24 January 2008

A Morbid Game—From the Archives

Moscow, 13 February 1937

Dear Comrade [Higher Ranking Comintern Official]:

Concerning the serious personal matter which you called to my attention on February 11, I do not wish here to go into any affirmations or denials; it is a subject on which we could argue endlessly and to no purpose, especially the main purpose. What I do wish to say to you, who have done so much for me and my political development, is this (and I believe this to be the main and relative thing): neither you nor anyone else will ever have to speak to me again about the matter, which, if it was true, was an exception and an error on my part and not proving the rule. But what I want and must here emphasize is that even that error and exception, will not occur again. Personally, I feel that it would be a calamity for me, not to mention a base injustice and ingratitude to those who are doing so much to help me, to commit any “errors or exceptions,” which would in any way interfere with my further development into, and future as, a revolutionary journalist and writer.

I should pleased [sic] to have you show this note to the comrade or comrades in the Cadre Department who called this serious matter to your attention.

With the best of Comradely greetings,
[Low-/Mid-Ranking Non-Party Comintern Worker]

Alas, nowhere in the file of this letter’s author is there any indication as to the nature of this “serious personal matter.” That the letter itself remains completely vague is, I think, a part of the 1937 game the author is playing, as he must be aware that the “errors and exceptions” of some of his comrades are being harshly punished. So the game is: What do you think he did that garnered the attention of the Cadre Department? The best answer gets a prize bottle of tarkhun!

And for the record, the author survived the Purges, living out the next decade in the Soviet Union until he was sent abroad on a journalistic assignment in the late 1940s and made a run for it.


Anonymous said...

I think he must have made a passing reference to Comrade Yezhov's small stature in an article otherwise penned with revolutionary fervour.


Sean Guillory said...

What do you think he did that garnered the attention of the Cadre Department?

Difficult to say without any additional documents. I could have been anything from sex, to politics, to drinking too much. I haven't read Bill Chase's Enemies within the Gates? to know what issues concerned the Comintern during the purges.

I like how he admits wrong doing without admitting it. Or that he denies/admits to something without stating it. I've never see that in an appeal letter. Usually, the authors are pretty clear about what they are denying. Plus he assumes or knows that who he's writing to knows what he is talking about.

I wonder why Cadres would be interested in a non-Party person. I'm guessing he's employed by the Comintern, but it makes me think that this is an appeal letter for readmission into the Party. He might have been expelled during the 1935 proverka and is looking to be readmitted into the Party. He clearly appealing to someone higher up so they will step in and clear his name.

Anyway, those would be my guesses.

Oh and it was too bad that we didn't get together while you were in LA. Next time.

McFly said...

Maybe the author was a bit of a gourmand like Buster... and somewhere in his writings he expressed a counterrevolutionary preference for fresh, flavorful, non-Soviet cuisine. This might not be the most historically accurate guess, but Buster's promise was to award the "best" answer. Mine's the herbiest and freshy greeniest, a good match for the *big* prize which is also herby and freshy green, so I think I won. And kidding aside (not that I'm kidding), I'm glad you told us this story had a happy-ish ending.

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Well, the fact he calls it a "personal matter" might exclude the Ezhov scenario, unless he was referring to his small stature in the context of a shared lover. That would be something.

As McFly points out, I am looking for the "best" story here. I mean, based on this guy's (who's remaining anonymous since I don't like to put up actual archival findings on my blog) associates and politics, I could make educated guesses, but they wouldn't be fun. And I actually think that since he calls it a personal matter, Sean's probably onto something with the drinking, sex or fighting possibilities. It's actually been interesting to find a couple of instances of CP folks who write in their memoirs that they were excluded or demoted for political reasons, only to have their files reveal that they got in a fist-fight in Republican Spain and that knocked them down a few rungs. Or started an affair with a politically unreliable other and couldn't be trusted with responsible Party work anymore.

So much juice in that archive, I'm telling you, folks. It's like a big gossip mill.

So have fun with continued imagining; contest closes 31 January.

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Well, I'm split between Sean for best read of the situation and McFly for the tastiest answer. Maybe I'll bring you both some tarkhun. Or tar-khui, as one friend called it after I made him a drink. (An obvious joke, for Russian-speakers only.)