Skip to content

#182 – Vasily Grossman

#182 – Vasily Grossman published on No Comments on #182 – Vasily Grossman

Grossman initially studied at the Moscow State University as a chemical engineer, and upon graduation, took a job at Stalino in Donets Basin. In 1930, he changed careers, beginning to write full-time and published a number of short stories and several novels. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was engaged as a war correspondent by the Krasnaya Zvezda; writing first-hand accounts of the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Berlin. Grossman also has eyewitness reports of a Nazi extermination camp, next to the discovery of Treblinka. These are the earliest accounts of a Nazi death camp by a reporter.

In 1941, Grossman was exempt from military servant but instead became a war correspondent, and wrote novels (The People are Immortal) which were published in newspapers and came to be regarded as a legendary war hero. He also described Nazi cleansing in German occupied Ukraine and Poland, and the liberation by the Red Army of Nazi-German Treblink and Majdanek extermination camps. His article “The Hell of Treblinka” was used at the Nuremberg Trials as evidence for the prosecution. 1

Grossman participated in the assembly of the Black Book, a project of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to document the crimes of the Holocaust. The post-war suppression of the black book by the soviet state shook Grossman to the core, beginning to question his loyalty to the Soviet Regime. First, the censors ordered changes in the text to conceal the specifically anti-Jewish character of the atrocities and to downplay the role of Ukranians who worked with the Nazis as police.

#181 – Ilya Ehrenburg

#181 – Ilya Ehrenburg published on No Comments on #181 – Ilya Ehrenburg

Ehrenburg is among the most popular and notable authors of the Soviet Union; publishing around one hundred titles, and became known first and foremost as a novelist and a journalist. In particular, as a reporter in three wars (WWI, Spanish Civil War & WWII). His articles calling for vengeance against the Nazi German army won him a huge following among front-line Soviet Soldiers.

When Ehrenburg was hired to write Soviet propaganda focused in using “their literary talents to the hate campaign” against the Germans during World War II. 1The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia

After the war, in 1943, Ehrenburg, working with the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, began to collect material for what would become “The Black Book of Soviet Jewry”, documenting the Holocaust, and in December 1944, Ehrenburg declared that the Germans’ greatest crime was their murder of six million Jews.2

In 1954, Ehrenburg tested the limits of censorship of the post-Stalin Soviet Union with a novel titled “The Thaw”. It portrayed a corrupt, autocratic factory boss, a “little Stalin”, and told the story of his wife, who feels estranged from him, and the views he represents. 3The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia The novel can be seen as a representation of increased freedom of the writer after the limiting ‘frozen’ political period under Stalin.

#180 – Moša Pijade

#180 – Moša Pijade published on No Comments on #180 – Moša Pijade

Moša Pijade is thought to have had major influence on Marxist ideology as exposed during the old regime in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, being best known for translating Das Kapital by Karl Marx into Serbo-Croatian.

Pijade was one of the leaders of the Uprising in Montenegro,1 showing a negative reaction towards the people who rejected to join his unit. He was subsequently recalled to the communist headquarters because of the issues connected to the uprising. 2Mid-European Studies Center of the Free Europe Committee. p. 431. These issues were solved subsequently by a prosecution of “leftist errors” by Partisans in Montenegro.3

Pijade was also known as the creator of the ‘Foča regulations’ (1942), which established the foundation and activity of people’s liberation committees in liberated territories during the war against the Nazis. In November 1943, he initiated the foundation of Tanjug, a state news agency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, currently located in Serbia.

In 1948, Moša Pijade convinced the President of Yugoslavia to allow Jews who remained in Yugoslavia to emigrate to Israel. The President agreed on a one-time exception basis, and as a result, three thousand Jews emigrated from Yugoslavia to Israel to the SS Kefalos in December 1948.

#179 – Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman

#179 – Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman published on No Comments on #179 – Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman

Emma Goldman

Goldman was an anarchist political activist and author. She played an important role in creating the anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

August 21st, 1893, Goldman began to speak to crowds of frustrated men and women of New York city, speaking to a crowd of nearly three thousand people in Union Square, in which she encouraged unemployed workers to take immediate action, and ordered the crowd to “take everything…by force”.1Chalberg, p. 46

Goldman travelled around the United States nonstop, delivering lectures and agitating for anarchism. When the US justice department sent spies to observe the lectures, they reported the meetings as “packed”.2Intimate, p. 166 The meetings contained writers, journalists, artists, judges, and workers from across the spectrum spoke of her “magnetic power”, her “convincing prescence”, her “force, eloquence, and fire”.3Intimate, p. 168

Alexander Berkman

Berkman was a Russian-American anarchist and writer, an important figure in the anarchist movement in the 20th century, and well-known for his political activism and writing. He was also a one-time lover and lifelong friend of anarchist Emma Goldman.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and Congress enacted the Selective Service Act, in retaliation, Berkman organized the ‘No Conscription League of New York’, which proclaimed: “We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, anti-militarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments.”4Life of an Anarchist, p. 155 The organization was at the forefront of anti-draft activism, and other leagues were established in other cities. 5Rebel in Paradise, pp. 186–187

Due to the Espionage Act of 1917, Berkman and Goldman were arrested during a raid of their offices on June 15th, 1917, in which police seized what The New York Times described as “a wagon load of anarchist records and propaganda material”. The couple were accused with “conspiracy to induce persons not to enter”, and were held on a twenty five thousand bail each.6Weinberger, pp. 105–106.7Wenzer, p. 61. The jury found them guilty, and Judge Julius M. Mayer established the maximum sentence: two years imprisonment, a ten thousand dollar fine, and the possibility of deportation after their release from prison. 8Emma Goldman in America, p. 235

#177 – Yemelyan Yaroslavsky

#177 – Yemelyan Yaroslavsky published on No Comments on #177 – Yemelyan Yaroslavsky

Early in the Russian Civil War, he was a political commissar with the Red Army in Moscow. He supported the ‘Military Opposition’, who objected to the strategy deployed by the People’s Commissar for War Leon Trotsky, which relied on professional army officers and set-piece battles, rather than guerilla tactics. The opposition is presumed to have been encouraged by Joseph Stalin. 1Let History Judge, the Origins and Consequences of Stalinism. Spokesman. p. 14

Yaroslavsky “acquired a notorious reputation as chairman of the League of Militant Godless…” and that he was a “coauthor of an important history… editor of the periodical “History Journal”….and served on the editorial board of “The Marxist Historian”. Yaroslavsky also was the head of the Communist Party Propaganda department.”2Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1943)3Socialism in One Country, 2 vols. (1958–59)

#176 – Lazar Kaganovich

#176 – Lazar Kaganovich published on No Comments on #176 – Lazar Kaganovich

Kaganovich joined the party around 1911 and was an early member of the Bolsheviks as an organizer. He was active in Yuzovka, Saratov, and Belarus throughout the 1910s, and led a revolt in Belarus during the 1917 October Revolution. In the early 1920s, he helped consolidate Soviet rule in Turkestan. 1 was in charge of organizational work within the Communist Party and assisted Stalin to strengthen his grip of the party bureaucracy, making him rise quickly through the ranks and becoming a full member of the Central Committee in 1924.

Kaganovich participated with the All-Ukranian Party Conference of 1930 and were given the task of implementation of the Collectivization policy that caused a catastrophic 1932-33 famine. Small policies also inflicted enormous suffering on the Soviet Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, Kuban, Crimea, lower Volga regions, and other parts of the Soviet Union. 2 “Soviet Genocide in the Ukraine (reprint of 1951 article)”. Holodomor: Reflections on the Great Famine of 1932–1933

Kaganovich was a doctrinaire Stalinist, and though he remained a member of the Presidium, he quickly lost influence after Stalin’s death in March 1953. In 1957, he participated in an abortive party coup against his former protégé, whose criticism of Stalin had become increasingly harsh during the preceding two years. As a result of the unsuccessful coup, Kaganovich was forced to retire from the Presidium and the Central Committee.3The Court of the Red Tsar. Phoenix.

#175 – Lev Mekhlis

#175 – Lev Mekhlis published on No Comments on #175 – Lev Mekhlis

In June 1941 he was newly assigned by the chief of main political administration and the deputy of the Peoples Commissar of Defense. Nicknamed “the Shark” and the “Gloomy Demon”, 1 Mekhlis was named army commissar of the 1st rank, which corresponded to the title of General of the red Army. In 1942 he was the representative of Stavka (headquarters) of the supreme commander-in-chief at the Crimean Front, where he constantly disputed with General Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov. The leaders of the starff of the Front did not know whose orders to carry out.

Mekhilis supposedly “strongly advocated concentrating mobilized reserves in direct vicinity of Western borders, which later resulted in the German capture of most of them [ Soviet troops ]” and that “his inspection tours often led to reprisals against military commanders.” 2

Mekhilis also had the power to discharge or execute any soldier or commander that he considered not showing “proper fighting spirit”, although he had no command experience. He would often meddle in the military operations on the Volkhov Front, and his word was law. Any suggestion would have to be regarded as a direct order from Moscow.3

#174 – Maxim Litvinov

#174 – Maxim Litvinov published on No Comments on #174 – Maxim Litvinov

Maxim Litvinov was a Russian revolutionary and an important Soviet politician. He was named People’s Commisar of Foreign Affairs in 1930, and spearheaded the campaign for Soviet policy of collective security with the Western powers against Nazi Germany. 1Maksim Litvinov | Biography

On the day after the October Revolution of 1917, Litvinov was appointed by the Council of People’s Commissars as the Soviet Government’s plenipotentiary representative in Great Britain. 2Soviet Foreign Policy, 1930–33: The Impact of the Depression. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 11–13 His accreditation was never officially formalised and his position as an unofficial diplomatic contact was analogous to that of Bruce Lockhart, Britain’s unofficial agent in Soviet Russia. 3

In 1933, Litvinov was instrumental in winning a long-sought diplomatic plum: formal diplomatic recognition by the United States of the Soviet government. US President Franklin Roosevelt sent comedian Harpo Marx to the Soviet Union as a goodwill ambassador. Litinov and Marx became friends and even performed a routine on stage together.4Current Biography. pp. 518–520 Litinov also actively facilitated the acceptance of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations where he represented his country from 1934 – 1938

In 1935, Litvinov negotiated treaties of mutual assistance with France and Czechoslovakia with the aim of containing Nazi Germany’s aggression.5

American historian Jeffery Herf views Litinov’s dismissal of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact as conclusive proof that the Nazi belief in Jewish conspiracy that supposedly controlled the governments of the Soviet Union and other allied powers was completely false.6

#122 – Joe Slovo

#122 – Joe Slovo published on No Comments on #122 – Joe Slovo

Joe Slovo was a South African politician, and an opponent of the apartheid system.1Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid A Marxist-Leninist, he was a long-time leader and theorist in the South African Communist Party, a leading member of the African National Congress, and a commander of the ANC military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Slovo joined the South African Communist Party in 1942. Inspired by the Red Army Battle’s against the Nazis on the Eastern Front of World War II, Slovo volunteered to fight in the war. He served as a signaler in combat operations for the South African forces in North Africa and Italy.2Joe Slovo, Signaller, WW2

In 1992, Slovo secured a major breakthrough in the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa by presenting the “sunset clauses” developed by the ANC/SACP leadership: a coalition government for five years following democratic elections, guarantees for civil servants, including the homelands and armed forces, and an amnesty process. These were intended to head off right-wing coups and destabilization.

#121 – Ernő Gerő

#121 – Ernő Gerő published on No Comments on #121 – Ernő Gerő

Ernő Gerő was a Hungarian Communist Party leader in the period after World War II and briefly in 1956, he was the most powerful man in Hungary as the second secretary of its ruling communist party.

The outbreak of the Second World War in Europe found him in Moscow, and he remained for the duration of the war. After the dissolution of the Communist International in 1943, he was in charge of propaganda directed at enemy forces and prisoners of war. Gerő was among the first communist functionalities to return to Hungary in early November 1944.1

Gerő led the country of Hungary for a brief period, known as the “Gerő Interregnum” from July 18th, 1956 to October 24th, 1956, just over three months.