“These comrades do not understand that the method of mass, disorderly arrests—if this can be considered a method, represents, in light of the new situation, only liabilities which diminish the authority of Soviet power. They do not understand that making arrests ought to be limited and carried out under strict control of appropriate organs. They do not understand that arrests must be directed solely against active enemies of Soviet power… They do not understand that is this kind of action took on a massive character to any extent, it could nullify the influence of our party in the countryside.”
— J.V. Stalin. “Instruktsiia vsem patiino-sovetskin rabonikam i vsem organam OGPU i procuratury,” RGASPI. f. 17, op. 3, d. 922, Il. 50-55. Cited in J. Arch Getty. “‘Excesses Are Not Permitted’: Mass Terror and Stalinist Governance in the Late 1930s,” Russian Review, Vol. 61, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 113-138.
“But the question arises: how is this task of smashing and uprooting the Japano-German Trotskyite agents to be carried out in practice? Does that mean that we must strike at and uproot, not only real Trotskyites, but also those who at some time or other wavered in the direction of Trotskyism and then, long ago, abandoned Trotskyism; not only those who are really Trotskyite wrecking agents, but also those who, at some time or other, had occasion to walk down a street through which some Trotskyite had passed? At all events, such voices were heard at this Plenum. Can such an interpretation of the resolution be regarded as correct? No, it cannot be regarded as correct. In this matter, as in all others, an individual, discriminate approach is required. You cannot measure everybody with the same yardstick.
Such a wholesale approach can only hinder the fight against the real Trotskyite wreckers and spies.
Among our responsible comrades there are a number of former Trotskyites who abandoned Trotskyism long ago and are fighting Trotskyism not less and perhaps more effectively than some of our respected comrades who have never wavered in the direction of Trotskyism. It would be foolish to cast a slur upon such comrades now.
Among our comrades there are some who ideologically were always opposed to Trotskyism, but who, notwithstanding this, maintained personal connections with individual Trotskyites which they did not hesitate to dissolve as soon as the practical features of Trotskyism became clear to them. Of course, it would have been better had they broken off their personal friendly connections with individual Trotskyites at once, and not only after some delay.
But it would be foolish to lump such comrades with the Trotskyites.”
— J.V. Stalin. “Speech in Reply to Debate,” 5 March 1937. Collected Works, Vol. 14. Red Star Press Ltd., London, 1978.