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Max Shachtman
& John West

A Bolshevik Fugitive

(October 1935)

From New International, Vol. 2 No. 10, October 1935, inside front cover.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

IT WILL BE remembered that a short time before his capitulation to the ruling Soviet machine, Christian Rakovsky made an attempt to flee from his virtual imprisonment in Barnaul and to make his escape across the border. His attempt was finally thwarted by frontier guards, and he was wounded in the encounter. Brought to Moscow to be treated medically, he finally surrendered to the bureaucracy, his spirit completely broken.

Now, however, we are able to announce the first successful escape effected from a Stalinist, prison by a Bolshevik-Leninist. Since 1928, the locksmith, Tarov, has been kept to the notorious Verkhne-Uralsk solitary confinement prison. Despite the greatest difficulties and hardships to which the Left wing opponents of Stalin are subjected, and the special persecution for which they are singled out, Tarov has maintained an unyielding position for seven years. Now comes the report that he has succeeded in escaping from the USSR at the Eastern frontier and that he is now located in one of the countries of Asia.

The conditions under which the rude and disloyal Stalin regime keeps its Bolshevik-Leninist prisoners and exiles are almost beyond description. There are more of these Left wing Marxists in prison and Siberia today under the present Soviet bureaucracy than there were Bolsheviks under the czarist regime! In Tarov’s prison alone there were confined close to five hundred Bolshevik-Leninists, who were dispersed to various other penitentiaries after a heroic hunger strike. They carried it on in protest against the iniquitous conditions of life imposed upon them – conditions which bear absolutely no resemblance to the inspired stories of “model prisons”.

The prisons and places of exile, some of which are located in the most god-forsaken wastes of the Arctic, are filled not only with Bolshevik-Leninists of the early period following their expulsion from the party, that is, from 1928 to 1929, but with opponents of the same persuasion who have been seized in quite recent times. From the Stalinist press itself one can regularly cull reports of the “discovery of a new Trotskyist nest” in this factory or that party or youth nucleus. Old Bolsheviks who have spent all their life in the service of the proletarian revolution, rub shoulders in prison and exile with young revolutionists on whom the internationalist teachings of Marx and Lenin have not been lost. And as a general rule, the treatment accorded them is brutal in the extreme, for Stalin aims at the complete physical annihilation of the only political current that can challenge his destructive course from a Marxian standpoint.

When the full story of the persecution of the Bolshevik-Leninists is told, it will make horrifying reading and offer additional confirmation of the correctness of Lenin’s biting characterization of Stalin. A good deal of this story can be told by comrade Tarov, who has in his possession a wealth of detailed data not only about the general situation in the Soviet Union and its communist party, but specifically about the conditions under which the prisoners and exiles live and suffer.

The foreign representation of the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists has sent out a world-wide appeal to all revolutionists arid Left wing organizations to come to the assistance of the prisoners and exiles. Special efforts are being exerted to make it possible for Tarov to leave the very uncertain environment of Asia and transfer his residence to some country in Europe. For this purpose a fund is being raised, which will be judiciously divided between taking care of the Tarov case and making the prison and exile conditions of the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists somewhat easier. Difficult though it is, ways can nevertheless be found to provide these intransigent fighters for Marxian internationalism with funds for themselves and their hard-hit families.

The editors urge all readers of The New International to contribute generously and swiftly to this movement of international proletarian solidarity. In this country, all funds contributed should be sent to A.J. Muste, Secretary, 55 East 11th Street, New York City. Moneys marked for this fund will be set aside and transferred to the agency responsible for administering and distributing it.

An elementary duty faces us. The Russian comrades have given evidence of a heroism, courage, determination and steadfastness which inspires us with the conviction that their cause will triumph. Their duty – heavy and replete with the demand for sacrifice – they are discharging with resolute fearlessness. Let us see to it that we discharge ours.



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