26 November 2012

Another British victim of the Gulags

As I said earlier I need to dig out my copy of  Francis Beckett's Stalin's British Victims. Here is part of an article he wrote back in 2004 when the book was published regarding another of the British victims Unlime Rosa Rust this does not have a happy ending

Rose Cohen was born in 1894 in London, where her father Morris worked as a tailor after the family had fled persecution in Lodz, Poland. In those days, almost the only way for a working-class child from the East End to acquire an education beyond the three Rs was through the Workers' Educational Association. Rose was a fast and hungry learner. The WEA gave her an extensive education in politics and economics as well as fluency in three languages. For a poor immigrant, and a woman at that, this was itself a remarkable achievement. It made her a welcome recruit, first on the staff of the London County Council, and then at the Labour Research Department, which had become a centre for young leftwing intellectuals by the end of the first world war. Rose, her friend and admirer Maurice Reckitt recalled, had great vivacity and charm. "It was natural," he wrote, "that she should plunge into and swim with the communist tide which flowed so strongly in 1920."

Rose was a founder member of the British Communist party that year and, from the start, one of the small circle of young communists who soon came to dominate the party. She was, according to everyone who knew her, lively, intelligent, literate and hauntingly beautiful, with brown eyes and long dark hair. All the men who knew her talked of her smile, but say she was unaware of its magical quality. A packet of letters written to her during the 1920s clearly indicates a large band of obsessed male admirers throughout the British left.

Perhaps the most ardent of them all was Harry Pollitt. In 1926, the year of the general strike, Pollitt had already been identified by the Comintern as the man on whom the future of communism in Britain was going to depend. A short, heavily built boilermaker from Lancashire, Pollitt had a ready laugh and a natural warmth that communicated itself to those around him. A strong orator into the bargain, he quickly established himself as one of the key figures in the fledgling Communist party.
He fell passionately in love with Rose Cohen. On the back of a picture of Rose taken in Moscow is an inscription in Pollitt's hand: "Rose Cohen, who I am in love with, and who has rejected me 14 times." By 1925, he knew for certain he had lost her - to Max Petrovsky, whom Rose met in 1921 when the Soviets stepped in to guarantee contract work for the LRD to keep it alive after its links with the Labour party were severed.

In 1924, Petrovsky was sent to Britain as the Comintern representative, to be guide and mentor to the infant British party. Petrovsky, when in England, used the name Bennett. He managed to avoid the British police for five years - a remarkable feat, which no subsequent Comintern representative ever equalled. His influence on the British Communist party was huge. It is unlikely that any major decision was made without his approval.  Rose and Max Petrovsky moved permanently to Moscow.

They were the golden couple of the expatriate community in Moscow: both had exciting, important jobs, and their son Alyosha was born in December 1929. They were devoted to him. In 1932, Rose became foreign editor of the new English-language paper, the Moscow Daily News.

The big show trials began in August 1936.Kamenev and Zinoviev were shot. All the most distinguished of the old Bolsheviks followed them to execution. On March 11, the secret police had come for Max. A month later, the British Communist party's political bureau was told that he had been arrested as a "wrecker" and all British communists who had had any contact with him were to make statements giving full details of what they knew about him.

Harry Pollitt, who did know about Max's arrest, wrote to Rose. It was an attempt to cheer her up: "My visit to Spain [to the International Brigades fighting in the Spanish civil war] gave me great satisfaction. There is quite a story about how I got there, which will make you laugh ..." And then, at the end, he wrote as much as he dared about her troubles: "We all send our love. Don't lose heart."
She never saw Harry's letter. I found it, more than half a century later, in a dusty Comintern archive, where it was originally deposited, so that it could be used, if need be, to help show that Pollitt, too, was a traitor.

Rose was one of several foreign communists and Comintern leaders who were arrested in the spring and summer of 1937. People will say anything under torture. Rose, it is said, broke down completely in prison, and cried constantly for Alyosha, right up to the moment, on November 28, 1937, when they took her out and shot her.

Nothing to add to thi


SnoopyTheGoon said...

In spite of fear to sound callous, I have to say that this is one quite ordinary story of hundreds (if not thousands) of stories of foreign lefties seduced by the communist siren song from the East.

My own family could serve as another example, but this is a long story...

jams o donnell said...

I know she was ust one of millions Snoopy.