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New Left Review I/58, November-December 1969

Tamara Deutscher

The Purges Recalled

For quarter of a century I. S. Poretsky (or Ludwik or Eberhard or Ignace Reiss) was one of the most prominent secret agents of the ussr. Now, after more than 30 years of ‘withdrawal and reflection’—according to the preface—his widow writes the tragic story of his life and death. [1] Our Own People, a Memoir of ‘Ignace Reiss’ and his friends. By Elisabeth K. Poretsky, Oxford University Press, 278 pp. 42s.Les Notres, Vie et mort d’un agent sovietique. Elisabeth K. Poretsky, Dossiers des Lettres Nouvelles, 300 pp. 22.70 fr. She also re-traces the grim road which led so many of the best revolutionaries downwards, from soaring ideals and hopes, through bitter disillusionment to the depths of moral degradation. Born in a small town in Galicia, then belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire, ‘Ignace Reiss’ started his political life in 1919, when to the loud beating of patriotic drums and less widely heard anti-Jewish pogroms, Poland regained her independence. The Communist Party was soon declared illegal and those who had joined it were among the most heroic and self-sacrificing idealists. ‘To serve the revolution’ was their only aim; for this they were ready to die. After the most dangerous underground activities during the Russo-Polish war, came long years of perilous and nerve-wracking Intelligence work in Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, and rare trips to ‘the fatherland’, no less perilous and even more nerve-wracking.

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