12.10 Samizdat update

No 12 : 28 February 1970

[1] Nadezhda Ya. Mandelstam, Recollections of O. E. Mandelstam

This book is about the fate of the poet and the fate of a generation. A memorial to an era.

[2] Vasily Grossman, Everything flows …

V. Grossman wrote this novel between 1956 and 1962. It is based on extensive historical material. The author writes as a thinker who has boldly asked himself the most important socio-political and moral questions of the age and is seeking fundamental philosophical answers.

[3] Vladimir Gusarov,”In defence of Faddei Bulgarin”

The author of this pamphlet maintains that it is essential to restrict the publication in this country of foreign literature, as a Soviet reader might be astonished about why writers who criticize bourgeois reality remain at liberty. He proposes that the only criteria for judging the value of literature should be the services it renders to the existing regime. From this point of view it is necessary to take a fresh look at the history of Russian letters.

It is not true that F. Bulgarin [1789-1859] spied on other people; he, a writer and a patriot, merely drew the attention of the government in good time to the appearance of the next malicious lampoon, and consequently to the slanderer-lampoonist. It is true that F. Bulgarin was not blessed with much talent, but that is an irrelevant detail, especially in view of the fact that his capabilities were no less than those of such honoured figures as A. Sofronov, V. Kochetov, N. Gribachyov and others. The author proposes that a monument be erected to F. Bulgarin.

[4] Reactions to Kochetov’s novel What do you Want then? (Oktyabr, 1969, Nos. 9, 10, 11)

1. Translations of several articles from Unita severely criticising the novel for containing “crude attacks on Italian communists”. One of the critics suggests that among other things Kochetov’s literary production [1] bears a direct relation to the genre of denunciations. About Kochetov’s novel itself it is said that “perhaps the principal aim of this wretched book is to discredit a particular communist intellectual with whom Kochetov has a private quarrel”.

2. “A crooked mirror – what can be got out of Kochetov’s novel What do you Want then?” Author anonymous. Kochetov’s novel is considered on the one hand as a mouthpiece for certain ideas (usually concealed) of a certain part of our political leadership, and on the other as a reflection, albeit distorted, of the real process of “thawing out” in our society and also of the discrediting of our ways in the eyes of progressive – including communist – world opinion.

3. S. Smirnov: “What are you Laughing at then?” A parody of the novel.

4. Z. Paperny. “What does he want, the nasty cockerel?” [see 14.10] A parody of the novel.

[These two last titles contain puns either on the original title or on the author’s name.]

[5] Zhores Medvedev, The International cooperation of scientists and national frontiers

Author of a well-known study of the history of Soviet biology, Zh. Medvedev in his new book demonstrates the harm done to the country by the artificial isolation of our scientists from the foreign scientific world. His idea is the integration of the cultural forces of the world. (This idea is close to Academician Sakharov’s idea of “convergence”.)

“It is not the imposition of fear and repression, but honest international cooperation between countries and individuals, within the framework of international legal norms, that is the real solution to the situation this country has got itself into by restricting creative freedom.”

[6] G. Pomerants, Unpublished Writings:
A collection of twenty philosophical and polemical articles

Some of the articles, such as: “Three levels of being”, “Quadrille”, “The man from nowhere”, ”The moral aspect of historical personality”, “Answers to M. Lifshits”, are known to samizdat readers.

[7] Semyon Telegin, “Who is one to be?”

In this work the hidden growth of a new – unofficial – culture is attested. It is a humanitarian culture, at the basis of which is the greater importance of the individual as opposed to the state machine. The role of contemporary art and science is discussed (methodology of thought), in the formation of this culture. The author calls on the intelligentsia to carry to the people “culture for the emancipation of the soul”.

[8] Andrei Amalrik, Will the Soviet Union survive until 1984?

The author considers the liberalization of the post-Stalin period to be a sign of the decay of the regime, and sees no forces in our society [see 11.14 (1) ] which are even potentially capable of bringing about a renewal, a democratisation of the country. The author predicts disintegration for the state in view of inner contradictions, which in his opinion are growing ever greater. The author suggests that the basic causes of the coming crash are the following: contradiction between the demands of economic development and the ossification of the economic system; the conservatism of the bureaucratic elite, which is increasingly declining in quality; the passivity and venality of the “middle class”, i.e. the “specialist class”; the absence of positive goals in the lower strata; the striving towards separateness of the non-Russian nations.

In the second part of the pamphlet the causes and nature of the possible war with China are discussed, together with what the author considers to be the most likely attitude of the West to such a war.

Vl. Gusarov rejects Amalrik’s prognoses in the field of external politics, and maintains that the over-populated and extremely fanatical China will present the main threat to humanity, and that the USSR, in view of the increasing danger from China and for certain internal reasons, will inevitably move closer to the West.

The anonymous author of another open letter considers Amalrik’s analysis irrational, mystical and false; he believes in the healthy evolution of our society, in the democratic future of the country. Amalrik’s attitude to Russia – scorn for her people, history and culture – has an alienating effect on the author.

[9] S. Zorin and N. Alekseyev, Time does not wait (Leningrad 1969)

An analysis of the power structure in the USSR and the logic of its functioning, in the main in the fields of the economy and of external politics.

The scientific and technical revolution in the West presents our economy with the following tasks: the cutting-back of military expenditure, the renunciation of the traditional administrative levers for directing the economy, objective price formation, autonomy of workers’ collectives, and contacts of all kinds with developed countries. The opposite course entails the following: escalation of the arms’ race and an increasingly expansionist policy. This course will lead to catastrophe. The choice to a great extent depends on the conscious acts of ordinary citizens.

[10] “The essence of communism”

By communism the anonymous author understands a system of relationships which guarantees the freedom of the individual and the group against the world of things, capital, forced labour, and the oppression of the state machine. The cybernetic economy of the future, writes the author, when it has freed itself from “human instruments”, gives absolutely no automatic guarantee of freedom and happiness; on the contrary, it increases the dangers. “For this reason communism tomorrow cannot be separated from democracy today. For this reason it is a criminal people which works today on super-powerful weapons and super-intelligent machines and does not at the same time struggle for full control over the government, and for its own freedom.’ Such a people is criminal towards it own children and towards the children of other peoples.”

[11] Thirteen final speeches

Well-known texts of the final speeches of people sentenced under Articles 70, 190-1 and 190-3 have here been collected together.

[12] Materials from the newspaper Pravda
(concerning the 1969 conference of communist parties)

A selection of texts. Excerpts from delegates’ speeches. Picture of ideological differences within the communist movement. “The left deviation” (parties of the pro-Chinese, pro-Cuban and Arab types): approximately twenty parties. “Parties of the centre” (holding positions which are defined by their unquestioning support of the Soviet Communist Party): about fifty-four parties. “The right deviation” (partial criticism of the Fundamental Document, relative independence of orientation, negative attitude to the occupation of Czechoslovakia): fourteen Western parties.

[13] Ibo Povdelicek, “How to destroy the human personality” (Translated from the Czech) The article was published in the newspaper Literarny Listy (1968, No. 20)

The author, who is a professional psychologist, had the opportunity of observing former political prisoners and of conversing with them confidentially. He describes how the Czech secret police obtained confessions – and moreover sincere ones – of guilt from innocent people. Among the various psychological and physical techniques for exerting pressure on the prisoner, the author discusses in particular detail the technique which he calls the technique of “the friendly attitude”. At a particular stage in the investigation, when the prisoner’s spiritual resources have already been exhausted, a “warm, sympathetic word” never fails to act on the depressed and desolate person. It is difficult to refuse a cigarette, improved food, an easing of the cell regime. “Friendship” develops between the investigated and the investigator. As a result the necessary confessions are made in court: the accused acts on the inner conviction that he must not betray his “friend and referee”.

[14] Article by an anonymous author

about a law that is being prepared, which sets out new regulations governing dismissal from work. If the information in the hands of the author is correct, the draft law, which has already been worked out, lays down that in order to have the right to leave, a minimum of three years must have been worked at a given enterprise. The author considers the new law to be the virtual restoration of the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of 26 June 1940 which forbade workers and employees to leave enterprises and organisations. (This Decree was repealed in 1955 – “in view of the greater level of consciousness of the people”.)

In principle the article discusses the problem in our industry of the turnover of personnel; the author maintains that this is a socio-economic problem which cannot be resolved by any enforced administrative measures. It is not the forced attachment of the worker to his place of work which can free production from so-called “slackers” and ”rolling stones”, but only material incentives, the growth of real earnings and the raising of workers’ standard of living. Leaving work at the present time is the only way a worker has of expressing his dissatisfaction with his position, and is the only step he can take towards changing that position. Only a democratisation of society and an associated reorganisation of industry on the basis of scientific and not bureaucratic methods of administration can save the situation.

[15] Open letter signed “A Group of Communists”

Addressed to the editors of Unita; copies to the editors of Humanité and The Morning Star, to Cardinal Koenig, Louis Aragon, Bertrand Russell, J-P. Sartre, Heinrich Boell, Doctor Spock and Mrs. Coretta King.

The authors explain their appeal to the Italian Communist Party as follows:

“We appeal to your party because it is your leader who, albeit hesitantly, has raised the question of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the communist parties of the socialist countries …

… we appeal to your party because it assesses the actions of the Soviet Communist party with comparative realism …

… because you supported the Czechoslovak Spring and, albeit feebly, did protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia; we also appeal to you because we consider the actions of your party not sufficiently uncompromising.”

The letter speaks of re-stalinisation and of the determination of those communists on behalf of whom the authors of the letter have spoken out, to struggle against it.

In the course of a critique of Stalinism various aspects of the life of our society are discussed: current legislation aimed at dissidents and the punitive activities of the state; policy as regards both the [non-Russian] nationalities and external matters; official ideology and propaganda; officially sanctioned literature; finally the very history of the country, which in the opinion of the authors, was turned upside down by Stalin’s dictatorship (“Lenin’s party was shot or destroyed in the camps of Siberia, the struggle for socialism is still before us.”)

The authors consider the chief international problem to be the avoiding of a world war, and the chief domestic problem – a consistent democratisation of our society. (Democratisation of this kind is regarded as the prerequisite for socialism in the future.) The letter continues

“Fifty years of our history have taught us one very simple truth: we communists need an ideological opposition based on democratic and humanitarian positions. We need them so as not to ossify under the weight of dogmas and not to turn into our opposite …”

In conclusion the authors of the letter appeal to the communists of the West “to work out a scientific theory of contemporary society”, which would be “the Marxism of the nuclear age” and could combat the ideology of “barrack-room communism”.

[16] Alexander Ivanov, “On the national shame of the Great-Russian People”
“… we can only expiate our guilt before the Czechoslovak people by raising ourselves to the level of their initiative, their beginnings …”

[17] A. Petrov-Agatov, Open letter to B. Polevoi, editor-in-chief of Yunost

The author, who is imprisoned in one of the Mordovian political camps, speaks about the falsity of Polevoi’s article “A few words about the former Anatoly Kuznetsov” (Literaturnaya Gazeta, 6 August 1969.) The author does not justify either Kuznetsov’s behaviour before his escape abroad, or the way he organised his escape, but regards Kuznetsov’s flight as the natural behaviour of a rat who leaves a ship, sensing it has sprung a leak.

[18] Yu. Galanskov (Dubrovlag, camp no. 17)

has written an article, the immediate cause of which was the transfer of Yu. Daniel and V. Ronkin to the Vladimir prison. Having discussed this particular act of arbitrary tyranny, the author goes on to analyse the activities of the punitive apparatus and draws some broad conclusions.

[19] Letter to the UN

In January 1970 the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR sent its fifth appeal [see 14.12 (4) ] to the UN Commission on Human Rights. The appeal speaks about the latest political repressions in our country. Apart from the members of the group, a further 39 persons signed the appeal.