16.11 Samizdat update

No 16 : 31 October 1970

[1] The Word Forces Its Way Through

A collection of articles and documents on A. I. Solzhenitsyn. This documentary narrative on the fate of the writer and of his works covers the period from 1962 to 1969 – from the triumph of the story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich to its author’s expulsion from the Union of Writers. Articles, speeches, letters, reviews, records of conferences and other documents published in our press or circulated in samizdat are represented in their entirety or in excerpts. The collection does not contain documents of foreign origin.

The compiler, aiming at maximum objectivity, gives in the collection a detailed picture of the most diverse views of Solzhenitsyn’s work and his character. The documents are arranged in chronological order and grouped according to period. The collection is prefaced by an introduction “From the compiler” and a “Foreword”; the epigraph is taken from Belinsky: “Our age bows down only before an artist whose life is the best commentary on his works, and whose works are the best vindication of his life”.

[2] “Social Problems”: A collection of samizdat texts
compiled by V. N. Chalidze. Issue No. 6, July-August 1970

Contents:

  • Fred Castberg: “Natural law and human rights”.
  • Haim O. Cohn: “Law and the duty to resist”.

Both articles are translations from the Journal of Human Rights, edited by Rene Cassin [the Nobel Peace Prize winner, from Strasbourg].

[3] Lev Ventsov, “Think!”

An essay, the basic theme of which is intellectual opposition to dominant tendencies inimical to culture, which are embodied in official policy and propaganda and also in the consumer mentality of the contemporary bourgeoisie. A mere moral struggle, maintains the author, is not enough – one must fight for the development of culture, the rebirth of spiritual values. A new world-view is essential.

“Cultural creation must become a positive aspect of our struggle. We need universal and convincing knowledge, which can be obtained only through the efforts of many people, only through thorough research in economics, history, sociology – which must, moreover, be on a level with modern world science. We need a philosophy of our own, which we have not had so far. The conversion of the resources of world culture into our own internal resources – that’s what we need.”

The author does not directly link the problem of the formation of culture with any concrete Political objectives. But the sense of the essay is that without the spiritual liberation of the individual and of society there can be no civil liberties. In general it does not deal with up-to-the-minute, topical matters of public concern – quite the reverse. “The ultimate effectiveness of cultural values is ensured not by the extent of their dissemination or by immediate popularity, but by their quality, by the profundity of their response to reality.

“It does not matter if the artistic and scientific works being written now reach only ten, twenty or a hundred discerning readers. If they (the works) are worth it, they will still eventually prove to be an essential contribution to the spiritual development of our country and to its history.”

The author calls on us to work for the future: “The better times are within us – if they are to come at all.”

The essay ends with the words: “To the regime’s lack of culture we shall juxtapose culture. That is why to the immemorial Russian question ‘What is to be done?’ – the answer must be: ‘Think!’.”

[4] Andrei Slavin, “Notes on the Soviet Democratic Movement”

A letter written in a didactic and even peremptory tone. The author criticises the forms at present taken by the civil rights movement in our country, and calls for the creation of a conspiratorial organisation capable of winning mass support.

Slavin’s letter is full of accusations against the Action Group [for the Defence of Civil Rights] and attacks on certain individuals.

[5] Anatoly Yakobson, “Him and Us: An Open Letter in reply to A. Slavin”

The author analyses Slavin’s essay and concludes that it is no more than ignorance aspiring to a leading role in the struggle for liberty.

[6] “Three days”. An eye-witness account of Baby Yar [Kiev]

29 September is the day of remembrance for the victims of Baby Yar. 29 September 1968, 1969, 1970 are three days. Three rallies. Official rallies. But close by there are unofficial rallies, spontaneous ones. The author, an eye-witness, gives memorable descriptions of various incidents at the spontaneous rallies on the first, second and third days. They are dramatic incidents. The dramatis personae: people from the police, people from the [security] agencies and just people. The incidents are typical. They convey the general atmosphere of the spontaneous rallies. In 1968 there were 50-70 people. In 1969 – three to four hundred. In 1970 – seven to eight hundred. And each time they are bolder, more resolute. The national consciousness of those whose nearest and dearest lie in Baby Yar is on the increase.

[7] L. Anti-Brodsky: “Against the rehabilitation and restoration of Stalinism”
(for the Twenty-fourth Party Congress [due in March 1971]).

A response to L. Brodsky’s pamphlet:
“The Ideological Struggle at the Present Stage” (Leningrad, 1970).

L. Brodsky describes samizdat as an anti-Soviet phenomenon. L. Anti-Brodsky objects that anything directed against the restoration and rehabilitation of Stalinism strengthens the Soviet system (including unpublished Open Letters and works of literature which have become the property of samizdat); but that anything which vindicates and perpetuates Stalinism is inimical to the Soviet system (for example the published works of [the dogmatists] Kochetov and Shevtsov). The Stalinist terror is distinguished from that of the Cheka [original name for the KGB] in the early years of the Revolution, which the author regards as justified and beneficial.

The author defends only those samizdat works which speak from communist positions. “Surely the circulation of this sort of samizdat work, full of concern for the fate of communism and that of our country, does not deserve to be criminally prosecuted and branded as anti-Soviet . . .”, writes L. Anti-Brodsky.

[8] Mikhail Alexandrovich Naritsa: “Something about myself”

A narrative autobiography. The author was born in a peasant family in the Pskov area in 1909. He is an artist, teacher and writer. In 1930 he submitted his resignation from the Komsomol. He was first arrested in 1935 and spent five years in the camps. In 1949 he was arrested once more, and after investigations lasting a year he was exiled to Karaganda for life.

After Stalin’s death he was rehabilitated. In 1961 he was arrested again for sending his book An Unsung Song to the West, where it was later published, and spent three years in a prison lunatic asylum [in Leningrad]. In 1965 he submitted an application to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet stating that M.A. Naritsa and his wife wished to leave the USSR. This was refused. In recent years he has been living from hand to mouth under constant persecution.

[9] By the same author [M.A. Naritsa]: “Crime and Punishment”

The story of his arrest after sending his book An Unsung Song abroad; of the nightmare of a psychiatric hospital-prison; of the liberty and intransigence of the human spirit. [Nespetaya pesnya, published in 1961 in Grani, Frankfurt, No. 48, then in 1964 in book form by Possev-Verlag, Frankfurt.]

[10] By the same author [M.A. Naritsa]: “Mummy, I shan’t be frightened”

The story of the situation the author’s family found themselves in after his second arrest in 1949. The story is told by his wife. It tells of her ordeals, her poverty, her desperate struggle for existence and for the life of her child; and of courage, faithfulness and love. The story ends thus: the woman and her child are travelling into exile to Karaganda – to their husband and father. They go via Moscow. A conversation takes place between the mother and her little boy.

“We had hardly left the station in Moscow when he demanded: ‘Let’s go and see Stalin.’ ‘He lives behind that wall,’ I said when we were in Red Square. ‘How do you get in?’ I pointed at the gates. ‘Then why don’t we go?’ I pointed out to him that nobody was going in, and soldiers were standing at the gates. Petya looked at those gates for a long time. Then he asked in a disappointed voice: ‘Who is Stalin afraid of? Is he afraid of you and me?’ ‘He’s afraid of everybody. He’s done so much harm to people . . . destroyed so many people. . . . There’s never been anybody more wicked than him.’ ‘Then why do they sing songs about him?’ ‘He forces people to praise him.’ ‘Stalin’s a very bad man! I won’t love him.’ ‘But don’t tell anybody that you don’t love him. Nobody, nobody! Or the soldiers will come for you, like they did for daddy.’ ‘Didn’t daddy know that he mustn’t tell anyone?’ ‘Daddy didn’t tell anyone. But Stalin is such a coward that he’s even afraid of those who say nothing.’ ‘Will Stalin find out that I don’t love him?’ ‘He won’t find out as long as you say nothing!’

“That was my first political crime! But they tried to put me on trial before I had become a criminal.

“Petya and I were then very close to a man who differed from any other only in his cruelty and vanity; who had succeeded in setting fools at the throats of wise men and in destroying all that was best in our country; who had ensured its people an agonising extinction. At that moment next to the Kremlin, no less than the man himself, I hated his eulogisers – especially those who with incredible insouciance eulogised him voluntarily, eulogised that ‘man with the head of a scholar, the face of a worker, the clothes of an ordinary soldier’, the man who every year did such deeds ‘as would bring any other man eternal glory’. Who squeezed such words out of you, Mr. Barbusse, and what tortures did they use to do it?

“O people! Despise all irresponsible windbags! And if they live on the other side of the Iron Curtain, send them to live in our paradise. They will be eagerly welcomed here! Of course, there will be no possibility of leaving. But then they are so sure that things here are good.”

[11] By the same author [M.A. Naritsa], “The kings’ new clothes” [golye koroli]

An essay. Reflections on various social problems; on Marxism; on the role of a free peasantry in the history of world civilisation; on the policies of Lenin; on the policies of Stalin; on our present economic system.