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The Morning Post. 7th June 1933


III.  Terror of the G.P.U.



Below we publish the third of four remarkable articles on the present situation in Russia by Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge who recently acted for eight months as the Moscow  Correspondent of English Liberal newspaper.

Mr. Muggeridge went to Russia a convinced and enthusiastic Communist.  He came away entirely disillusioned about the Soviet regime.  He has drawn a faithful and terrible picture of the human suffering under existing conditions, and has described his own disillusionment in moving and memorable words. 


In the centre of Moscow and opposite the Foreign Office, which is in every sense of the word a sort of annex to it, stands the headquarters of the G.P.U. - a solid building; the best designed and most substantially built in Russia since the Revolution; equipped with offices, a prison, a slaughter-house, an excellently stocked restaurant and multiple store reserved exclusively for its personnel. 

Altogether a comfortable, attractive place, always busy, always with people passing in and out, mostly men in uniform, very smart, very important looking, very contemptuous in their manner towards what Trotsky speaks of so often and so affectionately in his “History of the Russian Revolution “ as the “broad” or “toiling” masses. 

It need scarcely be said that this building is not one which tourists are shown over when they visit Moscow.

The G.P.U. embodies all the fear, all the distrust, all the passion to be revenged on society, all the hatred of civilisation and of human happiness that lives in the soul of Bolshevism.

It is the soul of Bolshevism; and as time goes on, as the trivial hypocrisies in which Bolshevism has dressed itself in order to deceive and flatter and use for its purposes the frustrated intellectuals of civilised Europe and uncivilised America tend to get thrown aside, it emerges as the ultimate authority in Russia, the very dictatorship of the proletariat.


No one who has not seen it for himself can understand the terror that this organisation inspires, not merely in avowed enemies of the Soviet regime ex-bourgeoisie, priests, people who were for any reason privileged under the old social order - but in the whole population.

It is not so much that they dread what the G.PU. may do to them, though it can do anything without anyone, even their nearest relatives, knowing; they dread the thing itself, because of its nature, because it is utterly evil, because it is morbid, because it belongs to those fearful distortions and perversions that exist in all human beings, but that, in a civilised society, emerge only occasionally in some criminal or madman.

I often used to think, when I was in Russia, that the general attitude towards the G.P.U. must be like the general attitude in the Middle Ages towards the Powers of Darkness - quite irrational; quite unrelated to knowledge or experience of its manner of working; yet somehow understandable, somehow in keeping with the facts of the case.

There is, mixed up with it all, a kind of mysticism.  I turned up once in a back number of “Pravda” an obituary notice of Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka and first head of the GPU, written by his successor.  It described Dzerzhlnsky as a saint, an ascetic, a man who rose above petty bourgeois emotions like pity, or a respect for justice or for human life; a man of infinite industry; a rare spirit whose revolutionary passion was unearthly and uncontaminated.

The very prose of the obituary notice was lyrical.  It had a rhythm like a religious chant. I thought, and stilt think, that I had found in it the quintessence of revolution and I hated this quintessence because it s a denial of everything that has been gained in the slow, painful progress of civilisation; because it was beastly, because it idealised and spiritualised evil because it glorified destruction and destruction and, going beneath the animal, beneath hate, beneath lust, beneath every kind of appetite, founded itself on impulses which though they have in the past sometimes been organised into, abominable, underground cults, have never before held sway over a hundred and sixty million people inhabiting a sixth of the world’s surface. 


This is the Terror.  The people who execute it are naturally not normal.  Most of them are not Russians.  I counted in the Presiduum of the G.PU. only two unquestionably Russian names.  The present acting head is a Polish Jew.  A good number of the underlings are also Jews, with a fair sprinkling of Letts and Poles.  The flaming sword of the proletariat” has been forged in ghettoes and wherever are collected men with a grudge against their fellows and against society; and the population of Russia lives, terrified, under its shadow.

It is a product of pogroms, and is itself the greatest pogrom of history.  To attempt to make its acts or its procedure conform with a civilised judicial system, as did certain politicians and newspapers in con­nection with the recent Metropolitan-Vickers affair - to judge them on that basis is like trying to read military strategy into the frenzied movements of a frightened tiger, or, better, to extract enlightened moral principles from the ravings of a diseased mind.

The theory of the class war has provided the G.P.U. with an instrument after its own heart.  The class enemy is anyone, and it is the business of the G.P.U. to destroy the class enemy.  Since the class war cannot end until the dictatorship of the proletariat has “liquidated” itself - that is, never - it offers the G.P.U. a prospect of unending activity.  Priests and relics of the old Tsarist bourgeoisie, even kulaks, have become vieux jeu when the whole peasantry is available, and when, thanks to the passport system, the town populations have been delivered into its hands.

The G.P.U. is responsible for defining class enemies, for sentencing them, and for executing the sentence.  It decides that a Ukrainian peasant who has hidden a few poods of grain in his house to feed himself and his family through the winter when everything else has been requisitioned by the Government, is a class enemy and, accordingly, either shoots or exiles him.

It has spies everywhere, listening, watch ever so, often it unearths or invents - scarcely I believe, itself knowing which - a counter revolutionary plot, and, by torture and threats and bribery, gathers the material, for a spectacular state trial.  Like some criminals, it has a morbid appetite for publicity, and loves to figure on the front page in foreign newspapers; like at diseased minds, it is morbidly curious about everyone and everything, and makes a specialty of using for its purposes facts about the private lives of people who have fallen into its hands or whom it wishes for any reason to terrorise.

The weak are its particular prey; and it is able, even without violence, even without their knowing how it has happened, to reduce them to a condition in which they will confess anything, promise any thing.

Bolsheviks justify the class war on the ground that it is necessary in order to achieve a state of classlessness.  Actually, however, its directors have evolved into a ruling class more privileged and more powerful than any other in the world; a ruling class that has power of lire and death over the whole population, that is utterly irresponsible in the exercise of its privileges, that is beyond criticism because to criticise it is to criticise the dictatorship of the proletariat, which means to be guilty of treason against the Soviet State and to qualify for the death sentence.

While social inequalities are being ruthlessly smoothed out at one end of society new and more arbitrary and more pronounced inequalities are coming into existence at the other.  Each layer of class enemies that is destroyed reveals another whose destruction is necessary.

This is worse than civil war.  It is a people making war on itself. It is war by the proletariat for the proletariat of the proletariat.  It is the dictatorship of the proletariat blockading the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In consequence of this class war, Russia has become a battlefield, and the Russians a subject people.  As the productivity of these subject people and of this battlefield becomes more amid more inadequate, the Soviet Government calls for more and more frenzied activity on the “class war front” a vicious circle which seems to bear out Danton’s gloomy prophecy - made when having sent many to the guillotine, he realised that he would shortly find his way there himself—that revolutions, after they have consumed everyone else, at last consume themselves. 


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