The “New Era”

Fascism of the Hitlerian type was liquidated in Bulgaria on September 9, 1944. The Bulgarian people thought they were in a situation full of excellent possibilities. Factory and workshop committees, composed of workers, were created spontaneously. New local committees took responsibility for administration. In the streets and public squares the victorious people openly displayed its revolutionary will. The union movement reorganised. But Soviet Russia was near, the Russian army occupied the country. And as is their habit whenever the people revolt, the leaders of the political parties succeeded in retaking power. They did not shrink from heavy measures against revolutionists. Slowly but systematically they liquidated all the gains of a people who had hoped to go beyond a simple political turnover. At the instigation of the Communists, a number of political groups collaborated to form the Fatherland Front. This group took power and became dictators of the new Bulgaria. The character of the groups behind it was often dubious, their past often reactionary. Some of their outstanding members had played a crucial role in the 1934 fascist coup d’etat. The Zveno clique of reserve and non-commissioned officers had taken part in the 1923 and 1934 coups d’etat. One of their men, Kimo Georgieff, the new President of the Council had also been President of the Council after the 1934 coup d’etat and had tried to introduce a Mussolini-type corporation into Bulgaria. Afterwards, for personal motives, he had joined some other army men in opposition to the King. With reactionaries of this type the Communists collaborated and shared power. They were creating a transitional situation to clear the way for exclusive appropriation of power by the Communist Party - a process made easier by the proximity of Russia, the presence of Russian troops in Bulgaria, and the oppressive regime that they gradually but pitilessly imposed on the whole country. The facade was patriotic propaganda: Fatherland Front, “National Renaissance.” The program of the Fatherland Front deliberately masked the reality: it pretended to restore the rights of the people, freedom of press, of meeting, of association; political, cultural and juridicial legality. But from the outset there were certain very significant restrictions: only the parties in power or groups supporting them could publish newspapers, magazines and books, or organise meetings, conferences and congresses, or carry on public activity. The other groups had only to work and keep quiet; and if they dared express by word or writing their opinion of social, economic and cultural conditions, or their non-conformist ideas on social change, they could count on being sent to the concentration camp as in the days of fascist rule. Obviously these measures were not aimed at the fascists, for one of their parties, the military clique, was in power; while the Anarchists, though represented on local committees in some places, did not take part in the Fatherland Front.

The Communists aimed at destroying all freedom and taking full power. Later they gained control of a parliamentary majority and are now at work making the Fatherland over into a Single Party; and then the other parties will no longer be tolerated. Bulgaria will have a Single Party regime analogous to the absolute power of the Communists in the Soviet Union. One of the chief measures taken by the Communist-directed government has been absolute control of the trade union movement. In the union statutes their democratic basis is of course affirmed. But the Communists quickly converted the unions into an instrument of government policy. By threat or by violence the members were made to attend meetings and demonstrations and listen to Communist orators. Instead of defending the working class, these faithful servants of the Party repeat the official slogans of their Party. By purely fascist methods, all workers were herded into a single union organisation. Membership is now compulsory. All criticism, even the very mildest, of the Party or any of its members is very risky; it leads to the concentration camp. Methods of violence impose silence on the workers. Organised spying and informing among the workers and liberal bourgeoisie perfect these methods. Any resistance to this policy, so dangerous to the working classes, is called a “fascist plot”. The union must unreservedly accept a government policy that cuts wages, introduces piecework, develops the spirit of competition among workers, and aggravates the hierarchical wage system. Thus labour organisation has become a docile tool in the hands of the State, of the government. This is red fascism, pure and simple. The Anarchists became the target of persecution by this totalitarianism very early, shortly after the Russians arrived. At first the government could not refuse a semblance of liberty; halls were reopened and the newspaper Rabotnicheska Missal reappeared; but not for long, the halls were closed everywhere, the one in Sofia lasted just a little longer than the rest; the newspaper was able to publish only eight issues, after the confiscation of the eighth number it definitely ceased to appear, it was banned. All propaganda, oral or written, all free organisational activity, is forbidden. Books and propaganda pamphlets are regularly confiscated and burned. The whole movement has been driven underground again. This was a prepared plan: at the beginning, when the memory of the exploits of the Anarchists were still alive in the hearts of the whole population, the government and police felt the need for pretexts for their arbitrary measures; they sometimes even released prisoners. But they were not very dependable. For example, to give itself a “democratic” appearance the new government of the Fatherland Front had proclaimed freedom of press and abolition of censorship. But since importation of newsprint had become a State monopoly, the Minister of Information determined allocations. After numerous applications, the organ of the Anarchist Federation was authorized; but very soon its allotment was cut off because of an article asserting that the strongest arm of the working class in the defense of its interests is the strike.

Then the Communists took a series of measures against the militants of the Federation: all locals were closed, and in many towns and villages, as in Plovdic and Pavel Bagna, all those found in the offices of the Federation were arrested. When explanations were demanded for these brutal measures, so openly contradictory to the Fatherland Front’s September 9 proclamation of free press, meeting, organisation and thought, they replied invariably: “Address yourselves to the Central Committee of the Communist Party,” and despite all protests the persecutions continued, in accordance with the orders of the Central Committee of the Party.

To formulate a position in this new situation, the Anarchist Federation convoked a special conference. On the first day of the conference, March 10, 1945, all the delegates present, to the number of 90, were arrested by the Communist militia, sent to concentration camps and put at forced labour in an atmosphere of moral and physical slavery, they were subjected to tortures and deprived of covering and clothing. Those still at liberty sent delegations to ministers and leaders of government parties to demand the release of the prisoners. But always the same answer: “Address yourselves to the Central Committee of the Communist Party.” On August 26, under pressure from the United States and England, the government was forced to permit elections, and the police regime was moderated slightly. The prisoners were released, some of them, after having been terribly beaten. For a few days the libertarian press was permitted, and the great interest of the people in this movement was demonstrated by the fact that Workers’ Thought expanded immediately to 30,000 copies, considerable for so small a country. But this was all the more reason for the Communists to suppress it immediately and resume still more severe repression designed to wipe out the movement for they rightly feared the growth and competition of a true popular movement whose strength and very roots lay in the spirit of liberty and truth. Since that time, persecutions have only increased, systematically, mercilessly. Arrests, threats, manhunts, tortures, now without respite, mount from day to day.

Among the interned militants, we should note, are many who dedicated their lives to the anti-fascist struggle, who were condemned to death by the fascist regime and spent much of their life in prison (sometimes in company with the Communist leaders who now govern the country), who were the first organisers of the partisans, the finest heroes of the resistance and of the September 1944 uprising of liberation, and the volunteers in Spain in 1936. Almost all those arrested have been through fascist prisons and concentration camps. Some of them have spent 23 years in illegality because of their opposition to fascism. But history repeats itself in different totalitarian regimes: it is precisely the pioneers of liberty and human freedom that the self-styled “democratic” “popular” government of Bulgaria chooses to intern in concentration camps, subjects to exhausting labour, systematic starvation and torture in order to extinguish in the Bulgarian people any spark of independence, all feeling of human dignity. Instances are more and more numerous, the list of anti-fascist prisoners is becoming interminable. If the death penalty is still exceptional, the concentration camps are calculated to make opponents disappear. The totalitarian regime intervenes everywhere, against all those who balk at its orders.

All syndicalist activity is forbidden. Only one union is authorized, the General Professional Union of Workers, the official federation. Those who engage in the least non-conformist activity, even inside the union, are expelled and blacklisted or, especially if they are Anarchists and Syndicalists, sent to concentration camps. Disillusionment about the Communist Party is great, but the relationship of forces outweighs it: how is little Bulgaria to resist the nearby giant and a perfected police apparatus? The Communists feel secure. Many organisations are persecuted, especially Agrarian, Socialist and Anarchist organisations: the Agrarian Union, the Union of Agrarian Students, and the Union of Agrarian Youth; the Union of Jean-Jaures Socialist Students and the Union of Socialist Youth, the Federation of Anarchist Students and the Federation of Anarchist Youth; the Anarcho-Syndicalist National Confederation of Labour. Poor Bulgaria, whose climate, hilly country, agricultural character, popular aspirations to liberty and very lively sentiment of human solidarity present such a great resemblance to Spain, is still experiencing the same vicissitudes, the same hopes, the same cruel disilluionments: fascism after 1923, a short period of calm in 1931, then once again, more and more inexorable, totalitarian regimes supported by military occupation, first by the German army, then by the Red Army, with all the police apparatus and repression that occupation implies. We are now witnessing a new expansion of terrorism, as the rare news that leaks out of the red hell attests, as other examples and abundant testimony from other sources could confirm. A people is crushed, its fine and human characteristics are crushed. The conscience of the world must rouse itself - as it should have roused itself when fascism spread over Central Europe, when it spread into Spain. In no other way could it then, or can it now, save the world from terrible evils. It is also the only possible position for people who cannot concern themselves with utilitarian considerations or with fear, but must act by the spirit of justice and of truth alone.

March, 1948