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Monday, 26 August 2013

Isaak Illich Rubin

B. I. Rubina, Memoir (undated) 

 This is what I learned from my brother. When he was arrested on December 23, 1930, he was charged with being a member of the "Union Bureau of Mensheviks." This accusation seemed so ridiculous that he immediately submitted a written exposition of his views, which he thought would prove the impossibility of such an accusation. When the investigator read this statement, he tore it up right there. A confrontation was arranged between my brother and Lakubovich, who had been arrested earlier and had confessed to being a member of the "Union Bureau." My brother did not even know Lakubovich. At the confrontation, when Lakubovich said to my brother, "Isaac ll'ich, we were together at a session of the Union Bureau," my brother immediately asked, "And where was this meeting held?" This question caused such a disruption in the examination that the investigator interrupted the examination right there, saying, "What are you, a lawyer, Isaac Il'ich?" 

 My brother in fact was a lawyer, had worked in that field for many years. After that confrontation, the charge that Rubin was a member of the "Union Bureau" was dropped. Soon after, my brother was transferred to Suzdal. The circumstances of that transfer were so unusual that they were bound to inspire alarm and fear. On the station platform there was not a single person; in an empty railroad car he was met by an important GPU official, Gai. To all of Gai's attempts at persuasion, my brother replied with what was really true: that he had no connections with the Mensheviks. Then Gai declared that he would give him forty-eight hours to think it over. Rubin replied that he didn't need forty-eight minutes.... 

The examination at Suzdal also failed to give the investigators the results they wanted. Then they put Rubin for days in the kartser, the punishment cell. My brother at forty-five was a man with a diseased heart and diseased joints. The kartser was a stone hole the size of a man; you couldn't move in it, you could only stand or sit on the stone floor. But my brother endured this torture too, and left the kartser with a feeling of inner confidence in himself, in his moral strength.... Then he was put in the kartser for a second time, which also produced no results. At that time Rubin was sharing a cell with lakubovich and Slier. When he came back from the kartser his cellmates received him with great concern and attention; right there they made tea for him, gave him sugar and other things, and tried in every way to show him their sympathy. Telling about this, Rubin said that lie was so amazed: these same people told lies about him, and at the same time treated him so warmly. 

 Soon Rubin was put into solitary confinement; in those circumstances he was subjected to every kind of tormenting humiliation. He was deprived of all the personal things he had brought with him, even handkerchiefs. At that time he had the flu, and walked about with a swollen nose, with ulcers, filthy. The prison authorities often inspected his cell, and as soon as they found any violation of the rule for maintaining the cell they sent him to clean the latrines. Everything was done to break his will.... They told him his wife was very sick, to which he replied: "I can't help her in any way, I can't even help myself." At times the investigators would turn friendly, and say: "Isaac ll'ich, this is necessary for the Party." At the same time they gave him nighttime interrogations, at which a man is not allowed to fall asleep for a minute. They would wake him up, wear him out with all sorts of interrogations, jeer at his spiritual strength, call him the "Menshevik Jesus." 

 This went on until January 28, 1931. On the night of January 28-29, they took him down to a cellar, where there were various prison officials and a prisoner, someone named Vasil'evskii.... to whom they said, in the presence of my brother: "We are going to shoot you now, if Rubin does not confess." Vasil'evskii on his knees begged my brother: "Isaac Il'ich, what does it cost you to confess?" But my brother remained firm and calm, even when they shot Vasil'evskii right there. His feeling of inner rightness was so strong that it helped him to endure that frightful ordeal. The next night, January 29-30, they took my brother to the cellar again. This time a young man who looked like a student was there. My brother didn't know him. When they turned to the student with the words, "You will be shot because Rubin will not confess," the student tore open his shirt at the breast and said, "Fascists, gendarmes, shoot!" They shot him right there; the name of this student was Dorodnov. 

 The shooting of Dorodnov made a shattering impression on my brother. Returning to his cell, he began to think. What's to be done? My brother decided to start negotiations with the investigator; these negotiations lasted from February 2 to 21, 1931. The charge that Rubin belonged to the "Union Bureau" had already been dropped in Moscow, after the confrontation with Lakubovich. Now they agreed that my brother would consent to confess himself a member of a program commission connected with the "Union Bureau," and that he, Rubin, had kept documents of the Menshevik Center in his office at the Institute, and when he was fired from the Institute, he had handed them over in a sealed envelope to Riazanov, as materials on the history of the Social Democratic movement. Rubin had supposedly asked Riazanov to keep these documents for a short time. In these negotiations every word, every formulation was fought over. Repeatedly the "confession" written by Rubin was crossed out and corrected by the investigator. When Rubin went to trial on March 1, 1931, in the side pocket of his jacket was his "confession," corrected with the investigator's red ink.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Alexander Ulyanov

Despite this repression, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, there were attempts by the People's Will to kill Tsar Alexander III. One plot was led by Alexander Ulyanov, who was a student at St. Petersburg University. The secret police soon discovered Ulyanov’s plot and he was caught and executed on 20th May, 1887. When he heard the news, his brother, Vladimir Illich Ulyanov (better known as Lenin), is reported as saying: "I'll make them pay for this! I swear it."

Victor Serge and Jules Bonnot

In 1910 Victor Serge moved to Paris and wrote for the leading anarchist journal, l'Anarchie. Serge became involved with a group of militant anarchists who became known as the illegalists. Their views were expressed in an article that appeared in l'Anarchie: "The anarchist is in a state of legitimate defence against society. Hardly is he born than the latter crushes him under a weight of laws, which are not of his doing, having been made before him, without him, against him. Capital imposes on him two attitudes: to be a slave or to be a rebel; and when, after reflection, he chooses rebellion, preferring to die proudly, facing the enemy, instead of dying slowly of tuberculosis, deprivation and poverty, do you dare to repudiate him? If the workers have, logically, the right to take back, even by force, the wealth that is stolen from them, and to defend, even by crime, the life that some want to tear away from them, then the isolated individual must have the same rights." This group of illegalists established what became known as the Jules Bonnot gang. On 21st December, 1911 the gang robbed a messenger of the Société Générale Bank of 5,126 francs in broad daylight and then fled in a stolen Delaunay-Belleville car. It is claimed that they were the first to use a car to flee the scene of a crime. As Peter Sedgwick pointed out: "This was an astounding innovation when policemen were on foot or bicycle. Able to hide, thanks to the sympathies and traditional hospitality of other anarchists, they held off regiments of police, terrorized Paris, and grabbed headlines for half a year."

Catechism of a Revolutionist

In 1869 Mikhail Bakunin and Sergi Nechayev, two of Russia’s most important anarchists, published Catechism of a Revolutionist. It included the famous passage: "The Revolutionist is a doomed man. He has no private interests, no affairs, sentiments, ties, property nor even a name of his own. His entire being is devoured by one purpose, one thought, one passion - the revolution. Heart and soul, not merely by word but by deed, he has severed every link with the social order and with the entire civilized world; with the laws, good manners, conventions, and morality of that world. He is its merciless enemy and continues to inhabit it with only one purpose - to destroy it."