, whilst attendance proved impossible for the comrades from Salas Altas. The Abiego CNT also contributed volunteer militians to man the frontlines and was the driving force behind the collectivisation in the town, the collective being headed by Ramón Sanz Almudévar who as arrested on the Guadalajara front at the end of the civil war and jailed for 4 years before leaving for exile in France in 1948; his brother Manuel, a former volunter with the Barbastro militias who had seen action on the Huesca and Teruel fronts before being forced to flee by the communists and enlisting in Alcubierre with the 26th ‘Durruti’ Division was already living there. Manuel served as company commissar and was wounded in Tremp before fleeing to France where he was interned in the Bourg-Madame and Le Vernet concentration camps from which he escaped to join the resistance (in the Pointe Grave maquis). Another promoter of the collective was Santiago Guallar, a refugee since February 1939, who died in 1990 in exile in France at the age of 86. The fascists came down hard on Abiego: 9 residents were investigated by the Aragon Political Accountability Court, among them the CNT’s Manuel Salas Durán (delegate of the collective’s cafe and cooperative) and Mariano Jordan Ballabriga, both of whom became fugitives, and Julián Bierge Claver. Upwards of 60 Abiego residents passed through the jail in Huesca, including 6 women and at least 8 Abiego residents were jailed, then shot: Joaquín Monclús Guallar (Vicente’s brother) on 30-8-1936 in Huesca, five people (Santiago Barón Tornil 10-11-1939, Martín Bull Arilla and José Naya Allué on 27-3-1940, Melchor Oliveros Barón on 31-10-1940 and Agustín Nasarre Gros on 13-7-1943) in Barbastro, and Vicente Arín Panzano on 23-6-1944 and Justo Panzano Encuentro on 14-3-1945, in Zaragoza. They were all young men, farmers, shepherds and shearers and most likely members of the CNT and the collective.
Vicente Monclús Guallar: his only crime? Thinking for himself.
Vicente was born in Abiego (Huesca province) and spent 18 years living in the USSR, 16 years and 51 one days of that in prisons and labour camps. His was not an isolated case for he suffered the foulest slavery alongside 50 million people from a range of nationalities under soviet butchers who displated a placard over the camp entrance: “With a mailed fist we shall lead humanity to happiness.”
Vicente, a libertarian, volunteered for front line service with some other Abiego residents and fought in the Huesca, Zaragoza and Levante sectors. In 1938 he entered the air force training school in La Ribera (Murcia), one of 250 trainees: after political questioning by Russian agents, some 60 of the students were awarded bursaries by the republican government under Negrín and Álvarez del Vayo (puppets of the Kremlin) and travelled up to Rouen (France) to board the ‘Coperacia’. That was the beginning of his via dolorosa, for they were banned from going ashore. When they reached Leningrad the police searched their luggage, seizing banned books and their passports and they were shipped as prisoners all the way to Kizobabad [presumably Kirovabad] (Azerbaijan) by train – a journey of 4500 kilometers. At the air force school, they were inducted as Red Army soldiers and after six months locked up, they were informed that the war in Spain was over. In June 1939, they were tricked into believing that their wish to leave for France or Mexico was about to be granted and five of the group agreed to act as spies for the Russians. The others had a visit from Cartón from the Spanish Communist Party politburo (a Popular Font deputy) who urged them enter the service of the USSR, telling him that he regarded everbody not in the Party as a traitor. They were moved to the Comintern’s political school in Moscow where they were harangued by Enrique Líster. A further 15 of the group then entered the service of the USSR. The remaining 40 were then informed of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the subsequent invasion of Poland and with the outbreak of World War Two, their desire to leave evaporated. They were expelled from the school and taken to Monimo where they were greeted, beneath a placard reading “All power to José Diaz and Santiago Carrillo”, by Arturo Petrel, the former communist deputy for Granada, by Cabo Giorla, former governor of Murcia (both politburo members) and by Balaguer (leader of the Spanish communists in Russia during the 1950s). When the group refused to be talked into the service of the USSR rather than the Spanish Republic, threats and bullying were used and following a visit from Santiago Castro (another politburo member) acting for José Díaz and Dolores Ibarruri ‘La Pasionaria’, they were given the ultimatum of entering the service of the USSR or being deemed traitors to the Spanish people. Two of the group of 40 pilots, Rafael Estrella and Lloret (both Valencians) were ‘sleepers’ and so on 25-1-1940, the group was denounced by a secret tribunal made up of their ‘visitors’ and 8 of the pilots, including Vicente Monclús, were removed to the prison in Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] where they were virtually buried alive in that among Spanish communists in Russia there was a wall of silence. For years relatives lobbied from France through the Red Cross, sending hundreds of letters and telegrammes to the Russian authorities and the Spanish CP, but none was answered. The rest then vanished into the slave labour camps (they were inmates in Kasafia in 1943). After eight months of torture, they were sentenced to 8 years’ penal servitude, accused of being Trotskyists and fifth columnists, and in September 1940 they were sent to work on the construction of the Vorkuta railway in the Arctic. They were dying off. Together with Juan Salas from Barcelona and José Jirones from Reus, Vicente escaped and for three months subsisted in the forests until, recaptured, he was the only one left. During the world war the numbers of slave labourers were swollen by the influx of inhabitants from Besarabia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. In September 1941, Vicente was sent to a death camp where a female doctor took him under her wing and rescued him on account of his being a Spaniard. In 1942 he worked felling trees and in the coalmines and, his weight now down to 37 kilos, he collapsed and was sent to another death camp where he survived thanks to the help of doctor inmates sympathetic to the Spanish republican cause. From 1944 he was working in a vulcanisation plant until, on 29-1-1948, after 8 awful years in the Arctic and as the sole survivor of the 38-strong team of Spanish pilots, he was pardoned and banished to Samarkand (Uzbekistan). During his latter years as a prisoner he bumped into 18 year old Ramón Hernández, a ‘war baby’ from Gijón who had been setenced to penal servitude; he discovered that Valentín González ‘El Campesino’, was being held in Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] and he was able to chat with deported Russian pilots and sailors, survivors from the ship ‘Juventudes’ which had called to Spain, and with lots of International Brigaders – Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Germans and Italians – who had been dispatched to Russia by Red Aid right after crossing into France, only to face trial with thousands of Red Army troops captured by the Nazis who, when freed by the Allies in 1945, found themselves being deported and exterminated in the forests and mines in Siberia. Vicente spent two hungry, wretched years in the Caucasian republic, was thwarted in his bid to escape to Iran in January 1950 and was brought back to Moscow … and pardoned. He was watched day and night. Andrés Guanter, another soviet spy originally from Valencia, tailed him and on 20-4-1950 Vicente was held by the Justice Ministry in the notorious Lubyanka where he was stripped and beaten and denied sleep for six days before being jailed in Sukhanovska where, after 34 days of torture, he signed a phony confession to being a spy, with 246 pages of charges listed against him. Sent back to Butiskaya [Butyrskaya] again on 2-1-1951, he was sentenced to 10 years’ penal servitude in a ‘secret location’ where he served a further five years locked up with 300 other inmates, including academics and teachers from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria and Hungary. It was there that he ran into the Spaniards Francisco Ramón Molina and Juan Blasco Cobo who had been given 10 years for spying, simply for having applied for permission to leave to go to Mexico and having written a letter to the republican government-in-exile. In April 1955, he was taken to Lefortovo prison where he met a batch of German POWS awaiting repatriation. Which was how his friend Heinz Kregts came to make the requisite overtures to get in touch with Vicente’s family through the Red Cross, whereupon the family, discovering that he was still alive, lobbied on his behalf. On 6-1-1956 Vicente was moved to the Lubyanka; his sentence was overturned and he was pronounced innocent after 16 years and 51 days as a prisoner of the USSR. Reunited with his family in France, he has left us a book – 10 Años en la URSS (Editorial Claridad, Buenos Aires 1959) – an impressive indictment of Stalinist rule in the USSR and of the complicity of the Spanish CP and its (these days feted) leadership in such genocide, comparable only to Nazism.
From: Taken from: O Crabero. Huesca-Info. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.
[1923 letter by Mollie ‘Alexander Berkman in skirts’ Steimer: “No, I am NOT happy to be out of Russia. I would rather be there helping the workers combat the tyrannical deeds of the hypocritical Communists.”]
The name of Mollie Steimer, we trust will be recalled, if only very dimly, by some of the workers into whose hands this article may fall.
Mollie Steimer came as a child to the United States from Russia. When she was quite a young girl her rebellious spirit brought her into the real class struggle just at the time when the revolution in Russia broke out; and as a consequence of her activity with a number of other young workers who dared to denounce the action of the United States government in sending American soldiers to Siberia, she was brought before a United States court. Defiantly she stood up for her ideas. For this she had to spend two years in an American prison, after which she was deported to Russia.
But almost as soon as she stepped foot on her native soil, where a self-styled government of the workers ruled supreme, she found herself again in difficulty. She found the prisons of Bolshevik Russia filled just like those she had left behind. No, not with Grand Dukes and Czarist generals, but with working-men and women. They had dared to do in Russia what she had done in the United States – they had criticised the government – or were at least suspected of dissatisfaction.
For protesting against this, and for endeavouring to alleviate a little bit the suffering of these prisoners and of their families, she was thrown again into prison and finally deported from the land of her birth.
The capitalist government of the United States and the Communist government of Russia proved alike – that there is no real difference between one government and another no matter upon what pretensions it is founded. The Anarchists have all along contended that in the event of a Socialist state materialising it would prove not one iota less despotic than a capitalist one – nay, that by the nature of its position and its programme it was bound to prove even more ruthless in its suppression of all who dared to be dissatisfied or to demand real freedom from economic or political slavery. The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” in Russia has only borne out that prediction.
How far the working masses of Russia are from that real freedom can be judged from Mollie Steimer’s letter, following:
Among other things it has been stated in the American press that I was very happy to leave Russia, and that I preferred exile in Germany to freedom in Russia. This statement attributed to me, is a deliberate lie!
It is true that the hypocrisy, intolerance, and the treachery of the Bolsheviks arouse in me a, feeling of indignation and revolt, but, as an Anarchist, I have no admiration nor defence for any government of any land, and the statement that I prefer exile in Germany rather than freedom in Russia is ridiculous and false.
I made it very clear to the press correspondent with whom I spoke that in spite of all the difficulties with which I had to put up with in Russia, I was deeply grieved when I was forced to leave that country. This was not true when I left America. Although I have my entire family, good comrades and many dear friends in the U.S.A. Yet, when I was deported from there by the capitalist government, my heart was light. It was not so in the case of Russia. Never have I felt so depressed as since I have been sentenced to exile from Russia. My love for Russia and its people is too deep for me to rejoice that I am an exile, especially at a time when they are undergoing extreme suffering and most severe persecution. On the contrary, I would prefer to be there, and together with the workers and peasants, search for a way to loosen the chains of Bolshevik tyranny.
I regard the Bolshevik government as the worst foe of Russia. Its system of espionage is perhaps worse than anywhere else in the world. Espionage overshadows all thought, all creative effort and action. Despite tales to the contrary told by foreign observers who have spent a few weeks or months on Russian soil under Bolshevik guides, and despite the statements of those who receive money from the Bolsheviks for their services, there is NO freedom of opinion in Russia. No one is permitted to express an opinion unless it be in favour of the ruling class. Should a worker dare say anything at a meeting of his factory or Union which is not favourable to the Communists, he is sure to land in prison or be booked by the agents of the G.P.U. (the new name for the Tcheka) as a counter-revolutionist. Thousands of workers, students, men and women of high intellectual attainments, as well as undeveloped but intelligent peasants, are languishing today in Soviet prisons. The world is told they are counter-revolutionists and bandits. Though they are the most idealistic and revolutionary flower of Russia, they are charged with all sorts of false charges before the world, while their persecutors, the “Communists” who exploit and terrorise the people, call themselves revolutionaries and the saviours of the oppressed. Behind revolutionary phraseology they hide deeds which no capitalist government on earth would be allowed to commit without a protest arising from the whole world.
Let me give a few examples of how the proletariat is treated by the co-called revolutionists:
On March 5, 1923, the Central Government Clothing Factory in Petrograd reduced the wages of its employees 30 per cent, without giving notice or making any explanation to any of them. When the salaries were handed out, each of the workers was under the impression that it was a clerical mistake, and went for an explanation to the office, with the result that 1,200 employees went simultaneously to ask why so much of their Pay was missing. To this the factory director replied that the people ought to be satisfied with what they get and ought to thank them (the directors and the government) for supplying them with work at all. Amazed at such an answer and boiling with indignation, they decided not to resume work until they got a satisfactory explanation. Union representatives were thereupon called, but those officials refused to come until the workers went back to their machines. The factory manager told them also that if they dared to strike, all of them would be considered counter-revolutionists and dealt with accordingly. Immediately the workers called a meeting. While they were discussing their grievances, the union representatives entered. But instead of sympathising with the workers, one of these “defenders of labour” pounded on the table with his fist and called in a thundering voice: “I order you back to work.”
Naturally, such behaviour only aroused all present to the highest pitch of excitement. The order was bitterly resented and the meeting continued. An old workingman got up and related the conditions under which he and his family were forced to live, and asked how on earth he could keep from starvation with the miserable wages he received. The description of his own life being the very mirror of the life they all led, resulted in the most pitiful scene. Everybody suddenly burst into tears. Young and old, men and women, all were crying, and several in the audience fainted.
A few hours after this came several chiefs representing the G.P.U., the Union and together with the head director of the Petrograd Clothing factories, announced that the wages would be reduced only 18 per cent instead of 30 per cent. The workers, thereupon decided to resume work and quietude prevailed in the factory. But at the end of the next week 120 workers, who were considered to be more outspoken and determined than the others, were discharged from the factory, thrown out of the Union, and put on the blacklist; that is, on their passports were written: “Citizen … discharged from the Central Government Clothing Factory for mutiny against the Workers and Peasants Government, with the purpose of taking over the factory.”
Thus, because these proletarians of the “Communist” state protested against a reduction in their wages, they were thrown out of the Union, and consequently they can no longer obtain work. What is still worse, they are registered by the G.P.U., as counter-revolutionists!
Now, let us take the case of Skorokhad factory. In June, 1923, the Leather Makers Union and the Communist Committee of the Skorokhad factory decided, without consulting the workers, that a club house of the district should be repaired at the expense of the Skorokhad workers (about 3,000 in number). Each of the various departments were told that it must work eight hours overtime to cover the expense of the club, and that “the other departments have already agreed to do so.” All departments without knowing about each other, indignantly refused on the following grounds; 1. That the club is not a workers’, but a Communist club, only Communist lectures are delivered there, and no other are permitted. 2. That even if they would agree in principle to working on behalf of the club, they resented the action of the Union officials and the “Communist” Committee, in having decided for them, as if they were so many cattle to do the work.
The workers demanded a meeting of the entire factory. This the Union and shop committee (which usually consists of Communists or Communist sympathisers) refused to grant. On that day no one remained working overtime. The next day, when this refusal was repeated, the doors of the factory were locked, and the customary passes that permit the workers to leave the factory were not given out. About half the workers then returned to work – the other half stood waiting until the two hours were up and the gates opened. Each evening of that week the same thing was repeated. The doors were locked and the passed not issued. Yet it was only under the threat of being discharged that the rest of the workers submitted. As usual, a week later, those workers of the various departments who did not act like cattle, but who showed character and spirit were discharged.
In the same month – June, 1923, – the workers of the Putilov factory and shipyard went out on strike, demanding an increase in their salaries and the discontinuance of the practice of deducting high taxation from their weekly pay. Out of the small wages that the workers receive in Russia, the Government orders – without consulting the workers, of course, – a certain amount be deducted for various purposes, such as the Red Army invalids, the Red Army and the Red Aeroplane Fleet, “Cultural” work, union dues and other countless things; because of these deductions, the workers, at times, get no more than half of their wages.
After a three days’ strike of the Putilov workers, the wages were increased. But their second demand was declined, and the employees nevertheless returned to work. However, as a result of this strike, about 400 workers were discharged and 100 arrested. The most tragic part of all this is that the Union and Shop Committees, of course under the Communist management, participated in these discharges and arrests, in co-operation with the factory administration and the Government Political Department, for there is a law in Soviet Russia that no workers can be discharged without the consent of the Union and Shop Committee. But the Government solves this problem by placing their own agents as officials in the Unions and Shop Committees.
It happened that I was kept in the same prison where those 100 Putilov workingmen were detained. When asked why they were imprisoned, I received the answer: “They charge us with counter-revolution. God knows what they meant by it.”
The above mentioned facts concern only Petrograd; but there are thousands of similar cases all over present day Russia, and yet the Bolsheviks are continually publishing stories about the glorious conditions and the free – living in the shadow of the G.P.U., cannot tell the truth to the world. Should he try it, or should he even try defending his own rights within Russia, he will find himself listed as a counter-revolutionist or a bandit, liable to arrest at any moment.
No, I am NOT happy to be out of Russia.
I would rather be there helping the workers combat the tyrannical deeds of the hypocritical Communists.
Berlin, November 1923.
Freedom, January 1924.
Reprinted in Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, #4 (1978.)