Raya Dunayevskaya on revolt in Stalin’s arctic prison camp

The Marxists Internet Archive has made available two pieces by Raya Dunayevskaya on revolt inside the U.S.S.R. at the close of the Stalin period: “‘Russia, More Than Ever Full of Revolutionaries…’” (1954) and “The Revolt in the Slave Labor Camps in Vorkuta” (1955). The first appeared in Correspondence, the second in one of the first issues of News & Letters.

Dunayevskaya maintained an intense focus on revolt within Russian state-capitalism throughout her life—one of her last published pieces was “Russia’s Latest Play Is No Freedom Road,” (News & Letters, May 22, 1987) a critique of the cultural reform under Gorbachev though the medium of a discussion of playwright Mikhail Shatrov.* This perspective of internal revolt was one of the things that distinguished her in the period when she and her co-thinkers in the Johnson-Forest Tendency operated within the Trotskyist movement, which rarely passed on an opportunity to emphasize what it considered to be the “progressive” side of Stalinism.

The Vorkuta camps in arctic Russia were major sources of coal for the U.S.S.R., with most of the production coming from prison labor. Gerland and Scholmer were German inmates of the camps, which were virtual internationals of those who had the misfortune to run afoul of Stalin’s system.

Dunayevskaya’s focus in these two piece was the actuality of revolt inside this system—which was considered by both left and right to be invincible. It should be remembered that the uprising occurred just four years after the publication of Orwell’s George 1984, with its image of a “boot stamping on a human face, forever.”

 

*News & Letters, May 22, 1987. The play by Shatrov—who died last year—was titled “The Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.”

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