From New International, Vol. I No. 4, November 1934, pp. 124–125.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The case of comrade Fishelev impels me to write you a few lines. You have known Fishelev for twelve years. I have known him for eighteen. I know that all during his youth he was in the Russian social democratic party and that he was arrested as far back as 1906; that he remained in prison, in solitary, for two years, and that he was banished for life to Siberia, whence he escaped. As soon as he arrived in the United States, he and comrade Voskov, now deceased, founded the journal Novy Mir. When you, comrade Bukharin, arrived in New York and joined the editorial board of Novy Mir, the paper had already been put on its feet and became a daily. You yourself know how difficult it was to establish a paper under the conditions set down by American capitalism. You know at the beginning the small number of proletarians who published Novy Mir had to lend money out of their meager wages, to write the articles and print them themselves after their day’s work, at night, that they themselves had to mail the paper and get the subscribers. In a word, you know that in America we expended the true Russian muscular power and did not carry on a mechanical labor. And you know that Fishelev stood in the front ranks of those who fought for a new world, literally [Novy Mir means: new world].
Comrade Bukharin, who among us has not made mistakes? The proletarian Fishelev has also made mistakes. In 1917, returning from emigration, he worked in a Kharkov printshop and joined the Menshevik-Internationalists. He was soon elected secretary of the Typographical Union of Kharkov, and in that capacity, organized the general strike of the printing trades workers during the German occupation. He was arrested for this by Petliura’s soldiers and would have been killed but for the solidarity of the workers who refused to return to work unless he was set free. In 1919, he returned again to our ranks. He worked as secretary of the Moscow district of the Typographical Union, then as a Red director. Everywhere he worked as a true proletarian, vigorously and honestly. Now he is arrested and expelled from the party. Why?
Comrade Bukharin, I ask you, you who are a member of the Political Bureau, why do you arrest workers like Fishelev? I ask you, as editor of Pravda, why do you calumniate workers like Fishelev?
You, Bukharin, were imprudent enough to print an article by V. Nikolayev in your paper, in which, among other calumnies, Fishelev is accused of “having published in New York the journal of Trotsky, Novy Mir”. But you and I, as members of the editorial board of Novy Mir, also published the articles of Trotsky. Why do you forget that? Why do you neglect, as editor-in-chief, to call yourself a Trotskyist? Because you go insane when faced with comrades like Fishelev. Had Fishelev stolen money, like Broiclo, or printed your anti-Leninist articles, you would have given him your approbation. But Fishelev did not steal money, he only printed the platform of the Opposition, a platform which rightly reflects the interests, the needs and the aspirations of the proletariat and the poor peasants – and that is why Fishelev now lies in a GPU prison while his family is dying of hunger.
Comrade Bukharin, such a state of affairs is very dangerous to the building up of socialism. Socialism itself is inconceivable with the imprisonment of the best communist workers. How can you reconcile the chairmanship of the Communist International with the job of jailor of the best communists?
I know that behind the political motives and petty revenge lies the intention of frightening off others, of preventing them from following the example. It is part of your struggle of self-defense. But you cannot frighten us off. Fishelev’s place will be taken by a hundred others. A quarter of a million Leningrad workers showed, at the October 17, 1927 demonstration, that they have had their fill of your calumnies and falsehoods, by displaying; their sympathy for us, the Opposition, You will try to deny this, too; What self-defense can be practised by such means? You have fallen to such a low level of political degradation, that the political struggle in the ranks of our party before the congress, at a time when the two groups ought to preserve the maximum of dignity and carry on that calm and serious discussion so needed by the party, has been conducted against the Opposition exclusively by violent practises. You are making the dry guillotine operate at all hours. By expelling hundreds of the most devoted communists from the party you are trying to kill them politically. But the guillotine is only beginning to operate. Every day you will be compelled to arrest more Bolshevik-Leninists, to immure them in prison. And why? So that you and your group may select the delegates to the fifteenth congress, and separate yourselves completely from Leninism. But can a congress convoked under such conditions have any authority in the disputed questions? And afterward? Have you asked yourself this question?
Do you remember the time you were fighting Lenin, before the Cronstadt rebellion had reached Leningrad? We who fought against you nevertheless organized meetings for you, we printed your platform, and elected delegates to the congress in proportion to the importance of the platforms. That’s how we acted in Lenin’s time, when you and Stalin didn’t have the slightest power. Whereas today, armed men come to arrest Fishelev in his home. They ransack his books, putting aside the books that you and your friends have written against the Opposition. They hunt inside for what might have been inscribed there about the Opposition. They finally seize a pamphlet containing the resolutions of the fourteenth congress, in which a number of letters are found. They triumphantly carry off the pamphlet and drag Fishelev along. They conduct him to the Central Control Commission, the purgatory before the prison. He is probed at the GPU while his affairs and his thoughts are probed at the Control Commission.
“Where did you get the platform of the Opposition?”
“Who suggested the idea that you print it?”
And you, comrade Bukharin, who gave you the idea of doing against Lenin all that Fishelev is doing now? Had we employed such methods then, do you think we would have come out of the discussion stronger and more united? Have you asked yourself: How will the party come out of this battle?
The problems that have arisen in the present party crisis must be discussed intelligently and scrupulously by every party member. Only then will the discussion help the party and the revolution. You want to cook up a reply to the questions put by the GPU policemen. Comrade Agranov is in his place when he fights anti-Soviet elements, but he is incompetent to sit in judgment in the case of Fishelev and the other imprisoned Bolshevik-Leninist oppositionists. Take care, comrade Bukharin! You yourself have often fought against our party, and probably you will some day have to carry on another fight against it. The comrades will then give you Agranov of the GPU as your judge. Examples are contagious.
Fishelev and other comrades are imprisoned. They have no right to receive food or anything else from the outside. They are deprived of all visitors. Their families are starved. Evidently all this makes you happy. You think that this will cut down the Opposition’s vote. This fact forces me, as a party member and an Oppositionist, to make a gesture. Either you set free the workers who are with us in the fight for Leninism, with whom we have hungered, with whom we have suffered and fought, or I shall print this letter by every means at my disposal and distribute it to the party membership. Arrest me for it! Only, remember that from prison our voice will reach deeper into the party and carry further. This time, without greetings,
Last updated on 25 February 2016