camp sometimes holds hundreds of thousands of convicts.7 It is no more
or less than the old galley-prison, but a galley-prison that takes in indiscriminately thieves, assassins, prostitutes, saboteurs and political prisoners.
That is where Peter will live.
The concentration camp is of relatively recent origin. Under Stalin's
regime, the number of the imprisoned underwent a steady, formidable increase. It not only became impossible to house them in the prisons on
hand, but even to feed them, without bankrupting the State. Therefore, the
ingenious G.P.U. invented the commercial galley-enterprise, called concentration camps. Gathered in groups of several tens of thousands in the
middle of the swamps that are to be drained and the forests to be cleared,
or on the site of the canals that are to be dug, the convicts are housed in
Adrian huts, under the guard of the G.P.U. troops. They work, and they
are given to eat, in accordance with how much work they do—600, 400 or
200 grams of bread a day. The task to be accomplished is always increased
because those who hope to get a diminution of their sentence become
"oudarniks" (shock workers). The hardy fellows get along. The weaker
brothers croak—since the least slump in productivity brings a reduced
portion of bread, and that in turn brings automatically reduced productivity, and so on.
But if the work is hard, the "customs" are more so. It is not difficult
to imagine what happens when our Peters live in forced promiscuity with
prisoners hailing from the underworld. The latter are the only category of
convicts that are organized, organized to impose their own law, it is understood. Only vice and the fist count inside the camp; it is impossible to
have it otherwise. To escape this situation, Peter has the alternative of suicide or escape. Both will, however, lead to the same end. For you may
escape from places of deportation but not from concentration camps. A
man deported to Minoossinsk or Narym is surrounded by thousands of
square kilometres of wilderness and impenetrable forests. Surveillance
over him may therefore be reduced to a minimum.
Under Tsarism. we had the terrible secret police called "Okhrana."
Under Tsarism there were provocations, deportations, hangings. But we
must recognize the Tsarist regime was much less harsh with political
(revolutionary) prisoners. Publicity in trials and defense by the accused
were permitted. Capital punishment was not employed as widely as now.
Deportees were "exploited" to a much smaller extent.
Stages in the Destruction of Liberty
The evolution in the suppression of the liberty of the Russian workers
by the Soviet State may be summarized as follows:
1917-1918. There was integral democracy for the different tendencies
of the Russian labor movement. Socialists, quasi-socialists, "socialist-revolutionaries", communists, anarchists—all collaborated in the Soviets,
trade unions and other organizations of the revolutionary regime.
7 Hundreds of thousands is not an exaggeration. In one Soviet concentration camp, die
one that built the famous White Sea-Baltic Canal, 12,484 prisoners were freed at the
end of the job for examplery conduct, while 59,516 others had their sentences reduced
for the same reason (decree of the Central Executive Committee, August 4, 1933). It
is evident that if 72,000 convicts could distinguish themselves from their fellows, the
mass of the latter reached at least 2 or 300,000.