When the future trial defendant was arrested, he experienced a situation in some ways opposite to that of the Bolshevik political prisoner under Tsarism. Then--as was proper and to be expected--he had been arrested by the enemy. Now, however, he had been arrested by an agency (a "degenerating" one, but still an agency) of the Party (a "degenerating" Party, but still the Party) which was now "to say the last word about my case." As the prisoner tended to continue to regard himself as a Party member, even as one retaining some kind of prominence, he felt put into a helpless position by an overwhelmingly strong power of which he still felt himself a part.1*
In the prisoner's consciousness, the sense of belonging to the Party tended to be more impressive than the sense of helplessness in his relations to the "sword of the revolution." There was, however, an obscurely gratifying--on a conscious level, bitter--feeling about being victimized by one's very own. Hans Fritzsche, the Nazi propagandist who was a prisoner of the MGB in Moscow, stressed the intention of the officials dealing with him to evoke in him a feeling of utter helplessness.2 This was probably more so in the case of an enemy of alien origins than in the case of the trial defendants. Correspondingly, Fritzsche's collaboration in his own processing--as far as it was not expediential--was on the basis of affiliating himself emotionally with another totalitarian apparatus--whose power and efficiency he proceeded to exaggerate--after his own had broken down. On the other hand, in the case of the Bolsheviks discussed here, the consciousness of common membership in the Party between attackers and victims was dominant. The Bolshevik prisoner was not apt to be consciously awed by the power and efficiency of the NKVD, an organization familiar to him and of whose many technical defects--apart from its political degeneration--he was likely to be well aware. Such defects he would try to mitigate as well as to aggravate in the handling of his own case; we shall see below how defendants attempted both to help and to resist the NKVD.
The Bolshevik prisoner's tendency to feel that he was in the hands of an agency close to himself was reinforced by the relations which usually developed between him and the NKVD officials in charge of his case.3*
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Publication information: Book title: Ritual of Liquidation:The Case of the Moscow Trials. Contributors: Nathan C. Leites - Author, Elsa Bernaut - Author. Publisher: Free Press. Place of publication: Glencoe, IL. Publication year: 1954. Page number: 97.
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