The GULAG program was... restorative justice?

Holy fuck, this is the ultimate REDpill. The GULAG program was literally one of the most progressive prison systems in history. Socialists need to stop conceding ground in this argument and seriously defend the GULAGs.

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The Soviet prison system, as applied to ordinary criminals, embodies a number of progressive penological ideas. Educational and manual training instruction courses exist in the more advanced prisons; prisoners are not required to wear uniforms; and the well-behaved prisoner receives a vacation of two weeks every year, which is certainly a unique Russian institution.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 124

In the 1930s, as we have seen, the spread of industrialization and collectivization brought about a socialist state with a broad spectrum of social and political rights. As we would expect from such a state, the legal and prison systems that it established were essentially just and nonpunitive. In fact, they were praised and admired by liberal attorneys and penologists throughout the world. People’s courts, in which ordinary citizens sat with a professional judge on the bench, tried 80 percent of all cases, and legal services could be obtained free of charge. As a desirable alternative to prisons, “agricultural and industrial labor colonies” were established where some prisoners brought their families and where they were allowed to marry. The basic objective of the system was rehabilitation, not just in words, as in capitalist states, but in reality, as was dramatically shown, for instance, in the film Road to Life, depicting the regeneration of teenage criminals. One of the most extensive industrial camp projects was the building of the Baltic-White Sea Canal by prisoners, a vast enterprise whose three chief engineers were former “wreckers.” At the completion of the project, 300 prisoners received scholarships, 12,000 were freed, and 59,000 had their sentences reduced. Such was the normal course of working class justice in the USSR. Therefore, if changes were made in some aspects of the system, there must have been reasons for it.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 128

We built the Moscow-Volga Canal for the most part with convict labor. Back then, convicts were real criminals and were treated accordingly. Actually, I’d say that on the whole our convicts received fairly humane treatment. They were considered to be the products of capitalist society. Therefore, it was felt that our socialist society should re-educate them rather than punish them.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 99

Ordinary criminals, such as murderers and thieves, are mixed up indiscriminately in forced labor camps with members of the various disfavored groups such as the kulaks, nomads, ex-priests, and the like. In fact, the authorities seem to have a more friendly feeling for ordinary criminals than for social groups which have opposed their various reforms. They treat a brutal murderer, as a rule, with more consideration than a small farmer who didn’t want to turn his domestic animals and house and garden into a common pool with his neighbors to make a collective farm.
In the winter of 1936, when my wife and I were making a trip by automobile into Yakutsk, the great northeastern province of Russia, our car ran into a ditch soon after crossing the trans-Siberian railway. We had observed large groups of men under guard working on the double-tracking of the Railway, and decided to go back to ask some of them to help us put our automobile back on the road. We had run across many such groups in our travels through the Far East; great gangs of these laborers have been working on the railways being built out there for many years.
When we got back to the railway, there was no guard in sight anywhere; in this isolated country, prisoners could hardly get far off if they wanted to. These men were dressed in ordinary Soviet working clothes, and there was nothing to show they were prisoners, except that they were perhaps a little more ragged than the average worker. We asked them if they would help us out, and they readily agreed.
What struck as most about these people, and those like them whom we had seen elsewhere, was that they did not appear to be what we would call criminal types. It is probable that most of them were not criminals, in our sense of that word; they were rather members of social groups who had failed to co-operate with the authorities in their various schemes for reform.
I was told that political prisoners, including members of other revolutionary groups and disgruntled or disgraced Communists, are seldom if ever put into such prison camps or gangs. If they are considered dangerous, they are confined in concentration camps or isolated prisons. If they are considered merely a nuisance, they are given what is called free exile.

The “free exile” system is uniquely Russian; it is practiced today in very much the same forms as before the Revolution. I encountered free exiles almost everywhere I worked in Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Far East. I have heard it said that one can meet more former aristocrats and well-to-do people in the Central Asian cities than in Leningrad, the former capital of the Tsars.
Free exile is a comparatively mild punishment. These people can hardly be distinguished from other residents; they move about as they please within certain limits, and usually have regular work. They have been given a “minus,” to use the Russian description. Say, for example, that some petty political offender is given a “minus six.” This is a very common penalty; the political police seem to give it out to anyone even faintly suspected of disloyalty to the regime. The man or woman with a “minus six” cannot live in or visit the six principal cities of European Russia for a number of years.
I came across some fairly distinguished exiles working in remote mining towns in Asiatic Russia. Usually they were doing routine work, such as bookkeeping; it is not easy for them to get responsible work, and most of them would not take it even if it were offered to them, since they would be held to account if anything went wrong. The Soviet police, like police in other countries, round up the most obvious suspects whenever anything goes wrong, and exiles are pretty obvious. Those I knew were very quiet and inoffensive; they usually had a melancholy air, being separated usually from the people and kind of life they had known before.
BUT IN GENERAL I BELIEVE THE HORRORS OF THE EXILE SYSTEM HAVE BEEN EXAGGERATED. BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, ACCORDING TO ALL ACCOUNTS, IT WAS PRETTY TERRIBLE. FORCED LABORERS IN THOSE DAYS, INCLUDING EXILES, WERE KEPT IN LEG -IRONS, WHICH IS NEVER THE CASE TODAY. THE PRESENT AUTHORITIES DO NOT USE LEG-IRONS, HANDCUFFS, OR UNIFORMS FOR PRISONERS IN ANY CASE WHICH IS KNOWN TO ME. But even before the Revolution, according to the books which I have read on the subject, most political exiles were allowed a considerable degree of freedom, similar to that of the free exiles today. If they proved tractable, even in Tsarist days they were allowed to take jobs to eke out their pittance from the Government, and they boarded with small farmers in the cities, towns, or villages of Siberia, and visited among themselves. Some of them even were friendly with Tsarist officials and paid visits back and forth, according to the accounts of those days which seem to be reliable. I have never seen evidence of any friendliness between Soviet officials and exiles.
However, when one reads books written by exiles either before or since the Revolution it becomes apparent that exile is a terrible ordeal to the persons concerned. Why is this? Well, in the first place, no human being enjoys being sent off in disgrace, separated from his family, friends, and old associations, compelled to live for years in some distant part of the country during routine work for a bare pittance. And that is a fair description of the life of an average free exile in Russia today.

There is another reason, too, it seems to me. Exiles for the most part are city people; the dispossessed small farmers were not exiled but put to forced labor. These city dwellers, not being accustomed to existence in undeveloped, isolated country, are naturally unhappy. When I read Leon Trotsky’s description of his periods of exile, for example, I didn’t feel any sympathy for him, although it was clear that he felt very much abused because he missed the cities bright lights and political maneuvers. For myself, I would rather live in the places he was living in than modern cities, and for that reason I couldn’t feel sorry for him.
The word “exile,” and all its implications, arouse a sense of horror in the minds of Americans which I am convinced is seldom felt so keenly by Soviet citizens. The latter are so accustomed to being knocked about by their own authorities, under this as well as previous regimes, that they accept as a matter of course treatment which Americans would heartily resent. A friend of mind had an experience with a Russian family which throws light on this state of mind. The family had a daughter about 19 years old, who sometimes spoke out rather critically about the Government. An old lady who posed as a friend of the family one-day heard her talking, and reported her to the police. The police visited the family’s apartment in the middle of the night, as they usually do in such cases, and took away the girl and a diary she had kept from the age of 15.
The girl was kept for two months in the Moscow prison for political suspects, during which time her family was not permitted to communicate with her. At the end of that period, the mother was called in and told she could talk with her daughter for 20 minutes. The girl told her the police had decided she had “counter-revolutionary moods,” and would therefore be exiled for two years. My friend, talking to the mother, asked: “And what do you think of such treatment?” The mother replied earnestly: “Oh, we are very much pleased because our daughter received only two years of free exile; she might have been sent to a concentration camp.”
As a matter of fact, there is not a great deal of difference, so far as I could observe, between the treatment accorded to those in free exile and those who are presumably entirely free. FROM THE AMERICAN VIEWPOINT, ALL SOVIET CITIZENS ARE TREATED VERY MUCH LIKE PRISONERS ON PAROLE, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE OLD TSARIST PASSPORT SYSTEM WAS REVIVED IN 1932. Every citizen must have a passport and register it with the police at regular intervals; the must show his “documents” whenever he turns around. He has to get special permission to travel from one part of the country to another, and register with the police wherever he goes. He must have a very special standing with the authorities to get permission to leave his country; only a few hundred get such permission every year.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 135-139
the rest here

anyone else have good sources?

B-but my 100 gorrillion

Praise Stalin

red fаscist lies

gulags were prisons but worse since they were communist, and stalin killed at least 100k ukrainian babies by himself

sources or it never happened you trot faggot

the entire page is literally just quotes from people who were there and visited lots of different GULAG prisons.

So.. Stalin was just straight-up a good guy. What else is Stalin supposed to be accused of?

Haha holy shit I just realized it was a shitpost, I should get some sleep

but jamal and deravius speak highly of the current us corrections system as well cuz dey get to meet dey daddy and be in a family reunion

dey also learn valuable skills in prison like breaking and entering and establish connections and form fraternal organizations even (street gangs)

Some of this sounds kind of fucked up.
It's a little much.
Girl got exiled for not liking Socialism? Seems kind of rough, and to go to them in the middle of the night is REALLY fucked. Jesus christ, imagine getting woke up to be informed you are being exiled. Jeez. It sounds like the exiling wasn't bad, but still. Can't believe that old lady snitched on her like that.

Also this isn't really talking about concentration camps, which is the Gulag 90% are referring to. I mean sure, it's nice to say that not everyone arrested was completely screwed, but kind of weak.

And also this, sage for double post. Not really a positive article.

The site is listing quotes from a ton of different sources, both communist, neutral, and anticommunist.

Triple post, I know, but I am in disbelief at how not positive this article is. This isn't convincing anyone of anything.


Doctors Plot



that's debunked, someone else was paranoid about the doctors and it was Stalin himself who shut the whole investigation down. also, it had nothing to do with jews.

what a suspiciously specific denial that is

Despite this article, something still tells me that I would hardly survive being sent to uranium mining Gulag.

yes, but at the same time kulaks deserved worse.

Holodomor wasn't real only means that the famine was not a deliberate genocide. I can still say that kulaks should have starved more without contradicting myself.

Yes because kulaks didn't exist before 1928

How are you supposed to judge the prison system with anything but visiting them? Satellite photos didn't exist back then.

The Soviet Union had the Norwegian model of rehab before Norway even existed

I'll quote Solzhenitsyn's anecdotal bullshit which is just as valid as this stuff.

afaik even the Norwegian model doesn't include a normal wage or integration with society.

Cuba's prison system is actually still like the GULAG system in many respects, but I think labor may not be mandatory.

I actually never heard about the "minus" system before. It sounds like a very reasonable method of criminal punishment.

That's wrong, are you the same poster who keeps repeating this lie or are you repeating it second hand? Because I've already disproved this before.

fuck off

Gonna have to be a bit skeptical here, comrade. But I am finally free from writing reports so I will dig through your obviously biased page with quotes.

The girl was kept for two months in the Moscow prison for political suspects, during which time her family was not permitted to communicate with her. At the end of that period, the mother was called in and told she could talk with her daughter for 20 minutes. The girl told her the police had decided she had “counter-revolutionary moods,” and would therefore be exiled for two years. My friend, talking to the mother, asked: “And what do you think of such treatment?” The mother replied earnestly: “Oh, we are very much pleased because our daughter received only two years of free exile; she might have been sent to a concentration camp.”
Is this supposed to show the benefits of the soviet punitive system? Or just show how it didnt kill toddlers?
Cause this still seems incredibly shit, cancerous and anti-socialist.

Lol China still does this controlling bullshit right now. If you stay over anywhere you have to register at the police, its such a load of shit.

“But my wife is there,” replied the Leningrad resident. “She was exiled, and cannot get permission to return to European Russia for several years. She is not in good health, and I am concerned about her. She needs someone to look after her, and I will have to go to her.”

The Leningrad man replied quietly: “My wife means more to me than my career, or a favorable status with the authorities.”
The official shrugged his shoulders. “In that case, you are not the man we had believed,” he said. “Go to central Asia, by all means.”
Sounds like heaven on earth, clinkyclank


Lol you’re not really doing a good job arguing against it. Anyone can be snarky but I have no doubt in my mind that the GULAG system was better than what existed in the capitalist world in the time. In the Southern US one historian sent so far to compare the conditions prevailing at the prisons there at the time to Nazi prison camps. If Malcolm X’s experience is anything to go by I doubt that the prisons up North were any better.

The US was ten times richer than Russia than when the revolution happened. They don’t even have the “we wuz poor n shiet” excuse. I’d much rather get locked up in a GULAG or get sentences to exile under Stalin than in the hellholes in this country

I wasnt arguing that it wasnt better than what the US or another country did though.
I was just mentioning how China still does that bullshit.
Not that I live in such a hellhole that I think using the US as a measurement for "the standard of prisons" is correct. I hold it to the standards of my own country.

*weren’t any better

In what year, 2018 or in the 1930s?


My country was sucdem back then too and didnt imprison or exile people who critisized the government. The netherlands was liberal as fuck in that aspect.

You still haven’t told us anything about what the conditions for prisoners were like in the Netherlands in the 1930s. Finnish Bolshevik pointed out that prison labor as punishment for a crime was legal in the vast majority of the developed world until the 1950s. Likewise, if the accounts of prison life in liberal Britain or France are anything to go by then prison conditions were quite hellish in much of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Oscar Wilde for instance was told that most people from the middle class died within 6 months due to the intensity of the work and the poor diet in English prisons. He died not long after his stint in prison.

The accounts of French prisons presented in literature and eyewitness accounts are infamous, a good example being the representation of the terrifying Devil’s Island prison.

As if this means anything to the proletariat. Marx recognized in the 19th century that while Holland was the most liberal country on the European continent and (therefore much admired hy English liberals) it was also the nation where workers were most oppressed.

Quite possibly. But they were not arresting people for critisising the government.
I cannot find an account for the conditions of dutch prisons anno 1930 but if I am not mistaken they were much better than most prisons in europe.

Also the 19th century was way different from the 20th century. The labour movement was so strong Troelstra attempted a revolution, which failed, after which he just continued his normal parlementairy function as if nothing happened after doing lipservice to "being a naughty boy".

But you did get imprisoned if you insulted the queen though, so I guess theres that.

but arresting people for "criticizing" the soviets is good.

You should always criticize your leaders when they have aggrieved you, just like you would with any other person.

it wasn't against the rules to criticize leaders or managers, that what the purges literally were– workers criticizing and removing leaders they didn't like.