Stalin told the Yugoslav leader, Djilas, that the Soviet government had restricted the publication of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's works because, though a great writer, he was also a great reactionary. Reading this, I thought of his beautiful works from the Poor People to Crime and Punishment, Karamazov, Idiot. Did any government, even one as powerful as the Soviet one, have the power to deny these gems of world literature to mankind? I would use the same adjectives for Soljhenitsyn. He was a great writer and a great reactionary. But I am certain the Russian government will not withhold his works from the people. Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead and Soljhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are both about penal colonies, wherein they recount their own experiences in those houses of torment. And one can say on that basis that the Czarist penal colonies were less brutal and inhumane than Stalin's. Their aim was to punish and perhaps reform the prisoners. That of Stalin's camps was simply to destroy them, to work them to death. Lenin had maintained the distinction between political prisoners and common criminals, treating the former as they were treated under the Czarist penal system. But Stalin treated all political dissidents, including the Bolshevik ones, as criminals. Even more striking is the degree of deliberate, considered sadism of the guards and the camp management towards the inmates in the Soviet system. It appears that where ideological element enters a political relationship, the opponent becomes more than a simple law-breaker. He is an apostate, a renegade, an enemy of all that is the best in life. Therefore, the minimum demands of decency, due to any human being, disappear. That is the reason the religious and civil wars are more brutal and sanguinary than others. The Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic, Georg Lukacs, who cannot be accused of Anti-Sovietism, holds that "Ivan Denisovich constitutes an opening of the greatest interest, touching upon the capacity of literature to discover itself again in the socialist present, by its own methods." ("Soljhenitsyne", Gallimard, Paris, 1970, p 21). He adds that, by confining his narrative strictly to what happens to the individuals inside the penal camp, without reference to the past and without any hope of one day seeing the end of such camps, Soljhenitsyn has actually contributed to the renewal of a healthy "socialist realism". We know now that neither "socialist realism", healthy or unhealthy, came back to life nor did the socialist system survive. But it is true that Soljhenitsyn's effective critique of de-natured socialism, albeit from a socially reactionary point of view, contributed to the rejuvenation of socialist thought. According to Lukacs, he is as crucial to the Russian Revolution as are Balzac and Stendhal to the French Restoration. But he is not just a reactionary. He also stands with the Russian literary giants of the nineteenth century - the same strong feelings, the same breadth of the canvas and the magical narrative holding the reader in an iron grip. And his cold courage in the face of the "the powerful blind nights" (to use an expression of Victor Serge les nuits aveugles sont puissantes) can only evoke admiration. My own favourite among the writings of Soljhenitsyn is the Red Wheel. It shows the Russian society, which had up to then been growing in strength, breaking down under the weight of a challenge which was far too complicated for its social organisation. Well, one can agree that the Romanov regime would not have collapsed if its autocratic, quasi-democratic state had not been pressed by the Anglo-French to continue the war after it had so obviously exhausted itself. But one can also see it as a sequel of Tolstoy's War and Peace. There a serf army had been able to throw back an army of the French Revolution because it was still internally coherent. Here a Russia, on its way to industrialisation, was unable to face the highly industrialised Germany because the peasantry, becoming proletariat, still rejected capitalism, thus creating chasms within. The Gulag Archipelago is possibly his most famous work. In three volumes, it details the operation of the concentration camp system and the sufferings of the ordinary Soviet citizens caught in the Stalinist terror, masquerading as a penal measure. Compared to it, the Czarist police would appear benign. As Soljhenitsyn says, if any Lenin's, Trotsky's etc had attempted under Stalin what they were doing routinely under the Romanovs they would have disappeared early without trace. And their families, which had led normal lives under the autocracy, would too have disappeared for the sins of their children. The Czarist repressive machinery was inefficient but it was also civilised, following the standards then prevalent in Europe. Every revolution takes extraordinary measures to protect itself, specially one like the October, which was under assault by seventeen foreign powers. It cannot stand on ceremony with its enemies. The French Revolution had its parade to the guillotine. But it had practically ended its work of revolutionary change in about six years. After that, it was coping with foreign intervention or engaged in Bonapartist expansion. But the emergency phase of the Russian Revolution and revolutionary terror seemed unending. Actually, the Russian Revolution had also finished its basic work of social change in about ten years and had started to relax after the Russian industrial production had regained the level of 1913. What prolonged the oppression infinitely was its being overtaken by another one - the bourgeois counter-revolution. When the bureaucracy, led by Stalin, pushed the pace of industrialisation to a fever-pitch, the workers lost all power to this bureaucracy. In fact, the working class was now itself being exploited like the peasants. The orgy of bloodshed in the mid- and the late-thirties was bourgeoisie's full-scale counter - revolution as it overthrew the workers' power and massacred nearly the entire party left by Lenin. The terror of the thirties had nothing to do with the October Revolution. The forced agricultural collectivisation and the consignment of millions to the penal camps were means, rather crude ones, of obtaining so much more surplus value to pay for speedy industrial construction. Soljhenitsyn is not a stylist in the ordinary sense. But he combines great verbal facility with the classical Russian novel-writing tradition of introducing and managing a caste of thousands. He will still be read and enjoyed as a remarkable artist when the political problems of the twentieth century, raised by him, will long have been forgotten. But can the questions raised by the October Revolution be forgotten as long as the man has not solved the problem of material penury and the resultant spiritual poverty? The writer is a former ambassador