Paul Fröhlich


Out with the Political Prisoners!

(10 March 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 19, 10 March 1922, pp. 137–138.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Soviet Russia also has prisons. And in these prisons there are political offenders, among them – “Socialists”. There we find Social Revolutionaries who at one time threw bombs at Grand Dukes and chiefs of police. Today they are confined to the prisons of the proletarian state, because they wish to destroy the proletarian state with bombs. In Soviet Russia, Mensheviks are today confined in prison; Mensheviks who at one time worked underground and sought to undermine the Czar’s government. Today they are imprisoned by the Soviet government because they attempt to undermine the Soviet government through sabotaging its management, by taking advantage of the economic crisis for purposes of anti-Soviet propaganda, and by conspiring with the international bourgeoisie. They claim to be Socialists. But what is certain is that they are enemies of the proletariat at a time when the latter is engaged in the most bitter struggle to maintain its power. That is why these Mensheviks are rendered harmless.

Yet they claim to be Socialists and for this reason all those who parade under the same mark wail over the intolerance, the crime against democratic principles, and the oppression of revolutionary fighters by the Soviet Power. At a time when the capitalists of all countries tell the Bolsheviks: “If you want us to recognize you, you must pay up the Czar’s debts!” – the so-called “ Socialists ” of the Internationals 2 and 2½ cry in chorus: “ If you want us to cooperate with you in the formation of a united proletarian front, you must first free the political prisoners in your country! ” At every convention and at every congress, in Leipzig, in Vienna, in Amsterdam and in Frankfurt they pass resolutions to that effect. On this point they are all agreed, the Crispiens and Ledebours and Eberts and Noskes, the Longuets and Renaudels, the Vanderveldes and the de Bronquieres, the Renners and the Friedrich Adlers.

Friedrich Adler too! – he who once fired the fatal shot [at] Count Stürgkh. Perhaps he has a special right to plead for the freedom of the political prisoners in Soviet Russia, because he also escaped the death-penalty – which the capitalist state had passed against him? Is Russia therefore to be more narrow-minded against “ Socialists ” who are threatening the Soviet state with bombs and conspiracies?

We are not in the least interested as to why Friedrich Adler’s life was then spared. But the example of this man alone shows the difference between one political offense and another. Friedrich Adler’s was an act of murder. But it roused no loathing in the hearts of the masses in all countries; on the contrary, the act roused recognition, approbation and enthusiasm. However weak the voice of the proletariat was during the war, yet it rose to the defense of Friedrich Adler’s life.

But last year, when Erzberger was murdered by some Nationalist officers, the German workers were swept by a wave indignation, and they condemned those who aided and supported the murderers in Bavaria and Hungary. With their keen and healthy intuition, the workers are able to feel that the sentencing of revolutionary fighters may be a blow to their own class, even if the victim does not belong to their party. But they are filled with disgust over the comedies of justice that are being enacted with counter-revolutionary traitors.

But wherein does the difference lie? Why do the workers differentiate between one political deed and another? Because they know that the one political act makes the perpetrator a hero, while the other makes him a criminal. If he serves the cause of the proletariat, and of the revolution, they cheer and exalt him. But if he serves the capitalists, they detest and condemn him. And this alone can serve as the criterion for deciding whether political offenders should be freed or not, and which ones are to be freed.

In Soviet Russia, political offenders, among them self- styled Socialists, are in prison because they conspired against the proletarian state and because they attempted to hurl the revolution. The Soviet power is not only the goal of the working- class in all countries, but it is today the only power which opposes the united international capitalist-class. It is therefore the power that sets limits to the insatiable exploitation appetite of the bourgeoisie. He who wants to overthrow the Soviet power commits a crime against the future interests of the proletariat and against its present life-interests. He who seeks to hamper or overthrow the Soviet Power at a time when it is fighting against the enemies of the revolution is robbing the proletariat of the whole world of its weapon and shield, and is himself an enemy of the proletariat.

The workers can test this. Who are the ones that shout the loudest for the opening of the Russian prisons? In Germany it is the Eberts, the Noskes and Radbruchs, who shed the blood of many thousands of proletarians, shooting them after they had been court-martialled, they who are keeping thousands of political “offenders” in prison and who in their helplessness against the capitalists are assisting the traitorous counter-revolutionaries.

In France it is men like Albert Thomas and their accomplices, who, while holding portfolios, threw the heroes of the Black Sea into prison, and who are now encouraging and promoting a system of police chicanery.

In Italy, it is “Socialists” who are sabotaging the struggle against the Fascisti. In Austria, it was the Renners and Friedrich Adlers, the real rulers, that had the Hungarian fugitives arrested, and who tolerated the extradition of Bavarian fugitives for political offences, in the very same fashion that their German friends delivered our Spanish comrades over the Spanish inquisition.

In Jugoslavia and Roumania, it is the social-traitors who are shamelessly profiting by the frightful White Terror, and who dare do nothing against the murder-justice prevailing there. Yes indeed, it is the jailers of the European proletariat who are braying and shouting that the prisons be opened – in Russia of course. By so doing they are serving their masters, the capitalists.

But they are joined in chorus by all the parties of the wonderful 2½ International that are not participating in the government nor voicing any protest against the class-justice in their own countries. The most conspicuous of these are the German Independent Socialists, who under the influence of Martov and Abramovitch let no opportunity slip by without provocating against Soviet Russia, which keeps “Socialists” in prison. The reason for this is apparent. They realize that the Communist International is the force, the power that organizes and concentrates the revolutionary struggle against the madly increasing exploitation of the proletariat, and against the disastrous international enslavement policy of the great powers. But they are battle-shy; they are afraid of the struggle; they fear the advance of the proletarian masses. And in order to disguise their own weakness, this weakness that leads to treason, they resort to slander and denunciations of the Soviet Power. That is also why they label as “Socialists” those who in Russia are carrying on the struggle against the proletarian power. They are demanding freedom for the enemies of the proletariat who are in Russian prisons, the better to be able to carry on their anti-proletarian policy in Western Europe

The cry of “Free the political prisoners” should be directed not against the Soviet Power, but against Germany and France, against England and America against Italy, Jugoslavia, and all the capitalist governments; it should be addressed to the Internationals 2 and 2½ and to the leaders of these two internationals, who are either participating in or supporting the governments of those countries. And to this cry we add another:

“Protect Soviet Russia! Protect the international proletariat against the counter-revolutionary gang!”

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