8.13 Samizdat update

No 8 : 30 June 1969

1. The transformation of Bolshevism

This book of five chapters is a critique of the present political line of the Party from the standpoint of revolutionary and pre-revolutionary Bolshevism. It takes as its starting-point quotations from the classics of Marxism, and also resolutions and decisions passed at Party congresses during the first years after the revolution.

Chapter one is devoted to the views of socialist thinkers of the past about the State, which they regarded as a manifest but necessary evil, which would remain such even after the passing of power into the hands of the proletariat. The first chapter also shows how these views underwent a transformation at the hands of those who drew up the present Programme of the CPSU.

Chapter two chapter analyses the electoral system in force in our country, and the Statutes of the present-day Soviets are compared and contrasted with the Soviets of the first years after the revolution.

Chapter three describes the part of the Bolshevik programme dealing with the creation of a people’s police and the distribution of arms to each member of the population. The idea was to liquidate the regular police force and the regular army, and extend armed policing duties to all able-bodied adults among the population. The author tries to show that the principle of a police force organised on a territorial administrative basis could pave the way to a significant democratisation of the present social system.

The central chapter is the fourth, which deals with problems of economics and management. The author is of the opinion that Soviet progress in industrialisation can be fully explained by the advantages and benefits which ensue when the means of production are monopolised and all control of the national economy concentrated in the hands of the relevant state organs. From this it follows that one can talk of State Monopolism, but certainly not necessarily of socialism. The sine qua non of socialism is not only state ownership of the means of production, but also local self-government on the widest possible scale.

The last chapter examines the patterns of and reasons for the Bolshevik Party’s departure from its initial positions, a departure which was, in the author’s opinion, inevitable in view of historical factors such as social backwardness, the low level of popular culture in the country, and the frustrated expectation of a socialist revolution in Western Europe, etc.

2. Debates about law

A collection of correspondence with officials, in ten parts. The subjects of the correspondence are fundamental problems of law: the right to marry; freedom of movement; freedom of the press; prohibition of discrimination against students for their convictions; the presumption of innocence; the ratification of international agreements on human rights; freedom of international postal correspondence; the length of time a man can be kept in detention without trial; and so on. The leitmotif of all the statements and complaints is their appeal for the consistent observation of Soviet laws.

3. Valery Chalidze, On the Civil Rights of Man

This work is devoted to a historical and legal analysis of the theme indicated in the title. Besides general theoretical propositions, the book analyses United Nations documents on civil rights and contains reflections on the Soviet constitution and its application in practice.

4. A. Volpin, “A letter to the editor of Izvestiya

The letter concerns an article by M. Sturua entitled “Time to Throw out this Dirt”. Sturua suggests that a number of non-governmental organisations at the United Nations, which are concerned with human rights, should be “chucked out of” the UN. The author of the letter refutes Sturua’s arguments as being based on omissions and misrepresentations of facts. He suggests that Izvestiya turn its attention to the problem of civil rights, and, in particular, to corrective labour law. “Perhaps at this very moment,” writes A. Volpin, on the subject of the prisoner’s right to unimpeded correspondence, “there is an innocent man sitting in some Soviet prison, being subjected to unlawful persecution, and unable to inform your newspaper about it. And your paper, more than any international organisation, would be able to put a stop to these abuses of the law. When I think of the possibility of there existing even one such case, I cannot understand why Izvestiya ignores problems concerning the observance of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Corrective Labour Code, preferring to print Sturua’s ignorant attacks on non-governmental human rights organisations.”

5. A letter from political prisoners in Mordovia to the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR

In view of the proposed review of the new Corrective Labour Code, a group of six political prisoners in Camp 17 of Dubrovlag – Yury Galanskov, Alexander Ginsburg, Yuly Daniel, Victor Kalnins, Sergei Moshkov and Valery Ronkin – suggest to the deputies of the USSR Supreme Soviet that they acquaint themselves with the present situation of political prisoners. The authors show that the main forms of coercion used against political prisoners are hunger, cold and humiliation. Their present situation is not regulated by any published laws, and so the deputies of the Supreme Soviet can either legalize or change this state of affairs.

6. Letter from Prague, 1 June 1969

The author of this letter demonstrates that a “total capitulation to Moscow” is taking place in Czechoslovakia. Democratic socialism has been stifled – the natural result of the deviation from principles which took place in Moscow at the end of August 1968, There was only one course of action: to insist, if only verbally, on the principle of sovereignty, on the unacceptability of the occupation, and on freedom of speech, and to rely on the international solidarity of the Communist movement. This demanded unity of leadership, however, and a willingness to take risks. Even as late as March, this course of action still seemed possible. But the leadership was no longer united, and when the second attack came from outside, they could not resist. The author shows a flicker of optimism:

“It seems likely that 21 August 1968 will never be forgotten by the people. Nor by our [interventionist] ‘brothers’, nor now by the Party. And especially not by the young people who saw the tanks and the blood, and who now pathetic gatherings on their television screens of people who wear themselves hoarse chanting ‘Long live the USSR!’ And all in the presence of a smiling President and some of the January reformers.”

The author concludes that democratic socialism is the alternative to totalitarian, Stalinist socialism. Western communists “must defend our model which has been destroyed, campaign for it, study it and put it into practice themselves.” As for the socialist countries of Europe, if they do not realize in time that the only way of overcoming their economic backwardness in comparison with the West is through democratic socialism, then “they will have only rockets and tanks left with which to oppose Western imperialism and Maoism.” To the question: “What can we do?” the author replies: insist on the principles of democratic socialism, and on preserving and developing its ideas, even if only underground.

7. Declaration of Czech artists, scientists and journalists, 23 May 1969

This declaration was signed by the Presidia of the following Czech unions: writers; artists; composers; actors; architects; radio, cinema and television workers; scientific research staff; and cultural workers. Czech personalities in the world of culture, learning, science and the arts make it known that they were resolutely determined to struggle for creative freedom, freedom in research and freedom of public opinion, and also for the freedom and independence of their people. In conditions of ever-increasing cultural repression, when the stifling of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is endangering all human rights and civil liberties, the authors of the declaration feel that their mission is to serve the truth. “They can force us to be silent. But no-one will ever succeed in making us say what we do not think.”

8. A. Krasnov, “Drama in Vyatka”

An article devoted to the fate of the arrested Boris Talantov (see this issue, “News in brief”, item 3).

9. Anatoly Yakobson, “Romantic Poetry of the Twenties”

An essay in literary criticism, which examines the moral aspect of the ideology of so-called revolutionary romanticism. The author bases his arguments on the work of young poets of the post-revolutionary years – Bagritsky, Svetlov, Altauzen, Golodny, etc. He comes to the conclusion that the prettification of violence cannot be morally justified.

10. Vasil Stus, “Letter to the board of the Ukrainian writers’ union”

The letter, in pamphlet form, concerns an article by A. Poltoratsky, entitled “Who is Protecting the Humanists?” in the paper Literary Ukraine. Stus exposes Poltoratsky’s slanders against Chornovil and Karavansky, and unmasks his attitude, and that of “a whole company of Poltoratskyites” who pass over the mass repression [of the 1930s] in silence, and only rise up in arms “with their talented pens … when the West starts talking about the massacres of the past.” In reply to the charge of mediocrity levelled at Chornovil and Karavansky, With his letter Stus encloses extracts from an article by Poltoratsky “What is Ostap Vishnya?” written in 1934, which describes Vishnya as “a fascist and counterrevolutionary”, “a kulak ideologist”, “a literary prostitute, “a gutter-press profiteer” and “a worthless pen-pusher”.

11. Gomer Bayev’s final plea

This speech, made at his trial on 30 April 1969 is devoted to the fate of the Crimean Tatar people, and the persecution to which they are being subjected.