Below is my translation of the 1996
interview with Grigory Isayev by a journalist from a
Samara newspaper. Isayev is the leader of the Party of
Proletarian Dictatorship based in the city of Samara
(former Kuibyshev). Last spring, as the Chairman of the
City Stachkom (Strike Committee), he led the two-month
long strike which
paralized the center of the city and
included the lockout of the plant administration. This
interview is interesting in a number of ways. PPD is the
only known grass-roots party of the Soviet proletariat.
Its ideology was formed in undeground, in
complete isolation from the Marxist thought outside the
country and in the opposition to the official Marxism of
Brezhnev's era. I've read by now most of Razlatsky's
writings and have my doubts about some of his ideas, but
his clear understanding of the coming catastrophe was
indeed unique at that time.
He was not only the last revolutionary thinker
of the late Soviet period, but the last revolutionary
intellectual who indeed went over to the side of the
proletariat once and for all. The workers of Samara paid
him back with their love and continue to revere his
memory. His followers were not many, but he succeeded in
bringing up a vanguard for the future. Now it begins to
Isayev's own story is still in the making.
He and his friends are presently in Moscow talking to the
miners who have been picketing the government offices
since June. In his last letter to me he promised to
organize the All-Russian Strike Committee. They sleep on
the ground, together with the miners. You can recognize
the men from Samara by two banners: "All Power to
Strike Committees" and "Down With All
This is an abridged translation. I left
out the details of Isayev's arrest, his life in the camp,
and smaller things that would be difficult to understand
for foreign audience. I welcome any editorial suggestions
since I plan to publish this piece in a number of sites.
Vladimir Bilenkin Interview with Grigory
Isayev I was 10 when Stalin died. Back then we lived in
barracks. There was a "plate" hanging in the
corridor--a radio speaker. One morning I ran out of our
room, rushing to the communal bathroom, and at once
noticed that something was wrong. There was an unusual
silence. There were people sitting silently in the
kitchen. Some one was crying in the neighbor's room.
"What's the matter?"-I asked. Nobody responded
to a mere kid. Only later I heard: Stalin. I remember
that my soul, the soul of
a boy, felt empty at these words.
In this prison camp I asked inmates--among
them were Vlasov's men, [General Vlasov was a
Ukrainian(?) officer whose army fought with the Nazis
against the Motherland during WWII] nationalists and pure
dissidents--whether they went to battle
during the war in the name of Motherland or Stalin. They
"Rather for Stalin than for
No, it's not that simple with [the
question of] Stalin. Nowadays they often say: "The
country lived in fear under him." This is not true.
The war became a test of this. People, who
lived in fear of the monster, would not have died with
his name on their lips. Nor would they have won the war.
Our losses aand sacrifices--this is a
different question. But what is history about if not for
us to learn from it?
A common man, i.e., a Philistine, believes
everything but does not reflect on anything. We believed
that Stalin was much more than simply a leader. Years had
passed before we began to reflect on this and, naturally,
our attitude to Stalin changed. But anyway one cannot
indiscriminately blame everything on him. Now we prefer
white over red, now red over white, but life consists of
more than two colors.
-Did you realize this under Khrushchev?
-I realized this as I was growing older.
We Russians believed in God, in Tsar, in Generalissimos
and, under Khrushchev especially, in his lofty slogan:
"We shall build our new world." Back then, in
the early sixties, I served in the Soviet Army Group in
Germany, Western Saxony, 15 kilometers from the border.
In case of emergency, we would clash head to head with
the US Seventh Army within twenty minutes.
The Berlin Wall was just built. Our men
sat in their tanks for three days, with engines running
and shells loaded. Like during the war. We served
-By the way, in my three years in the
army, I got a good sense of the German character since we
had to interact with the local population.
The main things for Germans are order and
discipline. For Russians-- selflessness and slothfulness.
Yes, this is so. We ought not flatter ourselves.
-I've seen a few things in life. In the
late sixties, when I studied in the Politech school, I
worked for three years as a commander of the regional
construction brigade. It was called "Commune,"
by the way. We laid the foundation for the Volga Auto
Works and the city of Togliatti in the bare steppe. After
that I came to work in the ZiM (the Plant named after
Maslennikov was the site of the strike led by Isayev last
spring--V.B.) as a foreman in the foundry shop. Then I
switched to becom a metal craftsman. Why? Because of the
(system's) cretinism: engineers were paid little and I
had a family to feed. My wife, Galina, was about to have
our second son, Vanya. Just think, how little education
was valued back then!
What a stupid system!
-And so I built, toiled, supported with my
back the feudal state and saw stupid bungling and waste
everywhere. There were mountains of clothes in stores but
nothing worth buying--all of it junk. Or take our foundry
shop. We had state of the art equipment there. Once we
received a rush order. It required extreme precision from
us. So we did the job well.
The details were crafted so nicely--you
would want to put them on your Christmas tree. Our morale
was high: we roved ourselves! And then suddenly we saw
our details, already painted, thrown back into the melt
box for the crucible.
-Can you imagine the feelings of a worker!
It turned out that some draftsman made a mistake in the
size parameters. And this was not an isolated case but a
norm. Mountains of invaluable labor were wasted.
Or take the BAM (the Baikal-Amur
Railroad--V.B.). No, I thought, something was going
-Did you think so alone?
-Every one saw this. The press wrote about
this too. But all the blame was always put on the lower
level bureaucracy. As for the people, let them not worry:
they have sausage, vodka on every corner, so--
"we are moving in the right
direction, comrades." However, as our saying goes:
what the pastor is, so is his parish, and this raised the
What about the Council of Ministers, the
Supreme Soviet, and what about the Central Committee?
-And then I met with Alexei Borisovich
Razlatsky. It happened by accident, on one family
- He was the head of a scientific group at
the research institute Giprovostokneft' (the State
Research Institute of Eastern Oil--V.B.).
But he was not a member of the CPSU.
Strange, isn't it? He should've been because of his
position. Yet, think what you like, he did not join the
Party. He was much valued for his powerful intellect. He
would, jokingly, suggest to the higher-ups ideas for
their doctoral dissertations (Doctor of Sciences was the
next scholarly rank after Ph.D.--V.B.). Many owed him a
lot in this respect. By the way, the Rector of the Moscow
State University was not a Communist either. But the
feudal system intuitively clung to people like them.
-People were drawn to Razlatsky as to a
magnet. I also began to frequent his place. I noticed at
once that empty people did (? - did not?) stay for long
there. We played a bit of chess, but mostly it was
conversation. Whatever subjects were discussed one could
feel how much above the rest of us Razlatsky was in his
understanding of the world. The kind of conversations we
had before him were the usual ones: our women, dachas,
our cars. With Razlatsky, our mundane chat turned into a
conversation "about life." And every timeit
ended with the question: "Why?"
-He had a sharp analytical mind, I would
say, a dialectical mind. He created us. His grandeur, I
am not afraid to apply this word to him, was felt by
everybody, though, unfortunately, only few were able to
understand him completely. Especially so, when the
recurring question, "Who's guilty?", made him
get involved with Marxism seriously.
-By the way, Grigory, why did not you
become a party member?
-When I became a worker, they begged me
to. I refused. What for ? To pay more dues? 1% to the
union, 2% --to them? I was up to my head in this life, in
the foundry shop, in the very midst of the working class.
I played the role of a catalyst in our
group. Razlatsky generated ideas.
-In the mid seventies, Razlatsky began
writing his works for us and for himself. I read them
right away, with ink still wet: "Who Is to
Answer?", "The Second Communist
Manifesto," "What Our Intelligentsia Does Not
Want to Know" and others. We distributed these works
among workers with great caution. Instead of printing
we asked readers to rewrite what they
read. Later on, the chekists (KGB operatives--V.B.)
confirmed that it was a good security practice. Indeed,
who would pay attention to some secondary-school
notebooks with clumsy handwriting and ink blots all over
- In our foundry shop we tested our strike
methods. Reasons for strikes were simple: the
administration did not give us special work clothes, like
boots. So we stopped working for 2-3 hours. Two days was
And we taught the administration a good
lesson! The whole plant would come to the shop to drink
milk and soda. And this was in the 1970s.
-We held on in the underground for five
years, thanks to Razlatsky.
-Did you know what you were facing if they
-We did. We fought against the State,
-So what did you count on?
-It may sound strange, but we hoped THEY
would understand us.
Those were utopian hopes. We would say:
"They put a red cloth on the eyes of society."
This notwithstanding, we held it to be a great banner!
Weren't we too fighting under it? Didn't we share the
same goal: to build a classless society? One had only to
throw away the wrong methods.
-But no! We did not fall in love with each
other. They banged our heads against the pavement.
"Only the ruling party can be right!"
-When did you become aware that they were
- They spied on us from 1979 to 1981. A
friend of mine was arrested.
His neighbor informed on him and they got
him under the pretext that he was drunk. They frisked him
and found one of those secondary-school notebooks.
Somehow he was able to get himself out, but they put him
undersurveillance. That was it.
Soon after I noticed that I was followed.
-So your arrest did not come unexpected
-We had set up several secret caches
beforehand and hid our literature there.
-As to my arrest, it looked very routine.
On 13 December 1981 Jaruzelsky introduced martial law in
Poland. It "rang the bell" across the entire
Socialist camp. Arrests took place everywhere.
Razlatsky and myself were arrested on
-The investigation took a year and a half.
During that period I had to spend some time in the
Serbsky Institute (the central psychiatric facility,
involved in the repression of political dissidence in the
SU--V.B.) where they placed us. I was there for 35 days,
Razlatsky--for seventy. But unlike the others, they
didn't "treat" us.
Why not? They made idiots only of isolated
individuals, but we were agroup. Our case was special.
Too many people knew that we were sane.
Nobody would have believed that idiots
could organize as we did.
- Shortly after Brezhnev's death,
Razlatsky and I were sentenced under Article 70 and sent
to the camps. Razlatsky got 7 years of camps and 5 of
exile. He served his sentence in Mordovia. I was sent to
camp, with 5 and 5 (5 years of camps and 5
-And what exactly was the difference
between regular and political camps?
-It matters little in which camp one is
deprived from one's freedom. Of course, Andropov's times
did not stand a comparison with those of Imperial Russia.
We had no privileges, like those enjoyed by Katya Maslova
(a character from Leo Tolstoy's novel--V.B.). Still, they
addressed us by using the polite form of "you."
We could write two letters a month and have our relatives
-As in a regular camp, we had informers
among us, about 10% of prisoners. You could get their
number quickly because of the kind of questions they
asked, the way they listened. In a way, we even
"made friends" with them. You would say
something to him, he would inform on you, the
administration would reward him with a pack of cut tea,
and we would drink it together afterwards.
-What were political prisoners guilty of?
-60-70% of us "sat" under the
same Article as myself. The rest sat mainly under Article
94--"high treason." Those were the
"runners" who tried to escape from the country
by highjacking the means of transportation. But the
majority sat for "ideas," they were
-They were sentenced under the same
article, but their motives were different. There were
many nationalists, Bandera's people, Vlasov's followers,
the "forest brothers" (i.e., the anti-communist
from the Baltic--V.B.).
-Each of them fought for the freedom of
his Motherland. Every one was against the system, against
this kind of life. I also went against the new feudalism
created by the CPSU. But only a few supported the slogan:
"Glory to October of 1917! Long Live
the New October!" So be it.
-Was it Gorbachev who set you and
-Yeah, and thanks to him for this, of
course. However, I came back to the kind of life of which
Razlatsky warned us as early as in the 1970s. I foresaw
and was prepared for it.
-It was clear to us all along that the
feudal-serf order was coming to an end. This was
something we already new from history. Who was Gorbachev?
A liberal bourgeois, a Kerensky. Who was Yeltsin? A
radical bourgeois. In short, they were bourgeois by their
nature and fought between themselves just because both
were larger than life.
Ligachev? these types never learn
-The redistribution of property is going
on. But in whose interest?
-Grigory, whom did you "root"
for when they were bombing the White House (the Supreme
Soviet in 1993--V.B.)?
-For no one. It was a fight between
masters, they were at each other's throats: the nascent
bourgeoisie and the old feudalism. On the radio, they
were screaming: "The fate of Russia is at stake!
Come here and help!"
Yet, babushkas kept walking their
grandchildren in courtyards and lovers kept kissing. The
people did not care. Because on both sides, right and
left, the working class saw its exploiters.
-All this mess will go on until the new
proletarian revolution. It is inevitable. Razlatsky died,
we march on.
* * *
The journalist continues.
Isayev was recently invited to read
lectures on philosophy at one college. The students
listened to him attentively, did not rush out of the
class at sound of the the bell.
When he is free from lectures, meetings
and family affairs, Isayev works as a yard-keeper or
stays in his "bunker"--the former bomb shelter
in the vicinity of the Ravine of Underground
Revolutionaries. There, on the door of a residential
building, you will see the sign "Stachkom"
(strike committee). Downstairs, ten steps below, you
willfind a spacious room without windows. A table,
chairs, hot tea.
On the walls there hang Vysotsky's
portrait, pictures of workers' demonstrations
and--slogans: "One must be hungry himself in order
to lead the hungry!", "Without the
intelligentsia, the working class is like a blind man
without a guide," "The party of the proletariat
should not be the ruling party!"
People flow to this bunker
uninterruptedly. They are different, mostly workers. They
come to talk. The other day came the first secretary of
the VKPB of Mordovia (the All-Union Communist Party of
Bolsheviks led by
Nina Andreyeva--V.B.). He hotly debated
with Grigory for two days.
By the end of the second day Isayev
branded him: "A counter-revolutionary!"