Appeal for Help

Appeal For Help

Having now left Russia, we realize that our first and most necessary statements should be made in behalf of the political prisoners of Russia. It is a sad and heartbreaking commentary upon the state of affairs in Russia if one has to speak about political prisoners in the country of Social Revolution. Unfortunately such is the actual state of things. And by political prisoners we do not refer to the counter-revolutionists who are the prisoners of the Revolution. Unbelievable as it may seem, the prisons and jails of Soviet Russia are now crowded with the revolutionary elements of the country: men and Women of the highest caliber, of the highest social ideals and aspirations. Throughout the vast expanses of the country, in Central Russia and in Siberia, in the prisons of the old and new regime, in the solitary cells of the Cheka, revolutionists of all parties and movements are now languishing: Left Social-Revolutionist, Maximalists, Communists from the workers opposition, Anarchists, Anarcho-Syndicalist, and Universalists- Partisans of various schools of social philosophy, but all true revolutionists and active participants of the November revolution of 1917. The situation of the political prisoners is highly deplorable. Apart from moral sufferings and torments, the purely physical side of their existence is extremely lamentable. Due to the general state of the country, the lack of building materials and skilled workers, alterations of prisons have become nearly nigh impossible. That is why the hygienic conditions in most of the prisons are now of the most primitive kind. But worse than all is the food problem. At no time did the Bolshevik government supply its prisoners with sufficient food. The rations given to prisoners fell upon their friends, relatives, and comrades. But now the situation has taken a turn for the worse. Only 52 percent of the food tax collections have thus far been taken in. With famine conditions now existing in the Volga provinces, with the general breakdown of the economic apparatus of the government, the situation of the prison population has indeed become hopeless.

The needs of the political prisoners are satisfied, of course by the Political Red Cross, a faithful and active organization. One of the outstanding members of this organization is the eminent revolutionist, Vera Figner. This organization was very successful in its mission considering how difficult it is for anyone to save anything from ones meager ration. However, the Political Red Cross until now has been able to supply the most basic need of the political prisoners. Of all the prisoners with the exception of the Anarchists! Not because the Red Cross is discriminatory in its work. Just the opposite- the organization is non-partisan in its work, although strongly colored by the rightist convictions of the socialist elements. But, guided by political reasons, the Anarchists of Russia have always reverted to self-aid in the work of helping the imprisoned comrades, for the purpose of which an Anarchist Red Cross (now called the Black Cross) was set up with the aim of providing for the Anarchists in the Russian prisons. This has now become a Herculean task for the Anarchists who still happen to enjoy their freedom. Many of the most active comrades have given their life for the revolution, while others were executed or thrown into the Bolshevik prisons. Many of those who survived and are still at liberty are themselves on the very brink of starvation: the Black Cross has to make superhuman efforts to keep the political prisoners from starving to death. The work done by it is one of self-sacrifice and high nobility.

But it its work was always hard and full of obstacles it has become immeasurably more difficult. The new policy of systematic persecutions of Anarchists by the Bolshevik government is the greatest obstacle in the work of the Black Cross. Since most of its members have been imprisoned by now, the organization was revamped and now it is known under the name of the Society to Aid the Anarchists in the Russian Prisons. It heroically continues the work of extending to the prisoners the small material aid, which it succeeds in collecting. Unfortunately, its possibilities to do so are very limited. The comrades who are at liberty deprive themselves from the basic necessities in order to send a few pounds of bread or potatoes to the prison. They are eager to share the last they have. But they themselves have so little, and the number of comrades in prison is so vast and their need so great! From the prisons of Moscow, Petrograd, Orel, and Vladimir, from the far-off Eastern provinces, from the comrades exiled to the frozen North, from everywhere comes that frightful news: the terrible whip of famine, the dreadful scurvy. Their hands and feet swell up, their gums weaken, their teeth are falling out& . Their bodies are actually disintegrating.

Comrades who are at liberty, pay heed to this cry for help! The Anarchists in Russia cannot supply the barest need of the imprisoned comrades unless helped in this work by the comrades abroad. In the name of the Society to Aid Anarchists in Russian Prisons, in the Bolshevik prisons, who suffer now for their faithfulness to the highest ideals, in the name of all of them, we call upon you, comrades and friends, from everywhere. Only your voluntary and immediate aid will be able to save our imprisoned comrades of Russia from starving Death.

With comradely greetings
Alexander Berkman
Delegate at large from the Society to Aid Anarchist Prisoners in Russia
Emma Goldman and A. Shapiro-Secretary of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Union “Golos Troudas”.

Leave a Reply