Bermanís letter about Arshinov

This letter is part of the International Institute for Social History's Alexander Berkman archive and appears in Anarchy Archives with ISSH's permission.

Nice, Nov. 17, 1932

Dear Comrade Nettlau,

I am so crowded with work that I do not get a chance to attend to my correspondence properly. Unfortunately, it is not PAID work, and most of it goes for nothing. Some of the work is for comrades, translations etc. (As you probably know, the Relief Fund is again transferred to Paris, and comrades have now asked me to do the English translations). At least that is work that may prove in some way useful.

But most of my time is taken up with making Synopses and part translations of German or Russian books for American publishers. Well, I send them a Synopsis in order to get them interested in some foreign work. But the last two years I have not placed a single book. All the work has been for nothing. For instance, for the Goethe anniversary of translated the story of Toni Schwabe about Goethe's last love. The book is called Ulrike and is based on the diaries of Goethe and Mme Ulrike von Levetzow. Well, the book was not taken either in England or the U.S. it was not sufficiently sensational for them, for it is beautiful lyrical work. So it goes for two years, and yet I must keep at it. That is the worst of it, that I am keeping busy with rotten work that brings me no income. The only thing Emmie and I live on is on the smaller jobs I get (such as editing some MSS., reading proofs, and Emmie does some typing). Just now I am reading proofs on an American Anthology of American Writers Abroad. Well, it is rotten.

But the above is only to tell you why I am slow in answering letters. I used to be more punctual before, but then I had more leisure and better earnings. Moreover, of late my eyes are giving me considerable trouble.

And how are you, dear friend. At least you can feel that you are doing really useful work for our ideas, which I cannot say of myself now. And how is your health? It is wonderful how arbeitsfachig you are! I congratulate you.

I received June-Oct. issue of Probuzhd. which you sent me. Thanks. As I have already said before -- I can find nothing in the magazine that is not entirely in harmony with our ideas. This number is especially interesting, because of your contributions and several other articles there. As to the character of the persons who publish this magazine -- I don't know them. Some time ago I understand that an Anarchist group of Detroit was to investigate the charges made against Prob. and its publishers and editors. But I have not heard anything more about it. If the whole thing is due to some local or group fiction, then it is best to ignore it. But I can tell you this: I don't know anything about the Rassviet or its publishers. But so far as Prob. Is concerned, as a magazine, I find absolutely nothing to object to in it. One does not have to approve of every article that is in a publication, but as I say I find it an intriguing and valuable anarchist publication.

As to Arshanov, I think too much is made of him and his changeable stand. I don't consider him important at all. As I wrote you once before, I told him years ago, in Berlin, that he was psychologically a Bolshevik. Now he is proved it.


His "Platform" was also a Bolshevik document. It has been exposed, and that is enough. Now he openly declares himself in favor of the Bolshevik dictatorship. And that is just where Arshinov belongs -- to the Bolsheviki. But why make such a fuss about it? Better men than he went over to the Bolsheviki and betrayed their former Anarchist ideas. Such as Yartchuk and others. No fuss was made about it. They were simply ignored by us. The same thing should be done with Arshinov. Of course there are always stupids enough in our movement who still consider Arch. as an Anarchist. Well, against stupidity even the gods fight in vain. That cannot be helped.

The less our people lose their time about such as Arshinov the better. There is more important work to do than to bother about him. He has exposed himself, and that should be the end of it. We waste too much time with such incidents.

To my mind the betrayal of our cause by such as Yartchuk, Arshinov etc. is due to two causes: lack of Anarchist vision and of understanding of Anarchism: and secondly: economic causes. They hope to improve their economic situation by siding with the Bolsheviki, and as a rule they do improve it that way. Well, with such traitors and cowards there should be no further dealings.

I hope, dear friend, that your health is good and that you can continue to add to your splendid work for our cause.

Emmie wants to be kindly remembered to you.


22, Avenue Mon Plaisir

Nice (A.M.)