17.13 Samizdat update

No 17 : 31 December 1970

[1] “He was sent by the God of wrath and grief…”

This line by Nekrasov has been taken as the title of a collection of materials on Solzhenitsyn. The foreword points out the profound contrast between the opinions expressed in our press of the writer’s work and of his literary and social activity, and the Soviet reader’s total lack of access to factual information about them.

The compilers set themselves the object of providing material enabling the reader to form his own opinions on the whole “Solzhenitsyn affair”: his struggle for the publication of his books in the Soviet Union, the history and development of his conflict with the leadership of the Writers’ Union, which led to his expulsion from it, the positions of the two sides in this conflict. The collection includes A. I. Solzhenitsyn‘s letters and notes, as well as documents relating to his biography; and also articles and documents reflecting the positions both of the official circles of the Writers’ Union and of writers, public figures and persons who have spoken in Solzhenitsyn’s defence. The collection consists of 59 letters, articles and documents divided into seven chapters. Beginning with the Supreme Court’s decision on A. I. Solzhenitsyn’s rehabilitation (1957), the collection includes in its final chapter documents about his award of the Nobel Prize.

This collection differs from The Word Forces its Way Through (see Chronicle No. 16) in the principle on which the material has been selected. For example, a large number of reviews by literary critics of those works of Solzhenitsyn which have been published in the USSR (mainly of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) are represented in The Word but not in this second collection, which is devoted above all to the literary and social fortunes of A. I. Solzhenitsyn himself. Samizdat material defending Solzhenitsyn is represented in it, and it also contains a few documents of foreign origin.

The almost simultaneous appearance in samizdat of these complementary collections is evidence of active public interest in the fortunes and work of A. I. Solzhenitsyn.

[2] An Anonymous Appeal to Organisations for the Defence of Human Rights,
July 1970. (The Chronicle has supplied the title.)

Compiled by a political prisoner in a psychiatric hospital-prison (Leningrad, 9 Arsenalnaya Street), this document contains a detailed description of the practices which exist there. The author argues that the very existence of this sort of institution is illegal and immoral, and describes the totally helpless and hopeless position and the utter lack of rights of the prisoners, especially the political prisoners, whose only possible release is death, physical or moral (recantation).

Many examples are given of the humiliation and torment to which the prisoners are subjected by the hospital’s prison staff (mostly orderlies recruited from among the criminal inmates), with the connivance, and sometimes the actual participation, of the medical staff. The prisoners are beaten, crippled, sometimes killed; their food is stolen or confiscated; as punishment for their “misdeeds” they are subjected to cruel and dangerous methods of “treatment”: to “the warp”, the injection of shock-inducing drugs which destroy the mind, etc. The culprits go unpunished; letters to relatives are confiscated in order to conceal these crimes. The appeal ends with a call to the author’s fellow-citizens to demand immediately the investigation of these crimes.

[3] The Town of Vladimir

A report by one of the inmates of Vladimir Prison. An essay about the frightful inhumanity of the prison regime. About the heroes and martyrs who have not been broken by years and decades of imprisonment. About those who in the dungeons of Vladimir have preserved their faith in life and in the righteousness of their ideas.

[4] “On the abolition of capital punishment”

A letter from Vladimir Lapin to the USSR Supreme Soviet. The writer regards it as essential to abolish capital punishment; he explains his reasons for this point of view.

[5] Social Problems. Compiled by V.N. Chalidze.
Issue No. 7 (September-October 1970)

A. Volpin – On the principle of legal proceedings being held in public [glasnost]; V. Chalidze – An Open Letter to defence counsel S. A. Kheifits; Zb. Resich – Even the most perfect laws are not enough (an interview given by the President of the Polish Supreme Court to the [Polish] newspaper Polityka); The Constitution of the International Institute of Human Rights (the [Rene] Cassin Foundation).

[6] Social Problems. Compiled by V.N. Chalidze.
Issue No. 8 (November-December 1970)

The Principles and Statutes of the Committee for Human Rights; V. Chalidze – Important aspects of the Human Rights situation in the Soviet Union (a report to the Committee); The opinion of the Committee on the fundamental aspects of Human Rights in the Soviet Union. Cumulative contents of the journal Social Problems for 1969 and 1970.

[7] Memorandum from the Democrats to the USSR Supreme Soviet. 5 December 1970

The authors of the memorandum speak in the name of democracy, citing such documents, well-known in samizdat, as the “Programme of the Democratic Movement in the Soviet Union” [35] (DMSU) and “Basic Tactics of the DMSU” (see CCE 10 and 14).

The memorandum criticises the leadership of the Communist Party, examining the social and economic policies of the Party and also its nationalities policy, its foreign policy, the systems of legal procedure, government and ideology, and other aspects of political life. The authors of the memorandum consider all the activity of the Party leadership and the very fact of its holding power to be unconstitutional, while they discern contradictions in the Constitution of the USSR itself.

The memorandum demands the democratic reconstruction of society, to facilitate which the Party leadership is invited to transfer its power to the USSR Supreme Soviet. (The question of how realistic such a transfer of power would be is not examined in the memorandum.)

The other demands made in the memorandum are as follows:

“the establishment of constitutional government of the country with the repeal of all unconstitutional legislation;

“the guarantee that legislative bodies, the judicial system and the machinery of government will function normally in accordance with constitutional norms:

“the introduction of democratic freedoms; the passing of a law releasing all political prisoners;

“the holding of a democratic general election;

“the drafting of a new constitution to legislate for the consolidation of the political foundations of a democratic Soviet society.”

(The programme is of a purely declarative character; no means of realising it are indicated.)

[8] V. Severny – The Economic Position of the Soviet Union, USSR, 1970.

The author of this booklet compares the economy of the USSR with that of pre-revolutionary Russia (comparing the periods from 1867 to 1917 and from 1917 to the present), and then the economy of the USSR with that of the USA. Both industry and agriculture are dealt with.

The pamphlet deals with rates of economic development, gross volume of production, production per head of the population and levels of consumption. A large amount of statistical material is used. Economic data is taken from Soviet sources.

The author reaches the conclusion that our economic system is, as it stands, not viable. As for the country’s economic prospects, the author concludes:

“This state of affairs offers no real prospects of catching up with the advanced capitalist countries in industrial and agricultural production or in consumption levels As long as existing practices remain unchanged, our industrial backwardness is virtually guaranteed.”

V. Severny quotes a number of typical figures, e.g.: Our industrial productivity at present amounts to 40-50% of the American figure, agricultural productivity – 20-25%.

The author devotes his most detailed examination to the problem of food supply. “This problem”, V. Severny writes, “has the greatest bearing on the lives of the peoples of the USSR. Whereas low industrial consumption causes only poverty, a shortage of food-stuffs places people’s very lives at risk.” The pamphlet states: “Calculations prove that even if future harvest (of cereals) reach record levels (171 million tons in 1966) . . . and the population growth-rate does not exceed its present level, then by 1989-1993, i.e. in twenty years on the average, the country will find itself faced with a universal food-shortage.”

The author sees a way out of the situation which has arisen through the democratisation of society, postulating that only political freedom will create the pre-conditions for the imperative economic transformations. The economy must be organised in a modern, rational way. The author is an exponent of a “mixed” or “three-tier” economy, i.e.:

“1. Standard and uniform branches of production requiring state control and planning (e.g. the coal industry, power and transport).

“2. Intermediate production requiring both public control and private initiative, controlled planning and market competition (e.g. the engineering industry).

“3. Non-standard, individual and diverse production requiring private initiative, personal control and market competition (e.g. the clothing industry).”

[9] Fourteen Final Addresses, Moscow, 1970.

Compiled by Yu. Telesin, this collection comprises the final addresses made at political trials between 1966 and 1970 by A. Sinyavsky, Yu. Daniel, V. Chornovil, V. Bukovsky, Yu. Galanskov, A. Ginzburg, L. Bogoraz [wife of Yuly Daniel], P. Litvinov, V. Delaunay, V. Dremlyuga, K. Babitsky, G. Bayev, I. Burmistrovich and A. Amalrik. (The latter has been added to the collection Thirteen final addresses, see CCE 12.)

[10] A. E. Levitin (Krasnov), writer on church affairs. 21 December 1970.

An appeal to the Archbishop of Burgos to prevent the execution of the 16 Basques.

“I beg you, use all your authority that your city be not sullied by such an evil deed . . . Surely such a monstrous deed will not really be carried out: 16 Basques will be murdered merely for striving for autonomy for their glorious people. Let that not be!”

[11] Vladimir Osipov – Mayakovsky Square, Article No. 70. [36] Alexandrov, August 1970

Reminiscences about the gatherings of young people at the Mayakovsky memorial during the period 1958-1961, and about the trial of the “Mayakovskyites” (the case of [Ilya] Bokshtein, Osipov, [E. S.] Kuznetsov [37] and [Anatoly M.] Ivanov, 1961-2). The essay relates in detail the history of the trial and the conduct of a broad circle of people, at the centre of whom stood the author himself, who served a seven-year sentence imposed at the trial.

[12] Two Thousand Words from a Worker, Moscow, 19 October 1970

An anonymous pamphlet in the form of an Open Letter to the APN [the Soviet press agency Novosti] about the article in Komsomolskaya pravda of 17 October 1970 on (he award of the Nobel Prize to A. I. Solzhenitsyn. It denounces the article as “alien to us” [ne nasha]. It suggests going further in the condemnation of Solzhenitsyn and giving the prize to “our best writers – [Vsevolod] Kochetov, [Ivan] Shevtsov, [Nikolai] Gribachyov” [prominent and ungifted hard-liners].

[13] B. Alenin – “You Promised!” December 1970

A pamphlet in the form of an appeal to Lenin. Its main idea: the humanitarian treatment of the Russian bourgeoisie and intelligentsia, promised by Lenin if the socialist revolution was successful, turned into utter intolerance. The pamphlet includes excerpts from V. I. Lenin’s writings and speeches made in May and June 1917 and, after the revolution, in March and April 1918.

[14] A. Ivanov – “Does the USSR need a multi-party system?”

The author of the essay argues in favour of a multi-party system under socialism, maintaining that the only content of the one-Party principle is the monopoly of power, which is inimical to socialist relationships.

[15] Issue No. 3 of the journal Exodus

Contents: (1) collective and (2) individual letters and statements from Jews attempting to emigrate to Israel; (3) documents and (4) other material devoted to the case of Ruta Alexandrovich (see CCE 16); the July appeal from ten Moscow Jews to the First Session of the USSR Supreme Soviet [88] (the signatories include Joseph and Anna Kerler, Blyuma Diskina and Boris Tsukerman) – see CCE 15.

Eight Riga Jews declare their renunciation of citizenship to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet:

“We see the refusal of permission to emigrate as a trampling of human rights, an insult to our dignity and an act of tyranny and lawlessness . . . Since this outrage is being perpetrated by authorised bodies in the name of the state, we regard it as impossible for us to be citizens of that state.”

The declaration is signed by Volf Faigelson, Valery Portnoi, Lev Elyashevich, Arkady Shpilberg (arrested in Riga on 5 August 1970), David Khait, Girsh Feigin (forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital on 18 December 1970), Mendel Gordin (allowed to leave for Israel in November 1970) and Itskhokh-Aizik Gamza.

The “Documents” section includes the certificate issued to Lev Elyashevich stating that he had been expelled from the Riga Polytechnic Institute “for renouncing Soviet citizenship in connection with the wish to emigrate to Israel”. It also includes the records of searches at the homes of David Chernoglaz, an accused at the second Leningrad trial, and of Vladimir Slepak (Moscow). The items confiscated include: a photo-copy of a text-book on Jewish history by S. M. Dubnov (Petrograd, 1918); a type-written copy of a lecture “Jews in the East in the Middle Ages” on 26 sheets; ten sheets written by hand in a foreign language (Hebrew); a portrait of Moshe Dayan; a portrait of Herzl…

[16] “Register of people convicted in the 1960s”
(The Chronicle has supplied the title.)

A by no means complete list (96 names) of those who have served or are serving sentences in Mordovia or Vladimir under articles of the “Especially dangerous state crimes” section of the Criminal Code. The “Register” gives details of persons convicted between 1968 and 1970 whose names were previously unknown to the Chronicle.

[38. Russian text in Novoye Russkoye Slovo, 18 December 1970, English in the New York Times, 15 July 1970.]

[17] “A Message to the Nation”

Signed: “Russian patriots”. This document, a sort of declaration, is a manifesto of Russian nationalists. The authors vehemently take issue with Russian (and all) liberals, accusing them of having aims and views which are unsubstantiated, impotent and objectively harmful. The “Russian patriots” campaign for the purity of the white race, which is being tainted by “random hybridisation”, and for the rebirth of Russia (“great, united and indivisible”) and of the national religion.

[18] V. Gusarov – “A message on liberty”

An essay. A democrat’s rejoinder to the “Russian patriots” (“A Message to the Nation”).

The author concentrates his attention on the great-power and racist views of the “patriots”, without touching on the economic programme or other aspects of the pamphlet “Message to the Nation”. “The universal degeneration must be halted not by means of the whip and the birch, but by means of openness and publicity [glasnost]. Operative executive power must be under public control.

The hopes set on the “voice of the blood” are particularly dubious – the history of Russia gives no grounds for supposing that a national type has been preserved anywhere in a pure form.

[19] A. Mikhailov (pseudonym) – “Thoughts on the liberal campaign of 1968”

In view of the importance of the questions raised by the author of this article, the Chronicle gives a detailed resume of it. Let the reader compare Mikhailov’s stand-points with his own ideas.

Since the beginning of the 1950s the USSR has been in a state of crisis. This crisis consists of a conflict between the forces of production and the relations of production. The administrative-bureaucratic system by which the economy is governed excludes scientific methods of management. The crisis gave rise to a liberal trend, which matured beneath the surface among the intelligentsia during the Khrushchev period. In 1968 the liberal opposition came out into the open for the first time and was swiftly crushed. Reaction set in on the part of the government and continues to this day.

The opposition bore no fruit. It caused no positive shifts in public consciousness, leaving after its destruction disillusion and apathy. Sensible people were put off by it. But the majority of people were actually turned against it. The opposition not only failed to attract new supporters of liberalism, but to a certain extent compromised the very idea of opposition. The failure of the opposition lay in its incorrect orientation, in its lack of understanding of the real situation. A social conflict, objective in content, underwent a transformation in the consciousness of the oppositionists, turning for them into a subjective moral conflict between individuals and the state. This confusion of consciousness gave the movement a romantic character and made it ineffectual. These liberal-romantics acted according to their emotions and moral instincts, they wanted to save only their souls and to purge their consciences – and therefore they sacrificed themselves. They did not wish, nor were they able, to think of the whole of society, they were not concerned with the practical results of their actions, which had become an end in themselves. This was protest for the sake of protest – without a positive programme, without constructive ideas, without a social foundation.

Inasmuch as the liberals spoke out openly (letters and petitions over their own signatures, demonstrations) they were attempting to look to the law for support, which is patently pointless in our State. They appealed to the authorities, who put them in prison – ignoring all laws, as is their wont. The movement’s formal, constitutional-legalistic tenor gave rise to contradictions within it: people who speak out in the name of truth, striving towards absolute honesty, cannot criticise the essence of the regime (as a system), but are forced to limit themselves to criticism of its individual manifestations, its frequent injustices. The opposition’s only general demand is a purely legalistic one: freedom of speech. “Don’t imprison people for their beliefs, print everything – or at any rate more” – this, in effect, is the protesters’ motto.

It is no coincidence that open protests began after the trials of a few free-thinking intellectuals. Meanwhile the broad sections of the population, oppressed by need and social imperfections, do not see the liberals as I lie defenders of their interests; the liberals are ready to suffer for Sinyavsky and Daniel (and others like them), but they ignore the man in the street with his needs and sufferings. The demand for freedom of speech directly expresses only the class interests of the creative intelligentsia. The liberals’ alienation from the people is only partially unintended – to a considerable extent it conforms with the purpose of the liberals themselves. The opposition is a closed circle.

Moralising, legalistic name-calling and bombastic phrases are the preserve of a narrow circle of people. Such are the active liberals. The passive section of the liberal intelligentsia, however, is rushing about in all directions. Nihilism. Individualism. Aristocratic aestheticism. “Pure moral philosophy”. Religion. There is discord and degradation.

The spiritual games of the passive intellectuals are useless.

The activities of the active ones are harmful. They are worthy of personal respect, but their actions are by their nature objectively (unintentionally) provocative. Activities aimed at getting oneself arrested (e.g. the demonstration of 25 August 1968) are hysterical lunacy, which, by spreading, only causes more and more casualties. Collective letters of protest and petitions (often addressed to broad public opinion, of which our government takes no notice) also play a provocative part. Without any effort on its part the KGB acquires prepared lists of liberals. At present the government allows some of the active oppositionists to remain at liberty only because their activities are useful to enable it to monitor discontent.

The reality is that we are approaching a national and world-wide disaster. All mankind is threatened with extinction. The situation must be radically altered. The regime in its present form will not survive for long. Our task is not to administer the coup de grace (revolutionary and violent methods are unacceptable) but to prepare a worthy replacement for it. This is the task of the thinking section of society, the intelligentsia. This requires a scientific approach to social problems (which is rejected almost on principle by the liberal-romantics, who cultivate incompetence in questions of theory). We must work out an effective political position which will offer a way out of the blind alley; we must work out a concept explaining modern society and its workings.

The concept must be based on democratic socialism (the transplantation here of the attributes of bourgeois democracy is unrealistic and would not solve our problems). At the moment no entirely satisfactory concept of this sort exists anywhere. We must take our cue from “macro-sociology” (of the Marx variety). Such works as, for instance, Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution and Djilas’s New Class are valuable. Academician Sakharov’s approach to social phenomena is promising (but the form of his essay – the romantic form of appealing to the leadership – makes impartial scientific analysis impossible).

The opposition of 1968 made no attempt to create a realistic and at the same time attractive social ideal. Our programme must be both scientific and popular. The intelligentsia must find a common language with the masses and express their interests and demands.

The progressive movement must declare itself to be a united whole. This requires a common ideological platform; not an organisation (any attempt to create it would at present be madness), but rather ten or twelve programmatic points, a symbol of faith. All the efforts of thinking people must be directed towards the drawing-up of this programme. Samizdat, both anonymous and pseudonymous, must become the instrument for working out new ideas (we must put a stop to demonstrations and other acts liable to result in arrests). In this way the progressive social movement can become a serious force.

[20] A. Strikh – “A reply to A. Mikhailov”

The substance of this Open Letter is as follows: The idea that the “lunatics” are the opponents of a scientific approach to the life of society is pure fantasy.

The “liberal-romantics” (they could be given a more neutral name, e.g. public protesters) are not in the least isolated from social problems; if they do not attempt to solve them, it is solely because they do not regard themselves as sociologists (though some of them may possibly deal with sociology in their creative work).

They are acquainted with Marxism. But modern “macro-sociology” is not regarded by everybody as sociology “of the Marx variety”. Sociological thought did not stand still after Marx. Moreover the conclusions of Burnham and Djilas, although they contain a certain truth, do not provide the key to the solution of many of our problems. It has been established that economics does not determine the entire social process. Among the contradictions in our society the economic contradiction is of course one of the most important, but that does not mean that it is primary, or that its doctrine of “basic” and “superstructure” provides the correct approach to this contradiction. Our “superstructure” appeared before the “basis” and was its absolute determinant. In our country economics is derived from the subordinated to politics, rather than vice-versa.

The motives and actions of individuals, social groups and I he masses are by no means always due to economic causes (the field of social psychology is not covered by Marxist theory). A. Mikhailov suggests “finding a common language with the broad masses” – but are the “broad masses” disposed to respond to the voice of the “progressive movement”? This is by no means clear.

This is just as debatable as the assertion that “the regime in its present form cannot survive for long”; that a ten- or twelve-point programme could unite the entire “thinking section of society”, and that it would thus be possible “to make radical changes in the situation”. It is also doubtful whether a universal conceptual panacea could be worked out on the basis of samizdat, anonymous or pseudonymous, liven where there is unlimited scope for sociological research, where the funds necessary for it are provided, where there is easy access to information and the free exchange of opinions – even there the way out of many modern blind alleys has not yet been found. But even assuming that we succeed in working out a sociological model ideal for our circumstances, how are we to realise it?

Put it to the government? But that, in A. Mikhailov‘s view, is “romanticism”. Await the automatic collapse of the regime? But how long must this inactive waiting last? Put it to the masses? How? That would require (as A. Mikhailov remarks) not only propaganda but also agitation – direct influence on the consciousness of the masses; in any case, agitation cannot even begin without an underground organisation. Meanwhile A. Mikhailov regards even the attempt to create such an organisation as madness. And rightly so. That really would be an objectively provocative act, since besides themselves the agitators would bring disaster to many other people.

A. Mikhailov is right when he says that we need intensive thinking and searching, and that this is the task of the intelligentsia. But ideological searching is a many-sided and complex cultural process, which could not be confined within the channel of economic materialism or within any limits, whatever they might be. It would be natural for A. Mikhailov to try to define (“prompt”) the principal direction of this search, but his attacks on “pure spirituality”, “spiritual games”, are beneath all criticism. A. Mikhailov’s reproaches to those who have spoken out in open protest – and who are still doing so – will also not bear examination. In a society where the majority is intrinsically convinced that the state is not merely able, but has the right to do whatever it likes with people, and that people have no rights at all – it is in this society that we have been given our first lesson in the consciousness of civil rights. The question of rights is not an academic question in a society where they do not exist.

What we cannot do without, what is needed before anything else, is at least a minimal level of democratic freedoms. The first of these is freedom of speech. That means freedom of thought. What social activity or “constructive solutions” are possible without it? Those who first demonstrated that freedom, who started introducing it “without asking permission”, knew what they were doing. They had no recipes for the salvation of mankind – they were trying to protect people. They protested against individual acts of tyranny and violence where tyranny was most apparent (trials), where violence was most blatant (Czechoslovakia). They said, and are still saying, what they thought they had to, and this is an honest attitude. Sacrificing oneself does not mean inducing others to commit rash acts. At the moment the only ones who are actually being put in prison are those who were conscious of what they were facing. The government has been given a list of liberals, moans A. Mikhailov, but it is only where liberalism does not manifest itself in any way that it will not have such a list.

A. Mikhailov is also mistaken in supposing that open protest is of absolutely no practical benefit. It is not true that the government never in any way takes the slightest notice of public opinion – in particular of foreign public opinion. It is sufficient to recall the case of Zh. Medvedev [see CCE 14] or the last trial of the “hijackers” in Leningrad [CCE 17.6]. What’s true is true: as regards practical results, the situation is bad. But A. Mikhailov’s ideas contain absolutely nothing practical. His position objectively leads to total inactivity. Everyone who is unable to work out a “popular and scientific” programme will sit doing nothing and await the magic “concept” like some sort of revelation, meanwhile averting their eyes from specific evil.

It is worth lending an ear to Albert Einstein’s practical recommendations:

“Reactionary politicians have sown suspicion of intellectual activity by intimidating the public by means of external danger . . . What must the intelligentsia do when confronted with this evil? To tell the truth I see only one way the revolutionary way of disobedience in the spirit of Gandhi … if a sufficient number take that perilous way, it will lead to success. If not, then the intelligentsia of that country deserves nothing better than slavery.”

Einstein further said:

“One man alone is able only to serve as an example for ill hers and to uphold with courage the moral principle . . .”