Category Archives: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.)

Further Material on the Affair of Marshal Tukhachevsky


“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


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


–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.


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).


Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov on Tukhachevsky


“In 1937, Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov was working for the Central Commitee of the Bolshevik Party. A bourgeois nationalist, he had close ties to opposition leaders and with the Central Committee members from the Caucausus. In his book The Reign of Stalin, he regrets that Tukhachevsky did not seize power in 1937. He claims that early in 1937, after his trip to England, Tukhachevsky spoke to his superior officers as follows:

‘The great thing about His Britannic Majesty’s Army is that there could not be a Scotland Yard agent at its head [allusion to the role played by state security in the USSR]. As for cobblers [allusion to Stalin's father], they belong in the supply depots, and they don’t need a Party card. The British don’t talk readily about patriotism, because it seems to them natural to be simply British. There is no political ‘line’ in Britain, right, left or centre; there is just British policy, which every peer and worker, every conservative and member of the Labour Party, every officer and soldier, is equally zealous in serving…The British soldier is completely ignorant of Party history and production figures, but on the other hand he knows the geography of the world as well as he knows his own barracks…The King is loaded with honours, but he has no personal power…Two qualities are called for in an officer — courage and professional competence.”

– Ludo Martens, “Another View of Stalin.”

Molotov on Marshal 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


“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


“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


“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.

Joseph Davies on the Soviet Military Purges


Entries dated June 28 and July 4, 1937

“[T]he best judgment seems to believe that in all probability there was a definite conspiracy in the making looking to a coup d’état by the army — not necessarily anti-Stalin, but antipolitical and antiparty, and that Stalin struck with characteristic speed, boldness and strength.’”

“Had a fine talk with Litvinov. I told him quite frankly the reactions in U.S. and Western Europe to the purges; and to the executions of the Red Army generals; that it definitely was bad…

Litvinov was very frank. He stated that they had to ‘make sure’ through these purges that there was no treason left which could co-operate with Berlin or Tokyo; that someday the world would understand that what they had done was to protect the government from ‘menacing treason.’ In fact, he said they were doing the whole world a service in protecting themselves against the menace of Hitler and Nazi world domination, and thereby preserving the Soviet Union strong as a bulwark against the Nazi threat. That the world would appreciate what a very great man Stalin was.”

– U.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, Mission in Moscow, pages 99 and 103.

Lazar Kaganovich on Tukhachevsky


“Tukhachevsky hid Napoleon’s baton in his rucksack.”

– Lazar Kaganovich, quoted in “Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar” by Simon Sebag Montefiore, page 222.

The Tukhachevsky Conspiracy


Yuri Yemelianov

On the 70th Anniversary of the Treason Trials

On the 11th of June 1937 Moscow radio announced the arrest of the former chief of the Red Army General Headquarters Marshal M. Tukhachevsky and 7 other Soviet leading military figures. The arrested were put to trial before the military branch of the USSR Supreme Court. The radio report said that they were ‘accused of having violated their duty as soldiers, of having broken their military oath of allegiance and of having committed treason against the Soviet Union in the interests of a foreign country… It was established that the defendants… had organised an anti-State movement and had been in contact with the military circles of a foreign country pursuing an anti-Soviet policy. In favour of that country the defendants conducted military espionage. Their activity was aimed at ensuring the defeat of the Red Army in the event of the country being attacked. The ultimate aim was the restoration of big land ownership and capitalism. All accused made confessions’.

After a brief trial the USSR Supreme Court passed death penalty on all the defendants. Subsequently a substantial number of other military and Party officials were arrested and put to trial.

Now these events which happened over 70 years ago are used in post-Soviet Russia as a pretext for another noisy anti-Soviet propaganda campaign. Mass meetings and marches with Christian crosses are organised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of these events. TV and other mass media use this occasion in order to continue depicting the USSR history as the time of ‘Great Terror’ against innocent people, falsely accused of crimes which they did not commit. It is also claimed that the arrest of Tukhachevsky and other Soviet military leaders seriously handicapped the Red Army which led to severe setbacks in 1941, loss of great Soviet territories and manpower.

For the first time this interpretation of the arrest and trial of Tukhachevsky and others was made public by N. S. Khrushchev over 50 years ago. The then First Secretary of the CPSU asserted that the German Gestapo concocted papers, which compromised Tukhachevsky and others in order to weaken the Red Army on the eve of World War II. These forged papers were passed to the Soviet Government. Khrushchev claimed that Stalin was pathologically suspicious and this was the reason why he took the German fabrication at its face value and ordered the arrest of Tukhachevsky and others. According to Khrushchev further arrests and trials were caused by Stalin’s paranoia and his inborn cruelty.

Though there are some real facts behind Khrushchev’s version (e.g. the existence of papers forged by the Gestapo) his explanation is refuted by a number of comparatively recent publications made by a number of Russian historians, including the author of the present article. In such books as A. Martirosyan’s ‘The Conspiracy of Marshals’ (Moscow, Veche, 2003), S. Minakov’s ‘Stalin and the Conspiracy of Generals’ (Moscow, Yauza, 2005), ‘The Conspiracies and the Struggle for Power. From Lenin to Khrushchev’ (Moscow, Veche, 2003) by R. Balandin and S. Mironov, a reader will find detailed and ample evidence which contradicts the essence of Khrushchev’s version.

But even before the publication of these and other Russian books a number of authors in the West presented some facts which proved beyond doubt that the Tukhachevsky conspiracy was not a result of Stalin’s gullibility or a figment of his imagination but a stark reality. The appropriate facts were narrated in memoirs by a former German Intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg, in a book by a former NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) officer Alexander Orlov, who escaped from the USSR to the West in 1938, in a book ‘The Conspirators’ by an American historian Geoffrey Bailey. A brief account of how the Tukhachevsky plot was formed and developed was given in the book ‘Hitler Moves East 1941–1943’ by a former personal interpreter of Hitler, Paul Schmidt (his literary name — Paul Carell).

Summarising all these facts narrated and analysed by Russian, German and American authors one comes to a conclusion that the origin of the June 1937 events differs radically from the explanation given by Khrushchev and modern Russian political mass media. First of all, these events were connected with the struggle going on inside the Soviet Communist Party in the 1920s. One should take into account that since 1918 L. D. Trotsky was the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Soviet Republic and its People’s Commissar for military affairs. Many of the leading figures in the Red Army were appointed by Trotsky during the Civil War. Sharing the political views of their chief they tended to overrate military methods of administration and the role of the Red Army in the world revolutionary process. Many of them continued to occupy commanding posts in the Red Army after Trotsky was ousted from his posts in 1925.

Despite their public recantations, many of them continued to share Trotsky’s views and attitudes with their typical blend of adventurism and disregard for ideological principles, especially when dealing with the enemies of the Soviet Revolution. The adventurist approach to the problems of military strategy and organisation of the Red Army was characteristic for Tukhachevsky and the group of his supporters. The differences on these issues led to latent but growing confrontation of this group with the majority of the Red Army commanders.

Like Trotsky himself many of the Trotskyists in the Red Army were prone to put their personal ambitions above the interests of the working class and the Soviet state. Some of them dreamt of Bonapartist careers.

The tendency to conclude alliances with politically and ideologically alien forces for the sake of personal struggle for power (so typical for Trotsky during his political career) revealed itself in establishing close relations between some Soviet and German officers. At that time the Versailles treaty barred Germany from having military educational establishments. According to a secret Soviet-German agreement concluded at the initiative of Trotskyist Karl Radek who was then influential in the Soviet Government, a large group of German officers set up their military schools in Soviet Russia thus by-passing the clauses of the Versailles treaty. Not only Radek, but other Soviet leaders supported this agreement since at that time the cooperation of Soviet Russia with Germany was seen as a breakthrough of the united Anti-Soviet front of capitalist states. The possible negative consequences of the agreement were not taken into account.

While the Soviet-German agreement existed Tukhachevsky and a number of other Soviet military commanders cultivated friendly relations with their German colleagues. The latter often invited the Soviet officers to Germany. Unfortunately such contacts were not limited to exchanges of opinions in the field of purely professional problems. Some of the military of both countries tended to discuss the benefits of military rule and possibilities of joint interference of the military into civilian lives of both countries. Plans for mutual assistance of the military of the two countries in case of political changes in the two countries began to evolve.

The Nazi takeover in 1933 interrupted the active military cooperation between Germany and the USSR. Though at that time the German military wholly supported Hitler, they were keen to mind their own interests and were ready to take power if the Nazi regime was to totter. (The German military plotters almost performed a coup d’etat in September 1938. Then they were afraid that Germany would lose the war in case Britain and France would take a resolute stand and defend Czechoslovakia. Only the capitulation of France and Britain at Munich made the plotters discard their plans. Another attempt to overthrow the Hitler government was undertaken by them in July 1944 at the time when the Nazi regime was already doomed.)

Their own plans of military takeover in the USSR were nourished by Tukhachevsky and his supporters. At the same time Tukhachevsky and others tried to enlist support of some ambitious Party leaders for realisation of their Bonapartist plans. According to Paul Carell, ‘since 1935 Tukhachevsky had maintained a kind of revolutionary committee in Khabarovsk… Its members included senior administrative officials and Army commanders, but also some young Party functionaries in high posts, such as the Party leader in the Northern Caucasus, Boris Sheboldayev’.

Despite the termination of the Soviet-German military agreement Tukhachevsky maintained close cooperation with the German generals. Carell wrote: ‘In the spring of 1936 Tukhachevsky went to London as the leader of the Soviet delegation attending the funeral of the King George V. Both his outward and homeward journeys led him through Berlin. He used the opportunity for talks with leading German generals. He wanted to make sure that Germany would not use any possible revolutionary unrest in the Soviet Union as a pretext for marching against the East. What mattered to him most was his idea of a German-Russian alliance after overthrow of Stalin… Tukhachevsky became increasingly convinced that the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union was an inescapable commandment of history’.

In his book ‘The Conspirators’ Geoffrey Bailey quotes an attested remark by Tukhachevsky made at that time to the Rumanian Foreign Minister Titulescu. He said: ‘You are wrong to tie the fate of your country to countries which are old and finished, such as France and Britain. We ought to turn towards new Germany. For some at least Germany will assume the leading position on the continent of Europe’.

Meanwhile the pro-German statements made by Tukhachevsky in Western European countries during his trip to Britain became known in France and Czechoslovakia. The mutual assistance treaties of both countries with the USSR concluded in 1935 united them in a joint anti-Nazi coalition. The information that such an important figure as Tukhachevsky took a pro-German stand caused grave concern in Paris and Prague. The two governments notified the Soviet Government about Tukhachevsky’s statements.

Meanwhile at the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937 a number of Red Army officers were arrested in the USSR. During their interrogation the NKVD got information about the existence of a wide-spread plot against the Soviet Government. It was a time when arrests of some saboteurs, connected with the Trotskyist opposition revealed the lack of vigilance and political insight on the part of many Party functionaries.

It all happened at the time when the USSR adopted a new Constitution, called Stalinist, as Stalin was its initiator. Its constitution was meant to promote the democratisation of Soviet society. Unfortunately many of the Party officials, especially on a local level were reluctant to put the principles of the new Constitution into practice. Since 1917 during almost two decades they got accustomed to methods of administration used at the time of the Civil War. Many of them grew accustomed to their unchallenged high positions and they drew support from close circles of their personal friends. In fact their political attitudes were close to those of Tukhachevsky and his supporters. At the plenary session of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party held in February-March 1937 many of its members demanded increased repressive measures instead of the democratisation urged by the Stalinist Constitution.

In his speech at this plenary session Stalin spoke about the urgent need to raise the ideological and political level of all Party functionaries and offered a plan for their education. At the same time he severely criticised the tendency of Party officials to surround themselves by groups of their personal supporters. He suggested electing new functionaries at every Party level while the old functionaries were being educated at specially set-up schools. Stalin warned that unless the Communist Party kept close contacts with the working class it might perish. He reminded of the fate of Antaeus from Greek mythology, who lost the battle with Hercules as soon as he failed to have a contact with the Earth, who was his mother.

But the words of Stalin were unheeded by many of the Party officials. They were afraid to lose their jobs and they started to devise plans of mass reprisals in order to get rid of potential competitors for their posts.

Meanwhile Tukhachevsky and other conspirators, using unrest among the Party functionaries, accelerated preparations for a coup d’etat. Tukhachevsky intended to ask the USSR People’s Commissar for Defence K.E. Voroshilov to convene a conference on military problems in the Kremlin. Tukhachevsky planned to come to the conference with his supporters and to surround the Kremlin with troops loyal to him. Stalin and some of his Politbureau colleagues were to be arrested and shot immediately.

After the end of the plenary session of the Central Committee the conspirators increased their preparations. Carell wrote: ‘In March 1937 the race between Stalin and Tukhachevsky was becoming increasingly dramatic… Why did the Marshal not act then? Why was he still hesitating? The answer is simple enough. The moves of General Staff officers and Army commanders, whose headquarters were often thousands of miles apart, were difficult to coordinate especially as their strict surveillance by the secret police forced them to act with the utmost caution. The coup against Stalin was fixed for the 1st of May 1937, mainly because the May Day Parades would make it possible to move substantial troop contingents to Moscow without arousing suspicion’.

At that time Trotsky in his ‘Bulletin of the Opposition’ wrote about a probable rebellion of the Soviet military against Stalin. On the 9th of April 1937 the chief of the Red Army Intelligence Board S. Uritsky informed Stalin and Voroshilov that in Berlin there were rumours about the opposition of the Soviet military to the Soviet leadership.

By that time the Gestapo got wind of the negotiations of Tukhachevsky with the German military leaders. In order to get fuller information about relations between the military leaders of the two countries Gestapo agents penetrated the archives of the Wehrmacht and stole some of the documents pertaining to the contacts of the German military with the Soviet. The Gestapo agents tried to conceal the theft of documents by setting fire to the archives. After the stolen documents were analysed the Gestapo deputy chief Heydrich came to the conclusion that there was ample evidence of the secret cooperation between the leaders of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. The Gestapo informed Hitler about the documents.

Despite the pro-German statements of Tukhachevsky, Hitler and others in the Nazi leadership were not happy over clandestine contacts between the military leaders of Germany and the USSR. The Nazi leaders considered that the establishment of the military dictatorship in Russia might stimulate similar developments in Germany. And the military dictator of Russia Tukhachevsky might help his German colleagues during the future coup. Hitler decided to thwart the joint conspiracy of the military leaders of the two countries. He ordered the sending of the stolen documents to Moscow, but adding to them fabrications to make the materials even more shocking. German Intelligence chief Walter Schellenberg later wrote that the false additions constituted but a minor part of the whole collection, which was secretly sold to the Soviet Union. (Later in 1971 V. M. Molotov claimed that he, Stalin and other Politbureau members knew about the Tukhachevsky conspiracy before they got the German documents.)

There are different versions of the subsequent events. On the one hand there is substantial evidence that the military coup scheduled for the 1st of May was frustrated at the last minute. Some people present at the time at Red Square remembered that immediately after the beginning of the parade the rumours were spread about an imminent terrorist act against Stalin and other Politbureau members who at that time occupied the tribune on the Lenin Mausoleum. Later NKVD officer Pavel Meshik claimed that he personally arrested a terrorist on the upper floor of the building adjacent to Red Square just when he was getting ready to shoot. Meshik said that he was awarded the Order of Lenin for this arrest.

A British correspondent Fitzroy MacClean who was present at the May Day parade stated that he noticed nervousness in the conduct of the Politbureau members. Some of them hardly watched the parade. According to MacClean only Stalin preserved an unperturbed mien.

On the other hand there is evidence that the coup was postponed. Just before the 1st of May in London it was announced that on the 12th of May there would be the coronation of George VI who had become the King after the abdication of Edward VIII. The Soviet delegation was invited for the ceremony and the Soviet Government decided that Tukhachevsky would be a leader of the delegation. According to Carell, Tukhachevsky ‘postponed the coup by three weeks. That was his fatal mistake’.

On the 3rd of May documents of Tukhachevsky were sent to the British Embassy in connection with his visit to London. But on the next day the papers were called back and it was announced that the Soviet admiral V. M. Orlov would be a chief of the delegation.

On the 10th of May it was announced that Tukhachevsky was relieved from the duties of the deputy of the People’ Commissar for Defence and made the commander of the Volga military district. On the 24th of May Stalin sent a circular letter to all the members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee. They were informed about the conspiratorial activities of Tukhachevsky and others. Since Tukhachevsky was an alternate member of the Central Committee, other members and alternate members of this highest body of the Party were asked to vote for or against his expulsion from the Party and transfer of his case to the NKVD. All the members and alternate members of the Central Committee supported the suggested measures against Tukhachevsky.

The leader of the conspiracy was arrested on the 27th of May. Between 19 and 31 his major collaborators were arrested. But one of them, the deputy People’s Commissar for Defence Y. B. Gamarnik committed suicide just before his arrest.

On the 2nd of June the session of the Military Council of the People’s Commissary of Defence was convened. Though the investigation was not over yet and it was probable that some of the participants of the plot were present at the session Stalin attended it and spoke before it.

He began his speech, saying: ‘Comrades, I think that now nobody has doubts about the existence of military-political conspiracy against the Soviet power’. Stalin explained the reason why the conspiracy was not exposed earlier by euphoria of the Party and the Soviet people. He said: ‘The general situation, the growth of our ranks, the achievements of the Army and the country as a whole decreased our political vigilance, diminished sharpness of our sight’.

Stalin spoke about the dependence of Tukhachevsky and other arrested commanders on the German military and suggested that the conspirators did not have any profound ideological platform. Stalin said: ‘What was their weakness? They lacked contact with the people… They relied on the forces of the Germans… They were afraid of the people’.

Stalin suggested that some of the military officers got involved into conspiracy out of sheer opportunism. At the same time Stalin spoke about some of the plotters who were intimidated by Tukhachevsky and others and were forced to join them. Stalin proposed to forgive such people if they came and honestly told about their participation in the plot.

Refuting concern expressed by some of the speakers at the session that the arrests among the military might weaken the Red Army Stalin said: ‘We have in our army unlimited reserves of talents… One should not be afraid to move people upwards’.

Though Stalin expressed hope that the number of conspirators was not great, soon many of the military, including some of those who participated at the 2nd of June session, were arrested. Among those who were arrested many were innocent. First and foremost their arrests were caused by the atmosphere created by many local Party officials (and Khrushchev was among the most active) who, instead of searching for political and social reasons for the military conspiracy started to foment mass hysteria. They used the Tukhachevsky conspiracy as a pretext to prove that the USSR was full of foreign spies and thus to retain administrative methods typical of the Civil War. (Later Khrushchev tried to conceal his participation in this witch hunt by putting all the blame for it upon Stalin.) The toll of arrested increased also due to slanderous accusations made by careerists in the NKVD, ready to get promotion for their successes in exposing ‘enemies of the people’, or by career-minded military officers, eager to take the posts of those who were arrested.

Now the Russian mass-media assert that the arrests and executions of the Red Army commanding officers were fatal for the development of the Great Patriotic War. It is claimed that the officers’ corps of the Red Army was almost decimated. Some point out that 40 thousand of the commanding officers were subjected to various reprisals in 1937 – 1939. In fact out of 37 thousand officers who were dismissed from the Army in this period about 9 thousand were those who died due to natural causes, got severe chronic diseases or were punished for non-political crimes and misbehaviour. Out of 29 thousand officers sacked for political offences 13 thousand were later restored to the Army. Many of them (like Marshal Rokossovsky) fought heroically in the Great Patriotic War. Four thousand were executed and about 12 thousand served their terms in the labour camps. Though these are large numbers, one should be aware that the total number of the Army officers in 1941 was 680 thousand.

In place of Tukhachevsky and his supporters came a new cohort of generals and marshals who proved quite worthy in performing their military duties. The recognition of this fact came from none other than Joseph Goebbels. When Nazi Germany was practically defeated he recognised at last the merits of those whom he for many years treated as representatives of an inferior race. In his personal diary Goebbels wrote on the 16th of March, 1945: ‘The General Staff presented me a book with biographies of Soviet generals and marshals… Most of them are young; almost none of them is over 50 years. They have a rich experience of revolutionary-political activity. They are convinced Bolsheviks, very energetic people. When one looks upon their faces one can see that they are made of healthy folk staff. Most of them are sons of workers, cobblers, small holding peasants, etc. In short, I must make an unpleasant conclusion that the military leaders of the Soviet Union are of better social origin than our own… From this book it is easy to see what mistakes we made in the previous years’.

Belatedly lamenting that Nazi Germany did not get rid of its own Tukhachevskys before it was too late, Goebbels explained the strength of the Red Army in the fact that it had strong ties with the popular masses. Inadvertently the chief of Nazi propaganda recognised the truth of Stalin when the latter spoke about ‘unlimited reserves of talents’ in the ranks of the Red Army and stated that Tukhachevsky and others ‘lacked contact with the people’ and ‘were afraid of the people’.

The victory over Nazi Germany and its allies achieved mostly by the Soviet effort would not be possible if the Soviet leadership failed to get rid of its ‘Fifth Column’, similar to those which existed in many countries of the world and which allowed Hitler to establish his control over half of Europe. Unfortunately by 1991 both the Soviet Army and the Party changed their character and lost most of their staunch ties with the people. These changes facilitated the temporary triumph of capitalist restoration forces over socialism.


Subhas Chandra Bose in Nazi Germany


Subhas Chandra Bose meeting Hitler

Sisir K. Majumdar

It was probably in Germany that Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945) was first known as ‘Netaji’, which literally means ‘leader of leaders’ (‘Führer’ is the equivalent German expression). The period of his stay in Germany was from April 1941 to February 1943. These ‘Berlin Years’ of Netaji are still a riddle for most of his objective and biased biographers. It is still a puzzle how a self-respecting and dynamic personality could put up for two long years with an inhuman fascist clique which desperately tried to submerge the whole of humanity in rivers of blood. But it is beyond any shadow of doubt that he was solely and unequivocally guided by one desire– the liberation of his mother India from the cruel clutches of British colonialism.

Germany and India: The prime idea which motivated Netaji was to explore all possible means for achieving the cherished goal of India’s independence. It seems that he had adopted the concept that the ‘enemy’s enemy is your friend’. He looked at Nazi Germany solely from that perspective. It followed the approach taken by Indian revolutionaries towards German during the First World War. However, the Germany of the Second World War was very different, even with respect to India. After the defeat of Germany in the First World war, the ambition of Germany was to bring about a global redistribution of colonies with the goal of establishing German supremacy on the world stage. Vis-à-vis India, a plan was hatched to form an ‘Afghan Army’ to invade India after the possible defeat of the Soviet Union in order to snatch ‘the jewel of the British Empire’. The idea of India’s independence was no where in German strategic consideration. Indeed, Germany had a long standing covetous eye towards India, and its sympathy and support for India’s struggle for independence was always superficial, and fluctuated with the changing situations on the war front, especially on the Russian front. Netaji was completely unaware of this behind the scene conspiracy. He did not seem to think about this seriously enough initially, and remained blindly optimistic about the German attitude for quite some time.

Low-key Reception: When Netaji arrived in Germany in April 1941, he was received by a low-ranking official of the Foreign Department. He was disappointed at this first encounter. Of course his hotel accommodation was fairly luxurious, with an easy telephonic link to high officials. But he had to wait for more than a year to meet the Führer personally. In the meantime, constant clashes of perceptions on the Indian situation between Netaji and his German hosts became routine. He was confused and bewildered from time to time.

Meeting with Foreign Ministry: Netaji met the higher officials of the Foreign Department on April 3, 1941, and expressed his desire to form an ‘Indian Government in Exile’ and expected its immediate diplomatic recognition from the Axis Powers. He was keen to form an Indian Army with the Indian prisoners of war from North Africa. As requested, he submitted a draft proposal on April 9, 1941. It contained the following (i) The Axis Powers would sign a treaty with the ‘Free Indian Government in Exile’ guaranteeing India’s independence from British rule once the war was won; (ii) The Indian Army would consist of 50,000 soldiers of Indian origin; (iii) After liberating India, Germany would hand over responsibility to the Government in Exile headed by Netaji himself.

However, Netaji probably failed to realize that the Germans might have their own plans regarding India. The German perception had to be different. Agreeing with Netaji’s plan virtually amounted to the declaration of India’s independence as one of the aims of the war. Netaji was no longer a leader of the Indian National Congress which was leading India’s independence movement on India’s soil. Forming an Indian government in exile would antagonize the leaders and the people of India. This would not have offered any political dividend to Germany. The Germans were reluctant to discuss any military plan with Netaji in advance of liberating India. He did not have access to Germany’s war plans, and he provided an opportunity to be used for German expansionist ambitions in India.

Netaji was considered merely a refugee leader who happened to be in exile in Berlin and not ‘the Leader of the great Indian Nation’. He was more an object of sympathy rather than of authority to dictate terms or to influence directions. He was at best treated as an honourable guest; and all guests have limitations in the host’s place; Netaji was no exception.

The Turning Point: The invasion of Russia was being planned. Netaji probably came to know about it; he sent a memorandum to the Germans pleading that the status quo be maintained with Russia in order to achieve total destruction of the British in the Near and Middle East. He was completely against the invasion of the Soviet Union. Netaji met the German Foreign Minister J. Von Ribbentrop, and is reported to have told him emphatically that Indian public opinion was against German fascism, and was sympathetic to the socialist Soviet Union. He insisted with Ribbentrop on a German declaration for India’s independence. Ribbentrop asked lots of intriguing questions about the internal situation in India, and only made a verbal commitment to consider Netaji’s proposal, and promised to arrange another meeting. This did not take place for another seven months. He could not arrange to see Hitler, and did not get what he wanted from Ribbentrop, but he did not lose hope.

Netaji prepared and sent a draft declaration of India’s independence to the German authorities on May 13, 1941, and wanted it published. The declaration envisioned that the people of India would themselves decide on the future constitution of India after she was liberated, and Germany would accept this absolute right. Germany would take full responsibility to liberate India, and after liberation, would recognize that government of independent India. On May 24, he was informed that the time was not right for the publication of such a document. Netaji was told that instead, he could set up the ‘Free India Centre’ in Berlin. Ten million Reichmarks were allotted as a ‘loan’ for the centre, and a monthly allowance of 12,000 Reichmarks was sanctioned for his personal expenses. In spite of this generous hospitality, he was feeling stifled. His movements were under constant surveillance, his telephone was tapped, his letters were opened and censored. He seemed to be locked in an iron cage, an unbearable condition for ‘the Springing Tiger’.

Holiday in Rome: Netaji went on a visit to Rome in May 1941, and stayed there for six weeks with his newly married wife Emilie Schenkl. He also met the then Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, and discussed with him the draft declaration. Ciano took Netaji to the Duce Benito Mussolini on May 5, 1941. Italy at the time was only a puppet of Germany, and too weak to take any independent decision on anything.

On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded Soviet Russia, and the whole political table was turned around. On August 15, 1941, he wrote a long letter to Ribbentrop and pointed out in the strongest possible words that the German invasion of the Soviet Union would be viewed by Indians as the beginning of as invasion of the East, and therefore Germany would be regarded as the enemy of India. he again insisted on the publication of the draft declaration, and his request was again turned down. There was another meeting with Ribbentrop on November 29, 1941. Netaji requested him to arrange a meeting with Hitler, but Ribbentrop made no commitment. He also pointed out the offensive comment made by Hitler in his book ‘Mein Kampf’, and demanded its immediate correction. Part of this particular comment reads as follows: ‘… Quite aside from the fact that I as a man of Germanic blood, would in spite of everything, rather see India under English rule than any other.’ [1] Netaji was unable to persuade Hitler to amend this offensive comment.

Japan Enters the War: The Japanese declaration of war against Great Britain and the US on December 7, 1941, coupled with the advance of the Japanese army towards the Indian frontier radically altered the war situation. The German Foreign Minister prepared a draft declaration on India without any consultation with Netaji. Japan also prepared one. There was an understandable difference in attitude towards India in Germany and Japan, and Netaji tried to cash in on this rift by again insisting on the publication of his own draft declaration. Ribbentrop, however, was interested in using him for Nazi propaganda, and for the invasion of Soviet Union. Netaji, as clever as he was, surely realized that he was in the wrong company in Berlin to achieve the right objective, and also that the world and future history would portray him as an ally of the hated fascist clique. He decided to leave for the Far East. Many historians assign his decision to the failure of Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1942. In fact, he wanted to be nearer home when Japan decided to invade India so that he could be physically available to offer leadership to the people and the prisoners of war of Indian origin in South East Asia. He came to know from the Italian Foreign Minister Ciano on May 4, 1942, that the publication of his draft declaration on India had again been postponed. He was very disappointed. But he had to swallow this indifference silently and with subdued anger.

Encounter with Hitler: It happened on May 29, 1942 at the Reich Chancellery. Though a few other ministers like Ribbentrop were present, Hitler was the sole actor at the show. He seemed to have been reasonably briefed in advance by his military intelligence on the internal situation in India. After an exchange of initial formalities, Hitler gave a long lecture on the world situation of the day. He spoke extensively on the Soviet threat to India once she was freed from the British, and euphorically boasted that for Germany, it is only possible to reach India over ‘the dead body of Russia’. It was more a ‘talking shop’ staged with racial hatred and national chauvinism, banal boasting and empty threats. Netaji firmly drew attention to the comments in ‘Mein Kampf’, and advised Hitler to make a public declaration on his stand and intentions about India. He noted that otherwise enemies would use his comments in the book for anti-German propaganda. But Hitler was not interested in continuing on this topic. He stated that it would take 1-2 years for Germany to spread its influence over India, and for India herself it would take 100-200 years to put her house in order and for reconstruction to achieve Indian unity. Instead of amending his stand on India, he proudly reiterated his well known ugly racist chauvinism against India. In his talk with Netaji, Hitler gave sufficient indications about his expansionist intentions towards India. It was not clear whether Netaji understood it and took it seriously. Possibly, at that juncture of history, there was no other alternative for him but to depend on the devil. Hitler did reassure Netaji that if and when German forces reached the Indian frontier, he would be invited to set foot on Indian soil in the company of German liberators to trigger ‘the revolution’. It was an empty promise and a cruel joke.

It was not a meeting of two national leaders, rather it was a frosty encounter between Hitler the demon-genius and Netaji, a nationalist giant. Netaji spoke very little to his colleagues in Berlin about his unpleasant meeting with Hitler, except that it was not possible to continue a logical dialogue with him. After this episode, Netaji seemed to awaken from his illusion about Hitler.

Within certain limitations he was allowed to pursue his organizational work, and he was able to mobilize Indians living in Germany at the time under the banner of the Free India Centre (total members: 35) with an avowed allegiance to Netaji personally and not to India. It was an granted diplomatic status with fabulous financial grants. One important activity of his in Germany was the formation of the first unit of what he thought would be the future Indian army recruited from the Indian prisoners of war from North Africa. In forming this he had the idea that: it would not be a part of the German military; it would be self sufficient; it would only fight against the British army on Indian soil and not on any other front or country; and, it could not be engaged at the German-Soviet front. But recruitment was very slow. Only 3,500, less than one third of the total Indian prisoners of war from North Africa, were recruited. They took an oath of allegiance to both Netaji and Hitler. This paved the way for using this Indian legion in other war fronts. Contrary to his wishes, after Netaji left Germany this legion was dispatched to Holland and France to perform various military duties.

The Final Departure: Even after deciding to leave Germany for the Far East, Netaji wasted one whole year in Berlin only to meet Hitler. He was held up by the Germans because they wanted to use him in the event of a German victory over Russia. He was allowed to leave only after the German surrender in Stalingrad, and Hitler’s secret plan for India fell apart. The long journey to the Far East was very dangerous. He boarded a German submarine (U Boat) on February 8, 1943 from Kiel with another Indian colleague, Abid Hassan, leaving behind his wife and only child, daughter Anita, and many well wishers in Germany.

[1] Mein Kampf: The National Socialist Movement by A. Hitler, translated by Ralph Manheim; Hutchinson, London, 1974, reprinted 1990; p.601.

Courtesy: ‘South Asia Forum Quarterly’, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1997, Chery Chase, Maryland, pp. 10-14.


The Beijing Olympics and the Question of Tibet

448153Vijay Singh

In the run-up to the Olympic Games which are to be held in the Beijing, US imperialism is conducting a campaign of disinformation against the nationalities policies in Tibet using the remnants of feudalism such as the Dalai Lama as their instrument, alongside the normal imperialist accredited newspapers, ‘human rights institutions’ and Hollywood film personalities. It is a familiar game which was last played out in the Reagan years when the US carried out a similar political exercise against its imperialist rival before the Moscow Olympics and which peaked with the US boycott of the games. The US campaign today needs to be seen for what it is: an attempt to politically undermine the Chinese state in its ‘own’ backyard and to accelerate further the half-century long path of ‘market socialist’ development in China and to push for the casting-off of the shell of the people’s democratic state. It is also part of the US endeavour to militarily encircle from land and sea a country which it sees as a dangerous imperialist rival. Within China agency reports speak of an upsurge of Han chauvinism which is a reflex of the disturbances in Tibet and the recent round of the denigration of China by the US. The promotion of internecine strife of the nationalities and religions is an integral part of the politics of US imperialism across the globe.

No amount of US propaganda from the universities and newspapers can wipe away the fact that after the revolution of 1949 the Chinese people assisted in the democratic transformation of Tibetan society. The People’s Republic of China helped to abolish feudalism, it introduced land reform, abolished slavery, emancipated the serfs, ended the Buddhist lama theocratic despotism and carried out the economic transformation of Tibetan society bringing it out of medieval tyranny and darkness into the light of the twentieth century, introducing the benefits of industrial society and democratic transformation, of state and co-operative economic institutions; food, shelter, and clothing; literacy, education, and social security amongst the Tibetan masses. It is a supreme irony that the United States which oppresses the Afro-American and Puerto Rican nations within its state frontiers, exploits the colonial, semi-colonial and dependent countries around the planet, and has a destructive policy towards democracy and secularism should point its finger at China. Democratic opinion must understand these policies for what they are.

The early years of the revolutionary movement in China saw the Communist Party pursue an exemplary approach and programme with regard to the national question. Mao Zedong in his capacity as President of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic in 1931 and in his speech at the Second Soviet Congress in 1934 in blunt terms denounced the national oppression under the rule of the Chinese militarists and the landlords as well as the oppression by the ruling classes of princes, living Buddhas and lamas of the smaller nationalities and their surrender to imperialist colonisation. He well understood the exigency of uniting the oppressed nationalities such as the Mongolians, Tibetans, Koreans, Annamites, the Miao and many others around the Soviets in China in order to strengthen the revolution against imperialism and the Kuomintang. [1] Mao commended the Constitution passed by the First Soviet Congress held in 1931 in Juichin, Kiangsi, which in its 14th article said that ‘Soviet China recognises the complete self-determination of the minorities who may go so far as to secede and form independent free states.’ (Emphasis in the original.) The Soviet Chinese Constitution of 1931 argued that the ‘free union of nationalities will replace national oppression’. This implied the creation of a federal ‘Union of Soviet Republics’ along the lines of the Soviet Union, a democratic state structure which was based upon the views of Marx in relation to the Irish question.

Such an approach was maintained up to the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A tremendous social, economic and political revolutionary transformation took place in the minority national territories after 1949. But in terms of the resolution of the national question it cannot be said that a full democratic solution was accomplished. The contiguous areas of the Tibetan-speaking peoples were not administratively united after liberation while in Inner Mongolia the Mongolian people were administratively separated. The Communist Party of China and the People’s Democratic state shrank from the promised construction of a free union of nationalities in which the right of national-determination would be recognised up to the point of secession. By this method the nationalities of Mongolia, Tibet, Sinkiang and elsewhere were subordinated to the majority Han Chinese, and the latter now became a constitutionally privileged nation which could direct the destinies of the nationalities which inhabited the vast areas of the People’s Republic of China. The nationalities of Mongolia, Tibet and Sinkiang as elsewhere which formed the numerical majority in their ancient national territories were now designated as ‘national minorities’. This broad picture became apparent in the Constitution of 1954 and it was to be reproduced in the subsequent Fundamental Laws which were promulgated by the Chinese state. The unity and integrity of the territories of the Chinese state and not the free union of the nationalities based on the right of self-determination of the peoples became the basic fundamental constitutional principle. In this manner the CPC’s political approach to the national question having moved away from Marxism now came to approximate to the views of Sun-Yat-sen and the Kuomintang.

The camp of socialism and democracy which spanned a dozen states witnessed a fundamental break in its economic policies in the years between 1954 to 1958 which became typified by the ascendant role of ‘market socialism’ in the Soviet Union, People’s China and the majority of the people’s democracies. These years also saw corresponding theoretical, political and ideological transformations in which the treatment of the national question was an important component part. This gave way to interesting paradoxes. The Soviet Union in its Fundamental Law in form right through to its self-destruction in 1991 maintained the basics of the Leninist-Stalinist principles on the national question. But the communist parties aligned to the CPSU quickly abandoned the Marxist approach to the national question after 1953, particularly the democratic principle of national self-determination. The CPUSA for example repudiated the application of this principle with reference to the Afro-American nation which had been elaborated by Lenin, Stalin and the Comintern. On our own doorstep the CPI in the mid-nineteen-fifties dispensed with the understanding that India was a multi-national state in which the right to secession had to be accorded as the basis of a voluntary union of people’s democratic republics and after some moments of hesitation after its foundation the CPI (M) also essentially fell in line with what it termed the Soviet revisionist ideology of the CPI. Step by step the CPI and the CPI (M) effected an harmonious rapprochement with the ‘nationalist’ doctrines of the Congress Party. These corresponded to the economic requirements of the big bourgeoisie and its multi-national market in India which had been put together by Sardar Patel by the arm-twisting of the feudal princely states and appropriate ‘non-violent’ ‘police actions’.

The Communist Party of China as already noted had broken with the Marxist approach to the national question after liberation. But the revolutionary communist parties and organisations which were formed in the 1960s and which were aligned with Beijing and Tirana in the main have upheld Leninist-Stalinist principles on the right of nations to self-determination. The CPI (ML) tradition right from its inception returned to the earlier pre-revisionist understanding of the CPI and accepted the right of secession particularly with reference to Kashmir and the nationalities in the north-east region of the Indian state which having been fighting for their national emancipation.

Paradoxes apart, a widespread intermeshing and intermingling of the opportunist ideological currents has emerged on the nationality question to justify the abandonment of the Marxist views. It is inferred from the active role of US and German imperialism in the destruction of the Soviet and Yugoslav Federations in the 1990s that the right of national self-determination and secession facilitates the work of imperialism and so has to be discarded. Secessionism it is said has become a preferred tool of US imperialism. And there can be no doubt that despite the restoration of capitalism in the USSR by the late 1950s and the liquidation of the people’s democracy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the end of the 1940s, the preservation of the federal structures in these states was formally progressive, and it is clear that they constituted important barriers to the penetration of the leading world imperialist powers such as the US and Germany. The ‘new’ arguments against the recognition of the democratic right of national self-determination in the contemporary period are only a reiteration of the policies of the international communist movement of the Khrushchev period and, going further back still, the notions of right-wing social-democracy in the earlier part of the 20th century. The Bolsheviks, who also fought against imperialism when Soviet Russia had to fight the multitude of foreign armies on Soviet soil who were allied to the white army in the time of the civil war, upheld the principle of the union of nations based on the right to self-determination. It was on this basis that the free federation of nations was constructed in Soviet Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks clearly established that the struggle for socialism in multi-national countries was inextricably linked with the recognition of the right of the peoples to self-determination: one of the expressions of the right to decide one’s future was the formation of a federative republic.

The recent statement by the CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat on Tibet expresses in a succinct manner the ideological framework of contemporary right-wing social-democracy on the national question. Karat entirely omitted any allusion to Marxism or democracy while criticising the views of the Hindu fascist BJP which had chimed in with the US anti-China campaign on the Lhasa disturbances. Karat, basing his arguments on ‘nationalist’ logic, reminded the BJP that by raising the question of an independent Tibet they were ‘doing a disservice to our own country’ for this would raise secessionist demands in India: ‘Are we going to support a free Nagaland? Or a free Jammu and Kashmir? Or those other secessionist demands?’ So there you have it: the democratic right to national self-determination may not be recognised within the multi-national Chinese state as the mention of this right can threaten the frontiers of the existing multi-national Indian state. This position Karat tells us must apply around the world in Europe (Chechnya, Kosovo), China or any Asian country as it negatively impinges on the sovereignty of nations in the ‘name of human rights’ and ‘ethnic minorities’. [2] It is interesting to note how Karat merges the notion of the ‘state sovereignty’ of multi-national states with the idea of the ‘national sovereignty’ of nation-states, denying in this manner in real terms the notion of ‘national sovereignty’ for those nations who choose to opt for the construction of nation-states. Taken to its logical conclusion this stand implies that any national struggle against imperialist rule cannot be supported as this affects the ‘national sovereignty’ of the imperial power. The CPI (M) sees itself as the guardian of the state frontiers of India and for its defence it is willing to sacrifice the last Meitei, Naga and Kashmiri. It was Stalin who stated that those who do not recognise the right of peoples to free self-determination cannot be regarded as democrats let alone be considered as socialists. [3] It is on the basis of this understanding that the views of the CPI (M) on the national question must be judged.

The current attacks of US imperialism and its supporters on the Tibet policy of the People’s Republic of China must be opposed while defending the basic democratic principle of national self-determination. The struggle against US imperialism must not be utilised to propagate or justify views alien to Marxism on the national question.


1. Report of the President of the Central Executive Committee of the Chinese Soviet Republic, Before the Second National Soviet Congress, Mao-Tse-Tung, January, 1934, in: Victor A. Yakhontoff: ‘The Chinese Soviets,’ New York, 1934, pp. 249-283.

2. ‘Free Tibet? Karat utters the K-word’, The Telegraph, Kolkata, April 1, 2008.

3. J. Stalin, Works, Vol. 4, FLPH, Moscow, p. 3.

From Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIV, No. 1, April 2008

Anasintaxi (1918-1955): The Struggle of the Greek Communists against Revisionism

zachariadis nikos

Published by the Organisation for the Reconstruction of the Communist Party of Greece 1918-1955

a) The Tashkent events

At the end of August 1949, after a three-and-a-half-year armed struggle against the Greek monarchist-fascist reaction and the Anglo-American imperialism, following a decision by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the partisans of the Democratic Army of Greece (DA) left behind their homeland and retreated to Albania. It was a mass exodus. In 1949-50, an overall number of 55,381 people (of which 67.6% were adults 18-55 years old, 1.7% were very old and 17,352 were children up to 17 years) abandoned Greece and settled in the various People’s Republics and the Soviet Union. Almost 18,000 communist refugees went to Tashkent, the capital of the SSR of Uzbekistan where they were organised in separate residential quarters called Politeies.

After adjusting to the new life conditions, the Greek communists proceeded to reorganise their party. From the 10th to the 14th of October 1950, the 3rd Conference of the KKE took place. This body purged almost all the opportunists from the party. For the first time since 1940, a heavy blow was dealt to the right opportunism and to all opportunists who had betrayed the popular movement during the time of the Nazi occupation by signing the agreements in Lebanon (20.5.1944), Gazerta (26.9.1944) and Varkiza (12.2.1945) and who, moreover, had sabotaged the development and enlargement of the DA during the Civil War.

Shortly after the death of Stalin in 1953, the revisionist faction of Khrushchev-Mikoyan-Brezhnev that prevailed in CPSU started making approaches to the secretaries of the Communist Parties in order to assess their readiness to adopt its counter-revolutionary line. They found out that the KKE leadership headed by Nikos Zachariades was not willing to abandon the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist course and follow the anti-Stalinist revisionist course. In particular, they requested that he revise his attitude in three fundamental questions of the world communist movement: 1) to regard the capitalist Yugoslavia as a ‘socialist’ country, 2) to turn against Stalin by writing articles in Pravda on the ‘cult of personality’ – this infamous, Khrushchevian myth of idealist origin, and 3) to assent to the liquidation of Cominform. The reply given by the great and unwavering communist leader on all the above requests was negative.

When the members of the Khrushchevian revisionist clique became sure that this kind of pressure will not have any effect, they tried to form a right opportunist faction in the Tashkent Party Organisation (KOT) – the largest KKE Party Organisation in the socialist countries – and to push it right up to the Organisation’s leadership. Unfortunately for them there was a lack of support for it save for a few opportunists. The revolutionary KKE leadership headed by Nikos Zachariades acted immediately; the faction leaders were unmasked and removed from the leadership of KOT.

Nikos Zachariades, speaking in a meeting of Party cadres in the theatre Mu Ki Mi in Tashkent, said the following among other things: ‘comrades, several speakers attacked Demetriou and more or less consider him the leader of the revisionists. Demetriou, comrades, is just the end of the tail of a clumsily camouflaged elephant. The serious and historic task allotted to all of us is to pull this tail so that the whole world will see the elephant: Khrushchev’ (K. Karanikola, ‘Mia lefki selida tou KKE’, p. 59).

The confrontation between the members of the faction and the rest of the Greek communists was escalating and the situation in Tashkent was very tense during the period of August-September 1955. In such an atmosphere, three assassination attempts were made against Nikos Zachariades. In the first one, the Armenian KGB Colonel Saakov tried to give him a poisoned ice cream but Zachariades refused being always careful what and where he ate. In the second one, somebody threw a heavy brick at him while he was delivering a speech in a party meeting; Zachariades dodged it at the last moment (Ahillea Papaioannou, ‘H apagoreumeni eikona – Dioktes kai ieroktonoi tou Nikou Zachariades’, Athens 2004). In the third one, the best organised of the three, three individuals ambushed the car that was to carry him to airport. The plan failed only because Niyazov, the Stalinist general secretary of the CP of Uzbekistan, found out about it and notified Zachariades.

`There was good reason why the revisionists wanted to exterminate Zachariades, already in 1955. They knew very well that if Zachariades had been present in the 20th Congress he would have upset his plans at least in relation to the ‘criticism of the cult of personality’. This is because Zachariades was courageous and bold enough to express his opinion openly in contrast to the leaders of the other communist parties. D. Vlantas (member of the KKE Politburo) writes in his book, ‘Nikos Zachariades and 22 associates’, the following: ‘When I arrived in Tashkent on July of 1955, a representative from the Soviet leadership proposed to me to help him complete the conspiracy that started in 1949 and they, in return, would help me become General Secretary of KKE. I rejected this proposal. Zachariades came to Tashkent in the mid-August 1955. I reported him about an extremely critical situation. I stressed to him that it was not any more just the Tashkent Organisation that is at stake but the whole party. I suggested to him that we should return to Bucharest, the seat of the CC, convene a session where we will demonstrate the existence of conspiracy and then send a delegation to Moscow asking for full explanation. Zachariades turned down my suggestion.’

When even the formation of a sizeable faction failed, on the 9th of September 1955 the Khrushchevian revisionist group, organised a bloody pogrom in Tashkent employing a group of Greek opportunists. This was ‘an open provocation against the delegation of the CC of KKE: the violent and gangster assault on the offices where the delegation was based and injury of three of its members’ (from 5th Plenum, December 1955). About 200 opportunists headed by the faction leaders Ipsilantis, Demetriou, Barbalias and others – who were under the direct guidance of the Soviet revisionists – carried out a bloody assault on the offices of the Tashkent Party Organisation, but they failed to capture them: ‘at 4 pm, on the 9th of September, around 200 people gathered in the courtyard of 7th Politeia together with the faction leaders who were bracing their followers with vodka, beer and wine’ (K.D. Karanikola: ‘Mia lefki selida tou KKE’, p. 53).

The assault on the KOT offices was preceded by the faction’s provocations in various Politeies: ‘In those Politeies where the factionists had some support, like in the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 9th and 11th, they started looting the local libraries and burning books, especially those written by Zachariades, Bartziotas and those about the struggle of the DA’ (ibid, p. 46).

This provocative act raised an outcry among the thousands of party members who rushed immediately to defend the KOT offices. Clashes and beatings followed with the factionists until police and cadet detachments came to their rescue. Many were injured and had to be transported to the hospital while hundreds of Greek communists were arrested, mainly high-ranking DA officers, thrown in jail and tried later for ‘hooliganism’.

All the political refugees in Tashkent knew that the instigators of the provocative ‘Tashkent events’ were the Khrushchevian revisionists who aimed at the liquidation of the KKE. Everybody knew that the handful of Greek opportunists were in permanent contact with and under the direct guidance of the treacherous Khrushchevian revisionist group. One of the noted opportunists, Kostas Gritzonas, confesses: ‘One evening, during the time when the Tashkent events reached their climax, as I was on my way from the 7th to the 9th Politeia together with the secretary of KOT, Aristotelis Hatouras, he confided to me that the anti-Zachariadist movement enjoyed the support from the Soviets. He left me with the understanding that they were having talks in private with the Khrushchevians from the CC of the CP of Uzbekistan’ (K. Gritzonas: ‘Meta to Grammo’, pp. 18-19).

The overwhelming majority of the Greek communists, more than 95% of the KOT members, condemned the Khrushchevian revisionists’ intervention in KKE and they rallied around their Party headed by Nikos Zachariades. Their violent and bloody confrontation with the factionists was the first act of resistance in the communist movement against revisionism before the 20th Congress. This anti-revisionist attitude was clearly expressed in the historic 5th Plenum of the CC of KKE convened at the end of December 1955 (26-28.12 1955). It was historic because: 1) it openly condemned the anti-communist Khrushchevian revisionist intervention in KKE and 2) it was meant to be the last convened body of our heroic party before its final liquidation. In the Plenum’s decision, in relation to the situation in KOT, it is mentioned that: ‘the faction would have achieved nothing at all had it not received the support by certain Soviet comrades, who were convinced that the faction is the strongest and the most pro-Soviet part of KOT which they must support and help. This fact encouraged the factionists even more to act and to openly declare that ‘whatever we say and do are approved by the Soviets’ (Demetriou) and that ‘I am not afraid of anything because 200 million Soviets stand behind me’ (Hatouras) etc. etc’.

The 5th Plenum was a real triumph for the Marxist-Leninist side in KKE and Nikos Zachariades personally. This is actually admitted by the main factionist leader in KOT, Demetriou (‘Eleutherotypia’, 2004). However, the revisionist faction was not yet totally defeated and the outcome of internal struggle in KKE would be decisively determined by the corresponding struggle in CPSU between the supporters of Stalin and the supporters of Khrushchev.

The overwhelming and militant opposition of the Greek communist political refugees, headed by Nikos Zachariades against the Khrushchevian clique in September 1955 in Tashkent, was chronologically the first in the history of the international communist movement’s struggle against Khrushchevian revisionism, and, also, a culmination of the revolutionary KKE (1918-1955) heroic struggle. If one takes into account the unheard-of disaster that inevitably followed the enforcement of Khrushchevian revisionism to the communist parties (destruction of socialism and restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, breaking-up of the capitalist Soviet Union, liquidation of the communist parties), it can be said that it was not just a culmination of the long struggle of the Stalinist-Zachariadist KKE, but was at the same time a great and unique moment in the struggle of the international communist movement (Comintern-Cominform) against the new counter-revolutionary treacherous trend of Khrushchevian revisionism which emerged in its lines in the mid-1950s: it was precisely this moment that marked the beginning of the most fierce ideological-political struggle against Khrushchevian revisionism in international level, a struggle that has been going on for half a century now, is still going on and it will be going on in the future until its final victory.

In this context, the ‘Tashkent events’ acquire a triple historical importance: First, they constituted the first open and brutal intervention of the Khrushchevian revisionists in the internal affairs of a communist party aiming at its liquidation. Second, they marked the beginning of the resistance and struggle of the Greek communists against Khrushchevian revisionism even before its emergence as a complete ideological-political trend in the 20th Congress of CPSU (February 1956). Third, they raised the banner of struggle of the communists in all countries against this counter-revolutionary trend. The rising and battle of the Greek communists in Tashkent, in September of 1955, ushers in the period of struggle against Khrushchevian revisionism on international level.

b) The ‘6th Plenum’

In February of 1956, during the counter-revolutionary 20th Congress of CPSU, the show trials of the Greek communists, political refugees, started in Tashkent. In this travesty of justice, battle-hardened DA veterans, like Giorgos Kalianesis (general), Dimitris Vyssios (lieutenant-colonel) and others, were tried for hooliganism and vagrancy. Following their convictions, they were exiled to Siberia and, in fact, into concentration camps ‘that were intentionally adjacent to concentration camps of German war criminals sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment, the maximum period according to the Soviet criminal law. The Germans didn’t work because of their ‘prisoner of war’ status, and, apart from having the meals of a Soviet soldier, they received parcels of medicine and foodstuffs from the West German Red Cross every ten days. The sentenced refugees were fed with rotten potatoes and mouldy crushed grain. This “diet” was followed under conditions of heavy and exhausting labour’ (D. Vyssios: ‘Open letter to M. N. Ponomariov’, former Head of the Department of International Relations of the CC of CPSU, January 1991).

The opposition of the Greek communists to Khrushchevian revisionism was expressed en masse. The overwhelming majority (95%) of the members of the Tashkent Party Organisation came out against the Khrushchevian intervention in KKE and defended the revolutionary party line and the CC headed by Nikos Zachariades showing a stunning decisiveness and unparallel courage. The attitude of the captive communists in jails and concentration camps in Greece was similar.

It was exactly this overwhelming opposition by the Greek communists (ranging from 85% to 95% in Tashkent and in the People’s Republics) that prevented KKE from being transformed into a bourgeois party of social democratic type. The revolutionary KKE is the only communist party of a capitalist country that was never transformed into a counter-revolutionary, bourgeois, social democratic party. This fact compelled the Khrushchevian revisionists to create a completely new party in place of the old one.

At the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the Khrushchevians formed the infamous ‘International Committee’ whose alleged purpose was to examine the situation in KKE. It comprised of cadres from six communist parties: 1) Yugov, from the Communist Party of Bulgaria; 2) Kovac, from the Hungarian Workers Party; 3) Mazur, from the Unified Workers Party of Poland; 4) Dej, from the Workers Party of Romania; 5) Kuusinen, from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; 6) Barak, from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The president of the International Committee was, formally, Georgiu Dej – Khrushchev’s puppet – but essentially Otto V. Kuusinen member of the Politburo of the CPSU. Nikos Zachariades, addressing Dej, during one of the committee’s sessions said the following regarding his interference in KKE internal affairs: ‘who granted the right to examine the problems of heroic KKE to you, who slept in August of 1944 under fascism and woke up one day under a People’s Republic, established by the Red tankists all the way from Stalingrad when they crashed the fascist Romanian Division and offered it to you as a present. What experience do you have to criticise the struggles of Greek communists who, to their credit, through their struggle, did not allow not even a single Greek citizen to fight in the Eastern Front against the USSR (K. Karanikola, pp. 70-71).

The International Committee openly and without pretexts intervened in the KKE by arbitrarily summoning the infamous ‘6th Plenum’ on March 1956. In this illicit meeting the report was read not by a Greek, but by the president of the ‘International Committee’, Dej. Former cadres and expelled members participated, but not the lawfully elected General Secretary of the Party Nikos Zachariades. The brutal intervention of the Khrushchevian revisionists through the ‘6th Plenum’ resulted in the actual liquidation of KKE (1918-1955). This was done by: a) the illegal and forcible removal of the elected revolutionary leadership of KKE, including the Party’s General Secretary Nikos Zachariades, who was arrested and isolated, and appointed a right opportunistic puppet leadership. b) the mass expulsions of thousands of communists and c) the liquidation of the remaining party organisations in 1958.

The new party that was established in 1956, the ‘K’KE did not and does not bear any relation whatsoever – ideological, political, organisational – with the old revolutionary KKE (1918-1955). It was a monstrous creation of the Khrushchevian revisionists that adopted the counter-revolutionary social-democratic line promulgated in the 20th Congress of CPSU, namely the peaceful transition to socialism. For this reason, the new party has been, from the very beginning, a bourgeois social democratic party guided not any more by the Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, but by the counter-revolutionary trend of Khrushchevian revisionism, a variant of bourgeois ideology.

One year later, in 1957, the revisionists of ‘K’KE summoned the ‘7th Plenum’, a meeting as illicit as the 6th Plenum. According to the decisions of this ‘Plenum’, Zachariades was stripped even of his party membership and sentenced to exile. In addition, he was shamelessly accused of spying for the Germans when he was a prisoner in Dachau. A special committee set up to investigate the matter didn’t find any evidence whatsoever that supports this monstrous charge.

c) The persecutions of the Greek communists

The great majority of the Greek communists under the leadership of Nikos Zachariades not only rejected but they were the first ones in the communist movement to put up a strong resistance against the decisions of the 20th Congress and the 6th Plenum already in 1956 – the rejection of revisionism by Mao Zedong and Enver Hoxha was expressed four years later, in the summit of Communist parties in 1960. More importantly, in the difficult period that followed the 20th Congress the struggle of the Greek communists against Greek and Soviet revisionism continued taking various forms. In 1958, 6,000 communists of Tashkent wrote a letter to the CC of the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union, of China, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Vietnam, Cuba, Korea and Albania concerning the situation in KKE. In the first page of this letter the following is mentioned: ‘Today’s CC of KKE is not the leadership that led the revolutionary struggles of our people. This is because: 1) the rise of this leadership is the result of a political provocation against KKE on 9.9.1955 in one of its largest organisations, the Party Organisation of Tashkent and, subsequently, of the arbitrary convention and decision of the 6th Plenum in 1956; 2) this leadership’s policy is the revision of the revolutionary line KKE had before the 6th Plenum, it is the revision of the Marxist-Leninist theory; 3) it follows an opportunist line which deviates from the Marxist Leninist principles; 4) by pursuing its opportunist policy, it weakens struggle of our people and aims at subordinating our movement to the interests of the Greek bourgeois class.’

The historical and political importance of this document can be hardly overestimated. Apart from being an example of resistance against revisionism in KKE, it contains a comprehensive historical outline of the party’s internal affairs covering the whole period before the 20th Congress. It most clearly demonstrates the counter-revolutionary and treacherous role of all those opportunists, like Vafiades and Partsalidis, who were in the leading ranks of KKE during the armed struggle against the German occupation forces, the Anglo-American imperialism and the Greek fascist reaction. They were the same people who accused the Zachariades leadership of ‘leftist mistakes’ and ‘adventurism’ in relation to the party’s strategy and tactics during the civil war, in the 3rd Conference of KKE in 1950. Finally, they were the same people appointed later in the KKE leadership by the Khrushchevian revisionists.

Because of their continuous and active struggle against revisionism thousands of Greek communists in the following years, were expelled by the appointed right opportunist leadership. Others chose to break away from the new opportunist bourgeois party. Moreover, they were subjected to a whole series of fascist persecutions that took various forms: surveillance, spying, arrests, imprisonments, exiles to Siberia, etc. Many party cadres were exiled to Siberia and among them the Party’s General Secretary, Nikos Zachariades, who, after 17 years of exile, died in Sorgut. The events that took place in Tashkent in 1962 are quite indicative of the atmosphere of terror and oppression against the Greek communists.

The secretaries of all the party organisations of Tashkent and the committee for the support of the imprisoned and exiled communists in Greece decided to organise a mass meeting on the 27th May 1962 to mark the 21st anniversary of the lowering of the swastika from the Acropolis. Evidently, this event was going to be very successful and attract a lot of Greeks of Tashkent. The idea of such an event appealed also to many supporters of the revisionists who declared that they approve it and that they were going to take part. In this way, the meeting would serve to bridge the gap between the supporters of the revisionists and the great majority of Greek communists of who opposed their line. At the same time it would allow each side to gauge its real strength; it would become obvious that the revisionists snatched the leadership of KKE only thanks to violence, terror, persecutions, blackmails and the liquidating intervention of CPSU.

As it was expected, the preparations for the meeting made the Greek and the Soviet revisionists extremely anxious and therefore they did everything they could to cancel it. The revisionists of ‘K’KE threatened with expulsion anybody from their supporters who joined the meeting. The CC of the CP of Uzbekistan held a special session to discuss this event. As a first step, the head of militia General Sloenensky summoned cadres from the Tashkent party organisations and threatened them with hard measures if they dared to take part in the event. Factory administrators threatened with sacking from work, a punishment already inflicted to many Greek communists after the 6th Plenum. The whole state and party apparatus were actively engaged in cancelling the meeting.

Nevertheless, the Greek communists full of fighting spirit ignored the threats and the psychological pressure and continued with their preparations. As a result, the Soviet authorities resorted to brute force in order to stop the event that scared them so much. On the 18th of May, the first secretary of the party organisation of the 9th Politeia was arrested and sentenced to 15 days of imprisonment for vagrancy. When his arrest became known next day, delegates from all Politeies of Tashkent went to the head of militia in order to protest about it. Although he promised them to set Sidiropulos free, they soon faced an organised and barbarous attack. Policemen went at them furiously, started beating them with clubs and belts and dragged them on the pavement covered in blood. Sixty people were arrested and many of them were convicted for vagrancy and hooliganism. On the 21st May the first secretaries of the Tashkent party organisation presented themselves at the offices of the town committee of the CP of Uzbekistan to protest about the brutal attack and the illegal arrests that took place on the 19th. Not only did they receive no reply whatsoever but also the secretary of the party organisation of the 13th Politeia, Petros Touloudis, was arrested on the spot.

During the week from the 21st to the 27th May, the Soviet authorities unleashed an unseen orgy of terror in all Politeies of Tashkent. Many men and women were dismissed from work. Under the guidance of the revisionists, the police forcibly entered in people’s houses at night confiscating money and personal belongings. The portraits of Nikos Belogiannis and the heroes from the Greek Revolution of 1821 that would decorate the meeting venue were confiscated and destroyed. On the 19th and 22nd of May, the secretary of the party organisation of the 5th Politeia, Mitsos Eleutheriou, and the member of the committee of the party organisation of the 4th Politeia were arrested and being held for a long time in solitary confinement they were charged with ‘anti-Sovietism’ and received three and four years sentences respectively. On the 25th of May, the secretaries of the party organisations of the 7th and the 12th Politeia Achileas Papaioannou and Spiros Stamatakos were sent to exile in Kazakhstan. Many others followed them.

The persecutions continued after May. On the 14th of September, four leading Greek communists of Tashkent were summoned and told that they had 12 hours to prepare to leave for Petropavlovsk, their place of exile. On the 20th of October, Slonenski summoned another 24 cadres of the KKE and DA and announced them the following: ‘You don’t recognise the decision of the 6th Plenum of the CC of KKE and the 8th Congress of KKE and, moreover, you have embarked on an active struggle against the leadership of the KKE and its political line recognised and supported by the CC of CPSU. This is considered a hostile action against the Soviet Union and this is why Soviet Union is depriving you of the status of a political refugee and is sending you to exile in Kazakhstan’. Thousands of men, women and children bade a warm farewell to the last large group of refugees leaving for their place of exile. They declared that the generation of DA fighters refuses to be subdued and continues the struggle against the new fascism.

Savvas Palles, a volunteer in the Spanish civil war, in one of his letters from his exile in north Kazakstan in October 1962 wrote the following: ‘In a time when Karamanlis closed the concentration camp in Ai Stratis and released communists, the “communist” leader Koligiannis was setting up another concentration camp in the vast steppes of north Kazakhstan. Why? For what reason? What crime we committed in order to have such a cruel and inhuman punishment imposed on us? Let our opponents, the opportunists, answer; let them publicly state why they imprisoned and sent us to exile? Of course they will not answer because they don’t dare to do so. Because they are cowards and they want pass for tough ones having the support of others. Because they don’t have the courage to tell the truth and they try to conceal their crime.

But we know why they threw us to prison and sent us to exile. Our crime is political. We refused to become servants, lackeys. We refused to bow to the bowed ones. We refused to bury the truth, to deny our revolutionary principles, to step on the revolutionary traditions of our people and our Party; we refused to deny our revolutionary honour! This was our sin, our crime. This is why they scattered us in the vastness of north Kazakhstan.’

What is the reason for the resolute opposition of the Greek communist political refugees (95% in Tashkent and 85-90% in the other People’s Republics) against Khrushchevian revisionism, of people who had been brought up in a spirit of deep trust and devotion to the Socialist Soviet Union?

First of all, it is the guiding and decisive role played, in this extremely difficult struggle, by the courageous, unyielding and uncompromising revolutionary Nikos Zachariades, in order KKE not to abandon its revolutionary line. Besides his opposition to the Khrushchevian group, in the beginning of 1956, he replied thus to some Greek revisionists, members of the CC of KKE, when they asked him to resign: ‘I won’t grant you this favour now, I won’t allow you to convert KKE into a bourgeois party’ (Dimitri Votsika, ‘Portraita koryfeon stelehon tou KKE’, Athens, 1999, p. 21).

Secondly, it is the fact that the members of KKE were battle-hardened partisans who had given everything to the armed revolutionary struggle against the indigenous monarchist-fascist reactionary forces and the imperialism, having almost a decade (1940-1950) of armed struggle to their credit. This long revolutionary experience helped them to show the necessary political-ideological maturity, firmness, consistency and decisiveness in this critical moment.

Nikos Zachariades had foreseen the disaster that would come in case Khrushchevian revisionism dominated, and it is this prediction that allows for his historical eminence as a great communist revolutionary leader to be assessed: ‘watch out comrades, these are international provocateurs, they are going to cause a great damage to the world’s communist movement and their Greek collaborators will cause great damage to our country’ (Tashkent, September 1955). Not only did he foresee the disaster, but also he was the first leader in the world’s communist movement who stood up and fought against the counter-revolutionary trend of Khrushchevian revisionism right up until the end of his life.

Later, in 1962, Zachariades, from his place of exile, wrote: ‘The factionist-opportunist group pursuing a policy of appeasement towards the bourgeois reaction, bastardised and hided the revolutionary legacy of the popular movement in Greece. It is not accidental that in the programme of the so-called 6th Plenum, the socialist character of KKE was completely buried and, instead, the peaceful transition and a democratic change were presented as a panacea; an anti-Leninist, and revisionist transition’

d) Splits in the KKE after 1956

The 6th Plenum marked the first major split in KKE. As mentioned above, many thousands of party members and cadres who were devoted to the revolutionary leadership headed by N. Zachariades were expelled from KKE. The exiles, the imprisonments and all kinds of fascist persecutions after 1955-56 were not enough to yield the majority of the Greek communists into submission, to make them abandon the revolutionary Stalinist course and break their monolithic ideological-political-organisational unity. For many years after 1956, they were ‘illegal’ Stalinist-Zachariadist party organisations working in Tashkent and elsewhere. The Soviet revisionists, realising their failure and the isolation of their planted treacherous clique of Kolligiannis-Partsalidis and Co, decided to change tactics. In addition to the fascist oppression and persecutions, they tried to cause a split in the camp of Stalinist-Zachariadist communists from inside by employing agents who would maintain an ‘anti-Khrushchevian’ and a ‘Stalinist-Zachariadist’ façade. There is no doubt that the Khrushchevian revisionism was the one which caused the greatest and the most disastrous split in the international communist movement including our own party, KKE. However, the later splits, for whatever excuses and pretexts, had also disastrous consequences. A major split was caused by the new opportunistic trend that appeared in the political refugee community of Romania at the end of the 1960s and led by Gavrilos Papadopoulos. Polydoros Daniilidis, Vaskos Pasxalis and others.

The common goal of the Khrushchevian revisionists, the treacherous cliques of Kolligiannis-Partsalidis and the new right opportunistic group was the ousting of Nikos Zachariades from our party; their slogan was: ‘Zachariades should leave the leadership of KKE’. As far as the first two is concerned there is no doubt that this was precisely their goal. In relation to the right opportunistic group, here is what P. Daniilidis openly confesses: ‘I was always saying that Zachariades should be dismissed from the party regardless that this was not properly done’. (P. Daniilidis, ‘O Polydoros thymatai’, p. 288, Istorikes ekdoseis, Athens, 1990). The anti-KKE attitude of this group caused very serious damage to the Greek communist movement because: first it disorientated from the ideological, political and organisational point of view and second it brought its fragmentation driving thousands of communists to isolation. They went so far to claim that Zachariades became a defector, a traitor and that he allegedly joined the Khrushchevian revisionists. As a matter of fact, they instructed all the Stalinist-Zachariadist organisations in Tashkent and People’s Republics to discontinue all the protests towards the Soviet government for the release of Zachariades because he was allegedly ‘free and strolling in Moscow’ while in fact he was in complete isolation in Sorgut.

e) The death of Nikos Zachariades

In the beginning of August 1973, when the Soviet authorities and the Khrushchevian Florakis leadership announced that Nikos Zachariadis died, two different versions of his death were immediately formulated. The first and the official version was presented by the social-democratic Brezhnev-Florakis leadership: ‘On the 1st of August Nikos Zachariades died from heart attack at the age of 70’ (Announcement from the CC of ‘K’

KE). The second version was promulgated by the overwhelming majority of Greek communist who rejected at once the first one according to which Nikos Zachariades died from a ‘heart attack’, and believed that he was actually murdered by the Khrushchevian revisionists in Sorgut, Siberia, his place of exile.

Seventeen years after the initial ‘announcement’ of the Soviet authorities, in 1990, Alexander Petrushin, a KGB Colonel, sent a note to the newspaper ‘Tiumenski Izvestia’ in which he contradicted the original version and presented a third one, that of ‘suicide’.

It is obvious that the two above versions of Nikos Zachariades death, the one of heart attack and the other of suicide, are mutually exclusive and, therefore, most probably false. The treacherous social-democratic cliques of Brezhnev-Florakis obviously contradict themselves. When were they telling the truth, in 1973 or in 1990?

The overwhelming majority of Greek communists correctly reckoned, and continue to do so, that the Soviet revisionists murdered Nikos Zachariades in accordance to an agreement with the revisionist leadership of ‘K’KE. in order to preserve the existence of their social-democratic party whose presence and action served, on one hand, the foreign policy of the revisionist-capitalist Soviet Union and, on the other, the interests of the indigenous reactionary bourgeois class acting as its agency in the ranks of the Greek working class movement.

It would be interesting to point out that Nikos Zachariades death took place on the eve of political ‘change’ in Greece. The Soviet revisionists, due to their collaboration with the American imperialists, were aware that a political ‘change’ was imminent in Greece, namely the replacement of the military-fascist dictatorship by a bourgeois ‘democratic’ government. If the new government wanted to maintain its democratic façade, it had not only to legalise the revisionist ‘K’KE but, also, to allow the repatriation of the communist political refugees, the former DA partisans, from the revisionist countries. However, it was known to both the Greek and Soviet revisionists that the great majority (about 85%-95%) of the Greek communists were staunch supporters of Zachariades and, upon their return to Greece, would immediately raise the issue of his liberation from exile employing all possible means including daily demonstrations in front of the Soviet embassy and an international campaign. Under such pressure, the Soviet revisionists would be compelled to set him free and let him return to his homeland.

Consequently, under circumstances beyond their control, and aware of the great authority Nikos Zachariades enjoyed among the Greek communists, the Soviet revisionists would have felt extremely uncomfortable had the great communist leader and former member of the EC of the Third International returned to his country. In particular such an outcome would have the following consequences: a) the inevitable downfall of their instruments in the country, that is, of the two social-democratic parties ‘K’KE and ‘K’KE (interior). b) the reorganisation of the communists and the formation of the revolutionary massive KKE, guided by revolutionary Marxism, that is of Leninism-Stalinism, and the concomitant preservation of the antifascist, anti-imperialist EDA party (that was liquidated by the revisionists and replaced by, the harmless to the interests of the bourgeois and the imperialists, PASOK) c) the prospect of a revolutionary KKE in alliance with the socialist Albania would be very dangerous, at that time, to the fate of Khrushchevian revisionism in Europe, to the existence and activity of the Soviet and European revisionists.

Apart from the aforementioned, what suggests that the third version of Nikos Zachariades death, i.e. the one of his murder, is the most probable and convincing are the following:

First, the statement-confession made by Stavros Zorbalas, the director of the Centre of Marxist Studies, in 1980: ‘How could there be a Party (meaning the revisionist ‘K’KE) if Zachariades would come to Greece?’ (D. Vyssios: ‘Open letter to Boris Nikolayevich Panomariov’, former head of the Department of International Relations of the CC of CPSU) but, also, by Panos Demetriou: ‘at any rate, only a KGB report can solve the riddle concerning his death’ (‘Ethnos’, 29/12/1990).

Second, the very important testimony of the journalist Vera Kuznechova in her interview: ‘I brought G. Mauros (Greek journalist) in contact with competent persons like Zachariades guard and the forensic doctor who, under pressure, wrote falsely in his report that Nikos Zachariades died from heart attack. When I talked to him, he admitted that he had diagnosed assassination, not heart attack’.

Third, the statement made by N. Tomilina, the director of the Russian State Archives, in the spring of 2000: ‘Not all evidence pertaining Nikos Zachariades has been published and, especially, the documents related to the circumstances of his death. These documents have been classified as top secret and no access to them is allowed until they are declassified.’

Considering all the above, the following fundamental question arises: if the case of Nikos Zachariades death was drawn to definite close with the establishment of the ‘suicide’ version, why, then, the part of the Archives related to the circumstances of his death is not published? Why the documents about the circumstances of his death are, still, classified as top secret and no access to them is allowed? It is evident that the anti-communist Khrushchevian revisionists and their fascist secret services, even after more than three decades (1973-2006) and despite continuous ‘editing’, cannot render their Archives plausible as to the second false version of Nikos Zachariades death, the one of ‘suicide’.

Without a doubt, Nikos Zachariades, through his revolutionary struggle, rises to eminence as a great revolutionary and communist leader, as ‘one of the most important figures of the world’s communist movement’ (Niyazov, Tashkent 1955); Joseph Stalin during the proceedings of the 19th Congress of the CPSU (1952), had said about him: ‘Do you see him? He is a great leader. He will bring the revolution not only in Greece but also in Europe’ (P. Demetriou, ‘Ek vatheon’, Athens 1997, pp. 202-203). He was by far the most competent General Secretary the KKE ever had and who was suggested by the Third International for this post in 1931. Nikos Zachariades remained until the end of his life an unwavering opponent of revisionism. Towards the end of his life he said: ‘Nobody can take away your honour, you can only lose it yourself’ and also: ‘he, who does not know how to die when it is necessary, does not know how to live and will fail in his life. He, who is afraid of falling, is going to crawl for the rest of his life’.

Quite naturally, the revisionist group of Khrushchev-Brezhnev saw him as a serious, powerful and very dangerous ideological, political opponent whom therefore it had to forcefully remove from the leadership of KKE at all costs, and destroy politically and physically; so dangerous was he considered, that one of Khrushchev’s fervent supporters, the French poet Louis Aragon, saw fit to mention him in his two-volume ‘History of the Soviet Union’: ‘The charge for personality cult resulted in the removal of Nikos Zachariades from his post as General Secretary of KKE’ (L. Aragon, ‘History of the Soviet Union’, v. 2, p. 268, Athens, 1963).

To conclude, we believe that the aforementioned events, covering the period between the pogrom in Tashkent in 1955 and the death of Nikos Zachariades in 1973, leave the contemporary revolutionary movement a most valuable legacy that could serve its task of reorganisation in the 21st century.


V.I. Lenin Warns Against Capitalist Restoration


“What was one of the most powerful incentives that multiplied our strength and our energies to a tremendous degree when we fought and won on the war front? It was the realisation of danger. Everybody asked whether it was possible that the landowners and capitalists might return to Russia. And the reply was that it was. We therefore multiplied our efforts a hundredfold, and we were victorious.

Take the economic front, and ask whether capitalism can be restored economically in Russia. We have combated the Sukharevka black market. The other day, just prior to the opening of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, this not very pleasant institution was closed down by the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Red Army Deputies. (Applause.) The Sukharevka black market has been closed but it is not that market that is so sinister. The old Sukharevka market on Sukharevskaya Square has been closed down, an act that presented no difficulty. The sinister thing is the ‘Sukharevka’ that resides in the heart and behaviour of every petty proprietor. This is the ‘Sukharevka’ that must be closed down. That “Sukharevka” is the basis of capitalism. While it exists, the capitalists may return to Russia and may grow stronger than we are. That must be clearly realised. It must serve as the mainspring of our work and as a condition and yardstick of our real success. While we live in a small-peasant country, there is a firmer economic basis for capitalism in Russia than for communism. That must be borne in mind. Anyone who has carefully observed life in the countryside, as compared with life in the cities, knows that we have not torn up the roots of capitalism and have not undermined the foundation, the basis, of the internal enemy. The latter depends on small-scale production, and there is only one way of undermining it, namely, to place the economy of the country, including agriculture, on a new technical basis, that of modern large-scale production.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets Part II, Report On The Work Of The Council Of People’s Commissars December 22, 1920”