“The question was posed much more narrowly. It was not why were we jailed?
Nor why did those who remained free tolerate this lawlessness?
Everyone knows that they didn’t realize what was going on, that they simply believed (the party) that if whole peoples are banished in the space of twenty-four hours, those peoples must be guilty. The question is a different one: Why did we in the camps, where we did realize what was going on, suffer hunger, bend our backs, put up with it all, instead of fighting back? The others, who had never marched under escort, who had the free use of their arms and legs, could be forgiven for not fighting – they couldn’t, after all, sacrifice their families, their positions, their wages, their authors’ fees. They’re making up for it now by publishing critical reflections in which they reproach us for clinging to our rations instead of fighting, when we had nothing to lose.
But I have all along been leading up to my answer to this question. The reason why we put up with it all in the camps is that there was no public opinion outside.
What conceivable ways has the prisoner of resisting the regime to which he is subjected? Obviously, they are:
- Hunger Strike
So, then, it is obvious to anybody, as the Great Deceased liked to say (and if it isn’t, we’ll ram it into him), that if the first two have some force (and if the jailers fear them), it is only because of public opinion! Without that behind us we can protest and fast as much as we like, and they will laugh in our faces!
It is a very dramatic way of obtaining your demands – standing before the prison authorities and tearing open your shirt, as Dzerzhinsky did. But only where public opinion exists. Without it-you’ll be gagged with the tatters, and pay for a government issue shirt into the bargain!”
– Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, Vol 3, p93