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

The Lie About Stalin: 22nd June 1941

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V.M. Zhukhrai

The leader of the German fascists, Adolf Hitler, whilst instructing his own propagandists, said: ‘If we want to score a victory, we must actively make use of lies. They have to be big. The bigger the lies the quicker people will believe them. When we score a victory, nobody will ask us whether we spoke the truth or whether we lied’. Goebbels, the minister for fascist propaganda and developing the ideas of his fuehrer said that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth. And it was according to this Hitlerite recipe that our enemies used their criticism of Stalin’s activity as soon after he had died. And here is a probable lie. In the newspaper Glasnost (Openness) where we had been preparing material concerning the case of Kirov’s murder, there are examples of lies given which were poured over Stalin and our party. I do not wish to quote all of the examples, you probably know them already, and so I will stop on just one example. In the press it is said that when the Bolsheviks took the Crimea, they executed by firing squad 100 thousand officers of the White Guard. At that time the whole of Kolchak’s army consisted of 26 thousand men, 6000 of whom were officers. You can see what I mean about lies, can’t you? Therefore, our comrades asked to explain several interesting moments in the life and activity of Stalin, which in much, reveal the methods of our class enemies and which in practical examples illustrate the fallacy of this lie. Many people have already read my book ‘Stalin – the truth and the lies’. Now my new book has been published entitled ‘Stalin and politics’, and also articles have been published concerning the case surrounding the murder of Kirov and the case concerning Tukhachevsky. In other words, we have fulfilled the task of somehow assisting our propagandists in the preparation for the socialist revolution, because they have been in the main, going along with this lie. Those comrades who have given speeches before me have very good reports. I was very pleased with them. Our conference was a lot worse than this one. The reports have simply been excellent at your conference. Excellent reports.

And so, Comrades, allow me to stop on several questions. The first thing which is usually asked is why Comrade Stalin, on the 22nd June 1941 did not go on the radio and make a speech to the Soviet people? And enemy of Soviet people Khrushchev, carrying out the will of his masters on the other side of the Atlantic, declared that Stalin had become confused, afraid, locked himself away in his dacha (country house) and sat there for three days. What? Stalin, a professional revolutionary, a man who back in 1902 in Baku, walking at the front of a demonstration under a red banner, where tsarist troops had opened fire killing 45 workers, was never afraid of anybody or anything. All those Comrades who knew Comrade Stalin say this. And Zhukov, even though he was an enemy of Stalin at heart, did much so that Khrushchev did what he did, unfortunately. Vinogradov, second in command of the rear around Moscow and who had met Comrade Stalin every day, told me about this. He says that a significant number of our military leaders, including Zhukov, became quite nervous, the only calm, even-tempered person being Stalin. Do you know what Rokossovsky says concerning this? That is to say, that all the data we have indicates that this business concerning Stalin locking himself away for three days at the start of the war, is nothing but a Khrushchevite lie, since that same Khrushchev himself was at this time in Kiev, and could not have seen how Stalin was behaving. Nevertheless, such a lie was released, and it was from here that I first of all started, when writing a book, a book I had been working on for almost 20 years or so, and had to verify all the facts which were on hand. Therefore I began by finding out the real reason why Comrade Stalin, on the night of 22nd June 1941, suddenly at the start of the second night left the Kremlin, when all the country’s leadership were at their posts expecting an attack from fascist Germany. Throughout that year Comrade Stalin had been leaving at 5 am. This pattern had been set, so he left at 5 am. And on the eve of such hard days, he had suddenly left! And while closely scrutinising this question, luck fell into my hands on two occasions.

First of all, I was well acquainted with Professor Preobrazhensky, a well-known academician and specialist in ear, throat and nose disorders. Preobrazhensky was the only doctor who in the period of 20 years had treated Stalin. Comrade Stalin had a very weak throat and in the latter years it became sore quite often because of angina; he had a very weak throat. However, he refused to have his glands removed. Boris Sergeivich knew this condition well. Speaking of which, when I began asking him about this, we then met to discuss this many times, for we were working together at the same institute and he had at one time saved my life.

He began telling me that on the night of the 22nd June 1941 he was called out to Volinskoe. And when he arrived he saw Comrade Stalin lying under a blanket on the couch inside the hall where meetings of the politburo usually took place, and who said in a broken voice: ‘Take a look to see what is wrong with me. I’m not feeling at all well. I can hardly talk or swallow’. And when, says Preobrazhensky, I took a look at Comrade Stalin’s throat I was horrified. What he was actually suffering from was terrible phlegmatic angina, an abscess in the throat. And when I took his temperature, it was well over 40. I said: ‘Comrade Stalin, you have to get to the hospital immediately or you will suffocate’. Stalin said: ‘Unfortunately that can’t be done now. And don’t mention a word to anyone about my illness. Not even the guards’. Zhukov confirms this in his memoirs: when he phoned Stalin and heard his irregular breathing, he could not say why he had stayed quiet for a long time. And when he told him that the Hitlerites had started attacking us, it was then that Stalin went to the Kremlin. And Stalin’s chauffeur, Mitryukhin says: ‘I watched Comrade Stalin coming out and could see him swaying. We knew that Comrade Stalin did not drink and was never drunk, but here he was, shaking; when he got into the back seat of the car and sitting behind me, I could see that this man was gasping for breath’. And it was in this semi-conscious state that Stalin arrived in the Kremlin. This is why he was laid up for three days without food. It is true what Lozgachev, one of Stalin’s bodyguards writes, that Stalin did drink one cup of tea. Therefore it was obvious that Comrade Stalin could not make a speech on radio under such conditions.

I was also lucky to have found out that Lilya Alexandrovna here, an old friend of mine and wife of Vice General Vlasik, also knew about these things very well. We together met Comrade Stalin’s personal guard, Colonel Borisov from the personal guards, the so-called ‘ninth’, which was standing on the night of the 22nd at the gate of Volinskoe dacha. And he has this on tape; for the three whole days that Stalin was there all the time, nobody came over to the dacha. Only Preobrazhensky came over who was brought over by Poskrebyshev and nobody else. And Comrade Stalin did not leave to go anywhere either. Well it has been said that diaries, records by some of the secretaries had been found, and let this be on the conscience of Boldin and Gorbachev. I do not believe these records. I know that Comrade Stalin did not allow anybody to record who came to see him. Lenin had such records made but Stalin did not. And Molotov at the same time confirms that they had not seen Stalin for three days. Also, Peoples Commissar of the Naval Fleet, Kuznetsov, who noted that he was with Stalin on the 24th June writes in his memoirs: ‘I could not find Stalin for three days. I arrived at the Kremlin, phoned all the telephone numbers, but Stalin was nowhere to be found’. So. This is the way things stand concerning this lie about Stalin.

Source

Enver Hoxha on the Path of Khrushchevite Revisionism in the Soviet Union

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“Khrushchevite revisionism in the Soviet Union has undergone several stages, in compliance with which its forms, methods and tactics of struggle and action to carry out in practice its anti-Marxist and traitorous course and to camouflage it, have also changed.

The first stage was that of the building up, maintenance and establishment of the betrayal, accompanied with a great and scandalous noise and with a sham ‘optimism’ to distract the minds of the people. It was characterized by the frantic campaign of attacks on J. Stalin, to discredit the ideas of Marxism-Leninism and the cause of the Bolshevik Party, under the fraudulent pretext of the ‘fight against the personality cult and its consequences.’

[....]

In the ideological field the revisionists replaced the ideas and the consistent Marxist-Leninist line of Stalin on all the fundamental questions with the ideas and the anti-Marxist line of modern revisionism. Opportunists and various Trotskyist, Bukharinist and Zinovievist enemies, nationalists, and others, in the Soviet Union were proclaimed as ‘victims of Stalin’ and where placed on the pedestal of ‘martyrs’ and ‘heroes.’ The renegade Tito clique in Yugoslavia was rehabilitated and Titoism was proclaimed as a variant of ‘creative Marxism-Leninism’ and of ‘socialism.’ In various socialist countries condemned traitors were rehabilitated and revisionist cliques attached to Khrushchev’s chariot were brought to power. They launched the slogan of unity with the social-democrats on a national and international scale ‘in the joint struggle for socialism,’ and the way was paved for the complete ideological, political and organizational rapprochement and merger of the communist parties with the social-democratic parties.

[…]

In the political field Khrushchev and his group besmirched and discarded the Marxist-Leninist theory and practice about the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, calling it a ‘Stalinist distortion’ and proclaiming the whole historic period of Stalin’s leadership a ‘dark, anti-democratic period, a period of violations of socialist legality, of terror and murders, of prisons and concentration camps.’ The road was thus opened for the liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and for its replacement with the bureaucratic and counterrevolutionary dictatorship of the new ‘socialist’ aristocracy which was born and was developing, all this being covered with the deceptive slogans of ‘democratization’ and of ‘restoration of freedom and socialist justice’ allegedly ‘lost and now regained.’

In the economic field the Khrushchevites declared as erroneous and incorrect the Stalin line and methods of development and management of the socialist economy in all branches, especially in that of agriculture, rejected Stalin’s directives on further improvement and development of socialist relations of production in the historic period of the transition from socialism to communism, and, under the pretext of overcoming the economic ‘stagnation’ and difficulties allegedly created as a result of the Stalin ‘dogmatic’ line, undertook a series of ‘reforms’ which paved the way to the gradual degeneration of the socialist economic order and to the uncontrolled operation of the economic laws of capitalism.

In the field of international relations the Khrushchevite revisionists proclaimed as ‘erroneous,’ ‘rigid’ and ‘dogmatic’ the Stalin foreign policy line, the line of the blow for blow fight against imperialism and of determined internationalist support for the revolutionary and liberation struggle. They replaced it with the ‘peaceful coexistence’ policy as the general line of the foreign policy of the Soviet state.

[….]

The anti-Stalin campaign served the Khrushchevite renegades to pass over to the second stage—to that of the efforts for the strengthening and stabilisation of the betrayal in the economy, policy and ideology, at home and in foreign relations. This is the stage of the codification of the viewpoints of Khrushchevite revisionism and of the large-scale implementation of its policy.

N. Khrushchev and his group completely liquidated the Marxist-Leninist proletarian party, they transformed it into a weapon of the revisionist counter-revolution, they replaced the Leninist norms of party building with revisionist norms and, finally, they proclaimed it a ‘party of the whole people.’

[…]

In the field of international relations this stage was characterized by the complete establishment of the counter-revolutionary alliance of the Soviet leadership with U.S. imperialism for sharing the domination of the world, at the expense of the freedom and independence of the peoples of the vital interests of the socialist countries, of the cause of revolution and socialism. The selling out of the interests of the liberation struggle of the Congolese people, the bargainings with U.S. and West-German imperialism to the detriment of the national interests of the German Democratic Republic, the treachery towards the Cuban people in the days of the Caribbean crisis, the joint plots with the U.S. imperialists and the Indian reactionaries against the People’s Republic of China, the signing of the ill-famed Soviet-U.S.-British treaty on the partial prohibition of nuclear weapons tests, the sabotage of the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese people against the U.S. aggressors, and of the just struggle of the Arab people against the imperialist-Israel aggression, etc.—all these, and other acts, are links of the long chain of the counterrevolutionary alliance of the Soviet revisionist leadership with U.S. imperialism.

[….]

All this counter-revolutionary line and the anti-Marxist-Leninist viewpoints of the Khrushchevite revisionists were consecrated in the decisions of the 22nd Congress of the CPSU, especially in the program of the CPSU adopted at this congress, which, due to the dominating position of the Soviet leadership in the revisionist camp, became the main code of the trend of international modern revisionism.

At this ill-famed congress were repeated openly and publicly now the monstrous attacks and calumnies against Stalin. This showed, in the first place, that the feelings of sympathy towards J. Stalin had remained alive among the Soviet people and this greatly worried the Khrushchevite leading clique; in the second place, that this clique was obstinately advancing on its anti-Marxist road, and in the third place, that it needed the ‘bogy of Stalinism’ in order to defeat the ever more resolute resistance which was rising in the international communist movement against its treacherous line.

[….]

The struggle of the Marxist-Leninist parties and forces, and life itself, which is the best judge of every policy, rejected the line and theories of the Soviet revisionist leadership, exposed their anti-Marxist and counter-revolutionary essence. Difficult days have come for the Khrushchevite revisionists. Khrushchevite revisionism has entered the third stage, which is the stage of its decline, of its deep and general crisis, the stage when treachery develops but yields bitter fruits and brings defeats to the revisionists.”

 – Enver Hoxha, “The Demagogy of the Soviet Revisionists Cannot Conceal Their Traitorous Countenance”

Happy 135th Birthday Joseph Stalin: Celebrate a Life Lived in Service to the People!

December 21st, 2013

This is the Espresso Stalinist, inviting you all to keep this time of year a time of celebration, love, revolution and socialism. This is the true meaning of this day. Thank you, Koba. Thank you for all you did for us.

Thank You, Koba

by Charlie Mann

I could never have known
That I would learn so much
From just one man.
By now, he is merely
Words,
On paper and
on screens,
Perhaps the odd bust that
Survived repression;

But no living man has
Encouraged me,
Chastised me,
Taught me,
Emboldened me,
Given me
Courage,
Confidence,
Strength and
Determination
quite so much -

I salute you,
Tovarich,
Our revolution lives on.

Link to Poem

Happy 135th Birthday Joseph Stalin: Celebrate a Life Lived in Service to the People!


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On the Narodniks

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“The method of combating tsardom chosen by the Narodniks, namely, by the assassination of individuals, by individual terrorism, was wrong and detrimental to the revolution. The policy of individual terrorism was based on the erroneous Narodnik theory of active ‘heroes’ and a passive ‘mob,’ which awaited exploits from the ‘heroes.’ This false theory maintained that it is only outstanding individuals who make history, while the masses, the people, the class, the ‘mob,’ as the Narodnik writers contemptuously called them, are incapable of conscious, organized activity and can only blindly follow the ‘heroes.’ For this reason the Narodniks abandoned mass revolutionary work among the peasantry and the working class and changed to individual terrorism. They induced one of the most prominent revolutionaries of the time, Stepan Khalturin, to give up his work of organizing a revolutionary workers’ union and to devote himself entirely to terrorism.

[….]

The Narodniks maintained that Socialism in Russia would come not through the dictatorship of the proletariat, but through the peasant commune, which they regarded as the embryo and basis of Socialism. But the commune was neither the basis nor the embryo of Socialism, nor could it be, because the commune was dominated by the kulaks–the bloodsuckers who exploited the poor peasants, the agricultural labourers and the economically weaker middle peasants. The formal existence of communal land ownership and the periodical redivision of the land according to the number of mouths in each peasant household did not alter the situation in any way. Those members of the commune used the land who owned draught cattle, implements and seed, that is, the well-to-do middle peasants and kulaks. The peasants who possessed no horses, the poor peasants, the small peasants generally, had to surrender their land to the kulaks and to hire themselves out as agricultural labourers. As a matter of fact, the peasant commune was a convenient means of masking the dominance of the kulaks and an inexpensive instrument in the hands of the tsarist government for the collection of taxes from the peasants on the basis of collective responsibility. That was why tsardom left the peasant commune intact. It was absurd to regard a commune of this character as the embryo or basis of Socialism.”

 – History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)

“By Narodism we mean a system of views, which comprises the following three features:

1) Belief that capitalism in Russia represents a deterioration, a retrogression. Hence the urge and desire to ‘retard,’ ‘halt,’ ‘stop the break-up’ of the age-old foundations by capitalism, and similar reactionary cries.

2) Belief in the exceptional character of the Russian economic system in general, and of the peasantry, with its village commune, artel, etc. in particular. It is not considered necessary to apply to Russian economic relationships the concepts elaborated by modern science concerning the different social classes and their conflicts. The village-commune peasantry is regarded as something higher and better than capitalism; there is a disposition to idealise the ‘foundations.’ The existence among the peasantry of contradictions characteristic of every commodity and capitalist economy is denied or slurred over; it is denied that any connection exists between these contradictions and their more developed form in capitalist industry and capitalist agriculture.

3) Disregard of the connection between the ‘intelligentsia’ and the country’s legal and political institutions, on the one hand, and the material interests of definite social classes, on the other. Denial of this connection, lack of a materialist explanation of these social factors, induces the belief that they represent a force capable of ‘dragging history along another line, of ‘diversion from the path,’ and so on.”

V.I. Lenin, “The Heritage We Renounce”

“The Narodnik theory stands revealed still more clearly in the notions on the peasantry. Throughout the draft [of the Socialist-Revolutionaries] the following words and phrases are used without discrimination: the toilers, the exploited, the working class, the labouring masses, the class of the exploited, the exploited classes. If the authors stopped to think over the last term (“classes”), which escaped them unguardedly, they would realise that it is the petty bourgeois as well as the proletarians who work and are exploited under capitalism. What has been said of the legal Narodniks can be said of our Socialists-Revolutionaries: to them goes the honour of discovering an unheard-of type of capitalism without a petty bourgeoisie. They speak of the labouring peasantry, but shut their eyes to a fact which has been proved, studied, weighed, described, and pondered, namely, that the peasant bourgeoisie now definitely predominates among our labouring peasantry, and that the well-to-do peasantry, although entitled to the designation labouring peasantry, cannot get along without hiring farm-hands and already controls the better half of the peasantry’s productive forces.

Very odd, indeed, from this point of view, is the goal which the Party of the Socialists-Revolutionaries has set itself in its minimum programme: ‘In the interests of socialism and of the struggle against bourgeois-proprietary principles, to make use of the views, traditions, and modes of life of the Russian peasantry, both as toilers in general and as members of the village communes, particularly its conception of the land as being the common property of all the toiling people.’ This objective seems, at first blush, to be a quite harmless, purely academic repetition of the village-commune utopias long since refuted both by theory and life. In reality, however, we are dealing with a pressing political issue which the Russian revolution promises to solve in the very near future: Who will take advantage of whom? Will the revolutionary intelligentsia, which believes itself to be socialist, utilise the toiler conceptions of the peasantry in the interests of the struggle against bourgeois-proprietary principles? Or will the bourgeois-proprietary and at the same time toiling peasantry utilise the socialist phraseology of the revolutionary-democratic intelligentsia in the interests of the struggle against socialism?

We are of the view that the second perspective will be realised (despite the will and the consciousness of our opponents). We are convinced that it will be realised because it has already nine-tenths been realised. The “bourgeois proprietary” (and at the same time labouring) peasantry has already made good use of the socialist phrases of the Narodnik, democratic intelligentsia, which harboured illusions of sustaining “the toiler traditions and modes of life” by means of its artels, co-operatives, fodder grass cultivation, ploughs, Zemstvo warehouses, and banks, but which actually promoted the development of capitalism within the village commune. Russian economic history has thus proved what Russian political history will prove tomorrow. The class-conscious proletariat has the duty to explain to the rural proletarian, without in any way withholding support of the progressive and revolutionary aspirations of the bourgeois labouring peasantry, that a struggle against that peasantry is inevitable in the future; it has the duty to explain to him the real aims of socialism, as opposed to the bourgeois-democratic fancies of equalised land tenure. With the bourgeois peasantry,against the survivals of serfdom, against the autocracy, the priests, and the landlords; with the urban proletariat against the bourgeoisie in general and against the bourgeois peasantry in particular — this is the only correct slogan for the rural proletarian, this is the only correct agrarian programme for Russian Social-Democracy at the present moment. It was this programme that our Second Congress adopted. With the peasant bourgeoisie for democracy, with the urban proletariat for socialism — this slogan will have a far stronger appeal to the rural poor than the showy but empty slogans of the Socialist-Revolutionary dabblers in Narodism.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “From Narodism to Marxism”

Video: Lenin in Color with A Cappella Internationale

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

George Gruenthal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. The revolutionary struggle and Marcos the rebel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Revolutionary Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. The Zapatista View of Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V. The Zapatista view of the masses and their struggles

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

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

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

VI. The problem of the land and the ethnic question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated from the Spanish by George Gruenthal

Source

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

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George Gruenthal

Book Review:  Khrushchev Lied, by Grover Furr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Conference of Marxist-Leninists Parties and Organizations

March, 2009

Source

On this Day, 1917: Bolsheviki Seize Buildings, Defying Kerensky

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Bolsheviki Seize State Buildings, Defying Kerensky


Premier Posts Troops in Capital and Declares Workmen’s Council Illegal


NORTHERN ARMY OFFERS AID


And Preliminary Parliament, Forced by Rebels to Leave Palace, Supports Him


WOMEN SOLDIERS ON GUARD


Petrograd Conditions Generally Normal Save for Outrages by So-Called Apaches


Bolsheviki Seize State Buildings

Petrograd, Nov. 7–An armed naval detachment, under orders of the Maximalist Revolutionary Committee, has occupied the offices of the official Petrograd Telegraph Agency. The Maximalists also occupied the Central Telegraph office, the State Bank and Marin Palace, where the Preliminary Parliament had suspended its proceedings in view of the situation.

Numerous precautions have been taken by Premier Kerensky to thwart the threatened outbreak. The Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Committee has been decreed an illegal organization. The soldiers guarding the Government buildings have been replaced by men from the officers’ training schools. Small guards have been placed at the Embassies. The women’s battalion is drawn up in the square in front of the Winter Palace.

The commander of the northern front has informed the Premier that his troops are against any demonstration and are ready to come to Petrograd to quell a rebellion if necessary.

No disorders are yet reported, with the exception of some outrages by Apaches. The general life of the city remains normal and street traffic has not been interrupted.

Leon Trotzky, President of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s Soldiers’ Delegates, has informed members of the Town Duma that he has given strict orders against outlawry and has threatened with death any persons attempting to carry out pogroms.

Trotzky added that it was not the intention of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates to seize power, but to represent to a Congress of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, to be called shortly, that the body take over control of the capital, for which all necessary arrangements had been perfected.

In the early hours of the morning a delegation of Cossacks appeared at the Winter Palace and told Premier Kerensky that they were disposed to carry out the Government’s orders concerning the guarding of the capital, but they insisted that if hostilities began it would be necessary for their forces to be supplemented by infantry units. They further demanded that the Premier define the Government’s attitude toward the Bolsheviki, citing the release from custody of some of those who had been arrested for participation in the July disturbances. The Cossacks virtually made a demand that the Government proclaim the Bolsheviki outlaws.

The Premier replied:

“I find it difficult to declare the Bolsheviki outlaws. The attitude of the Government toward the present Bolsheviki activities is known.”

The Premier explained that those who had been released were on bail, and that any of them found participating in new offenses against peace would be severely dealt with.

The Revolutionary Military Committee of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates demanded the right to control all orders of the General Staff in the Petrograd district, which was refused. Thereupon the committee announced that it had appointed special commissioners to undertake the direction of the military, and invited the troops to observe only orders signed by the committee. Machine gun detachments moved to the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ headquarters.

In addressing the Preliminary Parliament yesterday Premier Kerensky charged the Military Committee of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates with having distributed arms and ammunition to workmen.

“That is why I consider part of the population of Petrograd in a state of revolt,” he said, “and have ordered an immediate inquiry and such arrests as are necessary. The Government will perish rather than cease to defend the honor, security, and independence of the State.”

The Preliminary Parliament, in response to the Premier’s appeal for a vote of confidence, voted to “work in contact with the Government.” The resolution, which originated with the Left, was carried by a vote of 123 to 102, with 26 members abstaining from voting. A resolution offered by the Centre calling for the suppression of the Bolshevikis and a full vote of confidence failed to reach a vote. The Cabinet, however, considers the resolution adopted as expressive of the Parliament’s support.

The reported resignation of Admiral Verdervski, Minister of Marine, was denied after the Cabinet meeting. It was stated that all the ministers had agreed to retain their portfolios.

The Bolshevik Chairman of the Petrograd Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, realizing that there are more ways than one of acquiring real authority, not only attempted its capture by armed force but also by a far more ingenuous plan, which was disclosed today. He formed a so-called Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and informed the Headquarters Staff of the Petrograd military district that only orders sanctioned by the Military Revolutionary Committee would be executed.

On Sunday night the committee appeared at the staff offices and demanded the right of entry, control and veto. Receiving a natural and emphatic refusal, the military revolutionaries wired everywhere to the general effect that the Petrograd district headquarters were opposed to the wishes of the revolutionary garrison, and were becoming a counter revolutionary centre. This bid for the loyalty of the garrison has so far yielded no definite results, but obviously is extremely dangerous, especially in view of the fact that in the Petrograd garrison discipline is extremely lax.

It is said the Provisional Government intends to prosecute the Military Revolutionary Committee. It should be noted that the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets is backing the Provisional Government. There is a general feeling of reaction against the Bolshevik-ridden Soviets, a feeling completely loyal to the revolution but impatient of disorders.

Source

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

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by Grover Furr

Introduction

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

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

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

“Behind Closed Doors” (PBS series 2009):

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

Wikipedia article: “Soviet invasion of Poland”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nonaggression Treaty Between Germany and the USSR of August 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we know this interpretation of events is true?

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

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

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

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

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

See rydz_dont_fight.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

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

See moscicki_resignation.html

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish State Collapsed

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

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

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

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

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

The Question of the State in International Law

See state_international_law.html for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See new_spheres_0939.html

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Imperialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Polish Government In Exile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Government Uniquely Irresponsible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would have

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

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

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

Conclusion

See conclusion.html

Source

Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence

Graphs in the original are shown here as embedded images that are compressed to fit the site’s format. Please click the images to see the original graphs full size.

 - E.S.

Contributors

Peter A. Coclanis is an associate professor of history and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Universitv of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He worked under Stuart W. Bruchey at Columbia University, earning his doctorate in 1984. He is the author of The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670-1920 (1989), as well as of numerous articles in economic and social history. Currently, he is writing a book on the history of rice. Coclanis spent the 1992-1993 academic year conducting research in Southeast Asia on a Fulbright Research Fellowship.

J. Arch Getty is a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. He studied with Roberta Manning and received his Ph.D. from Boston College in 1979. He is the author of Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1949 (1985) and co-editor of Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (1993). His research is on the political history of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and concentrates on the history of the Soviet Communist Party. Getty is now writing (with Gabor Rittersporn) Society and Politics in the Soviet 1930s (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press), a treatment of the state-society question in the pre-war Stalin period, and is collaborating in the editing of a series of researchers’ guides to Russian archives.

James L. Huston is an associate professor of history at Oklahoma State University. He received his doctorate in 1980 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, under the guidance of Robert W. Johannsen. He is the author of The Panic of 1857 and the Coming of the Civil War (1987), which was subsequently awarded the Phi Alpha Theta prize for an author’s first book. Although Huston has pursued a number of topics in political and economic history, his major concern has

been an investigation of protectionist political economy. He is currently completing a book-length manuscript on this topic.

Marc Raeff is Bakhmeteff Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Columbia University. He earned his doctorate in history from Harvard University in 1950. His recent books include The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies arid Russia, 1600-1800(1983), Understanding Imperial Russia: State and Society in the Old Regime (1984), and Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of the Russian Emigration, 1919-1939 (1990).

Gabor T. Rittersporn is a senior research fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. He studied at the universities of Szeged (Hungary), Leningrad, and Tokyo, defending his doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in 1979. His research interests involve the interaction of collective representations, social practices, and political processes in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, with particular emphasis on the evolution of penal policy. Rittersporn is the author of Stalinist Simplifications and Soviet Complications: Social Tensions and Political Conflicts in the USSR, 1933-1953 (1991).

Paul W. Schroeder is professor of history and political science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of three books and many articles on the history of international politics from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as Austrian and German history. His latest work, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848, will be published by Oxford University Press in the Oxford History of Modern Europe series early in 1994. His current research is on change, development, and learning in international politics, 1648 to 1945.

Carl Strikwerda received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan under the supervision of Louise A. Tilly and is now an associate professor of history at the University of Kansas. The co-editor with Camille Guerin-Gonzales, Oberlin College, of The Politics of Immigrant Workers: Labor Activism andMigration in the World Economy since 1830 (1993), he is currently editing a volume with Ellen Furlough. Kenyon College, on the history of consumer cooperation. Strikwerda has hadarticles published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, International Labor and Working Class History, and theJournal of Urban History, and recently completed a manuscript on Catholic and Socialist workers in Belgium between 1870 and 1914. His article in this issue grew out of research for a book on the conflict between nationalism and internationalism in the era of World War 1.

Viktor N. Zemskov is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He received his kandidat nauk degree from the History Faculty of Moscow State University in 1974, specializing in the history of the Soviet working class. He has written The Leading Force of National StruggleThe Struggle of the Soviet Working Class in the Period of Fascist Occupation of the USSR, 1941-1944 (in Russian) (1986). In 1989, Zemskov was among the first researchers admitted to the secret archives of the GULAG system, and he published a series of articles in Argumenty i fakty and Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniia on prisoners, exiles, and repatriation in the Stalin period. He is now preparing two books, one on Soviet citizens dn forced labor in Nazi Germany, 1941-1945 and another on exiles in the USSR, 1930-1960.

Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-war Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence

J. ARCH GETTY, GABOR T. RITTERSPORN, and VIKTOR N. ZEMSKOV

The Great purges of the 1930s were a maelstrom of political violence that engulfed all levels of society and all walks of life. Often thought to have begun in 1934 with the assassination of Politburo member Sergei Kirov, the repression first struck former political dissidents in 1935-1936. It then widened and reached its apogee in 1937-1938 with the arrest and imprisonment or execution of a large proportion of the Communist Party Central Committee, the military high command, and the state bureaucracy. Eventually, millions of ordinary Soviet citizens were drawn into the expanding terror.

Debate in the West about the precise numbers of victims has appeared in the scholarly press for several years and has been characterized by wide disparity, often of several millions, between high and low estimates. Using census and other data, scholars have put forward conflicting computations of birth, mortality, and arrests in order to calculate levels of famine deaths due to agricultural collectivization (1932-1933), victims of the Great Terror (1936-1939), and total “unnatural” population loss in the Stalin period. Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, Robert Conquest, Steven Rosefielde, and others have posited relatively high estimates (see Table 1). On the other hand, Stephen Wheatcroft and others working from the same sources have put forth lower totals. Both “high” and “low” estimators have bemoaned the lack of solid archival evidence and have claimed that should such materials become available, they would confirm the author’s projection. The debate, along with disputes on the “totalitarian” nature of the Stalinist regime, the importance of Joseph Stalin’s personality, and the place of social history in Soviet studies, has polarized the field into two main camps, perhaps unfortunately labeled “Cold Warriors” and “revisionists.” Revisionists have accused the other side of using second- hand sources and presenting figures that are impossible to justify, while the proponents of high estimates have criticized revisionists for refusing to accept grisly facts and even for defending Stalin. Both sides have accused the other of sloppy or incompetent scholarship.

Now, for the first time, Soviet secret police documents are available that permit us to narrow sharply the range of estimates of victims of the Great Purges. These materials are from the archival records of the Secretariat of GULAG, the Main Camp Administration of the NKVD/MVD (the USSR Ministry of the Interior). They were housed in the formerly “special” (that is, closed) sections of the Central State Archive of the October Revolution of the USSR (TsGAOR), which is now part of the newly organized State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). A few Moscow scholars (among them V. N. Zemskov) had access to some of them in the past but were not allowed to cite them properly. Now, according to the liberalized access regulations in Russian archives, scholars are able to consult these documents and to publish exact citations. (See “A Note on Sources” at the end of this article.)

We propose to deal here only with quantitative elements of the terror, with what we can now document of the scale of the repression. Of course, such a cold numerical approach risks overshadowing the individual personal and psychological horror of the event. Millions of lives were unjustly taken or destroyed in the Stalin period; the scale of suffering is almost impossible to comprehend. The horrifying irrationality of the carnage involves no debatable moral questions – destruction of people can have no pros and cons. There has been a tendency to accuse “low estimators” of somehow justifying or defending Stalin (as if the deaths of 3 million famine victims were somehow less blameworthy than 7 million).

Scholars and commentators will make use of the data as they choose, and it is not likely that this new information will end the debates. Still, it seems a useful step to present the first available archival evidence on the scale of the Great Terror. Admittedly, our figures are far from being complete and sometimes pose almost as many questions as they answer. They nevertheless give a fairly accurate picture of the orders of magnitude involved and show the possibilities and limits of the data presently available.

The penal system admrnistered by the NKVD (Peoples’ Commissariat of Internal Affairs) in the 1930s had several components: prisons, labor camps, and labor colonies, as well as “special settlements” and various types of non-custodial supervision. Generally speaking, the first stop for an arrested person was a prison, where an investigation and interrogation led to conviction or, more rarely, release. After sentencing, most victims were sent to: one of the labor camps or colonies to serve their terms. In December 1940, the jails of the USSR had a theoretical prescribed capacity of 234,000, although they then held twice that number. Considering this-and comparing the levels of prison populations given in the Appendixes for the 1930s and 1940s one can assume that the size of the prison system was probably not much different in the 1930s.

Second, we find a system of labor camps. These were the terrible “hard regime” camps populated by dangerous common criminals, those important politicals” the regime consigned to severe punishment, and, as a rule, by other people sentenced to more than three years of detention. On March 1, 1940, at the end of the Great Purges, there were 53 corrective labor camps (ispravitel’no-trudovye lageri: ITL) of the GULAG system holding some 1.3 million inmates. Most of the data cited in this article bear on the GULAG camps, some of which had a multitude of subdivisions spreading over vast territories and holding large numbers of people. BAMLAG, the largest camp in the period under review, held more than 260,000 inmates at the beginning of 1939, and SEVVOSTLAG (the notorious Kolyma complex) some 138,000.

Third came a network of 425 “corrective labor colonies” of varying types. These colonies were meant to confine prisoners serving short sentences, but this rule varied with time. The majority of these colonies were organized to produce for the economy and housed some 315,000 persons in 1940. They were nevertheless under the control of the NKVD and were managed-like the rest of the colony network-by its regional administrations. Additionally, there were 90 children’s homes under the auspices of the NKVD.

Fourth, there was the network of “special resettlements.” In the 1930s, these areas were populated largely by peasant families deported from the central districts as “kulaks” (well-to-do peasants) during the forced collectivization of the early 1930s. Few victims of the Great Purges of 1936-1939 were so exiled or put under other forms of non-custodial supervision: in 1937-1938, only 2.1 percent of all those sentenced on charges investigated by the political police fell into this category. This is why we will not treat exile extensively below.

Finally, there was a system of non-custodial “corrective work” (ispravitel’no-trudovye raboty), which included various penalties and fines. These were quite

common throughout the 1930s-they constituted 48 percent of all court sentences in 1935-and the numbers of such convictions grew under the several laws on labor discipline passed on the eve of the war. Typically, such offenders were condemned to up to one year at “corrective labor,” the penalty consisting of work at the usual place of one’s employment, with up to 25 percent reduction of wage and loss of credit for this work toward the length of service that gave the right to social benefits (specific allocations, vacation, pension). More than 1.7 million persons received such a sentence in the course of 1940 and almost all of them worked in their usual jobs “without deprivation of freedom.” As with resettlements, this correctional system largely falls outside the scope of the Great Terror.

Figure A provides the annual totals for the detained population (GULAG camps, labor colonies, and “kulak” resettlements, minus prisons) in the years of the Great Purges. It shows that, despite previously accepted-and fairly inflated-figures to the contrary, the total camp and exile population does not seem to have exceeded 3.5 million before the war. Were we to extrapolate from the fragmentary prison data we do have (see the Appendixe’s), we might reasonably add a figure of 300,000-500,000 for each year, to put the maximum total detained population at around 3 million in the period of the Great Purges.

Image1

Figure A: Camp, Colony, and “Kulak” Exile Populations, USSR, 1935-1940

Mainstream published estimates of the total numbers of “victims of repression” in the late 1930s have ranged from Dmitrii Volkogonov’s 3.5 million to Ol’ga Shatunovskaia’s nearly 20 million. (See Table 1.) The bases for these assessments are unclear in most cases and seem to have come from guesses, rumors, or extrapolations from isolated local observations. As the table shows, the documentable numbers of victims are much smaller.

We now have archival data from the police and judiciary on several categories of repression in several periods: arrests, prison and camp growth, and executions in 1937-1938, and deaths in custody in the 1930s and the Stalin period generally. Runs of data on arrests, charges, sentences, and custodial populations in the 1930s unfortunately reflect the simultaneous actions of several punitive agencies including the secret police, procuracy, courts, and others, each of which kept their own records according to their own statistical needs. No single agency (not even the secret police) kept a “master list” reflecting the totality of repression. Great care is therefore needed to untangle the disparate events and actors in the penal process.

Table 1 Current Estimates of the Scale of Stalinist Repression

Image2

A 1953 statistical report on cases initiated or investigated by the NKVD provides data on arrests and on the purported reasons for them. According to these figures, 1,575,259 people were arrested by the security police in the course of 1937-1938, 87.1 percent of them on political grounds. Some 1,344,923, or 85.4 percent, of the people the secret police arrested in 1937-1938 were convicted. To be sure, the 1,575,259 people in the 1953 report do not comprise the total of 1937-1938 arrests. Court statistics put the number of prosecutions for infractions unrelated to “counterrevolutionary” charges at 1,566,185, but it is unlikely that all persons in this cohort count in the arrest figures. Especially if their sentence was non-custodial, such persons were often not formally arrested. After all, 53.1 percent of all court decisions involved non-custodial sentences in 1937 and 58.7 percent in 1938, and the sum total of those who were executed or incarcerated yields 647,438 persons in categories other than “counterrevolution.” Even if we remember that during the Great Purges the authorities were by far more inclined to detain suspects than in other times, it seems difficult to arrive at an estimate as high as 2.5 million arrests on all charges in 1937-1938.

Although we do not have exact figures for arrests in 1937-1938, we do know that the population of the camps increased by 175,487 in 1937. and 320,828 in 1938 (it had declined in 1936). The population of all labor camps, labor colonies, and prisons on January 1, 1939, near the end of the Great Purges; was 2,022,976 persons. This gives us a total increase in the custodial population in 1937-1938 of 1,006,030. Nevertheless, we must add to these data the number of those who had been arrested but not sent to camps, either because they were part of a small contingent released sometime later or because they were executed.

As Table 1 shows, popular estimates of executions in the Great Purges of 1937-1938 vary from 500,000 to 7 million. We do not have exact figures for the numbers of executions in these years, but we can now narrow the range considerably. We know that between October 1, 1936, and September 30, 1938, the Military Board of the Supreme Court, sitting in 60 cities and towns, sentenced 30,514 persons to be shot. According to a press release of the KGB, 786,098 persons were sentenced to death “for counterrevolutionary and state crimes” by various courts and extra-judicial bodies between 1930 and 1953. It seems that 681,692 people, or 86.7 percent of the number for this 23-year-period were shot in 1937-1938 (compared to 1,118 persons in 1936). A certain number of these unfortunates had been arrested before 1937, including exiled and imprisoned ex-oppositionists who were summarily killed in the autumn of 1937. More important, however, our figures on 1937-1938 executions are not entirely comparable to those quoted in the press release. Coming from a 1953 statistical report “on the quantity of people convicted on cases of NKVD bodies,” they also refer to victims who had not been arrested for political reasons, whereas the communique concerns only persons persecuted for “counterrevolutionary offenses.” In any event, the data available at this point make it clear that the number shot in the two worst purge years was more likely a question of hundreds of thousands than of millions.

Of course, aside from executions in the terror of 1937-1938, many others died in the regime’s custody in the decade of the 1930s. If we add the figure we have for executions up to 1940 to the number of persons who died in GULAG camps and the few figures we have found so far on mortality in prisons and labor colonies, then add to this the number of peasants known to have died in exile, we reach the figure of 1,473,424. To be sure, of 1,802,392 alleged kulaks and their relatives who had been banished in 1930-1931, only 1,317,022 were still living at their places of exile by January 1, 1932. (Many people escaped: their number is given as 207,010 only for the year of 1932.) But even if we put at hundreds of thousands the casualties of the most chaotic period of collectivization (deaths in exile, rather than from starvation in the 1932 famine), plus later victims of different categories for which we have no data, it is unlikely that “custodial mortality” figures of the 1930s would reach 2 million: a huge number of “excess deaths” but far below most prevailing estimates. Although the figures we can document for deaths related to Soviet penal policy are rough and inexact, the available sources provide a reliable order of magnitude, at least for the pre-war period.

Turning to executions and custodial deaths in the entire Stalin period, we know that, between 1934 and 1953, 1,053,829 persons died in the camps of the GULAG. We have data to the effect that some 86,582 people perished in prisons between 1939 and 1951. (We do not yet know exactly how many died in labor colonies.) We also know that, between 1930 and 1952-1953, 786,098 “counter-revolutionaries” were executed (or, according to another source, more than 775,866 persons “on cases of the police” and for “political crimes”). Finally, we know that, from 1932 through 1940, 389,521 peasants died in places of “kulak” resettlement. Adding these figures together would produce a total of a little more than 2.3 million, but this can in no way be taken as an exact number. First of all, there is a possible overlap between the numbers given for GULAG camp deaths and “political” executions as well as between the latter and other victims of the 1937-1938 mass purges and perhaps also other categories falling under police jurisdiction. Double-counting would deflate the 2.3 million figure. On the other hand, the 2.3 million does not include several suspected categories of death in custody. It does not include, for example, deaths among deportees during and after the war as well as among categories of exiles other than “kulaks.” Still, we have some reason to believe that the new numbers for GULAG and prison deaths, executions as well as deaths in peasant exile, are likely to bring us within a much narrower range of error than the estimates proposed by the majority of authors who have written on the subject.

Table 2. Age and Gender Structure of GULAG Population (as of January 1 of each year)

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We now have some information about the demographic composition of the GULAG’s prisoners. In terms of gender, there are few surprises. As Table 2 shows, women constituted a minority of hard regime camp inmates, although their share reached almost 13 percent by 1943 and 24 percent by 1945. They accounted for no more than 11 percent of the people prosecuted by the court system until the late 1930s, then the demographic situation of the war years increased their part to more than 40 percent by 1944; and, even though this proportion diminished afterward, it did not descend below 20 percent until 1955.

As we look at Table 2, the prominence of persons between 25 and 40 years of age among labor camp inmates is not surprising. A shift can be observed between 1934 and 1940. The generation that grew up in the tumult of war, civil war and revolution and came of age in the New Economic Policy era continued to constitute a cohort more exposed to penal sanctions than the rest of society. Thus people between ages 19 and 24 in 1934 are likely to account for the large over-representation of the age group 25 to 30 in 1937 and of the 31 to 35 cohort on the eve of the war. Those in the 51 to 60 and especially 41 to 50 age ranges, however, seem to be most vulnerable to repression in the wake of crises like collectivization and the Great Purges. The presence of persons between ages 18 and 21 also becomes notable in the camps by March 1940, when they made up 9.3 percent of the inmates (their share in the 1937 population was 6.4 percerit).

In. fact, it gives one pause to reflect that 1.2 percent of strict regime camp detainees were 18 or younger in 1934 and that, by 1941, their share nearly reached the proportion of those between 16 and 18 in the country’s population. From mid-1935 to the beginning of 1940, 155,506 juveniles between the ages of 12 and 18 passed through the labor colonies. Some 68,927 of them had been convicted of a crime and 86,579 had not. The large proportion of unconvicted young detainees indicates that they were likely to be incarcerated by extra-judicial bodies, as was a high proportion of adult inmates not sentenced by courts between 1938 and 1940. Nevertheless, political reasons did not play a predominant role in the conviction of minors. The ordeal of collectivization and the ensuing famine as well as the turmoil of mass migration from countryside to cities dramatically increased the number of orphans, abandoned children, and single-parent house-holds and weakened the family as well as the social integration of some categories of youth. Juvenile delinquency became a serious concern for the authorities by the spring of 1935, when they ordered that the courts were entitled to apply “all penal sanctions” to children having reached 12 years and guilty of “theft, violence, bodily harm, mutilation, murder and attempted murder.”

Records show that 10,413 youngsters between 12 and 16 years of age were sentenced by the courts of the Russian Federation in the second half of 1935 and

the first half of 1936; 77.7 percent of them were accused of theft (as opposed to 43.8 percent of those in the 16 to 18 group) and 7.1 percent of violent crimes. At this time, when the overall proportion of custodial sentences did not exceed 44 percent in the republic, 63.5 percent of the youngest offenders (and 59.4 percent between 16 and 18) were sent to detention. In addition, there was a tendency to apply the 1935 decree to infractions it did not cover; thus, despite instructions to the contrary, 43 juveniles were sentenced for alleged misconduct in office [!] by mid-1936 and 36 youngsters under 16 were so sentenced between 1937 and 1939. The sources show, incidentally, that the procuracy suggested that people below 18 years of age should not be confined in ordinary places of detention, and there is reason to believe that it also vainly protested against a directive of the camp administration stipulating that “the stay of minors in labor colonies is not limited by the terms of court sentences.”

Table 3. Data on 10,366 Juvenile Camp Inmates, April 1, 1939

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At any rate, 24,700 children and adolescents up to 16 years of age appeared in courts in 1938 and 33,000 in the course of the following year, an increase that reflects a hardening penal practice. Table 3 indicates, however, that even if juveniles could be detained for political reasons, this motive did not account for a high proportion of the youngest camp inmates, even in the wake of the Great Purges. Although these data denote a tendency to imprison juveniles almost in the same proportions as adults if they were accused of the most serious crimes, they also show the penal system’s proclivity to impose custodial sentences on youngsters more readily than on grown-ups.

Table 4 shows the national origin of the majority of labor camp inmates on January 1, 1937-1940, alongside the ethnic composition of the USSR according to the working materials of the (suppressed) 1937 and (published) 1939 censuses. In comparison with their weight in the general population, Russians, Belorussians, Turkmen, Germans, and Poles were over-represented in the camps by 1939; Germans and Poles being especially hard-hit. On the other hand, Ukrainians, Jews, Central Asians (except Turkmen) and people from the Caucasus were less represented in the GULAG system than in the population of the country; as national groups, they suffered proportionately less in the 1937-1938 terror.

Table 4. Ethnic Groups in GULAG Camps, January 1, 1937-1940

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If ethnic groups for whom camp figures are unavailable in 1937 were too weakly represented to be counted, then Table 4 accurately demonstrates the statistical impact of the terror on different nationalities. Because we know that the party/state administration was heavily staffed by Russians and that many members of the party elite and economic leadership were of Polish and German background, the changes in the ethnic composition seem to indicate a terror aimed more at the elite than at particular national groups per se. To be sure, a sizable proportion of citizens of Polish and German origin living in border areas suffered several waves of “cleansing” for their alleged unreliability. In addition, wherever they resided, they were likely to be accused of political sympathies with states with which relations were strained, especially at a time when the authorities suspected fifth columns throughout the country and ordered a clampdown on “spies and nationalists.” This circumstance must have contributed to the fact that, in early 1939, when GULAG inmates made up 0.77 percent of the country’s population, some 2.7 percent and 1.3 percent of these ethnic groups were in hard regime camps, as well as about 1.3 percent of all Koreans, 1.7 percent of all Estonians, 1.9 percent of all Finns, and 3.2 percent of all Lithuanians, compared to approximately 0.85 percent of all Belorussians, 0.84 percent of all Russians, 0.65 percent of all Ukrainians, and 0.61 percent of all Jews. The national group suffering the most in proportional terms was the Latvians, who were heavily represented in the party and state administration and of whose total census population a staggering 3.7 percent was in strict regime camps alone. The hypothesis of an increasingly anti-elite orientation of the penal policy is supported by data on the educational levels of labor camp inmates. Table 5 shows the educational background of hard regime camp inmates on January 1, 1937, alongside educational levels for the population as a whole in 1937. Even allowing for the rise in educational levels in the general population between 1937 and 1940, it seems clear that the purge hit those with higher educational levels more severely. Although less educated common folk heavily outnumbered the “intelligentsia” in the camps, those who had studied in institutions of higher or secondary education were proportionally nearly twice as numerous in the GULAG system as they were in society at large, while those with elementary (or no) education were under-represented.

Table 5. Educational Levels of the GULAG Population versus the USSR as a Whole, 1937

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Moreover, in the years spanning the Great Terror, the proportion of the camp population with some education rose significantly, while that of less educated people declined. From 1934 to 1941, the segment of the camp population with higher education tripled and the proportion with secondary education doubled. Again, however, care must be used in interpreting these data, because educational levels in the population as a whole were increasing steadily during the decade of the 1930s. We lack detailed annual education data for the period and especially statistics on the share of people with college and high school instruction in the population of the late 1930s and early l940s. Thus it would be dangerous to draw firm conclusions, even though the available evidence strongly suggests that the terror intensified against the educated elite. It comprised 12.8 percent of the population of hard regime camps by 1941, compared to 6.3 percent in 1934. As Table 6 indicates, the number of detainees with higher and secondary education grew much faster than the rest of the GULAG population.

It is commonly believed that most of the prisoners of the “Gulag Archipelago” had been arrested and sentenced for political offenses falling under one of the headings of “counterrevolutionary offenses” (Article 58 in the criminal code). It is also common wisdom that many people arrested for other reasons were accused of political crimes for propaganda value. The available evidence does not bear out this view, but it does suggest considerable ambiguity in definitions of “political crimes.” Table 7 shows the breakdown of labor camp inmates for selected years, according to the offense for which they were sentenced. Although the presence of alleged counterrevolutionaries is impressive, it turns out that ostensibly non-political detainees heavily outnumbered “politicals.”

Table 6. Percentage of Increase in Detainees by Educational background in GULAG Camps

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In view of the murderous campaign of 1932-1933 against pilferers of state and collective farm property. and of the fact that in 1951 the number of prisoners convicted for this offense largely outstripped that of all categories of “counterrevolutionaries,” their share seems at first glance suspiciously low in Table 7, especially in 1940. One explanation for the relatively low proportion of inmates convicted under the “Law of August 7, 1932”-which had prescribed the death penalty or ten years of hard labor for theft of state property-is an unpublished decree of January 1936 ordering the review of the cases of all inmates convicted under the terms of this Draconian law before 1935. The overwhelming majority of these people had been condemned between 1932 and 1934, and four-fifths of this cohort saw their sentences reduced by August 1936 (including 40,789 people who were immediately released). Another possible explanation is that many people benefited from a directive reorienting the drive against major offenders and from reviews of their convictions that led by the end of 1933 to modifications of 50 percent of the verdicts from the previous seventeen months. This state of affairs seems to account for the considerable confusion in the records concerning the implementation of the “Law of August 7” and for the fact that, while claiming that the number of persons sentenced under its terms was between 100,000 and 180,000, officials were reluctant to advance exact figures even as late as the spring of 1936.

Table 7. Offenses of GULAG Population (by percent as of January 1 of each year)

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The category of “socially harmful and dangerous elements” and the manner it was put to use must also warn us not to accept the definitions of “counter-revolutionaries” in our sources. Article 7 of the penal code stated that “to persons having committed socially dangerous acts or representing danger through their relation(s) with the criminal milieu or through their past activities, measures of social defense of a judicial-corrective, medical or medico-pedagogical character are applied.” Nevertheless, it failed to specify penalties except to indicate in Article 35 that these persons could be subjected to internal exile, without giving the slightest hint of the sentences courts were entitled to pass. The definition of the offense and the corresponding penalty were more than vague, but this did not prevent extra-judicial bodies of the secret police from singling out “harmful” and “dangerous” people among “recidivists [and] persons associated with the criminal milieu conducting a parasitic way of life etc.” This information comes from an appeal Co the top leadership by the procurator general, who was proposing to restrict the sentencing powers of the NKVD Special Board at the beginning of 1936 but not insofar as “dangerous elements” were concerned.

Although the procurator of the USSR, Andrei Vyshinskii, valued procedural precision, his office does not appear to have objected to the launching in August 1937 of a lethal “mass operation” targeting “criminals (bandits, robbers, recidivist thieves, professional smugglers, recidivist swindlers, cattle

thieves) engaged in criminal activities and associated with the criminal milieu)”-whether or not they were actually guilty of any specific offense at the moment-and connecting these common criminals to a wide range of supposedly “anti-Soviet” and “counter-revolutionary” groups, from “kulaks” to former members of forbidden political parties, former oppositionists, and alleged terrorists. Clearly, the regime saw a political threat in the conduct, and indeed in the sheer existence, of “dangerous” persons. The secret directive of 1937 was no dead letter: the records suggest that it led to the arrest of a great number of people. some of whom were hardly more than notorious hooligans and yet were sometimes sent to the firing squad.

Some 103,513 “socially harmful and dangerous elements” were held in hard regime camps as of January 1937, and the number grew to 285,831 in early 1939, when, as Table 3 shows, they made up a record 21.7 percent of all detainees (and 56.9 percent of juvenile detainees). But the proportion (and also the number) of “dangerous” persons began to decline by January 1940 and that of “hooligans” started to rise, until the size of their contingent came close to that of the “harmful elements” by 1941, in part because of toughened legislation concerning rowdies. A total of 108,357 persons were sentenced in 1939 for “hooliganism”; in the course of the next year, 199,813 convicts fell into this category. But by 1948, the proportion of “hooligans” among camp inmates was 2.1 percent, whereas that of “dangerous elements” fell to 0.1 percent. No doubt the same offense in the 1930s could be regarded as “socially dangerous” and in the 1940s as “hooliganism.”

“Socially harmful” people may have been victims of political repression, but it would be far-fetched to presume that the unjust punishment they received was a response to conscious acts of opposition to the regime. Having observed this, we must remember that the great majority of those sentenced for “counter-revolu-tionary offenses” had never committed any act deliberately directed against the Soviet system and even continued to remain faithful to the Bolshevik cause, notwithstanding their victimization. From this point of view, the regime’s distinction between “political” and “non-political” offenders is of doubtful relevance.Unless we are prepared to accept broad Stalinist definitions of “counterrevolutionary” offenses or the equally tendentious Western categorization of all arrests during Stalin’s time (even those for crimes punishable in any society) as political, we should devise ways to separate ordinary criminality from genuine opposition to the system as well as from other reasons for which people were subjected to penal repression.

At any rate, the Appendix figures show that from 1934 to 1953, a minority of the labor camp inmates had been formallv convicted of “counterrevolutionary crimes.” Our data on sentencing policy are incomplete for the period before 1937, but they permit us to advance some estimates of orders of magnitude. Thus we can calculate that only about 11 percent of the more than 5.3 million persons sentenced by courts and extrajudicial bodies between 1933 and 1935 represented “cases of the OGPU/NKVD” of which. as we have seen, a relatively high proportion had not been considered “political.” Some 28 percent of the almost 5 million people convicted by various courts and NKVD boards in 1937-1939 were sentenced “from cases of the security police,” mostly under the pretext of “counterrevolutionary offenses.” But while the judiciary and the Special Board of the NKVD/MVD subjected nearly 31 million persons to penalties in the period 1940-1952, only 4.8 percent (though a sizable 1.5 million persons) fell under Article 58. By contrast, more than twice as many (11 percent) of all people sentenced in these years were charged with appropriating public property.

Table 8. GULAG Population according to Sentencing Authority (Percentages as of January 1)

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It turns out that by far the largest group of those sentenced between 1940 and 1952 consisted of people accused of violating laws devised to strengthen labor discipline, ranging from unauthorized absence from work to dodging mobilization for work in agriculture, to failing to meet the compulsory minimum of work in the collective farm. Although the judiciary jargon called them “wartime decrees,” most of them remained in force until 1956. More than 17 million people had been convicted under their terms between 1940 and 1952 (albeit “only” 3.9 million of them were sentenced to detention), comprising half (55.3 percent) of all the period’s sentences. One may wonder if acts infringing on proprietary prerogatives and labor relations in a state that is virtually the only proprietor and practically the only employer do not bear some relation to politics. But if we leave aside this dilemma as well as the year 1936, for which our data are too fragmentary, we can conclude that, on the whole, only about 8.4 percent of the sentences of courts and extra-judicial bodies were rendered “on cases of the secret police” and for alleged political reasons between 1933 and 1953.

From 1934, when many believe the terror was mounting, to 1937-1938, the camp proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” actually declined. Table 8 shows that so did the proportion in the strict regime camp population of those who had been sent there by specific police bodies.

Even though the number of people convicted “on cases of the NKVD” more than tripled from 1934 to 1935, a careful look at the sources shows that many sentences had hardly anything to do with “political” cases. Data on the arrested “counterrevolutionaries” show a 17 percent growth due to an increase in the number of people accused of “anti-Soviet agitation” by a factor of 2.6. As for sentences in 1935, 44.6 percent of them were rendered by regional NKVD “troikas” (tribunals), which did not deal with “political” affairs. Another 43 percent were passed by regular courts, but fewer than 35,000 of the more than 118,000 people concerned had been “counterrevolutionaries.” To be sure, the quantity of “political” sentences increased, compared to the previous year. In 1936, however, the NKVD arrested the same number of “counterrevolutionaries” as in 1934, which does not seem to show steadily intensifying political repression. Similarly, the continually decreasing number of people shot in cases initiated by the secret police and the constantly diminishing share (as well as aggregate number) of “counterrevolutionaries” in hard regime camps between 1934 and 1937 casts doubt on the idea of “mounting” repression in this period.

The abolition of the OGPU, a degree of uncertainty concerning the sentencing privileges of the new NKVD, and attempts to transfer the bulk of “political” cases to the jurisdiction of military tribunals as well as to the special boards of regional courts and the Supreme Court suggest that the penal policy of more or less ordinary judicial instances, whose statistics are available, is indicative of the general trend of 1935-1936. The data are unfortunately incomplete, but we have information on at least 30,174 “counterrevolutionaries” who were sentenced by civilian and military courts in 1935, in the wake of the Kirov assassination, and on 19,080 people who were prosecuted by the same courts for supposedly political offenses in the first half of the next year. Most of this growth is attributable to the increased frequency of “anti-Soviet agitation,” which accounted for 46.8 percent of the cases before the courts of the Russian Federation in the first six months of 1935, and 71.9 percent in the corresponding period of the next year. The loose application of this charge did not always sit well in high places, and the people’s commissar of justice along with the prosecutor general warned top decision-makers of the consequences of an excessive use of the more than vague legislation on “counterrevolutionary agitation.” The prosecutor general had a heated exchange of letters with the head of the security police that raised the possibility of limiting NKVD jurisdiction in this matter.

There was a tendency to diminish rather than inflate the share of “political” cases in 1936. Even the chairman of the ominous Military Collegium of the Supreme Court noted in December 1936 that the number of “counterrevolutionaries” convicted by his bench and its subordinate courts in the first nine months of the year was 34.4 percent less than in the same period of 1935. The number of prosecutions had grown only for two categories of crimes. Characteristically enough, these were espionage and sabotage, and their frequency increased, especially in the third quarter of 1936.

It is from that time, late 1936, and not from late 1934 that the number of “counterrevolutionaries” (as well as the cohort sentenced by the NKVD) began to swell dramatically, above all in the wake of the launching of wholesale “mass operations” during the summer of 1937 that victimized “socially harmful” people alongside a wide range of purported political delinquents. The documents that ordered the mass “repression of former kulaks, criminals, and anti-Soviet elements” through decisions of newly organized “Special Troikas” of the secret police specified that the operation had to be completed within four months and even set “control figures” for the numbers of people to be shot and imprisoned. The relevant instruction foresaw 72,950 executions and 186,500 new detainees as the outcome of the drive and stipulated that the numerical targets were not to be exceeded without authorization of the Moscow headquarters of the NKVD.

Nothing indicates that the operation enjoyed a more orderly implementation than any other campaign in the Soviet system of planning. Available documentation on the course of the action is fragmentary, but it shows that after mid-February 1938, when according to the initial orders the operation should have been over for more than two months, the chief of the NKVD requested additional funding for the detention and transportation of about twice the number of people spoken about in the original directives. Moreover, the “Special Troikas” had largely “overfulfilled plans” by this time, having doomed 688,000 people before the end of 1937. Similarly, the expectations of the NKVD boss proved equally low compared to the 413,433 persons actually subjected to the jurisdiction of the local “troikas” in 1938. Local enthusiasm outstripped the expectations of the center.

In general, the leadership of the terror was not very good at predicting events. In December of 1936, NKVD chief N. I. Ezhov issued a secret order to the effect that the number of inmates at SEVVOSTLAG (Kolyma) should be 70,000 in 1937 and 1938. (This was its population as of July 1936.) But this “plan” was overfulfilled by 20,000 in the second half of 1937, and by the end of 1938 the camp housed 138,170, twice the planned level. Characteristically, as late as February 1938, the GULAG administration was at a loss to give the exact number of victims falling under its authority nationally.

Some local camp commandants found the numbers of convicts modest by the early months of 1938 and bombarded Moscow with telegrams asking for a larger “labor force,” probably because their production plans were calculated on the basis of larger contingents than the ones at their disposal. Still, hundreds of thousands of new inmates arrived after the summer of 1937 to camps unprepared to accommodate them. At the moment when the head of the secret police was applying for an increase in the NKVD budget to receive a new influx of prisoners, reports of the procurator general-who was supposed to supervise penal institutions-painted a dreary picture of the lack of elementary conditions of survival in the GULAG system as well as of starvation, epidemic disease, and a high death rate among those already there. The year 1938 saw the second highest mortality in hard regime camps before the war and probably also in prisons and labor colonies, where 36,039 deaths were recorded, compared to 8,123 in 1937 and 5,884 in 1936.

Returning to the question of plan and control over the purge, we find a letter in which the NKVD chief promised to improve the poor camp conditions, yet he reported figures for the increase in GULAG population different from the data reported by his own administration. Evidence also suggests that the NKVD and the Central Committee issued directives during the drive that were incompatible with each other. In addition, there is at least one republic on record, that of Belorussia, where vigilant local officials continued mass shootings for a time even after an order was dispatched calling for an end to the wholesale purge

Although the theoretical capacity of the prisons in Turkmenistan was put at 1,844 places, 6,796 people had been locked up in them at the beginning of 1938, and 11,538 by May; this was clearly unanticipated in Moscow. The dimensions the campaign reached in the republic explains the over-representation of Turkmen among camp inmates. Other ethnic groups also suffered-at one time, all of Ashkhabad’s 45 Greek residents were arrested as members of an “insurrectionary organization.” The NKVD chief of the republic prescribed “control figures for cases of espionage [and] sabotage” as well as specific “limits” for the number of arrests to celebrate May Day, which suggests that after a while, the operation was farmed out to regional heads of the secret police. A fife at a factory became an occasion to meet “quotas” for sabotage by arresting everybody who happened to be there and forcing them to name their “accomplices” (whose number soon exceeded one hundred persons). If nothing else worked, it was always possible to round up people having the bad luck to be at the marketplace, where a beard made one suspect of the “crime” of being a mullah and where more than 1,200 “counterrevolutionaries” were seized in a matter of five months. Mock executions and incredibly savage torture were used in Turkmenistan to wring out confessions to all sorts of “subversive acts” and “organizations.” To be sure, neither torture nor trumped-up cases was a Turkmen monopoly: the records show that both became widespread in the wake of the wholesale purge the “Special Troikas” spearheaded.

This state of affairs illustrates the problems posed by our sources on the question of “politicals.” A person arrested for his “suspicious” Polish origin or shot because of having been married to a Pole in the past was no doubt accused of being a “counterrevolutionary.” We can also only wonder how many victims shared the fate of namesakes and were sentenced to long terms or shot as alleged former members of defunct parties. How many people were like the peasant who had been condemned “merely” to ten years but whose paperwork slipped in among that of people slated for capital punishment? (He was shot with them.)

Probably, most such people figure in our data on “politicals,” even if some of the mistakenly executed were listed under the heading of their original “non-political” sentences.

Last but not least, there was the purge of the purgers: how “counterrevolutionary” were the great number of officials of the NKVD and the judiciary who were denounced for “anti-Soviet activities” after November 1938, when the Central Committee abolished the “troikas,” called off the purge, and decided that “enemies of the people and spies having made their way” into the secret police and the procuracy had been responsible for the terror of the preceding period ? Many of these “hostile elements”were sentenced as “politicals,” just as the majority of those they had cruelly mistreated, although they continued to protest their fidelity to the regime until the very end.

Figure B: “Political” Crimes as Proportion of GULAG Population, 1934-1953

Image2But whatever we think about “counterrevolutionaries,” their identified cohort constituted 34.5 percent of the camp population by 1939. This was not their largest share in the pre-war period: at the beginning of 1932, people sentenced for “political” reasons in what corresponded then to hard regime camps comprised 49 percent of the inmates. The widespread recourse to capital punishment in 1937-1938 is responsible for holding the proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” under 50 percent until 1946. The percentage then declined again, probably as the result of a renewed offensive against pilferers of public property. If we superimpose the numbers of purportedly political inmates on the oscillating population of the labor camps from year to year, we find that while the proportion of “counterrevolutionaries” fluctuated, their aggregate numbers remained remarkably constant from 1939 until Stalin’s death (Figure B). This suggests that, numerically, a cohort of “politicals” was taken into the camps at the time of the Great Terror and remained relatively constant in future years.

The time of the great purges (1936-1939), as Figure C indicates, was numerically not the period of greatest repression. even if we take into account the masses of people shot in 1937-1938 and the much less frequent recourse to capital punishment from the late 1940s. Annual numbers of detainees were greater after World War II, reaching a peak shortly before Stalin’s death. If we extract the war years from the trend, we find that the picture is one of steadily increasing repression throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Figure C: GULAG and Colony Populations, 1934-1953

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Looking specifically at the hard regime camp populations (Figure C and the Appendixes), we find that in the twenty years from 1934 through 1953, the annual population increased in fourteen of the years and dropped in six. Of the six declining years, four were wartime; we know that approximately 975,000 GULAG inmates (and probably also a large number of persons from labor colonies) were released to military service. Nevertheless, the war years were not good ones for the GULAG. First, many of those released to the army were assigned to punitive or “storm” formations, which suffered the heaviest casualties. Second, at the beginning of the war, prominent political prisoners were transferred and isolated in the most remote and severe camps in the system and most “politicals” were specifically barred from release to the military. Third, of the 141,527 detainees who had been in jails and evacuated during the first months of the war from territories soon to be occupied by the enemy, 11,260 were executed. Fourth, in the first three years of the war, 10,858 inmates of the GULAG camps were shot, ostensibly for being organizers of underground camp organizations.

Finally, wartime life became harder for the remaining camp residents. More than half of all GULAG deaths in the entire 1934-1953 period occurred in 1941-1943, mostly from malnutrition. The space allotment per inmate in 1942 was only one square meter per person, and work norms were increased. Although rations were augmented in 1944 and inmates given reduced sentences for overfillng their work quotas, the calorie Content of their daily provision was still 30 percent less than in the pre-war period. Obviously, the greatest privation, hunger, and number of deaths among GULAG inmates, as for the general Soviet population, occurred during the war.

The other years of significant population decrease in the camps were 1936 and 1953-1954. In 1936, the number of persons in both the GULAG system and labor colonies declined, as did the proportion of those incarcerated for “counterrevolution” and on sentences of the NKVD. Similarly, while the aggregate numbers of detainees were generally increasing between 1934 and 1937, the rate of increase was falling. In 1953, the year that saw the deaths of both Stalin and his secret police chief L. P. Beria, more than half of the GU LAG inmates were freed.

We have fairly detailed data about the internal movement of persons-arrivals, transfers, deaths, and escapes-inside the strict regime camp network (see the Appendixes and Figure D). They confirm Solzhenitsyn’s metaphor that this was a universe in “perpetual motion.” Large numbers of persons were constantly entering and leaving the system. During the 1934-1953 period, in any given year, 20-40 percent of the inmates were released, many times more than died in the same year. Even in the terrible year of 1937, 44.4 percent of the GULAG labor camp population on January 1 was freed during the course of the year. Until 1938-1939, there were also significant numbers of escapes from the hard regime camps. In any year before 1938, more of the GULAG inmates fled the camps than died there. A total of about 45,000 fugitives were on record in the spring of 1934, a year when a record number of 83,000 detainees took flight. Between 1934 and 1953, 378,375 persons escaped from the GULAG camps. Of them, 233,823 were recaptured, and the remaining 38 percent made good their escape. The data show, however, that the number of escapes fell sharply beginning in 1938, as Stalin with Ezhov and then with Beria tightened camp regimes and security.

Figure D: GULAG Population Shifts, 1934-1953

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The data also indicate that the average length of sentence increased in the last years before the war. The longer terms “counterrevolutionaries” were likely to receive must have contributed to the growth of the proportion of people serving more than five years. However, Table 9 suggests that despite a notable drop in the share of long terms meted out by the courts-the sentencing policy for inmates of hard regime camps came closer by the late 1930s to the one applied to “politicals” around mid-decade.

Even if most camp convicts were “non-political,” were only serving sentences of up to five years, and hundreds of thousands were released every year, the GULAG camps were horrible places. Work was hard, rations were barely adequate, and living conditions were harsh. The inmates were exposed to the exactions of fellow prisoners and especially to the cruelty of the guards. Behind our figures lies the suffering of millions of people.

Table 9. Length of Sentences during Stalinist Repression, 1935-1940 (by percent)

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The long-awaited archival evidence on repression in the period of the GreatPurges shows that levels of arrests, political prisoners, executions, and general camp populations tend to confirm the orders of magnitude indicated by those labeled as “revisionists” and mocked by those proposing high estimates. Some suspicions about the nature of the terror cannot be sustained, others can now be confirmed. Thus inferences that the terror fell particularly hard on non-Russian nationalities are not borne out by the camp population data from the 1930s. The frequent assertion that most of the camp prisoners were “political” also seems not to be true. On the other hand, the new evidence can support the View, reached previously by statistical study and evidence of other types, that the terror was aimed at the Soviet elite. It also confirms the conclusions of authors who had studied the available sources and shown the uncertainties of legal theory and penal practice in the 1930s. In addition, it seems that much of the process was characterized by high-level confusion and by local actions in excess of central plans.

The Stalinist penal system can be profitably studied with the same sociological tools we use to analyze penal structures elsewhere. It contained large numbers of common criminals serving relatively short sentences, many of whom were released each year and replaced by newly convicted persons. It included a wide variety of sanctions, including non-custodial ones. For most of those drawn into it, it was in fact a penal system: a particularly harsh, cruel, and arbitrary one, to be sure, but not necessarily a one-way ticket to oblivion for the majority of inmates.

Yet it is also important to highlight three specific features. For the first, the use of, capital punishment among the “measures of social defense” sets Soviet penal practices apart from those of other systems, even though the number of executions shows a sharp decrease after the dreadful dimensions in 1937-1938. Second, the detention system in the second half of the 1930s (and perhaps at other times) was directed against educated members of the elite. Third, it had a clearly political purpose and was used by the regime to silence real and imagined opponents.

Our attempt to examine the repression of the Stalin period from the point of view of social history and penology is not meant to trivialize the suffering it inflicted or to imply that it was “no better or worse” than in other authoritarian states. Although repression and terror imply issues of politics and morality, above all for those who perpetrate or justify them, we believe that scholars can also study them as a question of historical precision. The availability of flew data permits us to establish more accurately the number and character of victims of the terror and to analyze the Stalinist repressive system on the basis of specific data rather than relying on the impressions and speculations of novelists and poets. We are finally in a position to begin a documented analysis of this dismal aspect of the Soviet past.

A Note on Sources

The GARF (TsGAOR) collection we used was that of the GULAG, the Main Camp Administration of the NKVD/MVD (the USSR Ministry of the Interior). This collection consists of nine inventories (opisi), the first of which, that of the Secretariat, contains the main body of accessible data on detainees. To be sure, it was not possible to scrutinize the more than 3,000 files of this opis’, so we restricted ourselves to those that promised to tell the most about camp populations.

Accurate overall estimates of numbers of victims are difficult to make because of the fragmentary and dispersed nature of record keeping. Generally speaking, we have runs of quantitative data of several types: on arrests, formal charges and accusations, sentences, and camp populations. But these “events” took place under the jurisdiction of a bewildering variety of institutions, each with its own statistical compilations and reports. These agencies included the several organizations of the secret police (NKVD special tribunals, known as troikas, special collegia, or the special conference [osoboe soveshchanie]), the procuracy, the regular police, and various types of courts and tribunals.

For example, archival data on sentences for “anti-Soviet agitation” held in different archival collections may or may not have explicitly aggregated such events by the NKVD and the civilian courts. Summary data on “political” arrests or sentences may or may not explicitly tell us what specific crimes were so defined. Aggregate data on sentences sometimes include persons who were “sentenced” (to exile or banishment from certain cities) but never formally “arrested”; when we compare sentencing and arrest data, therefore, we do not always have the information necessary to sort apples from oranges. Similarly, our task is complicated, as shown above, by the fact that many agencies sentenced people to terms in the GULAG for many different types of crimes, which were variously defined and categorized. We believe, however, that despite the lack of this information, we now have enough large chunks of data to outline the parameters and to bring the areas for which we lack data within a fairly narrow range of possibility.

Further research is needed to locate the origins of inconsistencies and possible errors, especially when differences are significant. We must note, however, that the accuracy of Soviet records on much less mobile populations does not seem to give much hope that we can ever clarify all the issues. For instance, the Department of Leading Party Cadres of the Central Committee furnished different figures for the total party membership and for its ethnic composition as of January 1, 1937, in two documents that were nevertheless compiled about the same time. Yet another number was given in published party statistics. The conditions of “perpetual movement” in the camp system created even greater difficulties than those posed by keeping track of supposedly disciplined party members who had just seen two major attempts to improve the bookkeeping practices of the party.

At times, tens of thousands of inmates were listed in the category of “under way” in hard regime camp records, although the likelihood that some of them would die before leaving jail or during the long and tortuous transportation made their departure and especially their arrival uncertain. The situation is even more complicated with labor colonies, where, at any given moment, a considerable proportion of prisoners was being sent or taken to other places of detention, where a large number of convicts served short terms, and where many people had been held pending their investigation, trial, or appeal of their sentences. The sources are fragmentary and scattered on colonies, but it seems that A. N. Dugin’s attempt (see the Appendixes) to find figures for the beginning of each year – which was checked by V. N. Zemskov – yielded rather accurate results. Even so, we are not certain that errors have not slipped in.

Moreover, we do not know at the time of this writing if camp commandants did not inflate their reports on camp populations to receive higher budgetary allocations by including people slated for transfer to other places, prisoners who were only expected to arrive, and even the dead. Conversely, they may have reported low figures in order to secure easily attainable production targets.

We made extensive use of a series of statistics that were compiled about 1949 and that followed the evolution of a great number of parameters from 1934 tip to 1948. We indicated some instances in which current periodic reports of the accounting department furnished slightly different figures from those of 1949 (see the notes to Tables 3, 4, and 6) and one case in which an NKVD document in 1936 gave data similar to but not entirely identical with those calculated after the war (note to Table 8). In these as well as in most other instances, the gaps are insignificant and do not call into question the orders of magnitude suggested by the postwar documents, whose figures are, as a rule, somewhat higher than the ones recorded in the 1930s. A notable exception concerns escapes, because a 1939 report mentioned almost twice as many fugitives for 1938 as the relevant table of 1949. Although we have no explanation for this discrepancy at this moment, we can speculate that the fact that a 1939 medical report showed lower mortality figures in hard regime camps in the years between 1934 and 1939 than the 1949 account may be because the latter also includes people who had been executed.

Another source we relied on consists of four tables concerning people arrested and sentenced “on cases of the secret police” from 1921 through the first half of 1953. A peculiarity of the document is that while enumerating sentences and arrests up to 1938, it lists fewer people arrested in 1935 and 1936 than sentenced. All the while quoting the same figure for 1935 detentions as does our source, a letter signed by the head of the NKVD also speaks of more persons against whom “proceedings [had been] instituted” than those arrested. We know that some of the victims of the “cleansing” of border zones and major urban centers of “socially alien elements” had been arrested before being bankhed to faraway localities, although most of them seem to have been exiled without arrest by decisions of the NKVD jurisdiction. We also have information in this period about defendants in affairs of “anti-Soviet” agitation who had been left free pending their trial, as well as instances of the judiciary asking the police to “resolve by administrative order” cases in which there was no legal ground for conviction, a good many of which were not necessarily initiated by the NKVD.

We cannot stress enough the fact that this is only the first exploration of a huge and complex set of sources; little more than scales, ranges, and main trends of evolution can now be established. Although the above-mentioned circumstances cannot guarantee exactitude, there are good reasons for assuming that the data are reliable on the population of strict regime camps, on orders of magnitude, and on the general orientation of penal policy. There is a remarkable consistency in the way numbers, from different sources, evolve over the period under study and a notable coherence among the figures to which different types of documents refer at particular moments.

Moreover, figures produced by researchers using other archival collections of different agencies show close similarities in scale. Documents of the People’s Commissariat of Finance discuss a custodial population whose size is not different from the one we have established. In the same way, the labor force envisioned by the economic plans of the GULAG, found in the files of the Council of People’s Commissars, does not imply figures in excess of our documentation. Last but not least, the “NKVD contingent” of the 1937 and 1939 censuses is also consistent with the data we have for detainees and exiles.

Appendix A USSR Custodial Populations, 1934-1943

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Appendix B USSR Custodial Populations, 1943-1953

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Note: The 1938 data for the population of colonies also includes prison inmates, who numbered 548,417 on February 10, 1938, and the 1946 population, which contains 444,500 persons sentenced to “corrective work” without detention; GARF (TsGAOR), fond 9414, opis’ 1, delo 330, listy 55; d. 1139, l. 88; d. 1259, l. 18. The figure 1950 for “politcals” includes detainees in labor colonies. Camp and colony data are unavailable for December 31, 1953 and are here replaced by numbers for April 1, 1954, when 448,344 “counterrevolutionaries” were held at these places of detention.

Sources: GARF (TsGAOR), fond 9414, opis’ 1, delo 1155, listy 2-3 (camps and “counterrevolutionaries,” 1934-47); d. 1190, l. 36; d. 1319, ll. 2-15, d. 1356, ll.2-3 (camps and “counterrevolutionaries,” 1948-53); f. 9413, op. 1, d. 11, ll. 1-10 (prisons); A. N. Dugin and A. Ia. Malygin, “Solzhenitsyn, Rybakov: Tekhnologiia Izhi,” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, no. 7, 1991, 68-70 (for colonies: calculations verified by V. N. Zemskov on the basis of GARF (TsGAOR), f. 9414, op. 1, d. 330, l. 55). See also A Note on Sources

Source

Long Live the Union of the Fraternal Slav Peoples? No! Workers of the World, Unite!

KPRF

by Aleksander Budilo

This article from Proletarskaya Gazeta is excellent in its exposure of the bourgeois nationalism of parties such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and other organisations that claim to be communist in the former Soviet Union. Rather than organising the working class against ‘their own’ bourgeoisie, they support the bourgeoisie ‘against’ the U.S. and NATO. However, it is these same bourgeois leaders of the Russian Federation, from Yeltsin to Putin to Medvedev, who have made an alliance with the U.S. and NATO, as is detailed in this article.

Together with unity with their own bourgeoisie, these Russian nationalists disguised as communists take a chauvinist position towards members of oppressed nationalities within Russia, particularly towards people from the Caucasus and Central Asia. This is the other side of the coin of Russian nationalism, which identifies the Russian bourgeoisie as their friend and workers of other nations as their enemy.

In the year since the article was written, the contradictions between U.S. and Russian imperialism have become clearer. This can be seen clearly with the recent war in the Caucasus, and they are certain to become sharper as the inter-imperialist struggle sharpens on a world scale.

Overall the article is an important contribution to the understanding of opportunism and nationalism in the Russian communist movement.

George Gruenthal

To the editorial board of ‘Against the Current’ (PT) come letters from our readers, in which they express their views on the political positions taken by the bulletin, analyse the events taking place in Ukraine and the world and request us to elucidate these and other burning questions.

Thus, Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, from the city of Melitopol, Zaporozhskaya region, writes: ‘Greetings, comrades! I received from you ‘PT’ No. 6; many thanks. The articles are good, but some things are not clear. In particular, about the union of the fraternal peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. The fact is that NATO is getting close to Russia’s borders and there is a danger that Russia will be divided into pieces. In this case the union of fraternal peoples will be impossible’.

The question put by Leonid Konstantinovich is very important and, of course, is of interest not only to him. Therefore it makes sense to discuss it not only in private correspondence, but publically…

If we judge from the last boastful publications in the newspaper of the CC of the Communist Party of Ukraine ‘Communist’ and the newspaper of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers ‘Working Class’, ‘the insidious plans for NATO to advance further towards the East have already been foiled’. And this happened because of the decisive, skillful actions of the united ‘white-blue [pro-Russian nationalist] and red’ forces.

As they say, judge for yourself. First, there was the brilliant joint victory of the pro-Russian patriots and Communists against the landing of the aggressor in Feodosia [town in the Crimea that was the scene of a demonstration against the unloading of a NATO cargo ship in May of 2006 – translator’s note], thanks to which the uninvited guests were forced to return home in disgrace.

Second, an attempt of the so-called Pomaranchevites (i.e., orange – ed.) forces to create an independent pro-Western, pro-NATO coalition in the Supreme Council [Ukrainian Parliament] suffered a complete failure. Neither protégé [of the Orange forces – translator’s note] Yushchenko, nor Yulia Tymoshenko, but Victor Yanukovich became Prime Minister as a result.

A defeat for the West and a victory for Russia in the fight for Ukraine – this is a fact, they claim, which does not require proof.

This is what practically all ‘bull-headed’ people think today – members of the KPU [Communist Party of Ukraine], the white-blue, members of the Union of Soviet Officers, the orthodox MP (Moscow Patriarchate – ed.) and even the majority of the Pomaranchevites. Nevertheless, there is nothing more naive, not to say foolish, than this assertion.

In reality these and many other facts tell us something completely different. The fact is that the strategic partner of the USA, the West and NATO on the territory of the CIS [Confederation of Independent States] is precisely the Russian Federation, not Ukraine or any other state. …

Incapable of comprehending the situation as a whole, the ‘Communist’ philistine today rejoices. Why! Ukraine is slipping away from the predatory paws of the West and NATO!

However, in reality the West is simply playing the game on a large scale. Its position consists of the following: let Russia control Ukraine and other countries of the CIS, and we will control Russia. That is the whole story.

For bourgeois Ukraine there is no alternative to integration into the economic, political and military structures of the West, since Russia itself is intensively moving in the same direction. The question is as follows: should it be integrated independently or under Russian ‘patronage’? It is already clear today that the West can fully accommodate not only the first, but also the second possibility.

Here is the evidence for this, in particular:

1. The calm, one could even say, benevolent reaction to the increase by the Russian Federation in the price of gas for the Ukrainian consumer. The absence of real large-scale material aid to Yushchenko’s team in the solution of economic problems inside the country in order to make the idea of an accelerated independent integration of Ukraine into the economic, political and military structures of the West attractive to the majority of its population, in particular in the industrial southeast.

2. The statements of Western leaders that they are ready to collaborate with any coalition, with any government, which will be created with a majority in the Supreme Council of Ukraine.

3. The leaders of the G-8 countries achieved complete agreement, without confrontation, in St. Petersburg regarding the solution of the most important problems of world policy: Iran, Iraq, North Korea. Recognition of the Russian Federation as a democratic country by Putin’s partners in the G-8. Absence by members of the G-8 of serious claims on Russia in regard to its relations with Georgia, Ukraine, Chechnya and so on.

The assertion that the West, the USA and NATO are supposedly interested in the disintegration and splitting up of the Russian Federation is unfounded for the following reasons.

First, Russia today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. At this time the Russian Federation does not represent a threat to the USA, the West or NATO, neither in the political, economic or military sense. After the liquidation of the Warsaw Pact, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance [COMECON], the splitting up of the Soviet Union and the so-called socialist camp, the Russian Federation proved to be a second-rate imperialist power, which concentrated on the solution of the numerous internal problems of the CIS.

Second, the capitalist West and capitalist Russia have much more in common (at the present time – ed.) than that which separates and contradicts their interests. The Russian Federation is one of the main suppliers to the West of sources of energy (gas and oil), ferrous and nonferrous metals, chemical products, wood and other such items. The splitting up of Russia, in particular the separation of western and eastern Siberia from the European part of the country, would inevitably put the stability of supply of these items of strategic importance for Western production in danger.

At the recent summit of Russia and the European Union in Sochi, we read in the newspaper ‘Communist’ of No. 47 dated June 14, that Vladimir Putin stated that Russia ‘was, is and will be’ the reliable supplier of sources of energy to Europe. He also proposed to the European companies that he would grant access to the Russian gas-pipeline monopoly under condition that reciprocal steps by the European countries for the admission of Russian companies to the European energy infrastructure will follow. …

Third, today the Russian Federation is a huge market for the sale of commodities by Western Europe and the USA. Today Russia supplies the West with basic raw material and imports finished products. In this sense a united and stable Russia is one of the important conditions for the stable development of Western industry. …

The fact that … the integration processes between the West and Russia are developing not only in the economic, but also in the political and even the military sphere, is witnessed by the inclusion of Russia in the club of powers which today determine the world order (G-8). Beginning in 1991, the Russian Federation has been intensively developing its relations with NATO. Here are the basic steps in this process:

1991 – Russia joins the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.
1994 – Russia joins the programme ‘Partnership for Peace’.
1996 – A Russian peacekeeping contingent is deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (together with NATO – ed.).
1997 – The Founding Act is signed in Paris and the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) is created.
1998 – The Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO is opened.
2001 – The NATO Information Bureau is opened in Moscow.
2002 – NATO opens its Military Liaison Mission in Moscow. The Rome Declaration is signed and the NATO-Russia Council (of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs) (NRC) is created.
2003 – The NATO-Russia Council meets for the first time in Moscow. …

The struggle (so-called – ed.) of the left parties in Ukraine (KPU, PSPU [Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine], SPU [Socialist Party of Ukraine]) against NATO and for the notorious union of fraternal Slav peoples in reality is only one of the forms of struggle of big capital for its own interests in the southeast of Ukraine, closely related to the transnational corporations of the Russian Federation. This found its political expression in the alliance of the KPU and SPU with the Party of the Regions of Yanukovich and in the struggle of the Regions with the Pomaranchevites for control of parliament and the cabinet of ministers. As far as the entry of ‘Our Ukraine’ into the parliamentary majority is concerned, it will not weaken but only strengthen the positions of the Regions in the Supreme Council. The Party of Regions will be able to carry out those decisions, against which the KPUniks (KPU and their supporters – ed.) will come out, with the aid of the faction ‘Our Ukraine’, and unacceptably for ‘Ours’ (‘Our Ukraine’ – ed.) the laws and decrees of the Regions will go through with the aid of the factions of Simonenko and Moroz.

Leonid Constantinovich Nezhivenko, as well as many other members of the KPU, KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation], PSPU, apparently is still feeding hopes for the revival of the USSR and considers the union of Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia as a necessary step on this path. But in reality, the integration of the former republics of the USSR around Russia on a capitalist basis leads to the formation of new and the strengthening of old imperialist unions and alliances; if it is drawing us nearer to something in the long term, it is not to the recreation of the USSR, but to a new world struggle of imperialists.

The bourgeoisie understands well: for the Soviet Union to be revived, as the members of the KPU, KPRF, PSPU and the ranks of other such parties continue to dream – this is as easy as writing on the water with a fork. But the bloc of ‘left’ parties with the parties of the big bourgeoisie of Yanukovich and ‘Our Ukraine’ is already a reality. People like Simonenko and Moroz are crawling out of their skin to prove that they are using the ‘naïve’ bourgeois in their own interests and in the interests of the workers of Ukraine. But all those who think more or less sensibly understand that today it is precisely the big bourgeoisie that is successfully using ‘those who reject narrow party interests’, the ‘constructive ones’, ‘those who think in the interests of the state’, the KPUniks, SPUniks (and, thus, the ones elected by the workers) to solve their class problems. (This once again clearly confirms the class hypocrisy of the revisionists, who in the concrete situation are even formally ready to rise to the side of the bourgeois class – ed.).

Taking into account the logic of the development of the inter-imperialist contradictions, the 180 degree turn in the ideological-political orientation of ‘our’ Ukrainian ‘communist-patriots’ is completely realistic. Today, for example, they come out as ardent champions of Christian Orthodox values, as anti-NATO and anti-Western, but tomorrow they will even more ardently defend the general (Christian) values of the West and Russia in the face of the general threat of the “anti-Christ” from the East. As far as bourgeois Russia is concerned, the main object of nationalist persecution and terror here have already long ago been ‘blacks, coloureds, slant-eyed people’.

– Against whom do the skinheads, the activists of the DPNI (‘Movement Against Illegal Immigration’) and simply ‘patriotic’ citizens turn their anger? On the Americans, Germans, French or English…?

No!

On the Tadzhiks, Africans, Chinese, people of Caucasian nationalities, Jews and so on.

In relation to the former our common man sees himself as a second class person, while in relation to the latter he sees himself as a representative of the superior, WHITE race.

On November 4, 2005 in Moscow the so-called ‘Russian march’ took place organised by the DPNI (with the participation of many members of the KPRF) under the slogans: ‘Russia for the Russians’ and ‘Moscow for the Muscovites’.

(It is remarkable that at approximately the same time the administration of the president of the USA unleashed an active fight in the United States against undocumented immigrants, the majority of whom come from the countries of Latin America. But that was not the end of it. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans came out into the streets of their cities with protest signs. Bush, an ‘activist of the DPNI’ (in essence – ed.) received a worthy rebuff from the popular masses.

In the opinion of the organisers of the ‘Russian march’, the main social contradiction of modern Russian society is the contradiction between the native residents and ‘aliens’, between foreigners and ethnic Russians. They say, if we remove the ‘strangers’ – all the ‘Khachey’ and ‘Churok’ [pejorative terms for people from the Caucasus and Central Asia respectively – translator’s note], then life, you see, will be alright.

A member of the KPRF, Peter Miloserdov, participated in the march. Here is what this so-called ‘Communist’ wrote about this event in his article “Why I took part in the “Russian march”?’:

‘I, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, took part in the “Russian march”, organized in November in Moscow by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. And, I must state, I do not feel sorry about that for a minute. In the columns of the march, which went from Chistiye Prudy to Kitai Gorod, I met several thousand ordinary Muscovites, who wished to leave our rulers with one simple thought: we are just not “Russian citizens”, but ethnic Russians…. We Communists do not have a right to ignore this fact. But this means that before us now stands the complex, but solvable task, written down, by the way, in the programme of the KPRF. Here are the words: ‘The Communist Party of the Russian Federation sees its task as uniting the social-class and national liberation movements into a united mass movement of resistance, giving it a conscious and focused character’. We Communists are leading the social-class struggle … But why does this prevent us in practice from combining it with national liberation? (That is, in practice, this ‘Communist’ and ‘patriot’ calls upon the oppressed masses of Russia – in union with the local imperialists – to the national liberation struggle against our ‘alien’ class brothers, who are already completely disenfranchised in Russia and are incredibly suppressed by the Russian (including ethnic Russian) predator-capitalists, and who do the hardest and dirtiest work for such ‘Russians’ and ‘Muscovites’ for pennies – ed.).’

The only answer, which the author (i.e., Peter Miloserdov – ed.) sees so far – is ‘… our respect for the sacred cow of Soviet internationalism… let us say honestly: international peace cannot be built on to the backs of one people. Yes, at the table none of us is superfluous. But each one who is seated has his own place’.

What does this mean?

Do not be confused. This is the ‘normal’ ideology of national-socialism, i.e., the ideology of simple Russian fascism.

Do you think that Peter Miloserdov has been expelled from his party for this article? Not at all! Today he is a member of CC of the Union of Communist Youth and the assistant to the Deputy of the State Duma Ivan Melnikov – the deputy chairman of the CC of the KPRF of G. Zyuganov.

In this we have the whole essence of social chauvinism as a form of opportunism: the main enemy of the workers is not the bourgeoisie, but foreigners, even those immigrants from the former republics of the USSR. But if the enemy happens to be the bourgeoisie, then it is not our own local bourgeoisie, but the foreign bourgeoisie.

Why do these ‘patriots’ of ours frighten the proletariat with American imperialism, with foreigners, with a world Jewish-Masonic conspiracy? In order to push them into the embrace of their own bourgeoisie, their own imperialists!

Why do they create anti-crisis coalitions together with the bourgeoisie? In order to get their bourgeois state out of the crisis, to prop up ‘our’ weak oligarchs at a difficult moment in their fight with the American imperialist sharks. Here, they say, after we lead them, our family, out of crisis, then we will begin the fight for socialism. But now is not the time! One must understand this!

Lenin wrote: ‘Opportunism and social-chauvinism have the same ideological-political content: collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution’ (Socialism and War).

Here is this so-called ‘Bolshevism’ – to carry out any task for the local bourgeoisie when different kinds of politico-economic problems arise. Moreover, so far the direct threat of full-scale imperialist war is still absent. However, that will take place if the imperialists bring matters to a second edition of 1914? Then what?

You remember how a gigantic wave of chauvinism rose and shook Europe, what a deafening collapse the Second International and the majority of its leaders suffered under its pressure, including such authoritative leaders as Kautsky and Plekhanov? But indeed these were Marxists, in comparison to whom our Zyuganovs, Simonenkos, Miloserdovs, Bondarchuks, Belevskys, Yakushevs and the like do not hold a candle. Only the Leninist-Bolsheviks could withstand it at that time …

How did the leaders of European social-democracy defend their treachery at that time? Very logically, convincingly and most importantly through ‘patriotism’. Let us look at the testimony of the worker… A.G. Shlyapnikov. ‘German opportunists, from Sheidemann to Kautsky, fought the “Russian autocracy”, the French “protected the republic”, the English “freed Belgium”, but the Russians “did not prevent” the Generals-Liberators from conducting the war in the name of “freedom of Western-style democracy”. In this way they solved the problem of distracting the thoughts and actions of democracy and the working class from their own situation inside the country, from their fight for their own class aims’ (A.G. Shlyapnikov ‘On the eve of 1917. Seventeenth year’…).

What can we conclude from all this? In the epoch of imperialism to divide peoples into fraternal and non-fraternal ones means, to retreat from clear Marxist class positions to the position of social-chauvinism, to the position of national-socialism; it means, to ignore the contemporary division of the peoples into bourgeoisie and proletariat; it means to preach the idea of collaboration with our own (in our case – Slavic or Russian) bourgeoisie.

The slogan of real Marxists, real Communists, always was, is and will be: not ‘Brother Slavs (Arabs, Jews and so on), Unite!’ but ‘Workers of all peoples and countries, Unite!’ Any retreat from this slogan will inevitably, sooner or later, turn into treachery to proletarian internationalism and communism.

Very well, they will answer us, this is all understandable. But what about the slogan of the revival of the Soviet Union, which our ‘Soviet patriots’ defend today?

The slogan of the revival of the USSR is both utopian and reactionary. It is utopian because those historically concrete conditions which led to the formation of the world’s first proletarian state have forever, permanently, receded into the past. It is reactionary because the ‘Soviet patriots’ see the ideal, that is, the ‘Golden Age’ of socialism, in the past but not in the future and this still determined by the specific, historically limited form of socialism … (together with the invariability of the basic tenets of scientific socialism there is a need to consider present historical conditions. For example, in this historical stage, as a result of the strengthening rule of finance capital, there is taking place the transfer of many industrial enterprises from the metropolises to the former colonial countries, which contributes to the rapid growth in the numbers of the proletariat in these countries and to the weakening of the proletarian forces in the metropolises. Consequently, this historical peculiarity will exert its influence on the state and development of the class struggle both in these former colonial countries and in the metropolises. In this sense imperialist Russia is not an exception – ed.).

The shock waves of the revolution, which began with the February revolution of 1917 in Russia, were felt throughout the entire world. Thanks to the Leninist Bolshevik Party the revolution of October 1917 led to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia. Thanks to the social-chauvinists, the social-patriots of the Second International and, first of all, to the German social-democrats, the bourgeoisie succeeded in drowning in blood the proletarian revolution in Germany in 1918-1919, and also in Austria and Hungary, and thus putting an end to the revolutionary wave in Western Europe.

The victory of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia and the defeat of the revolution in Germany in November 1918 were the main conditions that determined the establishment and further development of the USSR for years and decades afterwards. ..

The victory of the right wing of German social-democracy, of the social-chauvinists of Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske over its revolutionary wing (Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were brutally killed by social-patriots) in the end led to the Nazis coming to power (NSDAP – the National-Socialist Workers Party of Hitler, was formed in 1919). As a result Western Europe instead of becoming red became brown, and the Soviet Union found in Germany – one of the most industrially developed countries at that period – its sworn (class – ed.) enemy.

A feature of our epoch, the epoch of imperialism, is that it is the epoch of the fight between imperialist powers for world supremacy… The growing over from competition to wars on a world scale means that the productive forces have found the framework of the traditional national bourgeois state too narrow, that the productive forces have reached a world, global scale, but production relations still have a private, national character

The threat of a new world war… to which capitalist society is rushing with irresistible force as a result of the development of its own (inter-imperialist – ed.) … contradictions, will inevitably revolutionise the proletariat of Europe, America, Russia, China and other countries, on which the world order depends today.With one condition, of course, that the proletariat succeeds in time to free itself from the Siren song of the ‘patriots’, nationalists, great-power chauvinists, to create their own class organisations, which stand firmly on the positions of the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. …

August 8, 2006
Alexander Budilo
Kiev, Ukraine

Abbreviated for printing

Actually, at the present time Russia is a weaker imperialist power than, say, the USA or the imperialist countries of the West. Therefore the Russian imperialists are compelled, from time to time, to take into account their own situation in the inter-imperialist relations, in the competitive struggle with their stronger rivals. In particular, this circumstance is precisely the basis of reasoning of the author of this article.

However, no imperialist will agree to be eternally dependent on a stronger competitor. Every imperialist will attempt to push his rival away in the competitive struggle, to strengthen his own positions, to exact profit from his rival’s account and to seize more advantageous positions in the circle of imperialist powers. In this respect the Russian imperialists are no exception.

This is confirmed by many obvious examples – the fight of Russia for spheres of influence in Iran and Venezuela, the strengthening of relations as allies with the Chinese social-imperialists and the German imperialists, the persistent struggle for markets for the sale of Russian armaments to the countries of Latin America and on the African continent and so forth.

Proletarskaya Gazeta
No. 28, Leningrad
November, 2007

Translated from the Russian by Rafael Martinez and George Gruenthal

Source

Michael Parenti on “Pure Socialism”

MP 2009 portrait BW

“[R]eal socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this ‘pure socialism’ view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.”

– Michael Parenti, “Blackshirts and Reds”

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

MolotovRibbentropStalin

by Bill Bland

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

The Reorientation of Soviet Foreign Policy

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

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

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

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

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

The Objective Basis of Collective Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appeasement 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anglo-French-Soviet Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go very slowly with the conversations”;

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

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

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

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

Warning Shots from Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Soviet-German Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On 19 August Schulenburg replied that Molotov had agreed that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘secret additional protocol’ declared:

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

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

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

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

The Effect of the Non-Aggression Pact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who can forget Stalin’s prophetic words in 1931:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————————————————————–

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

Question 1: 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 2: 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 3: 

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

Question 3a. 

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

Reply: 

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

Question 4: 

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

Reply: 

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

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

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

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

Frederick Schuman on Kulak Destruction of Crops and Livestock

Away_With_Private_Peasants!

“Their [kulak] opposition took the initial form of slaughtering their cattle and horses in preference to having them collectivized. The result was a grievous blow to Soviet agriculture, for most of the cattle and horses were owned by the kulaks. Between 1928 and 1933 the number of horses in the USSR declined from almost 30,000,000 to less than 15,000,000; of horned cattle from 70,000,000 (including 31,000,0000 cows) to 38,000,000 (including 20,000,000 cows); of sheep and goats from 147,000,000 to 50,000,000; and of hogs from 20,000,000 to 12,000,000. Soviet rural economy had not recovered from this staggering loss by 1941.

[...] Some [kulaks] murdered officials, set the torch to the property of the collectives, and even burned their own crops and seed grain. More refused to sow or reap, perhaps on the assumption that the authorities would make concessions and would in any case feed them.

The aftermath was the ‘Ukraine famine’ of 1932—33 [….] Lurid accounts, mostly fictional, appeared in the Nazi press in Germany and in the Hearst press in the United States, often illustrated with photographs that turned out to have been taken along the Volga in 1921 [….] The ‘famine’ was not, in its later stages, a result of food shortage, despite the sharp reduction of seed grain and harvests flowing from special requisitions in the spring of 1932 which were apparently occasioned by fear of war in Japan. Most of the victims were kulaks who had refused to sow their fields or had destroyed their crops.”

– Frederick Schuman, quoted in Douglas Tottle, “Fraud, Famine, and Fascism: the Ukrainian Genocide Myth from Hitler to Harvard,” page 93-94.