For an End to the Policy of Reprisals

For an End to the Policy of Reprisals
by Yuri Galanskov

Written during imprisonment in a labor camp in Mordovia.

Fortunately, events such as the hunger strike in February 1968, the "Letter of the Six" and the collective hunger strike in support of Alexander Ginzburg have eventually fallen within the realm of public discussion both in this country and abroad. The latter is especially important and valuable from the point of view of our national interests. The Western press, especially the Russian-language radio broadcasts that originate there, make specific instances of official despotism and administrative excesses widely known; they explain the nature of the social origin of these distortions, and confront the governmental organs and functionaries with the necessity of adopting urgently needed measures. This helps overcome the natural inertia and conservatism of the bureaucracy, which by nature gravitates toward official formalism, red tape, and procrastination. Functioning in this capacity, the Western press and radio are fulfilling the tasks of an a virtual opposition, which is lacking at the present in Russia; in this way the West often limits itself by it sensationalism and out of consideration for immediate ideological needs, and does not demonstrate the necessary persistence in posing problems that for us are of vital importance.

In the years of Stalin's dictatorship, the Western intelligentsia was more shocked by what was going on than opposed. It was astounded by the savageness of the evil and by the extent of our tragedy. But the Western intelligentsia lacked the spiritual determination and the moral strength to effectively oppose the outburst of these diabolical forces. It proved to be unprincipled: it made political compromises and double-dealt with its conscience. The Western intelligentsia could no longer hear behind the sensational news about Russian concentration camps the groans from the other side of the barbed wire. And no amount of sensationalism could help us safeguard our intelligentsia from physical annihilation. No amount of sensationalism helped us to stop the process by which the human resources of our nation were obliterated.

In 1964, General Secretary of the Italian Communist Party Palmiro Togliatti posed the question decisively in his "Memorandum" which was published in Pravda: It was impossible for the Italian Communist Party to understand why the regime of suppression and restriction of democratic and personal freedoms that was introduced by Stalin had been retained up to the present time in Russia. The question remains unanswered...

But if this question provokes perplexity and even annoyance among the Communists of the West, for us it is a question of life and death. For us the regime of suppression and restriction of democratic and personal freedoms means the suppression of political and economic activity by the national forces. It crushes and smothers all creative initiative; it kills one's faith in others; it deprives one of all hope...

We need freedom in order to develop our national forces. We need freedom in order to put into motion all the mechanisms necessary for the fulfillment of this task. We need freedom in order to fulfill our obligations to Russia -- to life itself!

The position of Palmiro Togliatti and the criticism of the domestic and foreign policy of the Soviet Communist Party by representatives of Western Communist parties are no accident. The very existence of the Western Communist parties is directly dependent on the character of the domestic and foreign policy of the CPSU. It works like this:

The people of Italy, France, England, America, Austria, Japan, and so on, are asking the Communists of Italy, France, England, America, Austria and Japan: You are proposing to us a social system in which all political freedoms will be eliminated? in which opposing ideas will be forced into a course of unofficial and illegal actions, and afterwards suppressed and their supporters herded behind barbed wire, machine guns at their backs? You are proposing we adopt a social system in which not only are opposition papers forbidden but even members of the "Union of Communards" will be sent away to prison camps? You offer us a social order that tears a mother away from her child (the case of Larisa Bogoraz-Brukhman), a father from his children (K. Babitsky), and a husband from his wife (Pavel Litvinov) and condemns people to exile for an ordinary political demonstration?

"By no means!" the Western Communists will be compelled to say. "We condemn such policy and dissociate ourselves from it. Our communism will insure all political and creative freedoms; we will be tolerant towards our dissidents."

Then the Western Communists will be asked: But why should we believe you? You yourselves say that practice is the criterion for judging the truth of a theory. And practice has shown that the two greatest Communist powers (the USSR and China) have carried out and continue to carry out policies that you yourselves have condemned and are condemning. Furthermore, practice has shown that the two greatest Communist powers are on the brink of a war that could annihilate the Russian and Chinese people. You speak of difficulties and mistakes, but how can you prove to us that Stalinism and Maoism do not represent the essence of communism? How can you prove that your Italian, French and English communism will not become a national tragedy for the Italians, French and English people?

You want to convince us that communism can safeguard democratic and personal freedoms more fully than they are safeguarded in the Western world. Here, the Western system, which your work is directed toward destroying, gives you every organizational opportunity to do so! You have your party, your newspapers, your publishing houses, your bookstores, and you enjoy every political freedom. But in Russia, a group of young Marxists, the "Union of Communards," is imprisoned...

You condemn such policies: you wash your hands of them. You assure us that a regime of repression and stifling of democratic and personal freedoms is not fundamental to the very nature of Marxism. You assure us that this regime is after all only the result of difficulties and errors. You assure us that the Soviet Communist Party can overcome its errors and get rid of the oppressive regime and the restrictions on democratic and personal freedoms. You try to persuade us of this. If that is the case, bring before the Soviet Communist Party demands for:

1. full and general amnesty for persons convicted for political and religious reasons; and 2. a revision of the policies of punishment for political and religious reasons.

You, as partisans of the Soviet Communist Party, carry moral and political responsibility for all of this. But if you keep dodging this responsibility, if you shield the punitive policies of the Soviet Communist Party by saying that you cannot interfere in the internal affairs of a fraternal Communist Party, we will bring against you charges of immorality and political unscrupulousness. And we will say frankly to the voters that suppression of democratic and personal freedoms is indeed inherent in Marxism and is a necessary result of the political practice of Communists. We will declare you illegal, drive you underground, confine you behind barbed wire, and guard you with machine guns as long as the Soviet Union confines all dissidents behind barbed wire.

Thus, not only the political popularity but the very existence of the Western Communist parties is directly dependent on the character of the domestic and foreign policy of the USSR. All the distortions of the Soviet Communist Party's domestic policies leads of necessity to an intensification of the contradictions, to theoretical differences, and to a political splintering within the international Communist movement.

Internal ideological dialogue between the Soviet Communist Party and the Western Communist parties is becoming inevitable. Abstracting ourselves from the various sides of this complex process, we will single out only what is immediately necessary for us.

With ever more frequency and persistence the representatives and organs of the different Western Communist parties are emerging as a free opposition within the Communist movement with respect to the policies of the Soviet Communist Party. This state of affairs takes on extraordinary value in view of the fact that it makes possible a dialogue within the the Communist movement, safeguarding progress.

No matter how much one may speak of the independent nature of the laws of national development, it is impossible to deny that the fate of Russia depends in many ways on the nature of the evolution of Soviet Communist Party as the ruling party. The nature of this evolution is directly dependent not only on dialogue with the West, but most of all on the internal dialogue within the system of international Communist relations. The leadership of the Western Communist parties must clearly understand that the Soviet Communist Party maintains an oppressive rule and restrictions on democratic and personal freedoms not because the Soviet Communist Party does not want to, but because it cannot abandon such policies and does not know what to do.

Hence, the extraordinary responsibility that falls to the Communist parties of the West -- as the free opposition in the international Communist movement -- also becomes obvious. On their initiative, on their commitment to principle, on their unwillingness to compromise themselves depends on the evolution of the policies of the Soviet Communist Party and, correspondingly, in a decisive fashion, will depend on the fate of Russia.

Therefore, lack of initiative, unscrupulousness, and compromises with one's conscience win the present situation are tantamount to a betrayal of the cause of peace.

Yu. Galanskov

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