(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On a sultry summer day in the Black Sea port of Odessa, nineteen Jewish lawyers gather to determine who is responsible for the latest pogrom against the Jewish population. The day is getting late and the heat is intolerable when seven men demand to be heard by the lawyers. To the lawyers’ amazement, these men represent the United Rostov-Kharkov-and-Odessa-Nikolaev Association of Thieves. The lawyers are even more surprised when they learn the reason for their visit. The smartly dressed leader of the group proceeds to give a long speech, even though he promises to be clear, simple, and brief because of the lateness of the day and the heat. He wants to voice his protest against the press reports, planted by the police, as he points out, that the thieves, along with other dregs of society, instigated the pogrom.

In addition to passionately denying the accusation, the orator takes advantage of the opportunity to explain the philosophy and rationale of his thieving profession. The gist of his arguments is that the thieves not only are not wrong, but actually help right wrongs in the society. For example, when a lazy, ignorant, degenerate idiot of a son inherits a vast wealth, which in turn has been acquired on the backs of many hardworking people, it is the thieves who correct the excessive accumulation of wealth in the hands of undeserving individuals, as a protest against all the hardships, abominations, arbitrariness, violence, and negligence of the human personality—all the monstrosities created by the bourgeois...

(The entire section is 625 words.)