Return to Soviet Russia

Early in 1960, Anatoly Marchenko, a twenty-two-year-old laborer in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, happened to be present when a brawl erupted among some workers in a hostel. Every person found on the scene—innocent or guilty—was arrested and sent to a Siberian prison camp. Marchenko was one of them. He escaped from the camp and fled toward the Iranian border. Fifty yards from it, he was captured. While Western “humanitarians” were loudly applauding the “new liberalism” of the Khrushchev regime, Anatoly Marchenko was convicted of high treason and sentenced to six years in Russia’s concentration camps.

My Testimony is Marchenko’s report on those years. “When I was locked up in Vladimir Prison I was often seized by despair,” he writes in his preface. “Hunger, illness, and above all helplessness, the sheer impossibility of struggling against evil, provoked me to the point where I was ready to hurl myself upon my jailers with the sole aim of being killed. Or to put an end to myself in some other way. Or to maim myself as I had seen others do.

“One thing alone prevented me, one thing alone gave me the strength to live through that nightmare: the hope that I would eventually come out and tell the whole world what I had seen and experienced. I promised myself that for the sake of this aim I would suffer and endure everything. And I gave my word on this to my comrades who were doomed to spend many more years behind bars and barbed wire.” . . .

Marchenko’s account of his life in Vladimir [prison] is so horrifying that it becomes, at times, almost impossible to continue reading. Anyone who doubts the nature of the Soviet system should read every word. . . .

For more than fifty years, the West’s liberal intellectuals have proclaimed their love for mankind, while being bored by the rivers of blood pouring out of the Soviet Union. Professing their compassion for human suffering, they have none for the victims in Russia. Unable or unwilling to give up their faith in collectivism, they evade the existence of Soviet atrocities, of terror, secret police and concentration camps—and publish glowing tributes to Soviet technology, production and art. Posturing as humanitarians, they man the barricades to fight the “injustice,” “exploitation,” “repression,” and “persecution” they claim to find in America; as to the full reality of such things in Russia, they keep silent.

If anyone has any doubts about the moral meaning of the liberals’ position, let him read—and reread—every detail of Marchenko’s experiences. Let him remember that these horrors are not accidental in the Soviet Union and are not a matter of a particular dictator’s character. They are inherent in the system. They are the inevitable products of a fully collectivist society.

If anyone has any doubts about the evil of establishing cultural exchange programs or of building “trade-bridges” to the Soviet Union or of buying the products of slave labor, let him remember how Marchenko felt when he stood in front of a shop window in Moscow, after his release. “That television set has cost my friends our sweat, our health, roasting in the cooler and long hours during roll-call in the rain and snow. Look closely at that polished surface: can you not see reflected in it the close-shaven head, the yellow, emaciated face, and the black cotton tunic of a convict? Maybe it’s a former friend of yours?”

The Objectivist

Susan Ludel, “Review of Anatoly Marchenko’s My Testimony,”
The Objectivist, July 1970, 10

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.