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The New International, January 1938



From New International, Vol.4 No.1, January 1938, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Miner in Russia

Sent to Russia last year by the Friends of the Soviet Union with a large French labor delegation, Kleber Legay, a working miner for 31 years, President of the Administrative Council of the Miners’ Union of the Department of the North and a national secretary of the Union, describes what he saw in Un Mineur Français chez les Russes (Editions Pierre Tisne, Paris 1937), from which the following pages are reproduced.

IN THE course of our visits to the mines, we were deeply surprised to see everywhere men armed with rifles. The evening of our arrival in Gorlovka, we found some of them in the restaurant where we had our meal. Was this for the purpose of preserving us from a possible attempt at assassination? ... We let the matter pass without asking for an explanation.

But the next day, upon visiting the pits, instead of the customary gateman of our mines, we find the gates of the grounds guarded by a man carrying a rifle and scrutinizing all those who enter and depart.

Inside the building serving as the gateman’s office, is a group of men armed with rifles, like a guard-house at the entrance to a barracks. We find them at various places, on the mine grounds, walking about with weapon slung.

At the bottom of the pit, my comrade Vigne discovers two more of them, carrying rifles, who, crouching in a corner, seemed desirous of escaping our sight. These observations stupefy us, as will be easily understood.

Nor is this peculiar to Gorlovka. We observed it in all the mines we visited.

We asked our interpreter what it meant. The only explanation we received was this: “With us, all the mines and factories are guarded by armed men.”

A vague reply, which did not explain to us the role that a man stationed at the gate of the grounds, in the guise of a gateman, a rifle in hand, might play eventually.

Although the big gate is open, no worker goes through without having presented himself to the man with the rifle. Undoubtedly, it is only by examining a suitable paper that free passage is granted.

In the course of our voyage, we were always disturbed by this. An attempt was finally made to reassure us by saying that it was done in order to avert any counterrevolutionary action.

It’s an explanation as good as any, but the two poor rifle-bearing fellows whom we saw at the bottom of the mine, what were they doing there? There is no doubt, for that matter, that they were not there alone.

Twenty years after the Russian revolution! You remain surprised at such a state of affairs and you ask yourself what point there is in having rifle-bearing men at the bottom of a mine or in a factory. To prevent any act of sabotage? I find it hard to believe.

In any case, it produces a grievous impression on the foreigner who has been told time and again that the workers of this country are happy and proud of being the owners of their working tools.

If that unanimity of labor which the new regime is said to have won really prevails, what point is there in giving visitors the impression that the regime subsists because those rifles are there to maintain it?

I cannot very well see our French comrades submitting to such “protection”. And on the other hand, since all these men must eat, and are fairly numerous, it is in the last analysis those who work who assure them their subsistence.

Let us specify that they are neither old soldiers nor policemen, but able-bodied young men who would do much better in production than those 60-year-old workers whom we found still working in the mines.

I am not alone in being sickened by this forced labor of old men past the age of 60 – because they are inadequately or not at all pensioned – while numerous men, young and strong, watch them work.

Nor can I stop asking over and over again what these men, armed with rifles, are doing at the place of work. I wait for somebody to give me the true explanation, in France, that they could not or would not give them over there.

It will be hard to make me admit that it is not a means of pressure upon those who might be tempted to doubt the delights of the Stalinist regime.

I know that by bringing these facts to the attention of the French workers, I shall be the object of the most scurrilous abuse. What does that matter, coming from those who have always concealed the truth for reasons which I consider unavowable?

I was sent to Russia to see and to tell what I was going to see. I have done it sincerely, impartially, and I challenge anyone to supply me with a valid reason justifying the presence of those men, armed with rifles, at the place of work.

The Palestine Events

In the French syndicalist review, La Révolution Prolétarienne (Oct. 25, 1937), Robert Louzon makes the following commentary on the latest events in Palestine.

RIGHT after the war, Egypt, having energetically demanded its independence from England, the latter sent the leaders of the movement, particularly Zaglul Pasha, to meditate upon the beauties of British liberalism in a forgotten corner of the tropics.

That did not prevent Zaglul Pasha from returning to Egypt, that did not prevent his party, the Wafd, from becoming the most powerful, one might almost say the only party in Egypt, and Egypt from finishing, after fifteen more years of struggle, by ... recovering its independence.

Today, England is recommencing in Palestine what it once did in Egypt. It has just sent off to the Seychelles Islands, almost exactly below the Equator, the principal Mussulman leaders who opposed the deprivation of the traditional inhabitants of Palestine (Arabs and Israelites) of a whole portion of their country in order to give it to European colonists. (I say deliberately: European colonists. It is indeed only the Jews and anti-Semites who still believe that the Jews of Europe are Semites. See the remarkable lecture delivered on this question to the Saint-Simon Circle by Renan.)

Naturally, this barbaric and arbitrary deportation (arbitrary because carried out by administrative measure, without trial, in the manner of the GPU), has led the Palestinians to take vigorous measures of self-defense reminiscent of those of the Irish Fenians.

And, naturally also, as in Morocco, as in Algeria, “the hand of Italy” is blamed. Just as “the hand of England” in Syria was blamed in France during the 1920’s.

All this is patently false.

That Italy seeks to utilize the Palestinian revolt for its own designs, goes without saying! That she even supplies it with aid, is probably so! And that the Palestinians utilize against their direct enemy the aid the enemy of their enemy may bring them, is no less likely. To utilize the antagonisms of one’s adversaries, is the ABC of politics.

But this in no way means that Italy is the cause of the Palestinian movement, any more than England was the cause of the Syrian movement. In both cases, the only cause is imperialism. The only culprit is Anglo-Zionist imperialism which has expropriated the lands of the natives and wants to deprive them now of a whole portion of their country to the profit of imported immigrants.

But the Asiatic Levant seems to be capable of offering European imperialism quite a different resistance from that which Africa offered. Syria has already made French imperialism fall back, in spite of the bombardment of Damascus, “the open city”, by the Freemason, Sarrail; Palestine will make Anglo-Jewish imperialism fall back in its turn, in spite of the threats to dynamite its villages which have been made by the mandatories of the League of Nations. And the deportees of the Seychelles will one day return as victors to a single and independent Palestine.

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