Category Archives: German Imperialism

Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist): Marcos’ Crusade Against the Revolutionary Perspective

Zapatista flag

Introduction

Twelve years ago, a revolt broke out in the south of Mexico, among the poorest and most oppressed in a poor country. The revolt was timed to mark the coming into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on January 1, 1994, which opened Mexico to unbridled exploitation by U.S. imperialism. The rebels seized five towns in the largely indigenous state of Chiapas. Calling themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), after Zapata, the peasant leader of the Mexican revolution of 1910, their revolt galvanized the popular forces throughout Mexico and gained the respect of progressive forces throughout the world. Though the Zapatistas soon withdrew from the five towns under pressure of the Mexican army, they waged a low-level guerrilla war for several years and took part in mass political campaigns.

But the hopes that the Zapatistas aroused in Mexico have gone largely unfulfilled. Among other things, the Zapatistas, and particularly their leader, Subcomandante Marcos, not only refused to take up a vanguard role in the fight against the Mexican bourgeoisie, but denied the need for such a vanguard at all. Also, Marcos now portrays violence as the dark side of human history, ignoring its transforming role in the class (and national) struggle. As the Mexican Marxist-Leninists describe in this article, Marcos’ pronouncements have led the Zapatistas deeper into a position of support for the reformist and social-democratic forces in Mexico.

At the same time, certain reservations must be made as to this article. First, the indigenous peoples in Mexico are treated here as ‘ethnic’ groups rather than as oppressed nationalities (particularly in section VI: ‘The problem of the land and the ethnic question’). To ignore the fact that the indigenous peoples in Mexico who live in their communities and have been oppressed since the time of the Spanish conquest are oppressed nationalities is to downplay their role and the significance of their struggle.

Furthermore, there is a weakness in reference to the indigenous struggle, particularly the struggle for land, and its relation to the overall revolutionary struggle. In the last section of this article, the Mexican Marxist-Leninists state that, even if the indigenous people are granted territorial autonomy and carry out an agrarian reform, ‘Without the working class coming to power, it is clear that even with such a reform, sooner rather than later things will get worse with the differentiation of classes in this area, a product of the laws of the capitalist market.’ This is true, but in the sense that any reform can be reversed as long as the bourgeoisie continues to hold state power. The point, however, is not to use this fact to reduce the importance of such reforms, but to use these reforms to strengthen the consciousness and organisation of the working class and all popular classes to build toward the fight for revolution.

With this reservation, we recommend this analysis to readers worldwide as part of the fight to uphold the Marxist-Leninist world outlook against all attempts to oppose it ideologically.

George Gruenthal

When the EZLN’s struggle broke out in January of 1994, our party, and we are sure all revolutionaries in our country, hailed this event; we could see the magnitude of the armed movement and the radicalism of its slogans, could appreciate that this had every possibility of becoming the pole that would unite the class struggle and contribute enormously to awakening the working masses of town and country from their lethargy. We stand firm in our conviction that the EZLN was restoring the armed struggle of the masses by their actions. Unfortunately it was soon evident that the Zapatistas reversed themselves, they went back on their slogans, redrew their project, they discredited the revolutionary struggle and they retreated into the arms of social-democratic concepts to evade their responsibilities, rooting themselves in the pettiness of the petty bourgeois patriotic dream.

The Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist) made public its sympathy with the armed Zapatista movement in a series of communiqués that called on them not to turn down the volume in the struggle of the masses and to make use of the effervescence and high spirits generated with the perspective of a national convergence of popular opposition to the regime and of the need for a Democratic and Popular National Constituent Assembly. Our efforts in that period in regard to the struggle of the masses were centred on raising that perspective.

Our organization proposed without the least hesitancy or the slightest fear of the fact that ‘others’ were the ones who provoked the fissure in the system, that the EZLN would be in a position to become the unifying factor of social discontent. We understood that the EZLN was in a position to put itself at the head of a powerful mass movement that went beyond its initial demands, which were already greater than those that they are raising today, since this was a war against the regime. When we discussed this with the Zapatistas, they stuck to their line of ‘not being the vanguard’ as a justification for leaving the mass movement without leadership. Now that the opportunists and the right-wing are congratulating them on such a line (moreover preaching it on every occasion), one must remember that this has caused a great deal of damage to the mass movement, shrinking it and diluting it for some time.

This is a line with serious consequences, for which the Zapatistas are directly responsible. It is a bitter truth that they cannot hide, no matter how much they try in their sweet-sounding speeches and campaigns. Particularly because the masses in the country to a certain degree were expecting orientation, directives and examples of consistent struggle.

The changes in the EZLN’s political line are not new, since the democratic convention of 1994 when they handed over leadership of the mass movement which they had convened to the bourgeois intelligentsia and social-democracy, rejecting the forces that were most consistent in defending the revolutionary line; there were many other facts of that nature, as were shown later. They already demonstrated a continuous abandonment of the tasks imposed by the situation generated by the uprising, which was: to contribute to the revolutionary struggle.

With the Zapatista march to the Federal District [Mexico City] we witnessed how the leadership of the EZLN and their supporters reached a peak in their crusade against the revolutionary perspective, to the satisfaction of the ruling class; naturally the class struggle does not stop at Marcos’s will.

In the Zapatistas’ campaign with their march throughout the country, and especially because of the interviews Marcos granted to Monsivais, Scherer and García Márquez, the zeal with which he sounded off against the revolutionary struggle became clear, without stopping to take account of the major significance of this in the emancipation of the exploited, without taking into account the contributions of the revolutionary movement. He identified himself with the slanderous, blackmailing and reactionary criticism of the bourgeoisie. The matter cannot be simply forgotten; we are obliged to give an answer from the trenches of those of us who have not fallen into the traps of bourgeois democracy. If we now return to this once again it is because of the Zapatista’s need to hitch themselves to such a policy that is so unfortunate for the exploited and oppressed masses of the country. Monsivais (yes, that intellectual enemy of the university student movement and of everything that rings of mass struggle outside of the bourgeois constitutional order) in an interview congratulated Marcos for the fact that the EZLN had gone over to civilised positions; he branded the initial objectives of the Zapatista struggle as delirious, but when the line changed, he was delighted. Marcos agreed with him without batting an eye and they were all happy. Monsivais was pleased with Marcos and Marcos reinforced Monsivais. In spite of all this, our party maintains that the slogans to which the struggle of the EZLN has limited itself as outlined in the San Andrés accords are completely valid, even if they would not provide a complete solution to the problem. At the time we put them forward, what has changed is the form of promoting them and their projection into the class struggle; now they have become the final objective of the Zapatista movement.

With the aim of rejecting revolutionary criticism, the Zapatistas through Marcos have a consistent formula in declaring that that is what they have always fought for, that others either were relics of ‘old conceptions,’ or even worse, others had made bad interpretations of their objectives. Put this way it sounds irrefutable; they deny what they said before and make one believe that they have taken a step foreword into the political environment in which they now travel, surrounded by social democrats and petty bourgeois cretinism.

This is their favourite manner of rejecting criticism of their political inconsistency and the game they are playing with the social democrats by discrediting the revolutionary movement in front of the masses and nullifying its action.

I. The revolutionary struggle and Marcos the rebel

Marcos stated that it was his contact with the indigenous communities that was the reason for losing his revolutionary convictions, calling those convictions a ‘loss of the vocation of death. This sounds very humanitarian and romantic, but with this he hands over all his contingents and followers to a life dedicated to making the capitalist system into a regime of exploitation ‘with a human face,’ and from then on any another struggle deserves to be rejected.

In our view it was not contact with the communities that made him ‘understand’ the new course of the struggle, but his incapacity to supersede the class nature of the movement to give him greater perspective. Marcos went into the jungle as a revolutionary element; the determining factor of his degenerating ideologically was in the weakness of his formation (as he himself recognised), the inability of the leadership, on the basis of the extremely tragic situation of the indigenous masses, to politicise them based on a proletarian outlook, and in the process of the movement, the flirtation with social democracy and the internal and external pressures have influenced them more, finally leading to the open rejection of the revolutionary struggle.

According to Marcos in his interview with Julio Scherer García, ‘The revolutionary tends to become a politician and the social rebel does not stop being a social rebel.’ In this way he is proposing again a very well-known thesis from the period of the guerrilla movements of the 1970s, particularly preached by the anarchist groups of that time, that ‘power corrupts’; that is, the masses should reject the seizure of power, they should take the means of production into their hands (which is really a trap in the class struggle for power). Even worse, the masses would be unable to take the affairs of the country into their own hands, to take power, because everything would end in corruption and the failure of every project; they have no confidence in the power of the masses to overcome and finally resolve any attempt to move backward in the class struggle. The Zapatistas say they ‘reject being the vanguard’; their rejection is more than that, they reject the revolutionary struggle even without being the vanguard.

Of course, Marcos is not that consistent, because in his interview with Carlos Monsivais he stated: ‘we are a serious revolutionary movement,’ although from his later rejection, it has become totally clear to all that the leader of the EZLN and its structure has decided to exchange revolutionary speeches for peace.

Returning to his interview, with Scherer and with Gabriel García Márquez, the one which Subcomandante Marcos used to rave against the revolutionaries, he made this a defining point of his social-democratic position by stating that it is not necessary to seize power, that power must be left to those who already have it, as this is how it is in the world. Who does not know that the upper classes have the power? Who does not know that in Mexico the financial oligarchy rules? Who does not know that the politics of the legal parties is the politics of the big bourgeoisie? Such senseless talk by the leadership of such an important movement is shameful.

In social activity, what is not political nowadays? Fundamentally, the Zapatista discourse tries to alienate the masses from the political struggle, under the pretext that everything political is corrupt, without putting this in class terms, that is, without differentiating between bourgeois politics with all its hues and proletarian politics. One must state dryly, Marcos is taking up social democratic politics of the left and rejecting revolutionary politics.

Certainly, revolutionaries propose to organise the masses so that they can wage political struggle, take power and transform their reality in all facets of social life, contributing historically to the popular struggles so that the masses gain certain more or less immediate objectives, but above all so that they can raise their level of consciousness and increase their forces in the struggle against their oppressors. While the Zapatistas, at first very quietly, but in the end completely openly, propose to assimilate the bourgeois slogan of making the masses people who should only take part politically in questions that have nothing to do with political power and the material base on which it rests, the ownership of the means of production. At another point of this Zapatista litany, they try to identify the radicalisation of the movements with defeat: ‘we will not force the movement to the point that it leads to defeat.’ This seems like a call to dignity with which the student movement confronted the regime; the background of this was that they refused to deepen the struggle for fear of repression, an attitude that leads to defeatism, but which also touches on dirty blackmail of the masses with the supposed ‘risks’ to force them to take down their banners.

With regard to the socialist perspective in Mexico, the Zapatista discourse followed the same patterns of classic social democratic, revisionist and big bourgeois language; in agreement with them, it identified socialism with the time of revisionism in power, when the revolutionary socialist processes degenerated into state capitalism from the middle of the 20th century until its complete bankruptcy a decade ago. We revolutionaries accept defeats in the class struggle of the proletariat in the process of overcoming all the historic situations and the errors that confronted the peoples with the return of wage slavery, with the idea that the working masses themselves and their broader participation in all levels of struggle will block their moves. We do not ask for the understanding of the oppressors because we do not receive gold from Moscow, we do not call on the representatives of the bourgeoisie who try to make us believe that there is no longer a revolutionary struggle. We call on the masses to exercise the revolutionary struggle to transform present society. We continue to be conscious of the fact that the class struggle is the motive force of history.

II. Revolutionary Violence

Violence is a fact of the class struggle. Given the antagonisms, social classes and even more those who have a revolutionary perspective always resort to the criticism of arms. Marcos, who embarked on a violent movement in response to the violence of the oppressors, now comes to give lessons of repentance, ‘Violence is always useless, but one does not understand this until one exercises it or suffers from it’ (interview with Scherer). One should not spit into the wind. The history of humanity has advanced by this ‘useless’ deed. What happened to the revolutions of the slaves, the serfs, the peasants, the bourgeoisie, the working class in history? What about the revolution for independence of 1810, the revolution of 1910-17, or the revolutionary guerrilla traditions in the history of our country? With his romanticism Marcos takes us back to the old outmoded bourgeois conception of violence as a dark symbol of human history, its black side, denying again any class distinction between the reactionary violence of the oppressor classes and the revolutionary violence of the dispossessed classes. And he continues hammering, ‘clearly a soldier, I include myself among them, is an absurd and irrational man, because he has to resort to violence to convince someone’ (interview with Scherer). A soldier, we say, is someone in arms in the service of a social class, his action is determined by the needs of the class or sector that has put him there or for which he has stood up. Even the generals in power in Latin America are clearly maintained by the needs of the local oppressor classes and of course by the burning needs of the imperialists, but not by their so-called ‘evil nature.’ The Zapatistas used arms not to convince, but to assert their interests and to put a halt to the increasing repression and extermination to which they had been subjected for many years. This is something that they should not forget; the peoples of the Lacandon jungle have an urgent need to resort to self-defence against the big landowners and the State.

In relation to other guerrilla groups, with the idea of not only questioning ultra-left errors or positions, but of rejecting the armed struggle, Marcos said that, ‘it is not ethical that all means are justified’ (interview with García Márquez). This is an old trick to which the ruling classes have resorted since the beginning of the Mexican revolution of 1910 to discredit the armed struggle.

But this is not the end. ‘He who must resort to arms to assert his ideas is very poor in ideas’ (interview with Scherer). That is to hit your head against the wall; it is not just using a phrase of the regime to combat the armed struggle, but the beginning of its abandonment, prettified by a good dose of humanitarianism. Marcos says he is a follower of Zapata, but how could one understand Zapata without the armed movement that he led?

One must remember that the masses resort to armed struggle, and especially to its highest form, the armed insurrection, not simply because of their desperate situation, but after a long process of struggles until they understand the significance of their aspirations and the need to assert them in a revolutionary way, confronting the ruling classes, being prepared to shed their blood in the struggle for their liberation.

In this way, translating the Zapatista logic into plain language one could say that because exploitation is a certainty in this world, and oppression is inevitable, one must convince the whole world of this for everything to change. But we do not try to impose our ideas of freedom by force of arms, because then they will become very poor ideas, or poor ideas. Such gibberish is contagious!

In summary, he would have us believe that open revolutionary struggle has been superseded and from now on we should limit ourselves to peaceful struggle. It is notorious that the position of the EZLN is now fully identified with classical liberalism of the bourgeois democracies.

They have tried to frighten the regime by stating that if the peace process is not begun, other armed groups will arise; yes, they will arise with or without you. This is the result of the sharpening of class contradictions, foreseen in general terms by the development of capitalism, and seen concretely by the anti-popular and pro-imperialist politics of the regime.

III. The Zapatista View of Capitalism

To the praise of the bourgeoisie and the shame of the tradition of struggle of our suffering Mexican people, the Zapatistas have brought us an old and stale slogan, ‘We do not believe that all businessmen are thieves, for some have earned their wealth by honourable and honest means’ (interview with Scherer). No, this is not a Christian sermon, where the thief is accused and the saint is rewarded. Capitalist exploitation is not simply a question of morals or robbery, but of social relations of production established between the owners of the means of production in private property and those who do not own anything but their own labour power to sell to the former. ‘Honest’ means of producing wealth do not exist; one is either a direct or indirect exploiter. If Marcos had to give a single example of his thesis, he would be faced with the same thing as all intellectuals of the system, a complete absurdity. The humblest of the bosses who crosses himself (before the Virgin of Guadalupe) must always exploit his workers to the maximum, the banker will demand the highest profit, the investor will seek the highest interest, the landowner wants to maximise his rent, the cattle raiser will seek the greatest profits. It is the law of the system.

Marcos asks for incentives for cooperatives such as that of Tephé [an indigenous community north of Mexico City which has built a water park on their land, attracting Mexican tourists – translator’s note] and ‘that their business potential be recognised, giving them advantages and possibilities in the market which are offered to the big hotel owners’ (interview with Scherer).

Well, to follow his logic of vitalising those sectors, we would first have to forget that the State today is in the service of the big monopolies. Who does not know that? Once this ‘simple detail’ is forgotten, with the best of results, assuming competition between hotel monopolies, what would be achieved is to create a new monopoly that would fight to crush the small businessmen or other small cooperatives. Why? Because the search for the greatest profits reigns, because without this they would succumb to the competition, because the social relations of capitalist production in their monopoly phase reign.

In case one tries to make them into small or medium-sized businesses with financial stability, they would again be faced with the constant threat of being devoured or subordinated to the more powerful ones. The independent companies in a monopolised branch create a factor of instability for the companies that dominate that branch and the independent companies always come into conflict with the prices and profits of the monopolies. By forgetting this Marcos fell into the trap of the regime which consists in promoting (in appearance) policies favourable to the small bourgeoisie, which in fact are subject to the whirlpool of big capital.

However it may be under the capitalist mode of production, by the law of the extraction of surplus value and the law of accumulation, the cooperatives in the Zapatista program will end up exploiting labour power, as the Pascual, the Excelsior and many others, or being cruelly subjected to elimination.

In the case of the small bourgeoisie and the cooperativists the main task is to integrate them into the democratic and revolutionary struggle to transform the present relations of production and to integrate them into a productive life where they do not become exploiters of the worker.

But this latter is not the expectation designed by the Zapatistas; for them what is at stake are: ‘the possibilities of constructing another type of relation, even within the market, which do not represent savage capitalism where some are devoured by others’ (interview with Scherer). This is also not new; it is a repetition of the social-democratic proposal for a ‘third way.’ Imperialist Europe is experiencing it; however the ‘domestication of the forces of capitalism’ has not brought about more than a change in the form of speech that obscures the significance of the capitalist market. The capitalists do not make economic or military war because they are evil, but only out of the need to survive. It is difficult to believe that Marcos really does not know this, or that the rest of the social-democrats, who are aiming to win the sympathies of the oligarchy, do not know this.

It is important to point out our differences especially on the question of the relations between the national oligarchy and imperialism, for the Zapatistas through Marcos recognise that the former will be devoured by the imperialists. In this sense, the dynamics of imperial rule in general always aims to consent to the national oligarchies, for the sake of being allowed to be guaranteed in the strategic sectors fundamental to consolidate their international control. The imperial rule over our country is based on the strategic alliance of subordination between the international financial oligarchy and the national financial oligarchy.

The Zapatista interpretation of capitalism is not as novel as some proclaim; those who state that Marxism is obsolete revive the most backward economist and populist theories, flavouring them with social-democratic discourse, but they have nothing new to offer. All they do is reveal their own class nature, sticking to them to this, they try to generalise the slightest social development.

The social-democratic discourse in the EZLN’s version follows: ‘recognizing differences’ are the new magic words to obliterate the existing contradictions. The meaning of this is very elastic, and acceptable to almost everyone; the Zapatistas speak of recognizing us as all being different and living in harmony, in the land of humankind. But humankind lives according to historic patterns which cannot be discarded; we recognise the differences between possessors and dispossessed, between exploited and exploiters, between oppressed and oppressors, but do we accept them? This is incompatible with our perspective of struggle.

Finally, we believe it is our obligation to give the lie to a grave error in the lessons that Marcos draws from the history of the 20th century, when he says: ‘When we declare that the new century and the new millennium are the millennium and century of differences, we are making a fundamental break with the 20th century: the great struggle of the hegemonic powers. The last struggle that we remember, between the socialist and the capitalist camp, led to two world wars. If this is not recognised, the world will end up being an archipelago in continuous war within and outside its territories. It will not be possible to live in this way’ (interview with Scherer). We should make clear three points:

  1. The struggle for world hegemony is a present-day matter, in which all the capitalist powers spurred on by their great transnational monopolies are involved, but also one in which North American power prevails.
  2. The world wars originated from the nature of the imperialist phase of capitalism for world domination; the First World War began before the proletarian revolution of 1917, the second had its cause in German expansionism that came to question English rule. To say that these wars were due to contradictions between socialism and capitalism is to follow in the footsteps of all that nebulous propaganda that tried to cleanse the capitalist powers of blame, above all the Western powers, who were the ones that pushed Germany (in the case of the Second World War) to fight against the former USSR.
  3. The world is already an archipelago at war for a new division of spheres of influence around the great Atlantic Alliance (NATO). We are seeing the scenes of war constantly shifting from one point of the globe to another; each time the imperialists run into more difficulties. The Atlantic Alliance is trying to prolong its existence by fighting against the countries that are not incorporated into it, but its internal contradictions, especially between Europe and North America, are heightened and turn into bitter disputes over who will get the greater share of the multiple booties of war.
IV. Marcos and his idea of legality

‘We call on one of the forces to assume its role, the Congress of the Union’ (interview with Monsivais). Already the ideologist of present-day Zapatismo has forgotten the role that to date the merchants of the chambers play in the life of the country, they have already forgotten the role played by parliament to negate the EZLN. We see here how they have linked themselves to an organ that is not of the people, but of the owning classes, an instrument of bourgeois democracy. This call is dangerous not only from the viewpoint of the search for a solution to their demands, but of the illusions that it created in the masses, since it promotes confidence in an organ of the dictatorship of capital. And what do the Zapatistas now say with regard to the consummation of the Indigenous Law? What role did the Congress of the Union play? Things will go badly by promoting such illusions, since despite the facts the Zapatistas go to the extreme of stating that there are only three people who show bad will towards them. After this they will again flirt with the forces of the left to dazzle them once more with new demonstrations of their legalism.

But earlier, in his notorious interviews he has already stated without blushing in the least that:

‘For us it is very important that the nation should say: ‘I assume it and I put it in writing; I make history. I recognize that everything that has taken place before was not good. Not only do I recognize this, but I will make every effort to ensure that this will not happen again’ (interview with Monsivais). Oh Marcos! Who leads the nation, little brother? The fact that things were not good sounds like the classic bourgeois lament: let’s start with a new slate. To put it this way is to place the solution of the indigenous and peasant question in the hands of the ruling classes, giving the message to all the people that this is also a viable solution for their demands.

‘The EZLN is not asking that the whole Army must leave before negotiations. We ask Fox to answer this question: Are you willing to enter into negotiations and to abandon a military solution? Are you the commander of the Army?’ The Zapatistas here fall into Fox’s populism. Fox is a representative of the oligarchy, his actions are subordinate to the strategy of bourgeois domination, and obviously, to the pressure that the masses can exercise against that. Therefore, it is not the will of the president that will resolve such a serious situation.

In his interview with Scherer, he says: ‘We propose to try to convince this government, not only Fox, that they can sit down with the certainty that there will be results if they take this seriously.’ We have seen enough of this already; now it is the ‘good will’ of the Zapatistas added to a policy of shady deals worthy of professional mercenaries.

V. The Zapatista view of the masses and their struggles

The Zapatista concept of the masses and their struggle is not notably different from the classical social-democratic view. Why should it be? For the Zapatistas society, more than being divided into classes, is divided into the State, the military and civilians. The Zapatistas never call on the working masses and the popular sectors for their support, but on ‘civil society’, that broad spectrum of oppressor and oppressed classes in the old Hegelian language that has long ago been superceded by Marxism. However, it has again been dredged up, first by social democracy to prevent the masses from looking at classes and to try to unite what cannot be united in the class struggle, rather than to do the opposite, to continuously help to separate the workers and peasants from the bourgeoisie and their pernicious influence.

They are especially trying to raise the banner of the so-called ‘new social actors’, who have been brought into the struggle in the last decades and who have been exalted by social-democracy in opposition to the working class in their role of vanguard. These new actors, with their special problems, who are part of various classes or class sectors, are influenced by openly petty bourgeois and deeply individualist positions and forms of life. They are trying to take them aside to a marginalised struggle from the strategic point of view, alienating them from their exploited and oppressed condition by the system in most cases. In civilian society, as has been shown above, the EZLN encourages parliamentary cretinism, reformism and bourgeois and petty bourgeois constitutionalism, and all kinds of actions that ‘do not shake up’ the masses or lead them to confront their oppressors in a revolutionary manner.

A serious mistake that Marcos made in the Federal District was when he called on the students to concentrate on the studies and to postpone their struggles until they had gotten their degrees. Immediately the opportunist sectors and reaction applauded this ‘brilliant’ suggestion. Of course this is not the first time that the Zapatistas fell into the opportunist swamp in the student movement; during the strike, at a specific moment they gave their support to the moderate groups. We call on the students not to pay attention to such nonsense; our party calls on them to fight, to absorb the great experiences in their demonstrations and to push for revolutionary action from their trenches, so that at the end of their studies they have a clearer consciousness and broader horizons of struggle.

VI. The problem of the land and the ethnic question

The central problem of the Zapatista struggle, as much as they may present it as an indigenous question, is materially speaking the problem of the land, and sociologically one of ethnicity.

The indigenous communities were systematically pushed deep into the jungle by the landowners, for whom the main thing is to have them available as labour power for the harshest tasks. (In the same way other indigenous peoples in our country were pushed into the most inaccessible and unhealthy areas.) The real solution to the problems of the Zapatista communities must begin with a broad agrarian reform that returns to these people their former territories and the infrastructure needed to overcome their historic backwardness, as well as granting them territorial autonomy. Without the working class coming to power, it is clear that even with such a reform, sooner rather than later things will get worse with the differentiation of classes in this area, a product of the laws of the capitalist market. Besides let us not forget the existence of a pole of economic and political power which will crush them even if Zapatismo obtains certain considerable benefits.

Marcos maintains that ‘the fundamental thing in our struggle is the demand for indigenous rights and culture’ (interview with Monsivais). This is a false point; all this would be lost without material livelihood for the indigenous peasants. First they must own the means of production, and then the demand for indigenous territorial autonomy must be raised, in order to raise the ethnic groups in the general development of their life. If one raises only the demand for territorial autonomy, even if the bourgeoisie today does not want to yield on this, they may do this under certain circumstances. However, that autonomy by itself would still be amputated because it would be limited to an area with an independent administration with political powers for the ethnic groups as such, leaving intact the large private property in the land, and of course, the indigenous ethnic groups could not develop with such an enemy at their side. Besides, there would remain unsolved the problem of what the Zapatistas understand as rights and culture, since in the present-day terms that they have been using, it is a question of the right to exploit each other.

This petty bourgeois view of the indigenous problem has given rise to indigenous theory, sometimes presented as a problem of races. But it is rather a question of the systematic oppression of the ethnic groups in our country, expropriating their land eliminating all the agents who impede the capitalist relations of exploitation.

Although racism is an undeniable fact, it parts from those concepts. If we look outside our country, we see that the Japanese, who are not a white race, are accepted as such because they are an advanced capitalist society. Also it is not a problem of races since even the indigenous people have assimilated mestizo, black and white elements into their social activity as an ethnic group; they share a common life and a similar psychology, but not necessarily the same blood. Nowadays there is no more pure blood among the ethnic groups, and in spite of this the problem persists, and the ethnic groups also persist as historic social beings.

On the other hand, the Zapatistas have forgotten the thousands and thousands of indigenous people (separated not just in the last generation, but even several generations ago) who take part in the general social activity of the country, and are immersed in all the strata of capitalist society, exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed. White, mestizo, Indian, black, Arabs, Asians, etc. make up the blood stream of our country. Moreover, without leaving this question aside, one must analyse the breakdown of social classes: bourgeois, proletarians, peasants, semi-proletarians and other middle strata. In the same way the ethnic groups have their class breakdown, in accord with the place that their members occupy in production: as exploiters, peasants, peons, day-labourers (agricultural proletariat) and artisans. They are subjected to a worse situation because of their ethnic oppression caused by the ruling class. These qualities should guide us in participating in their struggles, fundamentally their class nature, the particularity of the ethnic social organisation.

In the view of our party, even though the problem of the land and the question of ethnic territorial autonomy are problems which cannot be postponed, the guarantee that the ethnic problem would be fundamentally and decisively solved is by incorporating the ethnic groups into the struggle for socialism.

Our party does not reject a peaceful solution favourable to the Zapatista problem and to the mass movement itself, but this will not come from the defeatist line presently put forward, but by propelling the struggle of the masses. It is not a matter of simply signing a just peace agreement, but (if necessary) of making a dignified retreat in the armed struggle, without rejecting this, nor the class struggle in general.

As long as the Zapatistas continue along the line of abandoning the consistent struggle and are tied to all those groups in so-called civil society that are unable to take up a serious fight against the system, the results will not be favourable to the masses that they mobilise.

The Zapatistas and their leadership should see the nature of the capitalist system as it is, not in the light of indigenous subjectivism, and break with the concepts that seek to unleash the forces of capital within the ethnic groups. Otherwise, the tiger will make them swallow the mirrors and not the other way around as, they once preached.

Translated from the Spanish by George Gruenthal

Source

‘If You Do Not Follow the Order You Will Be Shot’ – New facts about the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

GermanRevolution1918

On the Eightieth Anniversary of the Martyrdom
of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg

Eighty years ago on 15th January, 1919 the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, were brutally assassinated. It was a momentous loss for the German and international working class movement and it had widespread and long-term repercussions. The two leaders adhered to the revolutionary trend within the German Social-Democratic Party which had developed shortly after the turn of the century.

For the first time in Marxist literature Karl Liebknecht took up the question of militarism in the imperialist period in his book Militarism and Anti-Militarism which came out in 1907 and which led him to being sentenced to imprisonment. As a member of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies and the Reichstag he exposed the bosses of the military industries headed by Krupp for their warmongering policies and called for international proletarian solidarity as the decisive weapon in the struggle against militarism. Liebknecht welcomed the 1905 Revolution in Russia and came into a sharp political clash with the revisionists, defending the general mass strike as a special proletarian means of struggle. He denounced the assistance given by the German government to tsarism which was engaged in the suppression of the revolution and called upon the German proletariat to emulate the struggle of the Russian workers.

At the beginning of the First World War he did not initially break with the discipline of the Social-Democratic Party, voting for war credits on August 4th, 1914. Liebknecht soon corrected his position and on 2nd December, 1914 he cast the sole vote against war credits. In a statement which was submitted to the Chairman of the Reichstag he characterised the war as one of annexation. This document was later circulated as an illegal leaflet. Even when drafted to the front, Liebknecht skilfully utilised his membership of the Prussian and Reichstag Chambers to continue the struggle. He adopted the Bolshevik slogan of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war. Together with Rosa Luxemburg he established the Spartacus group. From the rostrum of the Prussian Chamber of Deputies he called upon the Berlin proletariat to join the Mayday demonstration of 1916. In the course of this Liebknecht called for the overthrow of the government which was conducting an imperialist war : for this action he was arrested and sentenced by a military court to jail for four years. It was there that he learnt the news of the October Revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Poland in 1871 and lived and worked in Germany from 1898. She was an early opponent of the revisionist E. Bernstein, actively opposing the ministerialism of Millerand and the opportunist compromises with bourgeois parties. Her writings on these questions were collected in 1899 in Social Reform or Revolution? With regard to the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Rosa Luxemburg did not accept the Leninist views on the need to construct a proletarian party. Stalin noted that Luxemburg had declared for the Mensheviks, arguing that the Bolsheviks had tendencies to Blanquism and ultra-centralism. During the Russian Revolution of 1905-07 she drew closer to the Bolsheviks on many questions of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle. Rosa Luxemburg correctly understood the role of the working class as the decisive force of the revolution, recognised the need for an armed uprising against tsarism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Luxemburg expressed complete agreement with the Bolshevik view that the liberal bourgeoisie was a counter-revolutionary force and that the peasantry constituted a revolutionary class. Drawing on the experience of the 1905 revolution she supported the greatest possible development of the extra-parliamentary struggle of the masses and stressed the need to use the mass political strike. For her anti-militarist struggle she was imprisoned during the First World War.

In her major theoretical works on political economy Rosa Luxemburg presented a critique of capitalism and imperialism where the aggressive colonial policies were described; she upheld the view, however, that the accumulation of capital under capitalism was possible through the expansion of the sphere of exploitation of the non-capitalist sectors so that imperialism was defined as the struggle of the capitalist states for the non-capitalist environment. Despite her important theoretical contribution Rosa Luxemburg deviated from Marxism on a number of questions: to wit, on the denial of the right of national self-determination and an underestimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry.

From the beginning of the First World War she criticised the imperialist character of the war and the betrayal of the social-democratic leadership. As a founder and leader of the Spartacus League she authored a number of anti-war tracts. Luxemburg greeted the October revolution, commended the role of the Bolsheviks while incorrectly evaluating the Bolshevik tactics on the agrarian and national question, and the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly. Her critiques of Bolshevik tactics have been widely advertised by the spokesmen of U.S. imperialism notwithstanding the fact that she retraced her steps on a number of questions relating to the Bolshevik revolution and made a turn towards Leninism defending the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Soviets in Germany.

Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were among the founders of the Communist Party of Germany which held its constituent congress from 30th December, 1918 to January 1, 1919. After the suppression of the Berlin workers’ uprising of January 1919, the ruling classes organised the brutal killings of the two communists on 15th January 1919. The roots of the murders lay in the secret accommodation reached between the right-wing socialist leader Chancellor Friedrich Ebert and General Groener which was established in November, 1918 ‘in order to prevent the spread of terroristic Bolshevism in Germany’. Bourgeois and socialist organs competed to hunt down the two revolutionaries. The spy office of the Reichstag Regiment founded by the Social-Democratic Party set a bounty of 100,000 marks on the heads of Liebknecht and Luxemburg. On the 13th January, 1919 two days before the murders the Social-Democratic Party paper Vorwärts carried a poem calling for the assassination of the two communists.The last verse of this ended:

Many hundred corpses in a row—
Proletarians!
Karl, Radek, Rosa and Co —
Not one of them is there, not one of them is there!
Proletarians!

It was not without foundation that John Heartfield was to craft the photomontage entitled ‘Fraternal greetings of the SDP’ in which the deathhead of Karl Liebknecht was depicted below the masthead of the SDP paper Vorwärts which was shown dripping with blood.

After the liberation of Berlin by the heroic Red Army in 1945 a participant of the murders was arrested and interrogated. His testimony sheds light on the final hours of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

VS.

 

Secret
Copy No.1

4 October 1945,
N.205 cc

From the Deputy Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissars of the USSR,

To Comrade V.M. Molotov,

I am forwarding for you an intimation of the military prosecutor of the Berlin garrison about the arrest and testimony of a participant to the murder of Rosa Luxemburg.

K. Gorshenin

The Military Prosecutor of the Berlin Garrison

13 September 1945

Secret

To the Chief Military Prosecutor of the Red Army Lt. General of Law

Comrade N.P. Afanasiev,

On 13 June 1945 the Berlin operative group of the NKVD arrested a participant of the murder of Rosa Luxemberg — Otto Runge (living under the documents of Rudolf Wilhelm), born 1875, hailing from Gestebize (on Oder), by nationality a German and by (class — trans.) origin a peasant, educated up to 8th class, member of the NSDP since 1933, living in Berlin at 22 Greifen-Gagenerstrasse. Since 1941 was living in retirement on pension and was not working anywhere.

The investigations revealed the following:

Unter officer of a cavalry division Otto Runge, on the orders of the commander of his battalion, on the 13th of January 1919, was sent along with 15 other soldiers of his battalion to hotel Eden (Berlin, Nurembergenstrasse No.30) to guard the regiment’s headquarter.

On the 15th of January, Captain Pabst, an officer of the Staff of the regiment gave Runge the order to personally stand guard, along with soldier Drager, at the main entrance of hotel Eden from 18.00 hours (Berlin time) onwards. At 20.00 Runge and Drager were not replaced at the post and on orders of General Hofman, who at that time was present at the headquarters of the regiment, they were left to guard the headquarters for an unspecified period of time.

At 20.45 a car stopped at the main entrance of hotel Eden with four officers and Rosa Luxemburg. The latter was led by the officers into the regimental headquarters. Approximately 10 minutes later a second car also stopped at the main entrance with three officers and Karl Liebknecht, who was led by these officers into the regimental headquarters.

At this time, having come to know about the arrest of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, people started to gather near hotel Eden.

After K.Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg were led into the regimental Pflugk-Hartung headquarters, captain Pflugk-Hartung approached Runge and asked : did he know who the man and the woman in civilian clothes brought in just then were, and when Runge answered in the negative, Pflugk-Hartung told Runge that they were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, that they were pernicious revolutionaries and bandits who wanted to overthrow the rulers and seize power for themselves. Pflugk-Hartung then ordered Runge that when K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg come out of the hotel he must shoot them. Runge supposedly refused to do so on the pretext that a large number of people had gathered and he might slip and hurt some one else too. Subsequently Pflugk-Hartung went inside the headquarters and captain Pabst came out and gave the order to kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg by hitting them with the butt of the rifle, which Runge agreed to do. After Pabst left, lieutenant Kanaris came out and told Runge that if he did not carry out the orders i.e. kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg he himself would be shot. Kanaris also went inside the headquarters.

When Runge and Drager were left alone at the post, the latter told Runge that if he (Runge — trans.) did not carry out the orders then Drager himself will kill K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg with his bayonet. To which Runge replied that ‘the order has been given and I will carry it out’.

After a few minutes the director (his name is not established) of the hotel walked out of the main entrance. He was on the right, in the middle was R. Luxemburg and to the left was lieutenant Vogel, who pushed R. Luxemburg out of the hotel directly towards the guard Runge. Runge was prepared for the murder and with the full swing of the hand struck Luxemburg with the butt of the rifle on the left side of her face and shoulder, under the impact of which the latter fell to the ground, but was still alive and attempted to stand up. At this moment 4 soldiers came out of the hotel, and along with lieutenant Vogel dragged R. Luxemburg into the same car in which she had been brought to the hotel. They themselves got into the car. Vogel took out a pistol and in that very place shot Luxemburg in the head. Her corpse was carried away.

Subsequently, the following persons walked out of the hotel: captain-lieutenant Pflugk-Hartung, his brother, captain Pflugk-Hartung, Oberlieutenant Rithin, oberlieutenant (illegible in the original document), lieutenant Shultz, lieutenant Liepmann soldier Friedrich and among them was K. Liebknecht who was taken away by them in a car parked on the other side of the road.

After a whole Lieutenant Krul came to Runge at the post and ordered him to go immediately to the 2nd floor of the hotel and kill Wilhelm Pieck, the Editor of the Communist newspaper ‘Rote-Fahne’.

Krul brought Runge to the 2nd floor, where Wilhelm Pieck was standing in the corridor, and told Runge to shoot Wilhelm Pieck if he made a move. They wanted to fake a killing while attempting to escape while under detention.

When Runge and Pieck were left alone in the corridor, the latter turned to Runge and said ‘soldier do not shoot me, I have something more to convey to your command’, after which Runge led Wilhelm Pieck to the room of captain Pabst. After a few minutes Pabst led Pieck out into the corridor and ordered Runge to accompany the latter to the commandant’s office. On the way, supposedly, Runge let Wilhelm Pieck go, and returned to the headquarters and reported to Lieutenant Hervitz, that he, Runge, fell ill and had let Pieck go, as he could not accompany him any further.

Approximately at 22.30 Lieutenant Vogel came to the headquarters and declared that they had dumped the corpse of R. Luxemburg into the river Spree.

The second car returned approximately at 23.00 with the officers who had taken away K.Liebknecht, and they said that they took the latter along the road towards the Zoological Park and faked a breakdown in the car. They stopped the car and got out of it. Then lieutenant Shultz took a pen-knife out of Liebknecht’s pocket, cut himself on the arm and then shot Karl Liebknecht, thereby trying to depict that Liebknecht was killed while attempting to escape during which he injured Shultz.

On 16th January Runge was summoned to the regimental headquarters where Captain Pabst gave Runge the order: stay, without leaving at the apartment of Lieutenant Liepmann till he received the necessary documents for departure.

After a gap of 8 days Lieutenants Kanaris and Liepmann gave Runge false documents in the name of Krankenwerter Dinwald and suggested to him to proceed to Fletsburg and also handed Runge a sum of 1000 Marks.

Runge lived in Fletsburg till 11th April 1919 and then two officers from the crime police came to him and asked Runge to come along with them to Berlin.

On the way to Berlin on the train, these officers of the crime police explained to Runge that he was being taken to the court in a case regarding the murder of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. He must deny his involvement in the killing, declaring that at the time he, Runge, was living in Fletsburg.

On reaching Berlin Runge was put in jail on 13th April, and on 8th May the legal process started and continued till 14th of May.

On 9th June 1945 during interrogation Otto Runge gave the following evidence:

‘During the time when I was in jail prior to the trial, advocate Grinsbach and judge Hentz came to my cell and gave me instructions as to how I should conduct myself during the trial. They told me to take all the blame on myself and not to involve any of the officers. I was supposed to declare that the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht was carried out by me on my own initiative in a state of insanity’.

During the interrogation of 14.IX.1945 Otto Runge said:

‘After I answered the question put to me by judge Hentz that I had killed Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknecht on my own initiative and in a state of insanity, no more questions were posed to me’.

And further:

‘In reality I was not insane, I was a normal person and was answerable for my acts as a person in full control of his mental abilities.

‘Before the trial I was thrice sent for medical examination and the legal medical consultants doctors Leipmann and Shtrasmon gave the report about my insanity’.

After the officers, who really were involved in the killing of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, when asked by the court replied that they had never issued any orders regarding the killing, indignant and angry shouts were heard in the courtroom from the general public to the effect that the officers were giving false testimony as they were the real perpetrators of the killing and Runge had served only as a tool in their hands. Judge Hentz stopped the trial and removed the public from the courtroom and the session continued in camera.

Runge was sentenced to 25 months in jail by this trial court and all the officers were acquitted.

While serving time in jail, some time in the month of November 1919, one colonel Apshtet, who was then told the whole truth by Runge about the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, visited Runge. Colonel Apshtet made a written record of the interrogation of Runge and told the latter that this record would be placed before the Chairman of the Supreme Military Court for a second inquiry into the case for Runge’s acquittal.

On the 31st of January 1920 by a decision of the Supreme Military Court Runge was released and continued to stay at his home waiting for the second trial.

On the 5th of February 1920 Runge was visited at his home by 3 officers of the police and Heppert, the Head of the administration of the jails. The latter told Runge that new court proceedings were going to be initiated regarding the case of the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and Runge would appear in these proceedings as a witness and the officers involved in the killing as the accused. However, due to political compulsions Runge would have to be put in jail again. Heppert took away the certificate of release by the Supreme Court’ (Vishii Verkhovnii Sud — trans.) from Runge and he was taken to the jail by the policemen where he stayed till 24th March still waiting for the trial to begin.

In connection with the publication of an article in one of the journals by its editor, one Bornstein, regarding the wrong sentence passed by Judge Hentz in 1919 in the case regarding the killing of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, a new trial was initiated in which Runge appeared as a witness.

During the interrogation of 8th August of this year Otto Runge said:

‘About 8 days before the beginning of the trial of Judge Hentz I was approached by two persons who offered me 10,000 marks so that I would give the same evidence in this trial regarding the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht as I gave in the earlier trial of 1919. These people did not mention their names but did mention that they had come on the personal request of Judge Hentz. I refused to accept their offer’.

During this interrogation Runge also said:

‘At the trial of Judge Hentz I told the entire truth, how the killing was really carried out and also about the attempt to kill Wilhelm Pieck’.

At the trial of Judge Hentz Wilhelm Pieck was also present as a witness.

For fraudulently passing the judgement in the case regarding the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919, Judge Hentz, supposedly, was dismissed from the post of the Chief Prosecutor of Germany after a trial in 1929.

It was not possible to investigate the matter of the killing of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in greater detail, despite my written directive, in view of the fact that no more witnesses or direct participants of the killing could be found, and Runge’s health sharply deteriorated in the second half of August. On 1st September Runge died due to deteriorating symptoms of old age (Runge was born in 1875).

Military Prosecutor of the Berlin garrison
Colonel of Law
Kotlyar

Courtesy: ‘Vestnik’ No.1, 1995. Translated from the Russian by Tahir Asghar.

 

Epitaphs For Karl Liebknecht and
Rosa Luxemburg

Bertolt Brecht

Epitaph 1919

Red Rosa has also now disappeared
Where she lies is unknown
Because she told the truth to the poor
The rich have hunted her out of the world.

Epitaph for Karl Liebknecht

Here lies
Karl Liebknecht
The fighter against war
When he was struck down
Our city still continued to stand.

Epitaph for Rosa Luxemburg

Here lies buried
Rosa Luxemburg
A Jewess from Poland
Champion of the German workers Murdered on the orders of
The German oppressors. Oppressed;
Bury your differences!

Translated from the German by V.P. Sharma

 

karlkoll

In Memory of Karl Liebknecht, 1919-20, Käthe Kollwitz

Source

V.I. Lenin on the International and World War I

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“An International does not mean sitting at the same table and having hypocritical and pettifogging resolutions written by people who think that genuine internationalism consists in German socialists justifying the German bourgeoisie’s call to shoot down French workers, and in French socialists justifying the French bourgeoisie’s call to shoot down German workers in the name of the ‘defence of the fatherland!’ The International consists in the coming together (first ideologically, then in due time organisationally as well) of people who, in these grave days, are capable of defending socialist internationalism in deed, i.e., of mustering their forces and ‘being the next to shoot’ at the governments and the ruling classes of their own respective ‘fatherlands.’ This is no easy task; it calls for much preparation and great sacrifices and will be accompanied by reverses. However, for the very reason that it, is no easy task, it must be accomplished only together with those who wish to perform it and are not afraid of a complete break with the chauvinists and with the defenders of social-chauvinism.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism: How the International Can be Restored”

On Closed Speech of Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU

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George Gruenthal

Book Review:  Khrushchev Lied, by Grover Furr

Prof. Grover Furr has done a great service to Marxist-Leninists and all revolutionaries and to all those who are interested in historical truth. He has picked out 61 major statements from Khrushchev’s 20th Congress speech, checked them against other material, especially from the Russian archives that have recently been made public, and found that they are all lies. He gives extensive quotes from primary sources, as well as from internet web-sites that give English translations of the source material. Thus, he has made available and translated a wealth of material, especially valuable for those who do not read Russian.

In order to make the book more readable, Furr has divided it into two parts. In the first, with 221 pages, he presents each of 61 statements and the basic material that refutes them. In the second part, an Appendix of 194 pages, Furr presents additional documentation to back up the refutations. Thus, people who want to read the ‘short version’ can read only the first part; those who want the full details may find it easiest to read each chapter together with the corresponding chapter in the Appendix.

I will give several examples of Furr’s revelations to provide an idea of the scope of his book.

1) Khrushchev claimed that ‘Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove his viewpoint and the correctness of his position was doomed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation.’

There are many facts that contradict this. We will mention only one, by Marshal Zhukov on military matters, which Furr quotes: ‘After Stalin’s death appeared the one about how he used to take military and strategic decisions unilaterally. This was not the case at all. I have already said above that if you reported questions to the Supreme Commander with a knowledge of your business, he took them into account. I know of cases when he turned against his own previous opinion and changed decisions he had taken previously’ (both quotes, Furr, p. 245).

2) Khrushchev implied, without actually stating it, that Kirov was killed by or on the orders of Stalin. Furr points out that very little of the material on Kirov’s murder has been published, or even made available to researchers. He does note that the well-known author on Soviet history, J. Arch Getty, pointed out that several Soviet and post-Soviet commissions had tried and failed to find evidence that Stalin was behind Kirov’s murder. Former Soviet General Sudoplatov, who provided much information (or misinformation) on Soviet activities to the West after the fall of the Soviet Union, stated in 1996: ‘No documents or evidence exist to support the theory of the participation of Stalin or of the apparat of the NKVD in Kirov’s assassination… Kirov was not an alternative to Stalin. He was one of the staunchest Stalinists. Khrushchev’s version was later approved and used by Gorbachev as part of his anti-Stalin campaign’ (p. 274).

3) Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was responsible for mass repressions in the late 1930s. But Furr points out that Khrushchev himself was guilty of mass repressions, both as Party head in Moscow and then as Party head of the Ukraine. Furr quotes from a note that Khrushchev sent to Stalin: ‘Dear Iosif Vissiaronovich! The Ukraine sends [requests for] 17,000 – 18,000 [persons to be] repressed every month. And Moscow confirms no more than 2,000 – 3,000. I request that you take prompt measures. Your devoted N. Khrushchev’ (p. 259). Furr thinks that Khrushchev was responsible for more repressions than anyone else except for Ezhov (Yezhov).

4) Furr points out that Stalin was always in favour of dealing with Trotskyites and other agents as individuals, not through mass repression. He also proposed carrying out political education of leading Party officials. Some of this has been known for a long time to those not blinded by bourgeois-Trotskyite propaganda. Stalin discussed this in ‘Mastering Bolshevism,’ in which he called for each of the leading Party cadre to select temporary replacements for themselves while they attended courses in Party history and ideology (see Furr, p. 280-281). As to the question of mass repression, Stalin stated: ‘how to carry out in practice the task of smashing the German-Japanese agents of Trotskyism. Does this mean that we should strike and uproot not only the real Trotskyites, but also those who wavered at some time toward Trotskyism; not only those who are really Trotskyite agents for wrecking, but also those who happened once upon a time to go along a street where some Trotskyite or other had once passed? At any rate, such voices were heard here at the plenum. Can we consider such an interpretation of the resolution to be correct?

‘No, we cannot consider it to be correct. On this question, as on all other questions, there must be an individual, differentiated approach. You must not measure everyone by the same yardstick. Such a sweeping approach can only harm the cause of struggle against the real Trotskyite wreckers and spies’ (p. 282, Furr’s emphasis).

In this connection it is also worth reading the section of Zhdanov’s speech at the 18th Party Congress in 1939, Amendments to the Rules of the C.P.S.U.(B.), on eliminating mass purges. This is not discussed in Furr’s book, but is available in the archives of Revolutionary Democracy at www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/archive/zhd.htm.

5) After Khrushchev came to power, he and his supporters began a process of ‘mass rehabilitations’ of many high-level officials who had been repressed earlier. Without doing any investigation to see who was actually innocent of any crimes and who was really guilty, people were simply declared innocent. In so doing, crucial statements of people who had admitted their guilt were sometimes totally distorted to make them appear to be claiming innocence.

One example of this is a letter to Stalin written by Gen. Iakir, who had been found guilty of treason along with Marshal Tukhachevskii and was soon to be executed. Marshal Zhukov read from this letter at the CC Plenum in June of 1957 (the Plenum at which the ‘anti-Party bloc’ of Malenkov, Molotov and Kaganovich were expelled from the CC). However, a more complete version of the letter has since been published, in 1994. Zhukov had omitted from the text the words printed below in bold:

‘Dear, close com. Stalin. I dare address you in this way because I have told everything and it seems to me that I am once more that honourable warrior, devoted to Party, state and people, that I was for many years. All my conscious life has been passed in selfless, honourable work in the sight of the Party and its leaders. – then I fell into a nightmare, into the irreparable horror of treason… The investigation is finished. The indictment of treason to the state has been presented to me, I have admitted my guilt, I have repented completely. I have unlimited faith in the justice and appropriateness of the decision of the court and the government. Now each of my words is honest. I die with words of love to you, the Party, the country, with a fervent belief in the victory of communism’ (pp. 214-215).

Zhukov tries to turn an admission of guilt into a proclamation of innocence. It would be hard to imagine a more dishonest example of falsifying a quotation.

6) In 1936, Ezhov took over as head of the NKVD after the removal and later execution of Yagoda for being a member of the Rightist conspiracy. Ezhov had many people, including many who were innocent, arrested and executed from 1937 to 1938. This period was colloquially known as the Yezhovshchina. Ezhov was removed from his post in late 1938 and was arrested and executed the following year. He was replaced by Beria, who put an end to the mass arrests and, after investigations, had many innocent people released from prison. It was this writer’s understanding that Ezhov had been executed simply for taking a heartless, bureaucratic attitude towards these mass arrests.

In the last few years, however, many of the transcripts of the interrogations of Ezhov have been published, and Furr refers readers to the English translations of these on the Internet. They show that Ezhov organised these mass arrests and executions ‘to cover up his own involvement in the Rightist conspiracy and with German military espionage, as well as in a conspiracy to assassinate Stalin or another Politburo member, and to seize power by coup d’état’  (p. 57). Furr includes some 15 pages of documents on Ezhov’s case in his Appendix.

7) We shall shortly move on to areas dealt with in Furr’s book, and particularly some of the fables about Stalin’s behaviour during World War II.

However, we would like to first point out a short but fascinating account of the behaviour of the Trotskyites in the Spanish Civil War. Furr quotes Gen. Sudoplatov:

‘The Trotskyites were also involved in actions. Making use of the support of persons with ties to German military intelligence [the ‘Abwehr’] they organised a revolt against the Republican government in Barcelona in 1937…. Concerning the connections of the leaders of the Trotskyist revolt in Barcelona in 1937 we were informed by Schulze-Boysen…. Afterward, after his arrest, the Gestapo accused him of transmitting this information to us, and this figured in his death sentence by the Hitlerite court in his case’ (p. 269).

Schulze-Boysen was a German citizen who spied for the Soviet Union from within the SS. The Nazi military court which tried and executed him for this espionage confirmed Sudoplatov’s statement.  It declared: ‘At the beginning of 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the accused learned in his official capacity that a rebellion against the local red government in the territory of Barcelona was being prepared with the co-operation of the German Secret Service. This information, together with that of Pöllnitz,’ [a member of the ‘Red Orchestra,’ the famous Soviet anti-Nazi spy ring] ‘was transmitted by him to the Soviet Russian embassy in Paris’ (p. 270).

8) Let us now take up some of Khrushchev’s lies, since repeated by many others, about Stalin’s actions during the war.

a) The first is that Stalin was not prepared for the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. There is no question that Stalin knew that Nazi Germany would eventually attack the Soviet Union. The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed to delay that attack for as long as possible. Furr points out that, in these circumstances, Stalin could not have carried out a mobilisation of Soviet forces, as that would have given Hitler the opportunity to declare war and possibly make a deal with the Western allies. He quotes a statement from a German General-Major Marks in 1940 that ‘The Russians will not do us the favour of attacking us first’ (p. 88). Moreover, the Soviet Union could not rely on British warnings of an impending attack, since Britain clearly wanted to set Hitler against the Soviet Union, and then possibly make a deal with Hitler.

b) Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in the early hours of June 22, 1941. In his speech, Khrushchev blamed Stalin for allegedly ignoring information about the impending attack. He quoted a statement by a Soviet Captain, Vorontsov, that had contained information from a Soviet citizen, Bozer, that ‘Germany is preparing to invade the USSR on May 14.’ This information is contained in a letter by Admiral Kuznetsov to Stalin of May 6, which has now been published in full. The letter concludes with Kuznetsov’s statement that  ‘I believe that this information is false, specifically directed through this channel with the object of reaching our government in order to find out how the USSR would react to it’ (pp. 344-345).

c) In his speech, Khrushchev also told of a German citizen who crossed the border with the Soviet Union on the eve of the invasion and stated that the Soviet Union would be attacked at 3 AM the following morning, June 22. Khrushchev claims that ‘Stalin was informed of this immediately, but even this warning was ignored..

Furr points out that the warning was not ignored, that the information was transmitted to Moscow as quickly as possible considering the need to find a reliable translator and to verify the information. In fact, after the attack the statement by the German soldier, Alfred Liskow, a self-declared communist, was published by Pravda and made into a leaflet to undermine the morale of the German soldiers by letting them know that there were opponents of the war and Hitlerism, friends of the Soviet Union, in their ranks.

Furr also refutes Khrushchev’s statement, again repeated by many others, that Stalin was demoralised at the beginning of the war and that he had withdrawn from any activities in those first days. Furr points out that the logbooks of visitors to Stalin’s office show that Stalin was extremely active in those days and quotes from Dimitrov, as well as Zhukov and the anti-Stalinists Volkogonov and Sudoplatov, all of whom testified to Stalin’s activity in the first days of the war.

Khrushchev also denigrated Stalin’s abilities as a wartime commander. In response, Furr quotes military figures such as Marshals Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Golovanov, all of whom testified in their memoirs not only to Stalin’s great abilities as wartime commander but also to the great respect felt for him by other commanders at the front.


To conclude, I would like to add a few remarks on Furr’s standpoint, his position and views toward Stalin and Soviet socialism.

Furr is an objective researcher and scholar, although he clearly also is sympathetic to Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership. In this way he is different from other researchers such as J. Arch Getty who, although he is not a sympathiser of socialism, was one of the first researchers in the post-Stalin period to dispel some of the myths behind the general anti-communist depictions of Stalin as some sort of ogre.

It is certainly necessary for researchers who adopt a proletarian class stand to start from objective facts; otherwise one becomes an idealist who wants the world to correspond to his ideological views, instead of vice-versa. Throughout the book, Prof. Furr starts from objective facts and follows them to their conclusions, which lead to a clear demonstration that Khrushchev lied throughout his ‘secret speech’ in 1956.

However, Furr does not go much beyond this conclusion. He correctly states that the facts overturn the ‘anti-Stalin paradigm’ that has been basic to much of the anti-communist view of Soviet history, both in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, since the middle of the last century. But he barely discusses the significance of this. For example, there is little mention of the fact that Khrushchev’s speech was accepted by a large part of the international communist movement, that this led to the split in this movement between Marxist-Leninist forces and revisionists a few years later, and that the struggle between them is still of great significance for the world communist movement today.

Of course, one cannot rebuke Furr for not taking up a task that he had no intention of taking up. Furr does briefly discuss what he sees as the reasons for Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin in Chapter 12: ‘Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of Khrushchev’s Deception.’ He says: ‘Stalin and his supporters had championed a plan of democratisation of the USSR through contested elections. Their plan seems to have been to move the locus of power in the USSR from Party leaders like Khrushchev to elected government representatives. Doing this would also have laid the groundwork for restoring the Party as an organisation of dedicated persons struggling for communism rather than for careers or personal gain. Khrushchev appears to have had the support of the Party First Secretaries, who were determined to sabotage this project and perpetuate their own positions of privilege’ (p. 200).

He then mentions other so-called ‘reforms’ that were carried out after Stalin’s death. These include: a shift towards ‘market’-oriented reforms; a shift from heavy industry, production of the means of production, towards light, consumer industry; from the Marxist-Leninist view that war is inevitable as long as imperialism exists to the avoidance of war with imperialism at any cost; a de-emphasis on the vanguard role of the working class in the revolution; the view that capitalism could be overcome through ‘peaceful competition’ by parliamentary means; and an abandonment of Stalin’s plan to move towards communism, classless society.

This writer is in agreement with the need to prevent the party from becoming an organisation of careerists. However, it is not at all clear that ‘contested elections’ would prevent bureaucratisation. (Besides, in choosing candidates for the Soviets, there were discussions of different candidates all along this line. For more on this, see the fascinating chapter of Sam Darcy’s memoirs: ‘How Soviet Democracy Worked in the 1930s’, in Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XI. No. 2, Sept. 2005, available at: www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv11n2/darcy.htm.). Rather, this writer thinks it would be more important to reinforce the Party maximum (maximum salary that a Party member was allowed to receive, regardless of what position he held) and limit other material privileges available to Party leaders. Nor is it clear why moving the ‘locus of power’ from Party leaders to government representatives would increase democracy. This writer thinks that it would have been more important to strengthen the struggle against revisionism. For example, the necessary fight against Titoism seems to have been itself carried out in a bureaucratic way, compared to the way the struggles against Trotskyism and Bukharinism were carried out in the 1920s. That may be why the Soviet Union and all the Eastern European countries except for Albania followed the path of Titoism less than a decade later. However, this is all the subject for much further debate.

‘Khrushchev Lied’ is available from Erythrós Press at: www.erythrospress.com/store/furr.html

Source

ICMLPO (Unity and Struggle): NATO: Organization of War and Terror

NATO_logo_lLIBYA NO-FLYZONE

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded 60 years ago by a coalition of Western capitalist countries, led by the U.S., as an organization of military encirclement, aggression, attack and war against the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies.

NATO was conceived as an instrument of aggression of the imperialist camp that was trying to reconstruct its forces under United States leadership, to apply its aggressive policy in all spheres: Economically by means of institutions like the IMF and World Bank; politically through different regional organizations, the Western alliance was lined up in battle order and fortified its system by founding NATO militarily. Contrary to what is generally stated and accepted, NATO was not created against a possible threat by the USSR, but it was founded with aggressive aims six years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact.

NATO’s objective was one of militarily encirclement, aggression and subversion, without excluding the use of force against the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc; at the same time it would serve to repress the internal opposition in the Western capitalist countries.

The most concrete example is the clandestine creation in almost all the NATO countries of (counter-guerrilla) organizations such as Gladio, several of which still exist. Those forces, which have organized provocations, sabotage, assassinations and coups d’état in the European countries to prevent the development of a workers and popular opposition, have done it under the shelter of NATO and the U.S.

NATO was formed in 1949 by 12 countries as a “regional defense organization”. It spread quickly among other Western countries, and after the collapse of the USSR and the Eastern bloc, it was transformed into a “global” organization of 26 countries, including former states of the Eastern bloc.

In a document entitled “Strategic Concept for the 21st Century”, approved in 1999 in a summit on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of NATO, it clearly says that NATO is “a global military organization”. That is, the fifty-year-old great lie was acknowledged openly when NATO stated that the organization had a clearly fixed objective, which was the destruction of socialism and the Soviet Union. This was in contradiction with the fundamental principles of the UN, and therefore it was not “a regional and defensive organization.”

Today NATO is the armed branch of the global war of the capitalists and imperialists, an enormous war machine with a budget of 1,500 billion Euros, 22,000 employees and an army of 60,000 men prepared to intervene at any time; NATO organizes operations and interventions beyond the region established at its foundation (Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Somalia, and indirectly, Iraq, Sudan, etc.).

Presently NATO has dozens of military bases established in different countries, hundreds of bombs and nuclear warheads, weapons of mass destruction, both biological and conventional, etc. They are trying to extend this organization and thus permanently impose their order by force,

The financial, economic and social crisis that is shaking the world, and that is getting worse day by day, is increasing tensions and leading to an increasing militarization: the threat of war is palpable.

Worldwide military expenses have risen to $1,335 billion dollars in 2007. Clearly, these weapons will not be allowed to rot in warehouses. Therefore the idea of getting out of the economic crisis by means of war is being raised seriously.

The summit that the imperialist powers organized on the 60th anniversary of NATO debated its expansion towards the East, deploying anti-missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic; plans against the workers, peoples, oppressed nations, and even against rival imperialist forces.

We, the members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO), call on the progressive forces and workers of the world to participate in the protests organized on this 60th anniversary of NATO, and to take part in the common demonstration planned for April 4 in Strasbourg, France.

Stop the militarization, reduce the budgets for arms and use that money to satisfy the needs of the peoples and youths!

  • Dismantle the military bases, destroy the nuclear arms!
  • Withdraw the NATO occupation forces!
  • Dissolve NATO, a military organization for aggression!

International Conference of Marxist-Leninists Parties and Organizations

March, 2009

Source

Grover Furr: Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland in September 1939? (The answer: No, it did not.)

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by Grover Furr

Introduction

Did the Soviet Union Invade Poland on September 17, 1939? Why ask? “We all know” this invasion occurred. “You can look it up!” All authoritative sources agree. This historical event happened.

Here’s a recent article in The New York Review of Books (April 30, 2009, p. 17) by Timothy Snyder, Yale University professor, academic expert in this area — and fanatic anticommunist — who just has to know that what he writes here is, to put it politely, false:

Because the film (although not the book)* begins with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 rather than the joint German-Soviet invasion and division of Poland in 1939… the Soviet state had just months earlier been an ally of Nazi Germany… (* “Defiance”)

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

“After invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis and the Soviets divided the country as they had agreed to do in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…”
http://www.pbs.org/behindcloseddoors/in-depth/struggle-poland.html

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

“… on 17 September, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east…”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland

Every historian I have read, even those who do not conform to Cold War paradigms, state unproblematically that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939.

But the truth is that the USSR did not invade Poland in September, 1939. Even though the chances are at least 99 to 1 that every history book you can find says that it did. I have yet to find an English-language book that gets this correct. And, of course, the USSR had never been an “ally of Nazi Germany.”

I will present a lot of evidence in support of this statement. There is a great deal more evidence to support what I say – much more than I can present here, and no doubt much more that I have not yet even identified or located.

Furthermore, at the time it was widely acknowledged that no such invasion occurred. I’ll demonstrate that too.

Probably the truth of this matter was another victim of the post-WW2 Cold War, when a great many falsehoods about Soviet history were invented or popularized. The truth about this and many other questions concerning the history of the first socialist state has simply become “unmentionable in polite company.”

Demonizing – I use the word advisedly, it is not too strong – the history of the communist movement and anything to do with Stalin has become de rigeur, a shibboleth of respectability. And not only among avowed champions of capitalism but among ourselves, on the left, among Marxists, opponents of capitalism, the natural constituency of a movement for communism.

Some time ago Doug Henwood tweaked me on the MLG list for “defending Stalin.”

I could make a crack about what defenses of Stalin have to do with a “sensible materialism,” but that would be beneath me.
(MLG list May 17 2009)

Doug thinks he knows something about Stalin and the USSR during Stalin’s time. He doesn’t! But you can’t blame him too much, since none of us do. More precisely: We “know” a lot of things about the Soviet Union and Stalin, and almost all of those things are just not true. We’ve been swallowing lies for the truth our whole lives.

I’ll be brief in this presentation. I have prepared separate web pages with references to much of the evidence I have found (not all – there is just too much). I’m also preparing a longer version for eventual publication.

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

For a discussion of the events that led up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 an excellent account is still Bill Bland, “The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939″ (1990). I have checked every citation in this article; most are available online now. It’s very accurate, but far more detailed than the present article requires.

Before we get into the question of the invasion that did not take place, the reader needs to become familiar with some misconceptions about the Nonaggression Treaty and why they are false. These too are based on anticommunist propaganda that is widely, if naively, “believed.”

The most common, and most false, of these is stated above in the PBS series “Behind Closed Doors”

…the Nazis and the Soviets divided the country as they had agreed to do in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact…

This is completely false, as any reading of the text of the M-R Pact itself will reveal. Just read the words on the page (see below).

The Soviets Wanted to Protect the USSR – and therefore to Preserve Independent Poland

[For the text of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact see m-rpact.html ]

It is conventionally stated as fact that the Nonaggression Pact between the USSR and Germany (often called the “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” or “Treaty” after the two foreign ministers who signed it) was an agreement to “partition Poland”, divide it up.

This is completely false. I’ve prepared a page with much fuller evidence; see  “The Secret Protocols to the M-R Pact Did NOT Plan Any Partition of Poland”.

No doubt a big reason for this falsehood is this: Britain and France did sign a Nonaggression Pact with Hitler that “partitioned” another state — Czechoslovakia. That was the Munich Agreement of September 30, 1938.

Poland too took part in the “partition” of Czechoslovakia too. Poland seized a part of the Cieszyn area of Czechoslovakia, even though it had only a minority Polish population. This invasion and occupation was not even agreed upon in the Munich Agreement. But neither France nor Britain did anything about it.

Hitler seized the remaining part of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. This had not been foreseen in the Munich Agreement. But Britain, France, and Poland did nothing about it.

So the anticommunist “Allies” Britain, France, and Poland really did participate in the partitioning of a powerless state! Maybe that’s why the anticommunist “party line” is that the USSR did likewise? But whatever the reason for this lie, it remains a lie.

The Soviet Union signed the Nonaggression Pact with Germany not to “partition Poland” like the Allies had partitioned Czechoslovakia, but in order to defend the USSR.

The Treaty included a line of Soviet interest within Poland beyond which German troops could not pass in the event Germany routed the Polish army in a war.

The point here was that, if the Polish army were beaten, it and the Polish government could retreat beyond the line of Soviet interest, and so find shelter, since Hitler had agreed not to penetrate further into Poland than that line. From there they could make peace with Germany. The USSR would have a buffer state, armed and hostile to Germany, between the Reich and the Soviet frontier.

The Soviets — “Stalin”, to use a crude synecdoche (= “a part that stands for the whole”) — did not do this out of any love for fascist Poland. The Soviets wanted a Polish government — ANY Polish government — as a buffer between the USSR and the Nazi armies.

The utter betrayal of the fascist Polish Government of its own people frustrated this plan.

As far as the rest of the world was concerned, the Polish government had two alternatives in the event its army was smashed by an attacking army.

1. It could stay inside the country, perhaps moving its capital away from the invading army. From there it could have sued for peace, or surrendered.

2. The Polish government could have fled to an allied country that was at war with Germany: either France or England.

The governments of all other countries defeated by Germany did one or both of these things. The Polish government — racist, anticommunist, hyper-nationalist, — in short fascist, as bad as they get — didn’t do either. Rather than fight the Polish government fled into neighboring Rumania.

Rumania was neutral in the war. By crossing into neutral Rumania the Polish government became prisoners. The legal word is “interned”. They could not function as a government from Rumania, or pass through Rumania to a country at war with Germany like France, because to permit them to do that would be a violation of Rumania’s neutrality, a hostile act against Germany.

I will discuss “internment” and the international law on this question extensively below.

The USSR did not invade Poland - and everybody knew it at the time

When Poland had no government, Poland was no longer a state. (More detailed discussion below)

What that meant was this: at this point Hitler had nobody with whom to negotiate a cease-fire, or treaty.

Furthermore, the M-R Treaty’s Secret Protocols were void, since they were an agreement about the state of Poland and no state of Poland existed any longer. Unless the Red Army came in to prevent it, there was nothing to prevent the Nazis from coming right up to the Soviet border.

Or — as we now know they were in fact preparing to do — Hitler could have formed one or more pro-Nazi states in what had until recently been Eastern Poland. That way Hitler could have had it both ways: claim to the Soviets that he was still adhering to the “spheres of influence” agreement of the M-R Pact while in fact setting up a pro-Nazi, highly militarized fascist Ukrainian nationalist state on the Soviet border.

Once the Nazis had told the Soviets that they, the Nazis, had decided that the Polish state no longer existed, then it did not make any difference whether the Soviets agreed or not. The Nazis were telling them that they felt free to come right up to the Soviet border. Neither the USSR nor any state would have permitted such a thing. Nor did international law demand it.

At the end of September a new secret agreement was concluded. In it the Soviet line of interest was far to the East of the “sphere of influence” line decided upon a month earlier in the Secret Protocol and published in Izvestiia and in the New York Times during September 1939. This reflected Hitler’s greater power, now that he had smashed the Polish military. See the map at new_spheres_0939.html

In this territory Poles were a minority, even after the “polonization” campaign of settling Poles in the area during the ‘20s and ‘30s. You can see the ethnic / linguistic population map at curzonline.html

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

How do we know the USSR did not commit aggression against, or “invade”, Poland when it occupied Eastern Poland beginning on September 17, 1939 after the Polish Government had interned itself in Rumania? Here are nine pieces of evidence:

How do we know the USSR did not commit aggression against, or “invade”, Poland when it occupied Eastern Poland beginning on September 17, 1939 after the Polish Government had interned itself in Rumania? Here are nine pieces of evidence:

1. The Polish government did not declare war on USSR.

The Polish government declared war on Germany when Germany invaded on September 1, 1939. It did not declare war on the USSR.

2. The Polish Supreme Commander Rydz-Smigly ordered Polish soldiers not to fight the Soviets, though he ordered Polish forces to continue to fight the Germans.

See rydz_dont_fight.html

3. The Polish President Ignaz Moscicki, interned in Rumania since Sept. 17, tacitly admitted that Poland no longer had a government.

See moscicki_resignation.html

4. The Rumanian government tacitly admitted that Poland no longer had a government.

See moscicki_resignation.html

 

The Rumanian position recognized the fact that Moscicki was blowing smoke when he claimed he had legally resigned on September 30.  So the Rumanian government fabricated a story according to which Moscicki had already resigned back on September 15, just before entering Rumania and being interned (NYT 10.04.39, p.12). Note that Moscicki himself did not claim this!

Rumania needed this legal fiction to try to sidestep the following issue. Once Moscicki had been interned in Rumania – that is, from September 17 1939 on – he could not function as President of Poland. Since resignation is an official act, Moscicki could not resign once he was in Rumania.

For our present purposes, here’s the significant point: Both the Polish leaders and the Rumanian government recognized that Poland was bereft of a government once the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania and were interned there.

Both Moscicki and Rumania wanted a legal basis – a fig-leaf — for such a government. But they disagreed completely about this fig-leaf, which exposes it as what it was – a fiction.

5. Rumania had a military treaty with Poland aimed against the USSR. Rumania did not declare war on the USSR.

The Polish government later claimed that it had “released” Rumania from its obligations under this military treaty in return for safe haven in Rumania.

But there is no evidence for this statement. No wonder: it is at least highly unlikely that Rumania would have ever promised “safe haven” for Poland, since that would have been an act of hostility against Nazi Germany. Rumania was neutral in the war and, as discussed below, insisted upon imprisoning the Polish goverment and disarming the Polish forced once they had crossed the border into Rumania.

The real reason for Rumania’s failure to declare war on the USSR is probably the one given in a New York Times article of September 19, 1939:

“The Rumanian viewpoint concerning the Rumanian-Polish anti-Soviet agreement is that it would be operative only if a Russian attack came as an isolated event and not as a consequence of other wars.”
– “Rumania Anxious; Watches Frontier.” NYT 09.19.39, p.8.

That means Rumania recognized that the Red Army was not allied with Germany, an “other war.” This is tacit recognition of the Soviet and German position that Poland no longer had a government, and therefore was no longer a state.

6. France did not declare war on the USSR, though it had a mutual defense treaty with Poland.

See m-rpact.html for the reconstructed text of the “secret military protocol” of this treaty, which has been “lost” – i.e. which the French government still keeps “secret”

7. England never demanded that the USSR withdraw its troops from Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, the parts of the former Polish state occupied by the Red Army after September 17, 1939.

On the contrary, the British government concluded that these territories should not be a part of a future Polish state. Even the Polish government-in-exile agreed!

See maisky_101739_102739.html  These documents are in the original Russian, with the relevant quotations translated into English below them.

8. The League of Nations did not determine the USSR had invaded a member state.

Article 16 of the League of Nations Covenant required members to take trade and economic sanctions against any member who “resorted to war”.

No country took any sanctions against the USSR. No country broke diplomatic relations with the USSR over this action.

However, when the USSR attacked Finland in 1939 the League did vote to expel the USSR, and several countries broke diplomatic relations with it. See http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1939/391214a.html

A very different response! which tells us how the League viewed the Soviet action in the case of Poland.

9. All countries accepted the USSR’s declaration of neutrality.

All, including the belligerent Polish allies France and England, agreed that the USSR was not a belligerent power, was not participating in the war. In effect they accepted the USSR’s claim that it was neutral in the conflict.

See FDR’s “Proclamation 2374 on Neutrality”, November 4, 1939:

“…a state of war unhappily exists between Germany and France; Poland; and the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa,…”

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15831&st=&st1=

- also “152 – Statement on Combat Areas” – defines

“belligerent ports, British, French, and German, in Europe or Africa…”

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15833&st=&st1=

The Soviet Union is not mentioned as a belligerent. That means the USA did not consider the USSR to be at war with Poland. For the Soviet Union’s claim of neutrality see soviet_neutrality.html

Naturally, a country cannot “invade” another country and yet credibly claim that it is “neutral” with respect to the war involving that country. But NONE of these countries declared the USSR a belligerent. Nor did the United States, the League of Nations, or any country in the world.

The Polish State Collapsed

By September 17, 1939, when Soviet troops crossed the border, the Polish government had ceased to function. The fact that Poland no longer had a government meant that Poland was no longer a state.

On September 17 when Molotov handed Polish Ambassador to the USSR Grzybowski the note Grzybowski told Molotov that he did not know where his government was, but had been informed that he should contact it through Bucharest. See polish_state_collapsed.html

In fact the last elements of the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania and so into internment during the day of September 17, according to a United Press dispatch published on page four of the New York Times on September 18 with a dateline of Cernauti, Rumania. See polish_leaders_flee.html

Without a government, Poland as a state had ceased to exist under international law. This fact is denied — more often, simply ignored — by anticommunists, for whom it is a bone in the throat.

We take a closer look at this issue in the next section below. But a moment’s reflection will reveal the logic of this position. With no government — the Polish government was interned in Rumania, remember — there is no one to negotiate with; no body to which the police, local governments, and the military are responsible. Polish ambassadors to foreign countries no longer represent their government, because there is no government. (See the page polish_state_collapsed.html , especially the NYT article of October 2, 1939 )

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

EVERY definition of a “state” recognizes the necessity of a government or “organized political authority.” Once the Polish government crossed the border into Rumania, it was no longer a “government.”

Even the Polish officials of the day recognized this by trying to create the impression that “the government” had never been interned since it had been handed over to somebody else before crossing into Rumania. See the discussion concerning Moscicki and his “desire to resign” on September 29, 1939, also cited above.

So EVERYBODY, Poles included, recognized that by interning themselves in Rumania the Polish government had created a situation whereby Poland was no longer a “state.” This is not just “a reasonable interpretation” – not just an intelligent, logical deduction but one among several possible deductions. As I have demonstrated in this paper, it was virtually everybody’s interpretation at the time. Every major power, plus the former Polish Prime Minister himself, shared it.

Once this is problem is squarely faced, everything else flows from it.

* The Secret Protocol to the M-R Pact was no longer valid, in that it was about spheres of influence in “Poland”, a state.

By September 15 at the latest Germany had taken the position that Poland no longer existed as a state (discussed further here).

Once Poland ceased to exist as a state this Secret Protocol did not apply any longer.

Therefore if they wanted to the Germans could march right up to the Soviet frontier.

Or – and this is what Hitler was in fact going to do if the Soviet Union did not send in troops — they could facilitate the creation of puppet states, like a pro-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist state.

In any case, once Hitler had taken the position that Poland no longer existed as a state, and therefore that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact’s agreement on spheres of influence in the state of Poland was no longer valid, the Soviet Union had only two choices: either to

  1. Send the Red Army into Western Ukraine and Wester Belorussia to establish sovereignty there; or
  2. Let Hitler send the Nazi army right up to the Soviet border.

* Since the Polish state had ceased to exist, the Soviet-Polish nonaggression pact was no longer in effect.

The Red Army could cross the border without “invading” or “committing aggression against” Poland. By sending its troops across the border the USSR was claiming sovereignty, so no one else could do so – e.g. a pro-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist state, or Nazi Germany itself.

* Legitimacy flows from the state, and there was no longer any Polish state.

Therefore the Polish Army was no longer a legitimate army, but a gang of armed men acting without any legitimacy. Having no legitimacy, the Polish Army should have immediately laid down its arms and surrendered. Of course it could keep fighting — but then it would no longer be fighting as a legitimate army but as partisans. Partisans have NO rights at all except under the laws of the government that does claim sovereignty.

* Some Polish nationalists claim that the Soviets showed their “perfidy” by refusing, once they had sent troops across the Soviet frontier, to allow the Polish army cross the border into Rumania.

But this is all wrong. The USSR had diplomatic relations with Rumania. The USSR could not permit thousands of armed men to cross the border from areas where it held sovereignty into Rumania, a neighboring state. Imagine if, say, Mexico or Canada tried to permit thousands of armed men to cross the border into the USA!

Re-negotiation of “Spheres of Influence” September 28 1939

See new_spheres_0939.html

All this is referred to directly in a Ribbentrop (German Foreign Minister)-to-Schulenburg (German ambassador to Moscow) communication of September 15-16 – Telegram No. 360 of 15 September 1939 — with its reference to “the possibility of the formation in this area of new states.”

Note that Ribbentrop is very displeased with the idea that the Soviets would “tak[e] the threat to the Ukrainian and White Russian populations by Germany as a ground for Soviet action” and wants Schulenberg to get Molotov to give some other motive. He was unsuccessful; this was exactly the motive the Soviets gave:

“Nor can it be demanded of the Soviet Government that it remain indifferent to the fate of its blood brothers, the Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland, who even formerly were without rights and who now have been abandoned entirely to their fate.
The Soviet Government deems it its sacred duty to extend the hand of assistance to its brother Ukrainians and brother Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland.”

- TASS, September 17, 1939; quoted in New York Times September 18, 1939, p. 5; also Jane Degras (Ed.), Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy 1933-1941, vol. III (London/New York: Oxford University Press, 1953), pp. 374-375.

The German government was already considering that Poland no longer existed — there’s no reference to “Poland”, only to “the area lying to the East of the German zone of influence”, etc.

Polish Imperialism

A word of explanation regarding the Soviet reference to “the fate of its blood brothers, the Ukrainians and Byelo-Russians inhabiting Poland.”

At the Treaty of Riga signed in March 1921 the Russian Republic (the Soviet Union was not officially formed until 1924), exhausted by the Civil War and foreign intervention, agreed to give half of Belorussia and Ukraine to the Polish imperialists in return for a desperately-needed peace.

We use the words “Polish imperialists” advisedly, because Poles — native speakers of the Polish language — were in the small minority in Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine, the areas that passed to Poland in this treaty. The Polish capitalist regime then encouraged ethnic Poles to populate these areas to “polonize” them, and put all kinds of restrictions on the use of the Belorussian and Ukrainian languages.

Up till the beginning of 1939, when Hitler decided to turn against Poland before making war on the USSR, the Polish government was maneuvering to join Nazi Germany in a war on the USSR in order to seize more territory.

As late as January 26, 1939, Polish Foreign Minister Beck was discussing this with Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in Warsaw. Ribbentrop wrote:

… 2. I then spoke to M. Beck once more about the policy to be pursued by Poland and Germany towards the Soviet Union and in this connection also spoke about the question of the Greater Ukraine and again proposed Polish-German collaboration in this field.

M. Beck made no secret of the fact that Poland had aspirations directed toward the Soviet Ukraine and a connection with the Black Sea…

(Original in Akten zur deutschen ausw�rtigen Politik… Serie D. Bd. V. S. 139-140. English translation in Documents on German Foreign Policy. 1918-1945. Series D. Vol. V. The document in question is No. 126, pp. 167-168; this quotation on p. 168. Also in Russian in God Krizisa T. 1, Doc. No. 120.)

Polish Foreign Minister Beck was telling Ribbentrop that Poland would like to seize ALL of the Ukraine from the USSR, for that was the only way Poland could have had “a connection with the Black Sea.”

In occupying Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine the USSR was reuniting Belorussians and Ukrainians, East and West. This is what the Soviets meant by the claim that they were “liberating” these areas. The word “liberation” is conventionally used when an occupying imperialist power withdraws, and that’s what happened here.

The Polish Government In Exile

At the beginning of October 1939 the British and French governments recognized a Polish government-in-exile in France (later it moved to England). This was an act of hostility against Germany, of course. But the UK and France were already at war with Germany. (The USA took the position of refusing to recognize the conquest of Poland, but treated the Polish government-in-exile in Paris in an equivocal manner. Evidently it wasn’t sure what to do.)

The USSR could not recognize it for a number of reasons:

* Recognizing it would be incompatible with the neutrality of the USSR in the war.

It would be an act of hostility against Germany, with which the USSR had a non-aggression pact and a desire to avoid war. (The USSR did recognize it in July 1941, after the Nazi invasion).

* The Polish government-in-exile could not exercise sovereignty anywhere.

Most important: if the USSR were to recognize the Polish government-in-exile, the USSR would have had to retreat back to its pre-September 1939 borders – because the Polish government-in-exile would never recognize the Soviet occupation of Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine.

Then Germany would have simply marched up to the Soviet frontier. 

To permit that would have been a crime against the Soviet people, of course. And, as the British and French soon agreed, a blow against them, and a big boost to Hitler as well. See should_the_ussr_have_permitted.html

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

No other government during WW2 did anything remotely like what the Polish government did.

Many governments of countries conquered by the Axis formed “governments in exile” to continue the war. But only the Polish government interned itself in a neutral country, thereby stripping itself of the ability to function as a government and stripping their own people of their existence as a state.

What should the Polish government leader have done, once they realized they were completely beaten militarily?

  • The Polish government should have remained somewhere in Poland – if not in the capital, Warsaw, then in Eastern Poland. If they had set up an alternative capital in the East — something the Soviets had prepared to do East of Moscow, in case the Nazis captured Moscow — then they could have preserved a “rump” Poland.
    There it should have capitulated – as, for example, the French Government did in July 1940. Or, it could have sued for peace, as the Finnish government did in March 1940.
    Then Poland, like Finland, would have remained as a state, though it would certainly have lost territory.
  • Or, the Polish government could have fled to Great Britain or France, countries already at war with Germany.
    Polish government leaders could have fled by air any time. Or they could have gotten to the Polish port of Gdynia, which held out until September 14, and fled by boat.
  • Why didn’t they? Did Polish government leaders think they might be killed? Well, so what? Tens of thousands of their fellow citizens and soldiers were being killed!
    • Maybe they really did believe Rumania would violate its neutrality with Germany and let them pass through to France? If they did believe this, they were remarkably stupid. There’s never been any evidence that the Rumanian government gave them permission to do this.
    • Did they believe Britain and France were going to “save” them? If so, that too was remarkably stupid. Even if the British and French really intended to field a large army to attack German forces in the West, the Polish army would have had to hold against the Wehrmacht for a month at least, perhaps more. But the Polish Army was in rapid retreat after the first day or two of the war.
    • Or, maybe they fled simply out of sheer cowardice. That is what their flight out of Warsaw, the Polish capital, suggests.

Everything that happened afterwards was a result of the Polish government being interned in Rumania.

Here’s how the world might have been different if a “rump” Poland had remained after surrender to Hitler:

* A “rump” Poland might finally have agreed to make a mutual defense pact that included the USSR. That would have restarted “collective security”, the anti-Nazi alliance between the Western Allies and the USSR that the Soviets sought but UK and French leaders rejected.

That would have

  • greatly weakened Hitler;
  • probably eliminating much of the Jewish Holocaust;
  • certainly preventing the conquest of France, Belgium, and the rest of Europe;
  • certainly prevented many millions of deaths of Soviet citizens.

* Poland could have emerged from WW2 as an independent state, perhaps a neutral one, like Finland, Sweden, or Austria.

All this, and more – if only the Polish government had remained in their country at least long enough to surrender, as every other government did.

Conclusion

See conclusion.html

Source

Bill Bland: The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939

MolotovRibbentropStalin

by Bill Bland

Introduction

One of the many stories which circulate about Stalin is that, while the Soviet government was negotiating for a collective security pact with Britain and France directed against German aggressive expansion, he initiated the signing of a pact with Germany which precipitated the Second World War.

Of course, not everything that happened in the Soviet Union at this time was done with the approval of Stalin. In the case of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, however, we have the testimony of Stalin’s closest collaborator, Vyacheslav Molotov, that:

“Comrade Stalin . . suggested the possibility of different, unhostile and good neighbourly relations between Germany and the USSR. . ..
The conclusion of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact . . . shows that Comrade Stalin’s historical foresight has been brilliantly confirmed”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech at 4th (Special) Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 31 August 1939, in: ‘Soviet Peace Policy’; London; 1941; p. 16).

The charge that this was a serious mistake on Stalin’s part must, therefore, be examined seriously.

The Reorientation of Soviet Foreign Policy

In his notorious book ‘My Struggle’, written in mid-1920s, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler expressed frankly the foreign policy the Nazis intended to follow:

“We National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. . . . We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze towards the land in the East. .
If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia”.

(A. Hitler: ‘Mein Kampf’; London; 1984; p. 598, 604).

Thus, the coming to power of the Nazi government in Germany in January 1933 heralded a situation in Europe which clearly presented great danger to the Soviet Union — and not, of course, to the Soviet Union alone.

The Marxist-Leninists in the leadership of the Soviet Union, concerned to defend the socialist state, responded to this new, more dangerous situation by reorientating Soviet foreign policy, by adopting a policy of striving for collective security with other states which had, objectively, an interest in maintaining the status quo in the international situation.

The Objective Basis of Collective Security

The objective basis of the Soviet policy of collective security was that the imperialist Powers of the world could be divided into two groups.

One group — Germany, Italy and Japan had a relatively high productive power and relatively restricted markets and spheres of influence. As a result, these Powers had an urgent need to change the world to their advantage; they were relatively aggressive Powers.

Another group of imperialist Powers — Britain, France and the United States — had relatively large markets and spheres of influence and thus had objectively more need to keep the world as it was than to see it changed; they were relatively non-aggressive Powers.

Stalin, who argued that the Second World War had already begun, summed up this position to the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939:

“The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressor states, primarily, England, France and the USA. .
Thus we are witnessing an open re-division of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states.”

(J. V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 14).

As a socialist state, a working people’s state, the Soviet Union had the strongest interest of any state in the preservation of peace.

The Soviet government’s policy in the 1930s, therefore, was to strive to form a collective security alliance with the European non-aggressive imperialist states, Britain and France — a collective security alliance strong enough either to deter the aggressive imperialist states from launching war or to secure their speedy defeat.

The Soviet Government summed up this post-1933 foreign policy in 1948:

“Throughout the whole pre-war period, the Soviet delegation upheld the principle of collective security in the League of Nations”.

(‘Falsifiers of History: Historical Information’; London; 1948; p 15).

Appeasement 

Although, as we have seen, Stalin maintained that the British and French imperialists had, objectively, an interest in joining the Soviet Union in such a collective security alliance, the governments of Britain and France, led respectively by Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, did not recognise this objective fact because of their detestation of socialism and the Soviet Union and their wish to see it destroyed.

As Stalin told the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939:

“England, France and the USA . . . draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.

Thus we are now witnessing an open redivision of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain amount of connivance. .

How is it that the non-aggressive countries . . . have so easily, and without any resistance, abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?

Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the non-aggressive states? Of course not! Combined, the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and militarily. . .

The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries, particularly England and France, have rejected a policy of collective security, of collective resistance to the aggressors, and have taken up a position of ‘non-intervention’……

The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder Germany, say, . . . from embroiling herself in a war with the Soviet Union. .
One might think that the districts of Czechoslovakia were yielded to Germany as the price of an undertaking to launch war on the Soviet Union”.

(J. V. Stalin: op. cit.; p. 14-15, 16).

British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax is on record as telling Hitler in November 1937 that

“he and other members of the British Government were well aware that the Fuehrer had attained a great deal. . . . Having destroyed Communism in his country, he had barred the road of the latter to Western Europe and Germany was therefore entitled to be regarded as a bulwark of the West against Bolshevism. .

When the ground has been prepared for an Anglo-German rapprochement, the four great West European Powers must jointly set up the foundation of lasting peace in Europe”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 1; London; 1954; p. 55).

Nevertheless, the Soviet Marxist-Leninists understood that this policy of ‘appeasement’ ran, objectively, counter to the interests of the British and French imperialists and counter to the interests of the British working people They therefore calculated that, if the Soviet government persisted in its efforts to form a collective security alliance with Britain and France, sooner or later the appeasers in Britain, which dominated France,. would be forced out of office by the more far-seeing representatives of British imperialism (such as Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden) in cooperation with the British working people.

(This, of course, actually occurred in 1940, but only after war had broken out in Europe).

The Anglo-French-Soviet Negotiations

On 31 March 1939, without consulting the Soviet Union, the British government gave a unilateral guarantee to defend Poland against aggression.

The leader of the liberal Party, David Lloyd George, told the House of Commons:

“I cannot understand why, before committing ourselves to this tremendous enterprise, we did not secure beforehand the adhesion of Russia. . . . If Russia has not been brought into this matter because of certain feelings that Poles have that they do not want the Russians there, . . . unless the Poles are prepared to accept the one condition with which we can help them, the responsibility must be theirs”.

(Parliamentary Debates. 5th Series, House of Commons, Volume 35; London; 1939; Col. 2,510).

The Anglo-French guarantee stimulated public pressure on the appeaser governments to at least make gestures in the direction of collective security.

So, on 15 April 1939 the British government made an approach to the Soviet government suggesting that it might like to issue a public declaration offering military assistance to any state bordering the Soviet Union which was subject to aggression if that state desired it.

Two days later, on 17 April the Soviet government replied that it would not consider a unilateral guarantee, which would put the Soviet Union in a position of inequality with the other Powers concerned. It proposed:

Firstly, a trilateral mutual assistance treaty by Britain, France and the Soviet Union against aggression;

Secondly, the extension of guarantees to the Baltic States (Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania), on the grounds that failure to guarantee these states was an open invitation to Germany to expand eastwards through invasion of these states;

Thirdly, that the treaty must not be vague, but must detail the extent and forms of the military assistance to be rendered by the signatory Powers.

On 27 May the British and French governments replied to the Soviet proposals with the draft of a proposed tripartite pact. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain commented on the British draft in a letter to his sister at this time:

“In substance it gives the Russians what they want, but in form and presentation it avoids the idea of an alliance and substitutes declaration of intention. It is really a most ingenious idea”.

(Neville Chamberlain Archives, University of Birmingham, 11/1/1101).

Vyacheslav Molotov, who had just taken over the post of People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs from Maksim Litvinov, rejected the draft on the grounds that it proposed in the event of hostilities not immediate mutual assistance, but merely consultation through the League of Nations.

On 2 June the Soviet government submitted to Britain and France a counter-draft making these joints.

The British and French governments responded by saying that Finland, Estonia and Latvia refused to be guaranteed.

The Soviet government continued to insist that a military convention be signed at the same time as the political treaty, in order that there might be no possibility of any hedging about the application of the latter. On 17 July Molotov stated that there was no point in continuing discussions on the political treaty until the military convention had been concluded.

On 23 July the British and French governments finally agreed to begin military discussions before the political treaty of alliance had been finalised, and a British naval officer with the quadruple-barreled name of Admiral Reginald Plunkett-Ernie-Erle-Drax was appointed to head the British delegation. No one, apparently, had informed the British government that the aeroplane had been invented, and the delegation left Tilbury by a slow boat to Leningrad, from where they proceeded by train to Moscow. When the delegation finally arrived in Moscow on 11 August, the Soviet side discovered that it had no powers to negotiate, only to ‘hold talks’. Furthermore, the British delegation was officially instructed to:

“Go very slowly with the conversations”;

(‘Documents on British Foreign Policy;’, 3rd Series, Volume 6; London; 1953; Appendix 5; p. 763).

Nevertheless, the military talks began in Moscow on 12 August.

On 15 August the leader of the Soviet delegation, People’s Commissar for Defence  Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, told the delegates that unless Soviet troops were permitted to enter Polish territory it was physically impossible for the Soviet Union to assist Poland and it would be useless to continue discussions.

This point was never resolved before the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations were negotiations were adjourned indefinitely on 21 August — after the Soviet government had decided to sign the non-aggression pact with Germany.

Warning Shots from Moscow

At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I think it is fair to say ‘that no diplomats are more expert in hypocritical double-dealing than British diplomats.

Nevertheless, the Soviet leaders were no fools and, as the negotiations for an Anglo-French-Soviet mutual security pact dragged on month after month, a number of warning shots were fired from Moscow.

On 11 March 1939 Joseph Davies, the former US Ambassador in Moscow, now posted to Brussels, wrote in his diary about Stalin’s speech to the 18th Congress of the CPSU a few days before:

“It is a most significant statement. It bears the earmarks of a definite warning to the British and French governments that the Soviets are getting tired of ‘non-realistic’ opposition to the aggressors. . .
It certainly is the most significant danger signal that I have yet seen”.

(J. E. Davies: ‘Mission to Moscow’; London; 1942; p. 279-80).

Then, on 3 May 1939 the resignation was announced of Maksim Litvinov as Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and his replacement by a close colleague of Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov. Although the Soviet government denied that this signified any change in Soviet foreign policy, it was significant that Litvinov’s name was particularly associated with collective security and he was known to be personally sympathetic to the West.

On 29 June the leading Soviet Marxist-Leninist Andrei Zhdanov published an article in ‘Pravda’ which, most unusually, revealed that there were differences in the leadership of the CPSU on whether the British and French governments were sincere in saying that they wished for a genuine treaty of mutual assistance:

“the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations on the conclusion of an effective pact of mutual assistance against aggression have reached a deadlock. . . .
I permit myself to express my personal opinion in this matter, although my friends do not share it. They still think that when beginning the negotiations with the USSR, the English and French Governments had serious intentions of creating a powerful barrier against aggression in Europe. I believe, and shall try to prove it by facts, that the English and French Governments have no wish for a treaty . . . to which a self-respecting State can agree. .

The Soviet Government took 16 days in preparing answers to the various English projects and proposals, while the remaining 59 days have been consumed by delays and procrastinations on the part of the English and French. 

Not long ago . . . the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beck, declared unequivocally that Poland neither demanded nor requested from the USSR anything in the sense of granting her any guarantee whatever…..However, this does not prevent England and France from demanding from the USSR guarantees . . . for Poland. . .

It seems to me that the English and French desire not a real treaty accepable to the USSR, but only talks about a treaty in order to speculate before the public opinion in their countries on the allegedly unyielding attitude of the USSR, and thus make easier for themselves the road to a deal with the aggressors.
The next few days must show whether this is so or not.”

(A. Zhdanov: Article in ‘Pravda’, 29 June 1939, in: J. Degras (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’; London; 1953; p. 352, 353, 354).

A final warning shot was fired on 22 July, when it was officially announced that Soviet-German trade negotiations were taking place in Berlin.

The Soviet-German Negotiations

At the 18th Congress of the CPSU in March 1939, Stalin described the basis of Soviet foreign policy as follows:

“We stand for peace and the strengthening of business relations with all countries. That is our position, and we shall adhere to this position as long as countries maintain like relations with the Soviet Union and as long as they make no attempt to trespass on the interests of our country”.

(J. V. Stalin: Report on the Work of the Central Committee to the 18th Congress of the CPSU (b). in : ‘The Land of Socialism Today and Tomorrow’; Moscow; 1939; p. 18).

On 17 April 1939, the Soviet Ambassador in Berlin, Aleksei Merekalov, had a conversation with the German State Secretary, Baron Ernst von Wiezsaecker, who asked him whether there was any prospect of the normalisation of relations between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Ambassador’s reply was in line with Soviet foreign policy:

“There exists for Russia no reason why she should not live with us on a normal footing. And from normal, the relations might become better and better”.

(‘Nazi-Soviet Relations: 1939-1941′, Doc. 1; Washington; 1948; p. 2).

On 29 July the German Foreign Office instructed the German Ambassador in the Soviet Union, Count Fritz von der Schulenburg, to tell Molotov:

“We would be prepared . . . to safeguard all Soviet interests and to come to an understanding with the Government in Moscow. . . . The idea could be advanced of so adjusting our attitude to the Baltic States as to respect vital Soviet interests in the Baltic Sea”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 6; London; 1956; p. 1,016).

On 14 August the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joachim von Ribbentropp, cabled Schulenburg, instructing him to call on the Soviet People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, and read him a communication:

“There is no question between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea which cannot be settled to the complete satisfaction of both countries. . . . The leadership of both countries, therefore, should . . . take action. . .

As we have been informed, the Soviet Government also feel the desire for a clarification of German-Russian relations. . . . I am prepared to make a short visit to Moscow in order, in the name of the Fuehrer, to set forth the Fuehrer ‘s views to M. Stalin. In my view, only through such a direct discussion can a change be brought about, and it should not be impossible thereby to lay the foundations for a final settlement of German-Russian relations.”

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy: 1918-1945′, Series D, Volume 7; London; 1956; p. 63).

Schulenburg saw Molotov on 16 August and, as instructed, read to him Ribbentropp’s message. He reported to Berlin the same night that Molotov had heard

“With great interest the information I had been instructed to convey. . . ..

He was interested in the question of how the German Government were disposed towards the idea of concluding a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . ‘; op. cit., Volume 7; p. 77).

Ribbentropp replied the same day, directing Schulenburg to see Molotov again and inform him that:

“Germany is prepared to conclude a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. . . . Further, Germany is ready to guarantee the Baltic States jointly with the Soviet Union. . . .

I am prepared to come by aeroplane to Moscow at any time after Friday, August 18, to deal, on the basis of full powers from the Fuehrer, with the entire complex of German-Russian relations and, if the occasion arises, to sign the appropriate treaties”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . .’; op. cit. Volume 7; p. 84).

On 17 August Molotov handed Schulenburg the Soviet government’s written reply. The Note began by recalling Germany’s policy of hostility to the Soviet Union in the past, and welcoming the prospect of an improvement in German-Soviet relations. It proposed a number of steps in this direction, beginning with a trade agreement and proceeding ‘shortly thereafter’ to the conclusion of a non-aggression pact.

On 18 August Ribbentropp sent a further urgent telegram to Schulenburg saying that the ‘first stage’ in the diplomatic process (the signing of the trade agreement) had been completed, and asking that Ribbentropp be permitted to make an ‘immediate departure for Moscow’, where he would:

“be in a position . . . to take the Russian wishes into account, for instance, the settlement of spheres of interest in the Baltic area”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘ ; op. cit., Volume 7; p. 123).

On 19 August Schulenburg replied that Molotov had agreed that:

“The Reich Foreign Minister could arrive in Moscow on August 26 or 27.
Molotov handed me the draft of a non-aggression pact”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit., Volume 7; p. 134).

On 20 August Hitler himself intervened with a personal letter to Stalin, saying that he accepted the draft of the non-aggression pact but pleaded that Ribbentropp should be received in Moscow

“At the latest on Wednesday, August 27th.”

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit.. Volume 7; p. 157).

Stalin replied to Hitler on 21 August, thanking him for his letter and saying:

“The assent of the German Government to the conclusion of a non-aggression pact provides the foundation for eliminating the political tension and the establishment of peace and collaboration between our countries.

The Soviet government have instructed me to inform you that they agree to Herr von Ribbentropp’s arriving in Moscow on August 23″.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, op. cit.; p. 168).

Ribbentropp and his delegation arrived in Moscow on 23 August, and the non-aggression pact was signed later the same day. Its text was almost identical with the Soviet draft which had been submitted to the Germans on 19 August. Neither party would attack the other, and should one party become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other party would render no support to this third Power.

Even more strongly criticised than the pact itself has been a ‘Secret Additional Protocol’ to the pact which laid down German and Soviet ‘spheres of interest’ in Europe.

But the term ‘sphere of interest’ does not necessarily have implications of imperialist domination. Where two states are likely to be affected by war but wish this not to involve them in mutual conflict, then the demarcation of spheres of interest is a legitimate and desirable act.

The ‘secret additional protocol’ declared:

“1. In the event of a territorial and political transformation in the territories belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) the northern frontier of Lithuania shall represent the frontier of the spheres of interest both of Germany and the USSR. . .
2. In the event of a territorial and political transformation of the territories belonging to the Polish State, the spheres of interest both of Germany and the USSR shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula and San”.

(‘Documents on German Foreign Policy . . . ‘, Series D, Volume 7; p. 246-47).

In ordinary language, this meant that the German government promised that, when German troops invaded Poland, they would not attempt to advance beyond the ‘Curzon Line’, drawn by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, after the First World War as the ethnic boundary separating the Poles from the Ukrainians and Byelorussians. The area east of this line had been Soviet territiory which was seized from the Soviet Union following the Revolution.

Germany had thus agreed that it would raise no objection to the Soviet government taking whatever action it considered desirable east of this line.

The Effect of the Non-Aggression Pact

Speaking to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union on 31 August, Molotov described the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact as:

“A turning-point in the history of Europe, and not of Europe alone”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech to Supreme Soviet of 31 August 1939, in: ‘Soviet Peace Policy’; London; 1941; p. 18).

Molotov accepted Zhdanov’s conclusion — that the British and French had never been serious in their attitude to the negotiations:

“They themselves displayed extreme dilatoriness and anything but a serious attitude towards the negotiations, entrusting them to individuals of secondary importance who were not vested with adequate powers. . .
The British and French military missions came to Moscow without any definite powers and without the right to conclude any military convention. Furthermore, the British military mission arrived in Moscow without any mandate at all”.

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 13).

Molotov declared that the breakdown of the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations was only superficially the refusal of Poland or accept Soviet assistance, since:

“The negotiations showed that Great Britain was not anxious to overcome these objections of Poland, but on the contrary encouraged them.
Poland . . . had been acting on the instructions of Great Britain and France. .”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 12, 14).

He stressed that it was not the Soviet government’s action in signing the pact which had disrupted the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations. On the contrary, the Soviet government had signed the pact only after the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations had been irrevocably sabotaged by the British and French governments:

“Attempts are being made to spread the fiction that the conclusion of the Soviet-German pact disrupted the negotiations with Britain and France for a mutual assistance pact. . . . In reality, as you know, the very reverse is true. . . . The Soviet Union signed the non-aggression pact with Germany, amongst other things, because negotiations with France and Great Britain had . . . ended in failure through the fault of the ruling circles of Britain and France”.

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 20).

The same point was made by the Soviet People’s Commissar for Defence, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, at a press conference on 27 August 1939:

“Miltary negotiations with England and France were not broken off because the USSR concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany; on the contrary, the USSR concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany as a result, inter alia, of the fact that the military negotiations with France and England had reached a deadlock”.

(K. Y. Voroshilov: Press statement of 27 August 1939, in: J. Degras (Ed.): ‘Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy’; London; 1953; p. 361).

Furthermore, Molotov emphasised that the Soviet negotiations with Germany were on a completely different level to the Soviet negotiations with Britain and France:

“We are dealing not with a pact of mutual assistance, as in the case of the Anglo-French-Soviet relations, but only with a non-aggression Pact.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 18).

So that, as a result of the signing of the German-Soviet pact:

“the USSR is not obliged to involve itself in war, either on the side of Great Britain against Germany or on the side of Germany against Great Britain.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.,; p. 21).

Even such anti-Soviet writers as Edward Carr agree that the Soviet government’s decision to sign the non-aggression pact with Germany was an enforced second choice, which was taken only with extreme reluctance:

“The most striking feature of the Soviet-German negotiations . . . is the extreme caution with which they were conducted from the Soviet side, and the prolonged Soviet resistance to close the doors on the Western negotiations”.

(E. H. Carr: ‘From Munich to Moscow: II’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, Volume 1, No. 12 (October 1949); p. 104).

Indeed, some Soviet leaders — notably Maksim Litvinov, the former People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs — urged that more time should be given for the British and French governments to be pressed by public opinion in their countries into serious negotiations for a pact of mutual assistance.

What precipitated the acceptance of the pressing German proposals for a rapprochement was the discovery by Soviet intelligence that the Chamberlain government was secretly negotiating for a military alliance with Germany, so threatening the Soviet Union with aggression from four Powers — Britain, France, Germany and Italy — combined. The British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson, describes in an official report to Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, dated 29 August 1939, a conversation with Hitler and Ribbentropp:

“Herr von Ribbentropp asked me whether I could guarantee that the Prime Minister could carry the country with him in a policy of friendship with Germany. I said that there was no possible doubt whatever that he could and would, provided Germany cooperated with him. Herr Hitler asked whether England would be willing to accept an alliance with Germany. I said, speaking personally, I did not exclude such a possibility”.

(‘Documents concerning German-Polish Relations and the Outbreak of Hostilites between Great Britain and Germany on September 3, 1939′; (Cmd. 6106); London; 1939; p. 130).

The fact that both German and Soviet troops entered Poland has been used to equate Fascist Germany with the socialist Soviet Union. But, of course, a socialist state cannot be equated with an aggressive imperialist state. It has to be noted,

Firstly, that Soviet troops entered what had been Polish territory only on 17 September — 16 days after the German invasion of Poland – when the Polish state had collapsed, as Molotov stressed to the Supreme Soviet on 31 October 1939:

“Our troops entered the territory of Poland only after the Polish State had collapsed and actually had ceased to exist. . . . The Soviet government could not but reckon with the exceptional situation created for our brothers in the Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia, who had been abandoned to their fate as a result of the collapse of Poland”.

(V. M. Molotov: Speech to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 31 October 1939, in: ‘Soviet Foreign Policy’; London; 1941; p. 32).

And the correspondents of the capitalist press agree with Soviet contemporary Soviet sources that the Red Army was welcomed as liberators by the Ukrainian and Byelorussian population concerned. Molotov reported:

“The Red Army . . . was greeted with sympathy by the Ukrainian and Byelorussian population, who welcomed our troops as liberators from the yoke of the gentry and from the yoke of the Polish landlords and capitalists.”

(V. M. Molotov: ibid.; p. 33).

In the House of Commons on 20 September, Conservative MP Robert Boothby declared:

“I think it is legitimate to suppose that this action on the part of the Soviet Government was taken . . . from the point of view of self-preservation and self-defence. . . . The action taken by the Russian troops . . . has pushed the German frontier considerably westward. .
I am thankful that Russian troops are now along the Polish-Romanian frontier. I would rather have Russian troops there than German troops”.

(Parliamentary Debates, 5th Series, Volume 351; House of Commons; London; 1939; Col. 996).

It is outside the scope of today’s seminar to discuss one of the most absurd of the anti-Stalin stories — that Stalin trusted the Nazis to adhere to the pact and was completely taken by surprise when the German army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Who can forget Stalin’s prophetic words in 1931:

“We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall go under”.

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Tasks of Business Executives’, in: ‘Works’, Volume I13; Moscow; 1955; p. 41).

Exactly ten years later, in 1941, came the German invasion.

The test of the correctness or incorrectness of Stalin’s policy is whether or not it strengthened or weakened the ability of the socialist Soviet Union to defend itself against the future aggression which its leaders knew was inevitable.

Even such virulent anti-Soviet writers as Edward Carr admit that the signing of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact enabled the Soviet Union to put itself in an incomparably stronger defensive position to meet the German invasion:

“The Chamberlain government ., as a defender of capitalism, refused . . . to enter into an alliance with the USSR against Germany. . . .
In the pact of August 23rd, 1939, they (the Soviet government — Ed.) secured:
a) a breathing space of immunity from attack;
b) German assistance in mitigating Japanese pressure in the Far East;
c) German agreement to the establishment of an advanced defensive bastion beyond the existing Soviet frontiers in Eastern Europe; it was significant that this bastion was, and could only be, a line of defence against potential German attack, the eventual prospect of which was never far absent from Soviet reckonings. But what most of all was achieved by the pact was the assurance that, if the USSR had eventually to fight Hitler, the Western Powers would already be involved”.

(E. H. Carr: ‘From Munich to Moscow: II’, in: ‘Soviet Studies’, Volume 1, No. 2 (October 1949); p. 103).

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Questions Put By The Audience to The Speaker, And His Replies

Question 1: 

It has been suggested that Litvinov was removed from his post simply because he was a Jew, and as such would have been regarded as unsuitable as a negotiator by the Germans. Is there any truth in this?

Reply: 

In my opinion, no. We know that Stalin supported the replacement of Litvinov, and Stalin was known to be have been opposed not only to racism but to any concession to racism. Litvinov had, personally, been strongly associated with the policy of collective security and reliable sources testify to his conviction that, with more time, the British and French governments would sooner or later endorse this policy. As soon as the Soviet leaders began to give consideration to the possibility of a rapprochement with Germany, therefore, Litvinov ceased to be a reliable instrument of Soviet foreign policy.

Question 2: 

Did Litvinov actually oppose the signing of the non-aggression pact?

Reply: 

I have no concrete information as to whether he opposed it on principle, but he is known to have held the view that more time should be given to allow the Anglo-French representatives to see sense’. But he is on record later as declaring that it had been ‘a mistake’ resulting from Molotov’s ‘lack of understanding of the functioning of Western democracy’.

Question 3: 

In one of Molotov ‘s speeches following the occupation of Eastern Poland, he referred to the Polish state as being the illegitimate child of Versailles and commented that, happily, it had disappeared. This has been interpreted as demonstrating that the Soviet Union always had territorial designs upon Poland. Was the Soviet position one of supporting the destruction of the Polish state?

Question 3a. 

Does this mean that the Soviet Union was prepared to deny the aspirations of the Polish people to have their own state?

Reply: 

There is no doubt that the Polish people constitute a nation, and Marxist-Leninists have always recognised the right of any nation to have its own independent state. The Polish state which existed in 1939, however, did not have its boundaries drawn on ethnic lines; it included, for example, millions of Ukrainians and Byelorussians and I feel sure that it was such facts which lay at the basis of Molotov ‘s statement. In other words it was not any Polish state, but that existing in 1939 which Molotov depicted as a monstrosity. However, that Polish Polish state was not destroyed by the Red Army, but by the German army; the Red Army’s occupation of Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia began only after the Polish state had collapsed and ceased to exist. The Polish state was restored after the United Nations victory over Germany in 1945.

Question 4: 

Was a protocol signed as part of the non-aggression pact which led to a line being drawn across Poland dividing the spheres of interest of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany? Is this the secret protocol referred to in the West and did such a protocol really exist? Was the dividing line the Curzon Line?

Reply: 

The Anglo-American imperialists published the ‘secret protocol’ after the Second World War, claiming that it had been discovered in the captured archives of the German Foreign Office. I know that the late Soviet President, Andrei Gromyko, denounces the ‘secret additional protocol’ as a forgery in his memoirs, but he was a notorious revisionist and not a source I would place any reliance on. As far as I recall, the Soviet government of the time neither confirmed nor denied its authenticity. However, in the Soviet Information Bureau published in 1948, Falsifiers of History, no charge is made that the document is spurious, and this official pamphlet states:

“The Soviet Union succeeded in making good use of the Soviet-German Pact to strengthen its defences, . . . in moving its frontiers far to the West and in barring the way of the unhampered eastward advance of German Aggression”.
(‘Falsifiers of History’; op. cit.; p. 45).

It would seem that this cannot possibly refer to the treaty itself (which makes no mention of spheres of interest or frontiers), but only to the ‘secret additional protocol’. As I said before, I do not accept the view that ‘spheres of interest’ between states are necessarily an phenomenon to be condemned. A socialist state may have its own spheres of interest which it sees as essential to its defence and, where these may conflict with the spheres of interest of other states, it seems to me correct to try to reach agreement with these other states, to map them out in order to maintain peaceful relations with these other states. On the evidence available to me at present, I believe the published ‘secret protocol’ to be genuine. Yes, the dividing line ‘ran along the old Curzon Line.

The above paper was read by Bill Bland at a seminar organised by the STALIN SOCIETY in London in February 1990.

The German Situation and the Question of Social-Fascism

Demonstrators in East Berlin carry portraits of both German socialist Karl Liebknecht and political activist Rosa Luxemburg in 1988, during a protest march against their assassination in 1919. (AP/Press Association Images)

Demonstrators in East Berlin carry portraits of both German socialist Karl Liebknecht and political activist Rosa Luxemburg in 1988, during a protest march against their assassination in 1919. (AP/Press Association Images)

The greatest factor in the stabilization of capitalism after the first round of wars and revolutions was Social-Democracy. In such countries as Germany and Austria the Social-Democratic leaders actually undertook to organize and maintain the capitalist State against the revolutionary onslaught of the workers. A German Social-Democrat, Noske, drowned in blood the workers’ revolution in Germany in 1918 and 1919. Social-Democratic ministers suppressed strikes, fired at workers’ demonstrations, declared martial law against the workers. A Socialist government in Great Britain sent armies to subdue the uprising of the colonial peoples. The Social- Democrats of France took the initiative in introducing the imperialist martial laws. In. short, everywhere the leaders of Social-Democracy became part and parcel of the bourgeois State apparatus. They advanced the idea that where there is a coalition government, i.e., a government of’ capitalist and Socialist ministers, there we have a transition from capitalism to socialism. The fact of the matter is that a coalition government remains a capitalist government since it does not shake the foundations of capitalism, private property and exploitation. On the contrary, it only serves to strengthen capitalism by deceiving the workers with the idea of peaceful transition to socialism.

In Germany and Austria Social-Democracy actually aided the growth of fascism. Fascist bands were being organized under the protection of Social-Democratic governments. Fascist demonstrations were unmolested by Social-Democratic police presidents while Communist demonstrations were being dispersed. Fascist bands were allowed to arm while the militant Red Front organization of the German workers was outlawed. Martial law and semi-martial law were repeatedly introduced to curb the movement of the workers who demanded an improvement of their intolerable conditions.

In the very same way as Lenin, after the betrayal of the proletariat by Social-Democracy at the beginning of the War, called the Social-Democratic leaders social-patriots and social-chauvinists, so the Communist International, after the new betrayals of Social-Democracy, called its leaders social-fascists –in the sense of paving the way for fascism.

It was disastrous for the proletariat of Germany and of the whole world that the Social-Democratic leaders made common cause with capitalism. It was disastrous that so many millions of workers were deceived by the socialist phrases of the Social-Democratic leaders and believed them to be true fighters for the interests of the working class. It was unfortunate that the Communist Party of Germany could swing only around six million votes and did not have the majority of the working class behind it. It would have been better for the workers of Germany and for the world revolution had the masses of German workers cherished fewer illusions about their Social-Democratic leaders. It would have been difficult for fascism to sweep into power in Germany had there been organized in Germany a powerful united front.

It cannot be denied that there were certain weaknesses in the work of the Communist Party of Germany, but opposition to the united front was not among them. The Communist Party did not succeed in bringing all its members into the reformist trade unions so as to have there a stronger revolutionary support. It did not work sufficiently in the reformist trade unions – and this was the most neglected sector of its activities, although it did build the red trade-union opposition with a membership – prior to the advent of fascism of over 300,000. It did not root itself sufficiently in the factories and plants. It was not flexible enough in approaching Social-Democratic rank-and-file workers. All these shortcomings were repeatedly pointed out by the Communist International, and the Party made strong efforts to improve its work. As a result its influence grew tremendously.

“During the last period before Hitler came to power, the Communist Party succeeded in penetrating the broad masses and even in obtaining influence among the social-democrats, the members of the reformist trade unions and also the members of the Republican Flag (Reichsbanner) organization, for the very reason that it was able to organize the struggle against this emergency decree. The authority of the Party was greatly enhanced, and members of reformist trade unions began to participate in the strikes led by the Red Trade Union Opposition and the Communists. Thus, besides Communists, members of reformist trade unions and even National Socialists participated in the Berlin transport strike committee.” (O. Piatnitsky, The Present Situation in Germany, p. 20.)

The Communist Party of Germany was ready to fight fascism. As a matter of fact, the Communists did fight the fascist bands in the streets on numerous occasions, meeting their attacks and the attacks of the police which, in Prussia for instance, was under Social-Democratic command and everywhere protected the Brown Shirts.

That the Communists were working for a united front with the Social-Democratic workers, if need be through an agreement with the Social-Democratic leaders, may be seen from the following:

In 1925 the Communist Party proposed to the Social-Democratic Party a united struggle against the monarchist danger. Later in the year, seeing that the Communists and the Social-Democrats had a majority of members in the Berlin municipality, the Communists proposed to the Social-Democrats a common program of action for the interests of the workers. In 1926 the Communists called upon the Social-Democratic leaders to join in a plebiscite against returning the property to the former German royal family. In the Spring of 1928 the C.P. proposed joint May-Day demonstrations. In October, 1928, it proposedjoint anti-militarist action against the building of a battle cruiser. In 1929-1932 it repeatedly proposed joint action against wage-cuts. In April, 1932, it proposed a joint struggle of all working-class organizations against an impending wage-cut.

All these proposals were turned down by Social-Democracy. Broad masses of workers responded to some of the Communist appeals for united action. Social-Democratic leaders preferred cooperation with the capitalist parties.

When Von Papen drove the Social-Democrats out of the Prussian government, the Communist Party proposed a joint general strike for the repeal of the emergency decrees and for the disbanding of the Storm Troops. On January 30, 1933, when Hitler came into power, the Communist Party again proposed a general strike to fight reaction. Again in March, 1933, after the burning of the Reichstag, the Communist Party called upon the Social-Democratic Party and the trade unions to declare a general strike against the attack on the workers. All these proposals were rejected by the Social-Democrats who preferred to believe that they could function and maintain a modicum of power under any capitalist régime.

Who is to be blamed?

Trotsky says: the Communists are to blame. Why? Because they called the Social-Democrats social-fascists. Trotsky cannot deny the fact that the Communists were trying to organize the united front. They organized the Anti-Fascist Action which was to unite workers of various parties. They tried to organize the united front in the factories and unions. The Social-Democratic leaders sowed mistrust toward the Communists and toward the united front, and this hampered the Communist action. Trotsky did his bit.

Now he is dissatisfied.

Here is his chief trump:

“Had the Comintern placed, from 1929, or even from 1930 or 1931, at the foundation of its policies the objective irreconcilability between Social-Democracy and fascism, or more exactly between fascism and Social-Democracy; if upon this it had built a systematic and persistent policy of the united front, Germany, within a few months, would have been covered with a network of mighty committees of proletarian defense, potential workers’ Soviets, that is.” (Leon Trotsky, The Militant, March 10, 1934.)

But, my dear Mr. Trotsky, there was no irreconcilability between Social-Democracy and fascism, or more exactly: between the Social-Democratic leaders and fascism. There was no irreconcilability as far as the Social-Democratic leaders were concerned. They certainly had not anticipated that they would be so ruthlessly driven out. They had formed a substantial part of the State apparatus under all regimes prior to that of Hitler and they were convinced that even under Hitler would they retain a certain share of power. No matter how much the Communists would have painted before them the dire results they were to expect from the ascendancy of fascism – they simply would not have believed it. They would have said they knew better.

Witness the conduct of the Austrian Social-Democratic leaders who were supposed to be much more radical than their German brethren and who had the experience of their German comrades. Listen to the testimony of the “Left” Marxist, Otto Bauer, in his interview with the New York Times correspondent, C, E. R. Gedye (published February 18, 1934) as to how the Social-Democrats of Austria were ready to cooperate with the fascist dictator Dollfuss at the expense of the Austrian constitution:

“Since the date of the Hitler triumph in Germany (March 5)when the Reichstag ‘elections’ gave the German Nazis control, our party has made the very greatest efforts to come to an agreement with the government…. In the first weeks of March our leaders were still in close personal contact with Dollfuss and frequently tried to get him to agree to a constitutional solution. At the end of March he promised our leader, Dr. Dennenberg, personally that at the beginning of April he would open negotiations with us for the reform of the Constitution [for the limiting of bourgeois democracy to suit fascism – M.J.O.]. This promise he never fulfilled, for at the beginning of April he passed over definitely to the fascist camp… and refused to speak to any of the socialists. When he said that he could not see the existing leaders we offered to send him other negotiators. He refused sharply. As we could not see him again, we tried to negotiate through other people. Honestly, we left no stone unturned. We approached President Miklas…. Then we tried the clerical politicians, whom we had known for a long time…. But everything was shattered on the stubborn resistance of Dollfuss who simply refused to hear of the socialists again. A group of religious socialists got together with a group of Catholic democrats and tried to induce the Church to intervene. This also failed.”

Suppose you offered them at that time a united front with the Communists to fight Dollfuss? They did not think of fighting fascism. They had no intention of defending bourgeois democracy. Listen to this precious admission by Bauer in the same interview:

“We offered to make the greatest concessions that a democratic and socialistic party ever made. We let Dollfuss know that if he would only pass a bill through Parliament we would accept a measure authorizing the Government to govern by decree without Parliament for two years [our emphasis – M.J.O.], on two conditions, that a small parliamentary committee, in which the government had a majority, should be able to criticize decrees and that a constitutional court, the only protection against breaches of the Constitution, should be restored.”

They certainly were prepared to go far enough. The “Left” Social-Democrats were ready to agree to the abolition of Parliament provided the abolition is passed by Parliament (a procedure actually practiced in Germany under Hitler). They were ready, they say, to agree to a government without Parliament “for two years”, but it is quite obvious that it would not have been over-difficult to induce them to accept an extension of the time. They were interested in maintaining their positions in the trade unions, in the municipalities, in the police power, in the judicial system – knowing very well that those positions would be curtailed under fascism. They clung to a shadow of power at the time when, according to their own testimony, “the dissatisfaction and agitation of the workers against the conservative policy of our Party committee grew as the government provocations increased…. Excitement rose to a fever pitch during the last weeks.” (Ibid.)

It is for not having induced such leaders to organize a united front that Trotsky blames the Communists.

Be it remembered that he does not blame the Communists for not approaching the workers because he knows very well that they did approach the workers and did make every effort to induce them to join the united front. His chief stock in trade is the accusation that the Communist leaders did not make peace with the Social-Democratic top leaders.

Trotsky s argument in support of the possibility of a united front with the Social-Democratic leaders holds no water.

“Social-Democracy [he says] can neither live nor breathe without leaning upon the political and trade union organizations of the working class. Concurrently it is precisely along this line that the irreconcilable contradiction between Social-Democracy and fascism takes place; precisely along this line does there open up the necessity and unbridgeable stage of the policies of the united front with the Social-Democracy.” (The Militant, March 10, 1934.)

This argument is just as incorrect as the English translation of the sentences is rotten. Events have proven that the bourgeoisie resorts to fascism when it finds that Social-Democracy is no longer able to keep in check the revolutionary movement of the masses. For this reason all the mass organizations of the working class, even if dominated by Social-Democratic leaders, are suppressed. But prior to the advent of Hitler the Social-Democratic leaders did not believe this.

They relied on capitalist democracy, on the Weimar Constitution, on the German respect for law and order and – last but not least – on their record in the service of the bourgeoisie. They invented the policy of supporting the “lesser evil” just to have an excuse for collaborating with the bourgeoisie. Their Berlin Chief of Police Zoergiebel opened machine-gun fire on workers participating in a May-Day parade (1929) without a permit. The number of victims was over 30. Their leaders approved of semi-martial law introduced to quell the workers’ revolts. Their leaders supported wage-cuts and armaments. Social-Democracy supported the governments of Bruening, Von Papen and Schleicher. It was ready to support Hitler. Did it not give its recognition to the Hitler government after the elections of March 5, 1933, declaring that Hitler had been legally appointed by Hindenburg and given a clear mandate by a majority of the people? Was it not ready to cooperate with the Hitler government if offered a chance? Was it not assuming the role of a loyal opposition even after being kicked in the face by the Nazi boots? Did not the Social-Democratic parliamentary group, on May 17, 1933, vote unanimously in the Reichstag in favor of Hitler’s policy? Did not Carl Severing remain a supporter of Hitler in spite of all? Did not the same veteran Social-Democratic leader appeal to the population of the Saar to vote for the Nazis? Did not the Social- Democratic union leaders make overtures to Hitler?

When their collapse came, when they were ignominiously driven out without resistance, then the process of revaluation of values began not only among the Social-Democratic workers but also among some of the leaders. One section (Severing & Co.) are just waiting for an opportunity to be “taken in” by the fascists. The center is vacillating. The Left Wing is for a united front with the Communists. The united front is making headway, notably in France, in Spain and also in the United States – under the initiative and leadership of the Communists. But to expect that the leaders of German Social- Democracy would have agreed to the united front with the Communists before January, 1933, is to be a Trotsky.

At the bottom of all this preachment is Trotsky’s Menshevik attitude to Social-Democracy. The old Menshevik asserts himself in the leader of the “Left opposition”. He does not believe that Social-Democracy is “as bad as that”. He is sincere when he says that the Communists should not have called the Social-Democratic leaders social-fascists. He believes they are not. He believes they are also fighters, at least for bourgeois democracy and for the interests of the workers as far as they can be defended under bourgeois democracy. The Social-Democrats to him are “also” socialists. Now it is perfectly true that if the Communists had abandoned their Communist position and made peace with the German Social-Democratic leaders on the terms of these leaders, then there would have been a united front. The trouble is, it wouldn’t have been a united front against fascism.

The travesty of the whole barrage is evident from the experiences of. France. When the united front was established in France, when huge mass movements against fascism began to develop on a united-front basis, the Trotsky group joined the Socialist Party, fused with it, and is fighting within the Socialist Party against the united front.

Here you have the Trotskyites in action.

But why did not the Communist Party attempt an armed uprising in Germany in the early part of 1933 with its own forces? This question is often asked by Trotskyites.

The answer is given by Lenin who explains “the fundamental law of revolution”.

“It is not sufficient for revolution that the exploited and oppressed masses understand the impossibility of living in the old way and demand changes; for revolution, it is necessary that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule as of old. Only when the ‘lower classes’ do not want the old regime,and when the ‘upper classes’ are unable to govern as of old, then only can revolution succeed. This truth may be expressed in other words: Revolution is impossible without an all-national crisis, affecting both the exploited and the exploiters. [Our emphasis – M.J.O.] It follows that for revolution it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the conscious, thinking, politically active workers) should fully understand the necessity for revolution, and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it; secondly, that the ruling class be in a state of governmental crisis, which attracts even the most backward masses into politics… weakens the government and facilitates its rapid overthrow by the revolutionaries.” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Russian Edition, Vol. XXV, p. 222.)

In discussing the German situation of the time when Hitler came to power, O. Piatnitsky, a leader of the Communist International, quotes the above Leninist definition of a revolutionary situation and draws the inevitable conclusion. He says:

“Had all these conditions matured in Germany in January 1933? No. The entire bourgeoisie, in the face of the menace of a proletarian revolution, in spite of the existence of discords among them, stood united against the revolutionary proletariat. The overwhelming majority of the petty bourgeoisie followed the bourgeoisie as represented by Hitler, who promised them the return of the ‘grand’ old Germany in which the petty bourgeoisie had lived in more or less tolerable conditions. The proletariat was split by the Social-Democratic Party which was still followed by the majority of the workers. So the exploiters were still able to live and administer, were still able to exploit the working class as of old, although by new, fascist methods.” (O. Piatnitsky, The Present Situation in Germany, p. 27.)

The Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, evaluating the German situation, came to the only conclusion which a responsible leadership could draw from the existing relationship of the social forces in Germany.

“Under these circumstances [says the Presidium resolution] the proletariat was in a position in which it could not organize and in fact failed to organize an immediate and decisive blow against the state apparatus, which, for the purpose of fighting against the proletariat, absorbed the fighting organizations of the fascist bourgeoisie: the Storm Troops, the Steel Helmets and the Reichswehr. The bourgeoisie was able without serious resistance to hand over the power of government in the country to the National-Socialists, who act against the working class by means of provocations, bloody terror and political banditry.

“In analyzing the conditions for a victorious uprising of the proletariat, Lenin said that a decisive battle can be considered as fully mature,

“ ‘…if all the class forces which were hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled, have sufficiently come to blows, have sufficiently weakened themselves by the struggle which is beyond their strength. If all the vacillating, hesitating, unstable, intermediate elements, i.e., the petty bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeois democracy as distinguished from the bourgeoisie, have sufficiently exposed themselves to the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves by their practical bankruptcy. If among the proletariat mass sentiment has begun, and is rising strongly in favor of supporting the most decisive, supremely bold and revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie. Then the revolution has matured, and if we have properly taken into account all of the conditions mentioned above… and have properly selected the moment, our victory is assured.’

“The characteristic feature of the circumstances at the time of the Hitler coup was that these conditions for a victorious rising had not yet managed to mature at that moment. They only existed in an embryonic state.

“As for the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party, not wishing to slip into adventurism, it, of course, could not compensate for this missing factor by its own actions.”

Trotsky’s criticism of the Comintern is the expression of the despair of a petty bourgeois frightened by fascism and disbelieving in the revolutionary forces of the proletariat. Trotsky’s proposed policies, therefore, are policies of a frightened petty-bourgeois reformist.

“Democratic slogans and illusions [he says] cannot be abolished by decree. It is necessary that the masses go through them and outlive them in the experience of battle…. It is necessary to find the dynamic elements in the present defensive position of the working class; we must make the masses draw conclusions from their democratic logic; we must widen and deepen the channels of the struggle.” (Leon Trotsky, “Our Present Tasks,” The Militant, December 9, 1933.)

In these words is contained a whole program. It presupposes a general political situation where black reaction is destined to reign supreme for a very long period and where there can be no thought of a determined proletarian fight for power. It presupposes a stable capitalist system. It assumes that the struggle of the workers for the improvement of their immediate conditions must necessarily proceed in parliamentary channels. It therefore advances the struggle for democratic reforms as the prime task of the workers.

Like all such Social-Democratic creations it is both reactionary and utopian.

It is reactionary because it gives up the proletarian struggle for power at a time when conditions are rapidly maturing for such a struggle. It is utopian because it is not possible for the workers at any time to confine themselves to “democratic slogans” alone if they are to defend their right to live.

The workers are hungry. They are oppressed. They must fight for higher wages, social insurance, against police brutality, against lynch laws. Whenever they undertake a real fight they inevitably reach out beyond the limits of bourgeois democracy. They clash with the police. They defy the courts. They break injunctions. They forcibly annul evictions. They “riot”. When capitalism is shaken and undermined as at present the seizure of power becomes a task for the near future. Every fight is a step nearer to the seizure of power. Every battle gives the working class new experience, teaches it the lessons of unity and concerted advance against the bourgeoisie. Only such an advance can yield immediate improvement of the workers’ lives today, can secure for them elementary rights and better economic conditions.

It is the class struggle against capitalism that the Communists are inscribing on the banner of the working class – the class struggle which in its sharpest form is armed uprising, the final battles for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It is class collaboration on which Trotsky is building the flimsy structure of his “fourth international” program.

Listen to a Trotskyite “Bolshevik” exhorting the world in the following piece of sonorous declamation:

“We, Bolsheviks, consider that the real salvation from fascism and war lies in the revolutionary conquest of power and the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship. [But our ‘belief’ is just a shadow, bloodless, lifeless. – M.J.O.] You, Socialist workers [Read: Social-Democratic bureaucrats – M.J.O.] do not agree to this road. You hope not only to save what has been gained but also to move forward along the road of democracy. [In collaboration with Roosevelt, Richberg and Perkins. – M.J.O.] Good! As long as we have not convinced you and attracted you to our side we are ready to follow this road with you to the end. [It is easier to follow you than bother with rank-and-file workers who may not agree to submit to ‘democratic’ edicts of chiefs of police – M.J.O.] But we demand that you carry on the struggle for democracy not in words but in deeds [For instance, let Norman Thomas pay a new visit to the ‘First Lady’ of the land. – MJ.O.]…. Make your Party open up a real struggle for a strong democratic movement. [Which is to be even more misleading than the Epic or LaFollette movements which contain economic planks in their programs. – M.J.O.] For this it is necessary first of all to sweep away all the remnants of the feudal state. It is necessary to give the suffrage to all men and women who reached their 18th birthday, also to the soldiers in the army [Forget about the hunger of the boys and girls. Give them the happiness of suffrage that will be a balm to their wound. Incidentally it costs the bosses less than social insurance. – M.J.O.] Full concentration of legislative and executive power in the hands of one chamber! Let your Party open up a serious campaign under these slogans! Let it arouse millions of workers, let it conquer power through the drive of the masses. [Hurrah for a new Ebert-Noske-Scheidemann-Ramsay McDonald government. – M.J.O.] This at any rate would be a serious attempt of struggle against fascism and war. [In the same way as Severing, Otto Bauer and Julius Deutsch fought against fascism and war. – M.J.O.] We, Bolsheviks, would retain the right to explain to the workers the insufficiency of democratic slogans; we could not take upon ourselves the political responsibility for the Social-Democratic government; but we would honestly help you in the struggle for such a. government [We would help you to deceive the masses. – M.J.O.] Together with you we would repel all attacks of bourgeois reaction. [And help shoot down workers and farmers who infringe on ‘democratic’ laws in their fight for bread – M.J.O.] More than that, we would bind ourselves before you not to undertake any revolutionary actions which go beyond the limits of democracy (real democracy) so long as the majority of the workers has not consciously placed itself on the side of revolutionary dictatorship. [It will be our democratic duty to break ‘unlawful’ strikes and to disperse ‘unlawful’ assembly. How dare they go beyond the limits of real bourgeois democracy! – M.J.O.]” (Trotsky, “Our Present Tasks,” The Militant, December 9, 1933.)

It must be made clear at the outset that when Trotsky addresses himself to the “Socialist workers”, he means the Socialist leaders – those who prevent the Socialist workers from engaging in the real class struggle. It must be noted, secondly, that the program which he proposes is purely reformist. He would help Social-Democracy to become the government in a capitalist State (“honestly” help it); he would help Social-Democracy improve the machinery of the capitalist State; he would bind himself to undertake no actions that go beyond bourgeois democracy (when he says “real democracy” he ought to know that such democracy exists only as the dictatorship of the proletariat – and that every bourgeois democracy, no matter how embellished, is a sham democracy designed as a weapon of the exploiters against the exploited); in other words he undertakes to help fasten upon the workers the rule of the capitalists operating through the instrumentality of bourgeois fake democracy. It must be noted, third, that not in vain did Trotsky omit such vital demands as higher wages, a shorter labor day, unemployment insurance, the right of the oppressed nationalities. For, the moment the workers undertake the fight for such demands, bourgeois legality goes smash. The limits of bourgeois democracy are overstepped. Trotsky implicitly promises the Social-Democratic leaders not to undertake such actions, not to countenance them. Moreover, he knows well that when the Social-Democrats are in power they will use the State armed forces against the workers if they undertake such actions. When he appeals to the Social-Democrats to join with him, he is forced to confine himself to such innocuous demands as one chamber and the lowering of the voting age. It is only here that the Social-Democrats can meet him half way. And it is on such a program that he is willing to bind up the fate of the Trotskyites with the fate of the Social-Democratic leaders.

Once more we have before us the petty bourgeois who is panic-stricken. He has seen the advent of fascism. He believes that fascism has come to stay. He believes that the working class is crushed. He calumniates the Communist Party of Germany, saying that it is dead when in reality it lives and fights. He does not wish to see the forces making for a social revolution. He does not wish to understand that once the masses rise – and wherever they rise – they must fight for their lives, against hunger, against annihilation at the hands of finance capital – and that means fight against the capitalist State whether in its fascist or in its democratic form. He does not wish to realize that the workers – the masses of the workers, the majority of the workers – will join the banner of struggle against the capitalists, which is always a struggle undermining the capitalist State. He wants to keep the masses of workers from engaging in the struggle against capitalism under Communist leadership. He appeals to the Social-Democratic leaders for a united front on this program. No wonder he is against the united front as built by the Communist Parties. Such united front is directed against capitalism, it does not build fortresses for capitalism. It comes to destroy them.

Source

Further Material on the Affair of Marshal Tukhachevsky

Mikhail20Tukhachevsky-2986d

“The Moscow press announced that they [the primary Generals on trial] had been in the pay of Hitler and had agreed to help him get the Ukraine. This charge was fairly widely believed in foreign military circles, and was later substantiated by revelations made abroad. Czech military circles seemed to be especially well informed. Czech officials in Prague bragged to me later that their military men had been the first to discover and to complain to Moscow that Czech military secrets, known to the Russians through the mutual aid alliance, were being revealed by Tukhachevsky to the German high command.”

– Anna L. Strong, “The Soviets Expected It,” page 134.

“The Trotskyist Deutscher rarely missed an opportunity to denigrate and slander Stalin. However, despite the fact that he claimed that there was only an ‘imaginary conspiracy’ as basis for the Moscow trials, he did have this to say about Tukhachevsky’s execution:

‘(A)ll the non-Stalinist versions concur in the following: the generals did indeed plan a coup d’état …. The main part of the coup was to be a palace revolt in the Kremlin, culminating in the assassination of Stalin. A decisive military operation outside the Kremlin, an assault on the headquarters of the G.P.U., was also prepared. Tukhachevsky was the moving spirit of the conspiracy …. He was, indeed, the only man among all the military and civilian leaders of that time who showed in many respects a resemblance to the original Bonaparte and could have played the Russian First Consul. The chief political commissar of the army, Gamarnik, who later committed suicide, was initiated into the plot. General Yakir, the commander of Leningrad, was to secure the co-operation of his garrison. Generals Uberovich, commander of the western military district, Kork, commander of the Military Academy in Moscow, Primakow, Budienny’s deputy in the command of the cavalry, and a few other generals were also in the plot.’

– Isaac Deutscher, “Stalin: A Political Biography,” page 379, cited in Ludo Martens “Another View of Stalin.”

“I gave him [Spiegelglass] the contents of a brief confidential dispatch from one of my chief agents in Germany. At a formal reception tendered by high Nazi officials, at which my informant was present, the question of the Tukhachevsky affair came up. Captain Fritz Wiedemann, personal political aide to Hitler – appointed subsequently to the post of Consul-General at San Francisco – was asked if there was any truth in Stalin’s charges of espionage against the Red Army generals. My agent’s report reproduced Wiedemann’s boastful reply:

‘We hadn’t nine spies in the Red Army, but many more. The GPU is still far from on the trail of all our men in Russia.’

– Walter G. Krivitsky, “I Was Stalin’s Agent,” page 242.

“But how could generals of the Red Army have envisaged collaborating with Hitler? If they were not good Communists, surely these military men were at least nationalists?

This question will first be answered with another question. Why should this hypothesis be any different for the Soviet Union than France? Was not Marshal Petain, the Victor at Verdun, a symbol of French chauvinist patriotism? Were not General Weygand and Admiral Darlan strong defenders of French colonialism? Despite all this, these three became key players in the collaboration with the Nazis. Would not the overthrow of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the bitter class struggle against the bourgeoisie be, for all the forces nostalgic for free enterprise, be additional motives for collaborating with German `dynamic capitalism?’

And did not the World War itself show that the tendency represented by Petain in France also existed among certain Soviet officers?

General Vlasov played an important role during the defence of Moscow at the end of 1941. Arrested in 1942 by the Germans, he changed sides. But it was only on September 16, 1944, after an interview with Himmler, that he received the official authorization to create his own Russian Liberation Army, whose first division was created as early as 1943. Other imprisoned officers offered their services to the Nazis; a few names follow.

Major-General Trukhin, head of the operational section of the Baltic Region Chief of Staffs, professor at the General Chiefs of Staff Academy. Major-General Malyshkin, head of the Chiefs of Staff of the 19th Army. Major-General Zakutny, professor at the General Chiefs of Staff Academy. Major-Generals Blagoveshchensky, brigade commander; Shapovalov, artillery corps commander; and Meandrov. Brigade commander Zhilenkov, member of the Military Council of the 32nd Army. Colonels Maltsev, Zverev, Nerianin and Buniachenko, commander of the 389th Armed Division.

What was the political profile of these men? The former British secret service officer and historian Cookridge writes:

‘Vlasov’s entourage was a strange motley. The most intelligent of his officers was Colonel Mileti Zykov (a Jew)…. He had a been a supporter of the ‘rightist deviationists’ of Bukharin and in 1936 had been banished by Stalin to Siberia, where he spent four years. Another survivor of Stalin’s purges was General Vasili Feodorovich Malyshkin, former chief of staff of the Far East Army; he had been imprisoned during the Tukhachevsky affair. A third officer, Major-General Georgi Nicolaievich Zhilenkov, had been a political army commissar. They and many of the officers whom Gehlen recruited had been ‘rehabilitated’ at the beginning of the war in 1941.’…”

– E. H. Cookridge, “Gehlen: Spy of the Century,” pages 57-58.

“I was to meet Tukhachevsky for the last time on the day after the funeral of King George V. At a dinner at the Soviet Embassy, the Russian general had been very conversational with Politis, Titulescu, Herriot, Boncour, Potemkin, and Madame Potemkin. On that occasion his eyes had been alive, and his melancholy had disappeared in constructive talk. For he had just returned from a trip to Germany, and was heaping glowing praise upon the Nazis. Seated at my right, he said over and over again, as he discussed an air pact between the great powers and Hitler’s country: ‘They are already invincible, Madame Tabouis!’

Why did he speak so trustfully? Was it because his head had been turned by the hearty reception he had found among German diplomats, who found it easy to talk to this man of the old Russian school? At any rate, I was not the only one that evening who was alarmed at his display of enthusiasm. One of the guests–an important diplomat– grumbled into my ear as we walked away from the Embassy: ‘Well, I hope all the Russians don’t feel that way!’

And two years later, when the Soviets were to accuse and convict Tukhachevsky of complicity in a military plot hatched by Germany, my thoughts often reverted to his attitude during that dinner.”

– Genevive Tabouis. “They Called Me Cassandra,” page 257.

“After Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech,’ it became the practice to accuse Stalin of murdering the ‘flower of the Red Army.’ At the same time, mitigating circumstances were adduced: Stalin had fallen victim to the forgeries of the Nazi Secret Service….[They ignore the fact that] Above all, it has been known for a long time that the first arrest (of Generals Putna and Primakov) took place almost a year before the Nazi forgeries reached the Kremlin. Furthermore Tukhachevsky had already been incriminated during the second Moscow show trial of former leading Bolsheviks (Pyatakov, Radek, et al.), which took place in early 1937.”

– Walter Laqueur, “Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations,” page 89.

“[...] the organs of state security began preparations for the trial of Soviet generals nine months before the German forgeries reached Moscow. Pavlenko had it on the authority of Major General Golushkevich (who was present at the 1937 trial) that the Heydrich documents were never once brought up in the course of the proceedings.”

- Ibid., page 90.

Grover Furr: New Light On Old Stories About Marshal Tukhachevskii : Some Documents Reconsidered

tukhachevsky

Grover Furr
Montclair State University

Originally published in RUSSIAN HISTORY/HISTOIRE RUSSE, 13, Nos 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1986), 293-308.

The innocence of Marshal Tukhachevskii and the other military commanders condemned with him in 1937 has become firmly accepted by both Soviet and Western historians. [1] The current scholarly consensus also includes the view that “the nazi secret archives contain no sort of evidence of anything” like a plot between the Soviet military and Germany, that “not a jot of evidence has emerged from the German archives.” [2] The present article re-examines some of the material bearing upon the Tukhachevskii case which has come to light so far from the captured German Foreign Office files, and concludes that it suggests a plot of some kind involving Tukhachevskii and the German High Command may, in fact, have existed.

In 1974 a newly-discovered document from these files was examined by British historian Frederick L. Carsten. [3] It is a report concerning high-level rumors current in Munich in early 1937, which ended up in the Vienna Bureau of the Austrian Chancellor. Among other matters it deals with relations between the German and Soviet military commanders, about which it makes four points: 1) It claims that the top men in the German General Staff, including Generaloberst Freiherr Werner von Fritsch, Chief of Staff of the German Army (Chef der Heeresleitung), were at that time involved in trying to form an alliance with the Soviet military. 2) It claims that Marshal Tukhachevskii had been present at the German army’s autumn maneuvers in the past year (den vorjährigan detuschen Herbstmanoevern). 3) At that time Tukhachevskii is said to have proposed a toast to the German Army “as the champion (Vorkämpferin) against world Jewry.” and to Goring. 4) It claims that the German military was closely following the “power struggle presently taking place in Russia,” in hopes that Stalin would be overthrown in favor of a military dictatorship. [4]

Carsten denies the validity of the first three of these points on several grounds: 1) He claims that the last time any Russian officers attended German maneuvers was the autumn of 1933. 2) Though admitting that Tukhachevskii congratulated General Ernst Köstring, German military attaché in Moscow, upon the German army’s successful occupation of the Rhineland in March 1936, Carsten avers that “this is a far cry from being a declared anti-semite and a sympathizer with the Nazi ideology. Even Karl Radek congratulated General Köstring on the same occasion in Moscow.” [5] 3) For Carsten, the existence of this document is explained by the story that Reinhardt Heydrich’s Sicherheitsdienst (SK, the intelligence division of the SS) was busy fabricating a dossier of forged materials to incriminate Tukhachevskii and decapitate the Soviet military. No doubt, then the SD would have been “spreading this kind of `news’ about Tukhachevskii, his sympathies with Nazism and his allegedly intimate relations with leading German officers.” [6]

The present article uses an analysis of this report from the Austrian Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) as a framework within which other documents, including those from the German Foreign Office files which bear on the Tukhachevskii case, are re-examined. It examines each of the assertions (one through four) in the document, and each of Professor Carsten’s objections (1 through 3).

General Ernst Köstring former German military attaché  in Moscow, stated in memoires published in 1965 that “Autumn 1935 was the last instance of Russian officers participating (Teilnahme) in our maneuvers.” [7] Evidently Carsten has misinterpreted this passage, for Köstring  says nothing to rule out Soviet attendance at, as opposed to participation in, German maneuvers in later years. In letters to Paris at the time General Renondeau, French military attach‚ to Berlin, reported that Soviet officers attended German army maneuvers in both 1936 and 1937. [8] Apparently either Komkor (corps commander) Orlov (according to Renondeau) or Komandarm (army commander) Uborevich (as Walter Görlitz has it) were present at German maneuvers in autumn 1936. [9] Tukhachevskii, Uborevich, and Orlov were closely associated with the Soviet military cooperation with Germany under the Treaty of Rapallo. This association might account for the rumor, reported in the Austrian BKA document, that it was Tukhachevskii who had attended the 1936 German maneuvers (point one) — particularly since the marshal had visited Berlin at least once in 1936. [10] Thus the rumor is perhaps not very wide of the mark.

Carsten would have it (2) that it is hard to believe Tukhachevskii would have made such a pro-Nazi and anti- Semitic toast as the document recounts. In fact, the opposite is true: such a statement would have been entirely consistent with what was widely reputed to be Tukhachevskii’s attitude.

In 1928 a former French officer published a short biography of Tukhachevskii “Pierre Fervacque” – nom de plume of the French journalist Remy Roure — had been Tukhachevskii’s fellow prisoner-of-war in 1917 in the German officers’ camp at Ingolstadt, Bavaria. In his biographical sketch he set down the contents of several conversations he had had with the young Russian lieutenant during their captivity, among them the following:

– You are an anti-semite, then, I said to him. Why? — The Jews brought us Christianity. That’s reason enough to hate them. But then they are a low race. I don’t even speak of the dangers they create in my country. You cannot understand that, you French, for you equality is a dogma. The Jew is a dog, son of a dog, which spreads his fleas in every land. It is he who has done the most to inoculate us with the plague of civilization, and who would like to give us his morality also, the morality of money, of capital. — You are now a socialist, then? — A socialist? Not at all! What a need you have for classifying! Besides the great socialists are Jews and socialist doctrine is a branch of universal Christianity. … No, I detest socialists, Jews and Christians. [11]

Tukhachevskii never protested the contents of this well-known book. On the contrary, until shortly before his execution Tukhachevskii maintained friendly relations with Roure. He spoke with the French journalist at a banquet in Paris in 1936, and then three days later held another, private, conversation with him. Roure recalled in July 1937 that, in his book, he had portrayed the young Tukhachevskii as expressing horror and disgust for Western civilization and a juvenile love of “barbarism” in hair-raising tones (which, we note, could have come from the most radical Nazis). Twenty years later Tukhachevskii had mellowed, had become an admirer of French culture, but remained a “patriotic” pan-Slavic nationalist and imperialist who felt that, by serving Bolshevism, he had served his country. [12]

We have examined and rejected Carsten’s first two objections to the Austrian BKA report, and in so doing have determined that the second and third points made in that report accord well with facts attested elsewhere. We now turn to points four and one of the Austrian document. The fourth point is the claim that the German military was watching the “power struggle” (meaning the Moscow trials) in the USSR in hopes that a military dictatorship might replace Stalin. In December 1936 the Soviet government assigned David Kandelaki, head of the Soviet Trade Delegation to Germany, the task of “feeling out” the German government concerning the possibility of opening secret talks. By early 1937 Hitler had turned the USSR down, [13] as is illustrated in an interesting document, noted by Erickson, from the German Foreign Office files whose significance for the Tukhachevskii Affair has not yet been appreciated. This is a letter to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht (head of the Reichsbank and the person whom Kandelaki had approached concerning the Soviet Government’s desire for formal secret talks) from the German Foreign Minister, Baron Constantine von Neurath. [14] In this letter Neurath summarizes Hitler’s view, with which Neurath also declares his agreement. This is expressed as follows:

As concerning the eventual acceptance of talks with the Russian government, I am, in agreement with the Führer, of the view that they could not lead to any result at this time, would rather be made great use of by the Russians to achieve the goal they seek of a closer military alliance with France and, if possible, to achieve as well a further rapprochement with England. A declaration by the Russian government that it dissociates itself from Comintern agitation, after the experience with these declarations in England and France, would be of no practical use whatever and therefore be unsatisfactory.

Neurath adds an interesting qualification: “It would be another thing if matters in Russia should develop in the direction of an absolute despotism propped up by the military. In this event we should not let the opportunity pass us by to involve ourselves in Russia again.” The Neurath-Schacht letter is dated 11 February, 1937, while the cover letter to the Austrian BKA document, on BKA stationery, is dated four days later, and the report itself deals with the previous month. Thus the letter proves that the rumor set down in the report does, in fact, reflect the real views of the Nazi hierarchy at precisely the time it claims: in other words, the Neurath-Schacht letter strikingly verifies point four of the Austrian BKA report.

In early 1937 there were two leading military figures in the soviet Union: Tukhachevskii and the Commissar for Defense, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. It was well known that tensions within the top leadership of the Soviet military were profound. [15] Too much should not be made of an argument e silentio. But later in the same letter Neurath may be tacitly letting Schacht know which one of the two Soviet military leaders he means: “In this connection I should also note, for your personal information, that, according to reliable information reaching us concerning the events in Russia, there is nothing to any slit between Stalin and Voroshilov. So far as can be determined, this rumor, which is being spread by our press as well, originated in interested circles in Warsaw.” Perhaps this passage suggests that, with Voroshilov still a staunch Stalinist, German would only be interested in talks with Russia in the event of a military dictatorship under Tukhachevskii.

There remains the first point in the Austrian BKA report, the supposed attempt by the German General Staff to form an alliance with the Soviet Army. To begin with, we note that Neurath was very close to Fritsch and to General Blomberg, worked with them behind Hitler’s back on several occasions, and was replaced as foreign minister by Ribbentrop on 4 February, 1938, the same day that Fritsch and Blomberg resigned and dozens of other generals and officials were dismissed to be replaced by officers more compliant with Hitler’s desire for war. [16] If Fritsch were in secret touch with Tukhachevskii, Neurath might well have been informed. But there is other evidence of a Tukhachevskii-Fritsch connection.

In his famous book I Paid Hitler, Fritz Thyssen, the former German steel magnate, one of the immensely influential “Schlotbarone,” the Ruhr heavy industry magnates, and an early member of the Nazi party explicitly associated Tukhachevskii with Fritsch: “Fritsch always advocated an alliance with Russia, though not with a Communist Russia. Attempts were made to establish relations between Fritsch and the Russian generalissimo, Tukhachevskii. The two had one point in common: each desired to overthrow the dictator in his own country.” [17]

Thyssen was certainly in a position to know of the kind of secret liaisons he alleges here, and may have been in on it too, since by 1936 or 1937 he himself was deeply disillusioned with Hitler. Professor Erickson, who cites this passage but would clearly like to dismiss it, confidently states in the text of his book that “not a single item of evidence has emerged to justify the charge of treasonable contact with the Germans.” However, in a footnote on the same page he refers to the `Thyssen passage quoted above, and adds the following remark: “It is difficult to know where the support for this statement comes from, although there was a contemporary Polish newspaper report that a letter or note from Fritsch had been seized from Tukhachevskii.” [18]

There is yet more evidence from the German Foreign Office files hinting at a link between Tukhachevskii and the German General Staff. This is the set of documents referred to on page 435 of Erickson’s study, The Soviet High Command. These documents record the loan, between February and November, 1937, of military court papers concerning Tukhachevskii when he was a prisoner-of-war in Germany during World War I (the court papers themselves are not extant). A study of the four loan request documents reveals that the Tukhachevskii files were requested from the Potsdam branch of the Heeresarchiv(army archives) by the Wehrmachtamt, Aus. (Ausland) VI, the section which dealt with foreigners. Wehrmachtamt requested it on behalf of the “GZ.” This is the abbreviation for Generalstab-Zentralstellung, the main headquarters of the German General Staff. [19] GZ was of course in Berlin, and was headed by General von Fritsch.

It is noteworthy that someone in Fritsch’s Berlin HQ was apparently showing some considerable interest in Tukhachevskii at precisely the same time that: 1) the report to the Austrian BKA told of Fritsch’s interest in an alliance with the Soviet military — a report backed up by Thyssen’s testimony; and 2) both that report and Neurath speak of an interest in a military coup in the USSR.

Our examination of the Austrian BKA report shows that, as regards German-Soviet military relations, it is highly consistent with other evidence available. Points one, three, and four are fully consistent with this other evidence, while point two may simply be due to a confusion (or may even be correct as well). We have also disposed of the first two of Professor Carsten’s objections to it. However, there remains his third point: that the documents might have been related to the well-known SD plot to forge a dossier incriminating Tukhachevskii as a traitor. The whole matter of this alleged forgery is very complex, and cannot be unraveled in this article. In addition, it is in principle impossible to prove a negative — in this case, that no German forgery attempt was made. One can merely examine the evidence cited to support the existence of such a forgery attempt and see how it holds up. This said, several considerations are relevant to the matter at hand.

First, the crucial sources for the “SD-NKVD forgery” story are untrustworthy. In his introduction to the English edition of Walter Schellenberg’s memoires, Alan Bullock concludes: “nor would it be wise to accept Schellenberg as a trustworthy witness where his evidence cannot be corroborated.” Erickson also points out several important passages of Schellenberg’s which he recognizes cannot be true. [20] The account by Alfried Naujocks, the SS man who claimed to have been personally responsible for organizing the forgery and who is usually taken at his word, is even more patently false. [21]

Second, according to all the accounts of the forgery plot, Hitler and Himmler were both a party to it. But nothing of the kind could be inferred from their later references to the military purges. For example, Himmler is reported to have discussed the Tukhachevskii Affair in a conversation with the renegade Soviet General A. A. Vlasov on 16 September 1944 in a manner which makes it clear he believed Tukhachevskii had been guilty of some plotting: “Himmler asked Vlasov about the Tukhachevskii Affair. Why this had gone awry. Vlasov gave a frank answer: ‘Tukhachevskii made the same mistake that your people made on 20 July [21a]. He did not know the law of masses.’” [22] In an important speech in Posen on 4 October 1943 Himmler stated:

When — I believe it was in 1937 or 1938 — the great show trials took place in Moscow, and the former czarist military cadet, later Bolshevik general, Tukhachevskii, and other generals were executed, all of us in Europe, including us in the [Nazi] Party and in the SS, were of the opinion that here the Bolshevik system and Stalin had committed one of their greatest mistakes. In making this judgment of the situation we greatly deceived ourselves. We can truthfully and confidently state that. I believe that Russia would never have lasted through these two years of war — and she is now in the third year of war — if she had retained the former czarist generals. [23]

This probably reflected Hitler’s assessment as well, for, according to Goebbels (diary entry of 8 May 1943): “The conference of the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters followed…. The Führer  recalled the case of Tukhachevskii and expressed the opinion that we were entirely wrong then in believing that Stalin would ruin the Red Army by the way he handled it. The opposite was true: Stalin got rid of all opposition in the Red Army and thereby brought an end to defeatism.” [24]

Finally, the German forgery — if indeed there was one — does not exclude the existence of a real military plot. In fact, all of the  SD sources for the forgery story leave open the possibility that the marshal was in fact plotting with the German General Staff. [25]

Thus the story of the “SD-NKVD forgery” is very problematic. Based purely on hearsay, it abounds in contradictions and outright lies. If it were nonetheless consistent with the other evidence concerning the Tukhachevskii Affair, it might merit consideration despite it all. but the opposite is true.

The only pre-war account of any plot to frame Tukhachevskii is that of Walter Krivitsky, which concludes that the NKVD possessed its own evidence against Tukhachevskii quite independent of any forged dossier. [26] This coincides with the opinion of Heinz Höhne, the most recent student of the forgery plot from the German and SD side. [27]

Important testimony asserting the existence of a real conspiracy including Tukhachevskii and other military leaders comes from Nikolai N. Likhachyov, better known as Andrei V. Svetlanin. A lecturer in Russian at Cambridge, then journalist and finally editor (1955-65) of the emigre Russian journal Posev, Svetlanin claimed second-hand knowledge of the conspiracy as a member, during the mid-1930s, of the staff of the Far Eastern Army (later the Red Banner Far Eastern Front) commanded by Marshal Bliukher.

In this account, the military and party leaders executed during 1937 as part of the “Tukhachevskii Affair” were in fact part of a wider conspiracy the central figure in which was Yan Gamarnik. [28] Chief of the Political Directorate in the Army, Gamarnik had probably begun the plot, together with Tukhachevskii, as early as 1932. By the time of the Seventeenth Party Congress in 1934, it was well developed. The plotters, motivated by the disastrous consequences of collectivization, were said to have considered two distinct plans. Plan “A,”, originating with Tukhachevskii and the young commanders around him, centered on a coup in the Kremlin, to be supported by party and military leaders in some of the provinces. Plan “B,”, envisaging independent revolts in different border areas of the USSR, originated with Gamarnik and the state and party officials in the plot, and was the version finally approved by the conspiratorial center. The Far Eastern Region was to have been the site of the initial revolt.

Svetlanin never claims to have been a part of the conspiracy himself which, he insists, was limited to men of the highest rank. Apparently no one of his acquaintance in the Far Eastern Army believed the Tukhachevskii Affair to have been a frame-up against innocent men. His story can be partially checked from independent sources, the main one of which is the account by Genrikh S. Liushkov given to the Japanese interrogators after his defection to them in June, 1938 (Liushkov, head of the Far Eastern NKVD, had been sent there to help the 1938 purge). Liushkov disclosed to the Japanese the existence of an plot in the Far East, and his account of the plot confirms Svetlanin’s in several minor respects. [29]

Curiously, none of the post-1956 Soviet accounts have revealed any information other than that which was already available in the West, and draw principally upon the SD accounts of the forged dossier. Even the Western sources used by Nikulin, the “official” Khrushchev-era biographer of Tukhachevskii, are carefully pruned of evidence they contain that suggests some real conspiracy in fact occurred. there is, strictly speaking, so Soviet post-Stalin historical account of the Tukhachevskii Affair at all, since Nikulin’s work, upon which all others rely, is filled out with dramatic dialog and frankly termed fictionalized (povestvovanie). [30]

Taken single, none of these bits of evidence is very significant in itself. But when considered as a whole, they constitute at lest a prima facie case that some real military conspiracy involving Tukhachevskii may have actually existed. Nor is it difficult to understand why Khrushchev might have wanted to rehabilitate real conspirators. Khrushchev used the rehabilitations of the Tukhachevskii group as a stick with which to beat Stalin and, more importantly, remaining “Stalinists” in high places — that is, in order to hold power and support certain policy decisions. The Soviet military elite regards Marshal Tukhachevskii and those associated with him as the fathers of the contemporary Soviet armed forces. [31] To accuse Stalin of having wrongly killed them was at once to make of the military a firm ally and to blacken any policies associated with Stalin’s name.

In conclusion, each of the points concerning Tukhachevskii mentioned in the Austrian BKA document is consistent with other, independent evidence. The “SD forgery plot” story, and the Khrushchev-era versions of the Tukhachevskii Affair, have been accorded a degree of scholarly acceptance that is not justified by the contradictions and inconsistencies which abound in them. Any new study should examine them far more skeptically than has hitherto been the case. The present scholarly consensus notwithstanding, there is little about the Tukhachevskii Affair, including the very basic matter of Tukhachevskii’s guilt or innocence, about which we can be certain.

Montclair State University

APPENDIX

–N.A. Series T-120, Roll No. 1448, page D 567 777.

Now as always there are efforts under way within the Wehrmacht which aim at the possibility of an alliance with the Russian army. The argument is simple: the Russian army cannot be taken care of by force; therefore it should happen in friendship. Fritsch, Admiral Raeder, and even General von Reichenau are rumored to be proponents of this plan. Blomberg is seen as a mere accessory (Figurant). But the proponents of these efforts are found chiefly among the younger school of the General Staff. When he was in Berlin on the occasion of last year’s German autumn maneuvers, Marshal Tukhachevskii offered, in return for Colonel-General Fritsch’s toast to the Russian army in Wüzberg, a toast to the German army as the champion against world Jewry, and to General Goring. The power struggle presently taking place in Russia, which might possibly end with Stalin’s fall and the establishment of a military dictatorship, is being followed by the Wehrmacht with closest attention, and with unconcealed sympathy for a solution of that kind.

***********************************************************

* I would like to thank Professor J. Arch Getty, of the University of California at Riverside, and Professor S.G. Wheatcroft, of the University of Melbourne, who read and commented upon earlier versions of this article. Naturally they are not responsible for any shortcomings it still contains.

REFERENCES

1. Khrushchev’s “secret speech” to the Twentieth congress of the CPSU (February, 1956) attacked Stalin for his “annihilation of many military commanders” after 1937, but did not mention any of the executed officers. Marshal Tukhachevskii was first “rehabilitated” in 1958. See Robert Conquest, “De-Stalinization and the Heritage of Terror,”, in Alexander Dallin and Alan F. Weston, et al., eds. Politics in the Soviet Union: 7 Cases (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966), pp. 57-58. Virtually all Western scholars today accept Khrushchev’s story; e.g. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties, rev. ed. (New York: Collier Books, 1973), pp. 300-02.

2. Conquest, Great Terror, p. 285; Leonard Shapiro, “The Great Purge,”, chapter 6 of Basil Henry Liddle-Hart, ed., The Red Army (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956), p. 70. Professor John Erickson, in his authoritative work The Soviet High Command (London: Macmillan; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1962, p. 464 and note), states that “not a single item of evidence has emerged to justify the charge of treasonable contact with the Germans,” and “no post-war evidence has come to light to disprove this.”

3. Frederick Ludwig Carsten, “New `Evidence’ against Marshal Tukhachevskii,” Slavonic and East European Review, 52 (1974), 272-73. The document itself is in N(ational) A(rchives) microfilm series T-1220, Roll no: 1448, pages D 567 772 – D 567 778; page D 567 771 is the cover letter.

4. page D 567 777; see the Appendix for a translation of this part of the document.

5. According to K; see Herman Teske, ed., Profile bedeutender Soldaten. Band I. General Ernst Köstring Der militärischer Mittler zwischen dem Deutschen Reich und der Sowjetunion. 1921-1941. (Frankfurt/M.: Mittler, 1965), pp. 125-26.

6. Carsten, “New ‘Evidence’,” p. 273.

7. Ibid., citing Teske, Profile bedeutender Soldaten, p. 69. These words were written by Köstring for this volume, more than thirty years after the fact.

8. Georges Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armée Rouge, 1920-1939,” in J.-B. Duroselle, ed., Les relations germano-sovietiques de 1933 – 1939  (Paris: Colin, 1954), pp. 218-19 and n. 97, p. 218.

9. Ibid., nn. 97 and 98, citing Gen. Renondeau’s letter to Paris of 5 October and 28 September, 1937. For Uborevich, see Walter Görlitz, History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945 (New York: Praeger 1962), p. 307 (German edition 1953). The whole affair is omitted, however, from Görlitz’s Kleine Geschichte des Deutschen Generalstabes (Berlin: Haude & Spener, 1967). Since the Austrian BKA report was compiled in December 1936-January 1937, it is impossible to be certain whether it refers to maneuvers in autumn 1935 or in autumn 1936.

10. On the question of this visit (or visits) see Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armée Rouge, 1920-1939,” pp. 217-18; 224; also Pierre Dominique, “L’affaire Toukhatchevski et l’opinion française,” L’Europe nouvelle, 19 June 1937, p 590; Ian Colvin, Chief of Intelligence (London: Gollancz, 1951), pp. 39-40; Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 411-13, and 729, n. 27. Disagreement exists about what Tukhachevskii did during this visit or visits but it is sufficient for our purposes to note that all agree he did visit Berlin in 1936.

11. Pierre Fervacque, Le Chef de Larm e Rouge: Mikhail Toukatchevski (Paris: Fasquelle, 1928), pp. 24- 45. Remy Roure was one of the most prominent journalists and newspapermen in France in his day, a founder of Le Monde and its political editor from 1945 to 1952, when he left it for the conservative Le Figaro. See the necrology by Louis Marin-Chauffier, “L’Honneur de Notre Profession,” Le Figaro, 9 Nov. 1966, pp. 1, 32; also,  “La Carrière de Remy Roure,” ibid, p. 32.

12. Pierre Fervacque, “Le Julien Sorel de bolchevisme,” Le Temps (Paris), 24 July 1937, p. 3. Julien Sorel, the protagonist of Stendhal’s novel Le rouge et le noir, assumes holy orders out of cold-blooded careerism; Fervacque implies this was also Tukhachevskii’s motive for adhering to Bolshevism.

13. Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 432 and 453.

14. N(ational) A(rchives) Series T-120 Roll No. 1057, pp. 429-296-7.

15. For tensions within the Soviet military leadership, see John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany. Vol. I (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), p. 3; and idem, Soviet High Command, passim.

16. There is no evidence that these dismissals (the famous “Fritsch Affair”) had anything to do with Tukhachevskii. What linked Neurath with Fritsch and Blomberg was opposition to Hitler’s plan to move swiftly against Austria and Czechoslovakia. See Harold C. Deutsch, Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June, 1938 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1974), pp. 64, 70- 71, 258-66.

17. Fritz Thyssen, I Paid Hitler (New York: Cooperative Pub., 1941), p. 163. According to Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., “Fritz Thyssen und das Buch ‘I Paid Hitler’,”, in Turner, Faschismus und Kapitalismus in Deutschland (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1973), p. 95, n. 20, the Tukhachevskii-Fritsch passages occurs in one of the few chapters in German in the original manuscript of the book and so probably reflects Thyssen’s personal work (Emery Reeves, Thyssen’s ghost-writer, conducted his interviews with Thyssen in French).

18. Erickson, Soviet High Command, p 464. According to Professor Alvin T. Coox, the Japanese considered Polish intelligence to be “the best anti-Soviet service in the world at the time.” See his “L’Affaire Lyushkov: Anatomy of a Soviet Defector,” Soviet Studies, 20 (Jan. 1968), 406.

19. N.A. Series T-78, Roll No. 10.

20. Alan Bullock, “Introduction,” in The Labyrinth: Memoires of Walter Schellenberg (New York: Harper, 1956), p. xix; Erickson, Soviet High Command, pp. 731, n. 84 and 735, nn. 25 and 27.

21. Naujocks’ story is in Gunter Peis, The Man Who Started the War (London: Oldham Press, n.d. [1960]), pp. 76-103. The names of the printing establishments Naujocks claimed to have visited in trying to find a forger do not occur in the very complete lists in the Berliner Adressbuch of 1932, 1936 or 1938. Erickson rejects Schellenberg’s account of the forgery because “it certainly took longer that four days to prepare the dossier” (Soviet High Command, p. 735, n. 25); what then can be said of the later Naujocks account, which states that the forgery took place in one night? Finally, Naujocks’ account of the Polish border incident (the “Gleiwitz transmitter” affair) set up by Hitler as a cause de guerre., has been proven heavily falsified; Jürgen Runzheimer: Der Überfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz im Jahre 1939,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 10 (1962), 408-26.

21a. This is a reference to the assassination attempt on Hitler of 20 July 1944.

22. Archiv des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte (Munich), Signatur ZS 2, Bd I., page 55. This document contains the notes of conversations between Gunter d’Alquen,  an SS officer present at the Himmler-Vlasov interview, and a co- worker of Jürgen Thorwald, the German author. The ambiguous (perhaps deliberately so) phrase “das Gesetz der Masse” could refer either to the law of inertia or to the behavior of the masses. In either case it means about the same thing. Thorwald cited the phrase in Wen Sie Verderben Wollen (Stuttgart: Steingr ben-Verlag, 1952), p. 394.

23. Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal {Nuremberg, 1949], Vol. 29, p. 111 (Document 1919-PS).

24. Joseph Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries: 1942-1943, ed. & tr. Louis P. Lochner (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1948), p. 355.

25. Peis, Man Who Started the War, p. 79; Walter Schellenberg: Memoiren (Köln: Politik und Wirtschaft, 1959), pp. 48-49; Walter Hagen [pseudonym of Wilhelm Höttl], Die Geheime Front: Organization Personen und Aktionen des Deutschen Geheimdienstes (Linz und Wien: Nibelungen-Verlag, 1956), p. 63. A close study of these accounts reveals, however, that they are mutually contradictory more often than not and that, in general, they cannot be trusted.

26. Walter G. Krivitsky, I Was Stalin’s Agent (London: Right Book Club, 1940), pp. 257-58. But Krivitsky’s book is harshly condemned as untrustworthy by his friend of many years and wife of his assassinated friend Ignace Reiss; see Elizabeth Poretsky, in Our Own People: A Memoire of ‘Ignace Reiss’ and His Friends (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1970), pp. 71; 75, n.2; 124; 146; 204, n. 1; 211, n.1; 269-70. See also Castellan, “Reichswehr et Armée Rouge,” pp. 233, 2234 & nn.; 257, n. 194, for criticisms of Krivitsky.

27. Heinz Höhne, The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS, tr. Richard Barry (New York: Coward-McCann, 1970), p. 233; similarly, idemCanaris, tr. J. Maxwell Brownjohn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979, p. 248. Höhne  interviewed other German sources and also studied the SD survivors’ accounts; while accepting their story of the forgery plot, he believes it was not the cause of the arrests of Tukhachevskii and the others.

28. A. Svetlanin, Dal’nevostochnyi zagovor (Frankfurt/M.: Possev-Verlag, 1953). Details about Likhachyov/Svetlanin’s life are given in the necrology by N. Tarasova, Grani, No. 61 (1966), pp. 82-97. A very intelligent discussion, from an emigre  viewpoint, of Svetlanin’s account of the conspiracy took place in the pages of the journal Posev in 1949-50; for a complete list of the articles, see ibid, No. 32 (1950), p. 10, n. I am indebted to the late Professor Nikolai Andreyev, of Cambridge, England, for additional information about his colleague and personal friend, Mr Likhachyov, alias Svetlanin.

29. See the article by Coox cited in n. 18 above. The post-war Soviet defector Grigory Tokaev also claimed first-hand knowledge of high-level military opposition to the Stalin government which survived even the military purges; he knows nothing of any Tukhachevskii involvement, however. See his Betrayal of an Ideal (London: Harville Press, 1954), and Comrade X (London: Harville Press, 1956). A Soviet dissident account of the Khar’kov trial, in November, 12969, of the engineer Genrikh Altunian (Khronika tekushchikh sobytii, No. 1, pp. 312-13), states the following: “IRKHA, witness for the prosecution and party organizer of the military academy at which ALTUNIAN taught, stated at the court that it was still not certain whether Komandarm I. Iakir’s rehabilitation was correct (`eshche neizvestno, pravil’no li reabilitirovan komandarm I. IAKIR’).” Robert Conquest also cites this quotation, though without identifying his source, in the introduction to Pyotr Yakir, A Childhood in Prison (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 12973), p. 17.

Altunian was involved in dissident activities with Pyotr Iakir, son of the general condemned with Tukhachevskii. According to Victor Krasin, Iakir and he were tried in 1973 for collaborating with “the old Russian emigre organization, the National Labor Union (N.T.S.).” (Victor Krasin, “How I Was Broken by the K.G.B., The New York Times Magazine, 19 March 1984, pp. 71, 75). Founded in the 1930s as a fascist-type organization the N.T.S. collaborated closely with the Germans during their invasion of the USSR. George Fischer, ed., Russian emigre Politics (New York: Free Russia Fund, 1951), p. 72. Iakir had thus been working with a fascist group whose “ultimate goal” is “the armed overthrow of the Soviet regime ” (Krasin, p. 71). Almost precisely these activities constituted the most dramatic charges against Iakir’s own father, condemned with Tukhachevskii — charges which Iakir believed were false. In a further irony, it was the N.T.S. publishing house, “Possev-Verlag,” that published Svetlanin/Likhachev’s 1952 book in which the author claimed direct knowledge of a plot against the Soviet government by Iakir, Tukhachevskii, and the others (Svetlanin/Likhachyov went on to edit Posev, the N.T.S’s main journal, from 1955 until his death in 1965).

30. Lev Nikulin, Tuchachevskii: Biograficheskii ocherk (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1964), pp. 192-93. uses the account of the forgery plot and President Benes’ involvement taken from Colvin and Churchill, but omits all their evidence for the marshal’s guilt. The Soviet reader would never suspect that Colvin, Benes, Churchill, and the SD agents all believed there really had been a Tukhachevskii conspiracy (Nikulin also leaves out Colvin’s name, making the source harder to identify). Cf. Colvin, Chief of Intelligence, pp. 39-40, and 42; Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), pp. 288-89;Memoires of Dr. Edward Benes: From Munich to New War and New Victory (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949), pp. 19-20, 47.

31. For examples, see Col M.P. Skirdo, The People, the Army, the Commander (Washington, DC, n.d.; orig. ed. Moscow: Voenizdat, 1970), p. 141; V. Savost’ianov and N. Egorov, Komandarm pervogo ranga (I.N. Uborevich) (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966), pp. 212-13; Soviet Life (June, 1981).

Source

Molotov on Marshal Tukhachevsky

_tukhachevsky

“CHUEV: Now some think you appointed such untrained people as Pavlov, but if it had been Tukhachevsky….
MOLOTOV: Take someone like Tukhachevsky. If trouble started, which side would he have been on? He was a rather dangerous man. I doubted he would have been fully on our side when things got tough, because he was a right-winger. The right wing danger was the main danger at the time.”

– Feliks Chuev, “Molotov Remembers,” page 26.

“The right wing already had a channel to Hitler even before this. Trotsky was definitely connected to him, that’s beyond any doubt…. Many of the ranking military officers were also involved. That goes without saying.”

– Feliks Chuev, “Molotov Remembers,” page 275.

“Nevertheless, he [Tukhachevsky] organized an anti-Soviet group in the army.”

– Feliks Chuev, “Molotov Remembers,” page 279.

“CHUEV: He [Tukhachevsky] was accused of being a German agent.
MOLOTOV: He hurried with plans for a coup. Both Krestinsky and Rosengoltz testified to that. It makes sense. He feared he was at the point of being arrested, and he could no longer put things off. And there was no one else he could rely on except the Germans. This sequence of events is plausible. I consider Tukhachevsky a most dangerous conspirator in the military who was caught only at the last minute. Had he not been apprehended, the consequences could have been catastrophic. He was most popular in the army.
Did everyone who was charged or executed take part in the conspiracy hatched by Tukhachevsky? Some were certainly involved….But as to whether Tukhachevsky and his group in the military were connected with Trotskyists and rightists and were preparing a coup, there is no doubt.”

– Feliks Chuev, “Molotov Remembers,” page 280.

“MOLOTOV: Take Tukhachevsky, for example. On what grounds was he rehabilitated? Did you read the records of the trial of the right-wing and Trotskyist bloc in 1938? Bukharin, Krestinsky, Rosengoltz, and others were on trial then. They stated flat out that in June 1937 Tukhachevsky pressed for a coup. People who have not read the record go on to say that the testimony was given under duress from the Chekists. But I say, had we not made those sweeping arrests in the 1930s, we would have suffered even greater losses in the war.”

– Feliks Chuev, “Molotov Remembers,” page 285.

Mikhail Tukhachevsky on Communists and the Jews

“Also in the camp [Ingolstadt] was a Russian officer, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, son of tsarist nobility, who also made repeated attempts to escape and with whom, according to a fellow prisoner, de Gaulle shared a cell for a time. Tukhachevsky played mournful airs on his violin, spouted nihilist beliefs and inveighed against Jews as dogs who ‘spread their fleas throughout the world.’”

– Jonathan Fenby, “The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved,” page 68.

“– You are an anti-semite, then, I said to him. Why?

– The Jews brought us Christianity. That’s reason enough to hate them. But then they are a low race. I don’t even speak of the dangers they create in my country. You cannot understand that, you French, for you equality is a dogma. The Jew is a dog, son of a dog, which spreads his fleas in every land. It is he who has done the most to inoculate us with the plague of civilization, and who would like to give us his morality also, the morality of money, of capital.

– You are now a socialist, then?

– A socialist? Not at all! What a need you have for classifying! Besides the great socialists are Jews and socialist doctrine is a branch of universal Christianity. … No, I detest socialists, Jews and Christians.”

– Pierre Fervacque (Remy Roure), Le Chef de Larm e Rouge: Mikhail Toukatchevski (Paris: Fasquelle, 1928), page 24- 45. Remy Roure was one of the most prominent journalists and newspapermen in France in his day, a founder of Le Monde and its political editor from 1945 to 1952, when he left it for the conservative Le Figaro. See the necrology by Louis Marin-Chauffier, “L’Honneur de Notre Profession,” Le Figaro, 9 Nov. 1966, pp. 1, 32; also, “La Carrière de Remy Roure,” ibid, p. 32.

Nazis Joseph Goebbels and Léon Degrelle on Tukhachevsky

Mikhail_Tukhachevsky

“The Führer explained one more time the Tukhachevsky case and stated that we erred completely at the time when we thought that Stalin had ruined the Red Army. The opposite is true: Stalin got rid of all the opposition circles within the army and thereby succeeded in making sure that there would no longer be any defeatist currents within that army…

With respect to us, Stalin also has the advantage of not having any social opposition, since Bolshevism has eliminated it through the purges of the last twenty-five years…Bolshevism has eliminated this danger in time and can henceforth focus all of its strength on its enemy.”

– Joseph Göbbels, Tagebücher aus den Jahren 1942–1943, (Zurich, 1948), p. 322. Quoted in Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, La seconde guerre mondiale: caractères fondamentaux de la politique et de la stratégie, vol. 1, pp. 213–214.

“Who would have thought during the crimes of the Great Terror during the French Revolution that soon after a Bonaparte would come out and raise France up from the abyss with an iron fist? A few years later, and Bonaparte almost created the United Europe.

A Russian Bonaparte could also rise up. The young Marshal Tukhachevsky executed by Stalin on Benes’ advice, was of the right stature in 1937.”

– Léon Degrelle, quoted in Degrelle m’a dit by Louise Narvaez, Postface by Degrelle (Brussels: Éditions du Baucens, 1977), page 360-361.

Winston Churchill on Conspiracies in the Soviet Union

245px-Sir_Winston_S_Churchill

“In the autumn of 1936, a message from a high military source in Germany was conveyed to President Beneš [President of Czechoslovakia – E.S.] to the effect that if he wanted to take advantage of the Fuehrer’s offer, he had better be quick, because events would shortly take place in Russia rendering any help he could give to Germany insignificant.

While Beneš was pondering over this disturbing hint he became aware that communications were passing through the Soviet Embassy in Prague between important personages in Russia and the German Government. This was a part of the so-called military and Old-Guard Communist conspiracy to overthrow Stalin and introduce a new régime based on a pro-German policy. President Beneš lost no time in communicating all he could find out to Stalin. Thereafter there followed the merciless, but perhaps not needless, military and political purge in Soviet Russia, and the series of trials in January 1937, in which Vyshinsky, the Public Prosecutor, played so masterful a part.

[….]

The Russian Army was purged of its pro-German elements [...] The bias of the Soviet Government was turned in a marked manner against Germany. […] The situation was, of course, thoroughly understood by Hitler; but I am not aware that the British and French Governments were equally enlightened. To Mr. Chamberlain and the British and French General Staffs the purge of 1937 presented itself mainly as a tearing to pieces internally of the Russian Army, and a picture of the Soviet Union as riven asunder by ferocious hatreds and vengeance.”

– Winston Churchill, “The Gathering Storm: The Second World War, Volume 1,” page 258.

Alexander Werth on the Military Purges and Tukhachevsky

tukhachevsky-2

“I am also pretty sure that the purge in the Red Army had a great deal to do with Stalin’s belief in an imminent war with Germany. What did Tukhachevsky stand for? People of the French Deuxieme Buereau told me long ago that Tukhachevsky was pro-German. And the Czechs told me the extraordinary story of Tukhachevsky’s visit to Prague, when towards the end of a banquet – he had got rather drunk – he blurted out that an agreement with Hitler was the only hope for both Czechoslovakia and Russia. And he then proceeded to abuse Stalin. The Czechs did not fail to report this to Kremlin, and that was the end of Tukhachevsky – and so many of his followers.”

– Alexander Werth, quoted in Harpal Brar, Perestroika: The Complete Collapse of Revisionism, page 161.